Dolphin tours and the beauty of Wasini Island

Wasini Island

According to historical records, the 17th century slavery in the Coast region turned into slave trade in the 18th century.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • The only things Wasini lacks is regular electricity, banana-pancake traveler cafes, and backpacker hostels.
  • At Shimoni you will board an Arabic dhow, and spend an hour enjoying the breeze and oceanic views.

The idyllic island of Wasini, which stretches about seven kilometres long and is located 76 kilometres south of Mombasa, is the final pearl in the tropical beach necklace.

With its faded white alleyways, a fishing vibe inspired by Swahili culture, and fat mottled trees, this tiny island feels like a distant relative of Lamu and Zanzibar.

It is perfect for any backpacker looking for a beachside hideaway. In other words, it has that sit-under-a-Mugumo-tree-and-do-nothing-all-day-vibe.

A coastline littered with pockets of white sand and the Kisite Marine National Park is just a few hundred meters away, with a crystal clear beach where dolphins come to show off.

The abundance of boats on the dock provides an extremely picturesque view – a photographer’s paradise.

In fact, the only things Wasini lacks is regular electricity, banana-pancake traveler cafes, and backpacker hostels.

Cars and bicycles are a handful, (count yourself lucky if you spot one), but it is all the better for it. The population here is about 3,000 people.

The sun scorching at 32 degrees should be a concern should you forget to pack sunscreen.

Must-see destination

It is here that I spent a few days on my recent voyage to the South Coast of Ukunda, having docked in Diani. The island offered much, both fun and history.

A story is told of the Wavumba people who arrived on Wasini in the 18th century having been forced onto the Island after being ousted by vicious, constant attacks from the Waode community of Dar es Salaam.

Under their leader, Diwan Ruga, Wavumba found a new home on Wasini Island.

Wasini Island

Wasini Island is perfect for any backpacker looking for a beachside hideaway. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Wavumba traditions tell of the immense wealth Ruga amassed through business with Chinese merchants while on the Island. In fact, the name Wasini means ‘the Chinese people’.

Soon the Wavumba were joined on the island by Arabs hailing from Pemba and Zanzibar, and the Omanis landed on the island’s shores and set up a slave trade centre.

Today Wasini has grown into a must-see destination. I saw only a few local tourists who are aware of this gem that lies within our borders.

Every boat that cruised past or against ours ferried a huge number of foreigners, with only one or two Kenyans to be seen, who in most cases were water guards.

Jasmine Gardens Villas

To get to Wasini and access the Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Park, I had to pay Sh4,000 for this full-day voyage.

I stayed at the Jasmine Gardens Villas which boasts of well-manicured lawns and gardens that make you forget the heat strokes for a second.

Fitted with an outdoor private pool beautifully surrounded by a floral garden, the villa offered four bedrooms, three bathrooms and an attic (that sleeps four), spacious kitchen, living room, a backyard and ‘to die for’ Pagoda with three swing chairs that can seat seven.

We were just two in the villa, which can comfortably house between eight to 15 people. There is also a concierge service at your disposal.

From the Gardens it’s only nine minutes to Ukunda airport and six to the Diani beach ranked 22nd in the world by TripAdvisor and third in Africa.

It’s from here that I was picked by the transfer agent at 7am and driven for 45 minutes to Shimoni Jetty.

It would be clever of you to bring your own water to evade the exploitation of the local traders who will mercilessly charge you Sh500 for a one litre bottle of water.

Incredible Island

At Shimoni you will board an Arabic dhow, and spend an hour enjoying the breeze and oceanic views as you sail to Kisite Mpunguti, a perfect spot for snorkelling and scuba dives.

If you are lucky you will swim with the dolphins but for this day luck wasn’t on our side. Those who were lucky from previous trips, narrated how pods of dolphins escorted their Dhow.

However, for the thrill, we took a deep dive into the Island’s surrounding ocean capturing memories of the colour-rich and lively coral reef.

I couldn’t help but marvel at the schools of fish and green sea turtles swimming rhythmically.

I can attest the island is truly a diver’s bliss, the salty water isn’t too cold hence one can enjoy themselves for a fairly long time like we did until the salty waters became a nuisance.

Sailing back from Kisite we had to pass through two more islands, Mpunguti Chini and Mpunguti Juu. There are no inhabitants at Mpunguti Chini while only three people live on Mpunguti Juu. The three are rangers from Kenya Wildlife service protecting the Marine Park.

Whether you prefer to call it Lamu’s little sister, the jewel of the Indian Ocean or the Home of Dolphins, Wasini is an incredible Kenyan Island.