March 2018 - Magazine 5

Page 1

Issue 5 - March, 2018 Next Issue - April, 2018









2. Watamu - Village of the Sweet People

6. Mining in Tandem with Conservation

10. Tracking The Marine Big 5

17. Sailing with the stars

25. Travel Tips

26. Swahili on the go

Greg Armfield Pareet Shah

| Rafique Keshavjee

KENYA Live | Life | Play | Golf

Coastal Footprints | 01


Photo by: Greg Armfield

Watamu means 'sweet people' in Swahili. While some see this as a tribute to the sweet nature of the folk here, there's a darker possibility. It's alleged that slave traders lured locals into their notorious slave ships with sweets. Certainly Gede, the ancient settlement at Watamu, was established during the days of the trade routes; the settlement originated in the twelfth century, when Arab dhows were ploughing up and down the east coast of Africa trading in leopard skins, tortoise shells, rhino horns, ivory, gold and slaves. Photo by: Greg Armfield

Gede was abandoned in the seventeenth century, possibly because of attacks by bands of Turks, Ethiopians and Somalis, and possibly because the drop in the water table made water scarce. The crumbling houses, mosques and palaces have surrendered to the grasping fingers of the forest, and the site is now a picturesque fusion of ruins, roots and foliage. Now under the protection of the National Museums of Kenya, this archaeological site makes a scenic spot at which to wander, picnic and listen out for the echoes of history. The Arabuko Sokoke Forest that has enfolded Gede in its embrace is the last remaining fragment of dry coastal forest in East and Southern Africa. Sprinkled with evocatively named sites like the Whistling Duck Pools and the Kararacha Pools, the forest is a vital habitat for endemic and endangered species of animals, birds and plants. With a network of walking trails, several viewpoints, tree platforms, picnic spots and campsites, the forest lends itself to vigorous

activities, game spotting, bird watching, or the gentle contemplation of nature. Along the southern fringe of the forest runs Mida Creek, a lovely inlet fringed with mangroves. It's these mangroves that are responsible for the extraordinary numbers of fish species and bird species found here. Together with Arabuko Sokoke Forest, Mida Creek has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. An enterprising group aptly named the Mida Creek Conservation Community has build a board walk out into the creek, at the end of which sits the Crab Shack. Possibly the most idyllic place to while away an evening, the Crab Shack offers views of the setting sun turning the water golden and serves a delectable array of sea food. Despite this myriad of enticing attractions, what springs to mind first when one thinks of Watamu is its beach. Encased in a cove, the attractive white sands and sparkling seas attract people to them with an almost irresistible allure. Kite surfers ply the waves, sunbathers bask in the rays, and scuba divers are overwhelmed by the vast numbers of colourful fish, coral and sea creatures that live in this opulent portion of ocean. This season, the Watamu Marine National Park known for turtles, dugongs and lush coral gardens has recorded exceptional sightings of whale sharks and manta rays. Easy though it would be for the people of this lovely destination to rest on their laurels and congratulate themselves for what they have, there are movers and shakers in this village who are determined to make the place better and better. The Watamu Marine Association in 2009 established the EcoWorld Enterprise Centre with the aim of turning trash into cash; their Blue Team – 25 members of the community employed to collect waste from the beach and beyond – has become an icon in the village. Now a leader in upcycling marine debris, the group is working with Flipflopi, the team with the ambitious project of creating a dhow entirely from plastic waste and sailing it from Kenya to South Africa. WMA has also created #DolphinDiaries which follows the daily events of the Watamu pod of 160 bottlenose dolphins. Upcoming events include the Marine Mammal Day, 24th February, when the Kenya Wildlife Service will

Photo by: Greg Armfield

focus on Watamu and is encouraging people here to report dolphin and whale sightings; and Eyes to the Ocean, Easter Weekend, when everyone on the Kenya coast is requested to report sightings for a Kenya Marine Mammal Network database that will be used for conservation purposes. Coastal Footprints | 03






ase Titanium's Kwale Mine is

Base Titanium believes that good environmental

Kenya's largest mining

performance contributes to business success.

Gongoni Forest Reserve.

operation. It accounts for

Employees are empowered to work in an

Close to 50,000

nearly 60% of Kenya's mineral

environmentally responsible manner and are

indigenous trees grown

output, is the largest exporter

encouraged to take personal responsibility in this

in the nursery have been

regard. Base Titanium works with host

planted in this biodiversity

Mombasa and has been recognised by Vision

communities, environmental authorities,

corridor, including more

2030 as the country's flagship mining project

conservation organisations and environmental

than 1,400 of the

due to the transformative impact it is having

experts to realise their objectives of sustaining

Critically Endangered

on the Kenyan mining sector.

and improving the regions rich biodiversity.

by tonnage through the Port of

the mine site to the

Gigasiphon macrosiphon which is included in the

Base Titanium is committed to undertaking

To capitalise on environmental opportunities a

list of the world's 100

its activities in a way that minimises impacts

suite of environmental programmes are aimed at

most threatened animal,

on the environment and maximises

delivering positive and sustainable environmental

plant and fungi species.

opportunities for positive environmental

outcomes. The mining company has established

outcomes. Their commitment is to prevent

an indigenous tree nursery to identify, research

Over 85,000 trees,

pollution and minimise their impacts on the

and propagate species of conservation interest

representing 275

environment, while contributing to protecting

to be used in the rehabilitation and restoration

and conserving biodiversity and driving

of areas in the mine site. It is believed that the

different species

environmentally responsible behaviour

Kwale Mine's nursery is the largest of its kind in

have been

Internally and in nearby communities.

