What you need to know:
What you need to know:
- Check out the Sandbars and Starfish as you enjoy the tranquillity at Sand Island Beach Cottages
- You can also enjoy snorkelling at the beach
The reef is a short walk from the lush topical garden at Sand Island Beach Cottages. The tide is rising but the reef wall is strong, keeping us safe from the deep sea.
Hamadi Lagido, the guide from the cottages and l have sailed on his dugout canoe to the spotless white sandbar so visible from ashore.
The sandbar is surrounded by clear warm water showing off a spotless ocean bed ‘decorated’ with an array of starfish in many colours. I’ve never seen anything like this before despite having snorkelled in many places along the plus 500-kilometer Kenyan coastline.
It’s magically pristine. There isn’t a soul around us, not even a fisherman. “There are 25 different coloured starfish here,” Hamadi begins his spiel bringing some on the sandbar to create a rainbow of colours. It’s a feast for the eyes.
Hamadi turns one to show the mouth in the centre of the five ‘arms’. “They like to feed on the needle-sharp spine-clustered sea urchins,” explains Hamadi. “The starfish babies then feed on the black grit in the sand – it’s the sea urchins spines that have passed through the digestive tract of the adult starfish.”
It’s a good thing the starfish are there to control the population of sea-urchins because a population explosion of the spiny creatures can destroy the coral reef – they like to feed on the polyps that are the building blocks of the reef.
My reef guide then picks a sea cucumber which immediately lets out a stream of water from one end, showing that it’s disturbed. Although it wins no points for beauty, the sea cucumber plays an important role in keeping the ocean bed healthy. But in some places along our coast they are being overharvested for the Chinese food market.
It’s an idyllic afternoon with the sun so warm and the sea so blue with me floating lazily over the colourful starfish.
Back in the canoe and a short sail away is the cove by the beach filled with translucent waters, a natural warm pool to swim in. I’m in a trance, everything is so quiet and beautiful.
“Tomorrow l’ll take you snorkelling,” says Hamadi breaking into my reverie.
The following morning, donning my snorkel, l slip into the shallow water a few feet from the cottages to glide over the coral garden to see a dazzling array of reef fish in as many colours like the lion fish with petal-like blue tinted fins. It looks like an animated blue flower with golden strands. I could have missed the next one because it’s the same colour as the sand, lying camouflaged. It’s the sole fish with a dazzling Moorish idol and the zebra fish swimming around.
Back on shore, Theresa Monique of Sand Island and l stroll in the garden dotted with frangipani trees, figs and palms.
A ruin of a coral cell stands on the cliff. “This was a slave-holding cell,” explains Monique. It’s weathered but with the tell-tale signs of a hold – metal rings to hold the chains that held the slaves. “The slaves may have been shipped out through the ‘mlango’ at Waa.” She’s referring to the natural opening in the reef that gives access to the open ocean.
An odd contraption on the family house turns out to be a cabin from a sunken warship that went aground in the Second World War.
We’re loving every bit of the home-away-from-home with the fisherman popping in every day to sell the day’s catch – lobsters, octopus, prawns and red snappers. Binti the cook turns every meal into a feast.
Life is a beach – a wonderful escape from the city.
Come and chill at Sand Island Beach Cottages
There are family cottages with four bedrooms and cottages with one or two-room spread on an enormous garden facing the ocean.
An hour’s flight with Safarilink https://www.flysafarilink.com/en – and it has special offers – brings you to Ukunda from where you can order Bolt or Uber. It’s a 20-minute drive.
It’s ideal for families with kids. If you’re a busy mum who wants ‘me’ time, this is ideal because the cottages are cleaned every day and you can hire a cook.
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