East Africa. Over 85,000 trees, representing


275 different species have been successfully Processing operations at the Kwale Mine

propagated in Base Titanium's nursery.

exploits physical characteristics to concentrate

propagated in Base Titanium's

and then separate the minerals. This ensures

In an effort to improve biodiversity Base Titanium

no chemicals are used, greatly minimising

has established a biodiversity corridor that bridges

indigenous tree

environmental impacts.

several remnant patches of indigenous forest in


Base Titanium also donates indigenous trees for planting at various community infrastructure projects delivered through its Community Programmes. They also actively support the management of coastal forest patches and a variety of conservation initiatives by donating trees to planting programmes in the region. Another initiative is Base Titanium's Wetland Restoration Programme. An ephemeral wetland that was dry for a number of years prior to the commencement of operations has been successfully restored. The Kwale Mine's infrastructure was specifically designed to avoid encroachment into the wetland area. Drainage from the residual sand storage facility is directed to flow into the wetland to assist rejuvenation; indigenous sedges and other aquatic vegetation have been planted. The wetland now provides an ideal habitat for both plant and animal species. Amphibian and reptile monitoring has found that the wetland now supports populations of the Endangered Shimba Hills Reed Frog Hyperolius rubrovermiculatus and other fauna and floral species. REDUCE – REUSE – RECYCLE Founded on this principle Base Titanium has established a Waste Recycling Programme. Staff are actively encouraged to reduce waste and reuse materials.

For example the mine buys better quality seedling bags for their nursery which can be reused many times over. Recyclable materials that are no longer required for the operations are repurposed. Base Titanium's recycling team, which includes carpenters from the nearby communities, make furniture and beehives out of recycled wood which are donated to community projects. For more information on Base Titanium and their environment programmes go to

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Coastal Footprints | 09

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BY RAFIQUE KESHAVJEE Finally, Shabir gets to Diani, Kenya, at the same cottage, this time alone. He pays for a boat ride. Soon he is with a group of tourists on a 25-foot jahazi, a large wooden boat, for a day trip. They array themselves along a continuous bench, arms clutching the gunwale. Locals from the Digo tribe are the sailors of this fat, slow-moving craft. It is August, and must go south against the rough and blustery south kusini wind. Against such gusts, the sails have to spend the entire day tacking just to get to Chale, a nearby island. Time is short, so the engine must kick in. The sailors swing and swing at the starting-cord. Horrid metallic shrieks, interrupted by anxious fiddling with knobs. For a while, Shabir stares longingly at the sail, pivotable around the boom. Ready to face shifty winds, but wrapped lifelessly now. Shabir wryly announces to a tourist sitting next to him "On the coast, maintenance is a vow made only when something breaks down. Why do I always forget?" For Shabir, as for many driven by forces unknown, hope regularly quells experience, and excitement silences self-reckoning.

tourists, dhow here refers to their smallest canoe, a dugout mango trunk, while canoes with outriggers are ngalawa. The biggest boats like the one they are on, are jahazi. “Can this jahazi get to Zanzibar?" Shabir asks. "Yes," says the sailor confidently with his hand on the tiller, his eyes on the bow. "How long does it usually take?" "One day and a night if we start from Shimoni." "How do you navigate at night?" "We use the stars," says the black, wiry sailor with bulging eyes. He turns to Shabir, adding with a smile, "stars are much better than your technology," nodding his hook-nose at Shabir's GPS gadget, as he gets bearings with smug ostentation. "There was this European man who went to Zanzibar on his big motorboat using fancy navigation technology. We accompanied him. It was at night. He disappeared from sight, got lost and had to return to Diani. We got to Zanzibar with no trouble. We navigated with the stars."

The Indian Ocean rouses thoughts in Shabir, the engineer who is now reviving his youthful yen for story and science. He wonders at the skills of these men. Their Suddenly, the engine starts thud-whacking, gazes up into the dark give confidence to the tillers who plough waters under dim the propellor throb-swishing, and the stars. Skills without charts. How come? crew return to their stations. The boat Eyes avidly on stars so far away, stars begins to edge the reef. Soon they are in whose photons took millions of years to the deep lapis swells of the Indian Ocean, arrive. Some photons were from stars facing the strong, balmy wind, savoring that died light-years ago, still providing cooling spray, swaying in quiet exultation, light to guide wary-eyed sailors. Dead watching flocks of hungry seabirds that stars whose burst made all life possible. follow them under blue skies strewn with In the immense death-crush of their clouds in great pillow-piles. explosion, stars could fuse heavy "Can you please tell us the names of the elements out of hydrogen, helium and boats that you use?" Shabir asks one of lithium, elements that gave forth land, the sailors in Swahili, with an eye to water and then life. Life that over billions impressing the tourists. The sailor, of years, generated eyes that now gaze a skinny, large-eyed Digo, readily obliges. back to the stars, seeking guidance in the Much to the consternation of some of the darkness.

The man at the tiller breaks into Shabir's reverie: "Which way is India?" Shabir turns back to his gadget, resuming the quiet contest between wisdom and technology. He points northeast.

It is about 8,000 kilometres that way." With genuine curiosity, Shabir asks "How long would it take this boat to get there?" “I don't know. This jahazi is too small to go that far into the ocean. He stares at the horizon. For centuries, bigger versions of such boats rode the trade winds, plying the edges of the Indian Ocean, taking mangrove poles, slaves and spices, bringing goods, people, ceramics, faith and poetic traditions. Then, Vasco da Gama sailed up, bearing grants of monopoly, written in a fervour of faith, backed by giant guns. Today, how much the massive steamship has changed things, thudding powerfully, piled with containers, indifferently leaving these smaller jahazis to hug the coast of Kenya. Jahazis that carry humbler cargo, with no electronics, directed by eyes that scout the stars, fearless of the night. The trip ends late that day as the passengers, wind-sated and giddy, clamber into a rubber dinghy. They lurch over breaking waves back onto the sand. Sodden and wistful, Shabir looks back at the boat just in time to catch the sun's setting radiance glistening on the busy heads of the sailors. The sunlight gilds the sails trapped around the mast by the halyardh. Far beyond, the rays lend a sepia glow to the mighty billows of monsoon clouds that, in turn, tinge the entire beach with their dying warmth.

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14-18 | 2018




27 - 29

5 - 7 | 2018

14 | 2018







Coastal Coastal Footprints Footprints | 13 21 0714 775 222

PHOTO | Pareet Shah |

Do you have a great photo of your holiday at the coast? It could feature in our next magazine. To enter send your photo and a short description to

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tips Kenya is generally a safe and friendly country, but as with any destination, you need to be aware of your surroundings and cautious not to find yourself in an unpleasant or potentially vulnerable situation.

Here are a few basic tips to consider during your stay! Safety & Security: Be vigilant when in public places and even more so when venturing out at night. In case of robbery, report the incident at the nearest police station. Kenya has a Tourist Safety and Communication Center that is always on call. They offer a 24hr tourist helpline +254 (0)20-600 4767 where you can seek assistance if needed

Water: Avoid drinking tap water. It is safer to drink mineral or bottled water

Exchanging money: Make sure that you exchange currency with a reputable hotel, bank, or foreign exchange bureau

Valuables: Be mindful of your valuables, try not to show high-value items in public or busy areas. Do not leave these items unattended in public places such as bars and restaurants

Driving: Always carry your original driving license and either your original passport or a certified copy of your passport

Photographs: It is natural when on holiday to take as many pictures as possible, but before you begin to take pictures of people, ask for their permission. In some cases, you may be required to offer a tip for those pictures

Transport services: When using a Tuk-Tuk, Boda-boda or Taxi ask for the price before embarking on the trip so as to avoid any surprises when you reach your destination

Animals: Never approach a wild animal, even if they appear harmless

Drugs: Be wary of people trying to sell you drugs. Although the coast of Kenya is very relaxed, drugs are illegal in Kenya, and any purchase, use, or possession of drugs could land you in prison








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Swahili on the go! Here are a few basic greetings and phrases you can use to interact with the coastal Swahili people. Kenyan people appreciate it when you try to speak Swahili so please do not be shy, try out some Swahili and have some fun!

Basic greetings… • Hello - Jambo • How are you? - Habari Yako? • I am fine - Niko salama • My name is… - Jina langu ni… • What is your name? - Jina lako nani? • Pleased to meet you - Vyema kukutana • Do you speak English? - Unazungumza Kingereza? • Goodbye - Kwaheri • See you later - Tuonane Baadaye • Have a good journey - Safari njema!

Useful words and phrases… • Excuse me - Samahani (to get attention or say something) • Please – Tafadhali • No – Hapana • Yes - Ndio • No thanks - Hapana asante • Thank you! - Asante! Cow - Ng’ombe Cat - Paka • Where? – Wapi? Chicken - Kuku Dog - Mbwa • Here - Hapa • When? – Lini? Zebra - Punda Milia Goat - Mbuzi • Now - Sasa Hippo - Kiboko • I don’t understand – Sielewi Elephant - Ndovu • Speak slowly – Ongea pole pole Rhino - Kifaru Giraffe - Twiga • Friend - Rafiki • My friend – Rafiki yangu Wildebeest - Nyumbu Lion - Simba • I’m hungry – Nahisi njaa • I’m thirsty – Nahisi Kiu • Where are you going? – Unaenda wapi? • I am going to the hotel - Naenda hotelini • How do you say in Swahili – Unasemaje kwa Kiswahili • Cheers! (While sharing a drink) - Maisha marefu (Meaning long life) • I love you! - Nakupenda! • Help! - Msaada!


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