Most tourists arriving in Ukunda head straight to their glitzy hotels by the laid-back Diani Beach, read a book and sip expensive liquor while sunbathing.
While the appeal there is undeniable, those looking for adventure beyond the shore take boat trips.
The thrill is in snorkelling with hordes of rare fish and finding the hidden Robinson Island deep in the waters.
We leave the shores aboard a glass-boat to explore the mysterious sand island. After a few minutes drive, the engine stops.
Being on Robinson Island feels like being a resident of an exclusive, self-contained republic with thousands of colourful and exotic creatures, including fire fish, sea urchin, star fish, octopus, zebra fish among others.
The white sand island is only accessible during low tides and is submerged completely during high tides.
Robinson was named after the owner of Baobab Beach Resort and Spa, a hotel that sits on 80 acres in Ukunda. The island provides a tranquil haven where you can relax and enjoy the warmth of the sun or dive in the water to watch the Sebastian Gabriel, a German tourist aboard the glass-boat, says Diani’s coral reefs remain an attraction year-round.
“This is magical, Kenya is a beautiful country. We should preserve and protect the areas that are most resilient to ensure the future of the coral reefs,” he said.
‘‘Snorkelling in Diani coral reefs is an amazing experience and easy way to see the aquatic marine life. I feel relaxed as the current flows over me, as I immerse in the warm ocean currents, with the colourful array of fish surrounding me,” he said.
Earn a living
Coral reef tourism is worth billings of shillings globally.
Swimming, snorkelling, diving, skiing, sunbathing and surfing are other activities that attract tourists to the Coastal town.
Rashid Abdallah is one of the organisers of snorkelling trips— an activity that has fed his family for the past 10 years.“I earn a living through snorkelling. We take the tourists snorkelling and diving. I have built a permanent house through this job,” said Rashid.
He said he charges about Sh2,000 for tourists and Sh1,000 for locals.
To attract more tourists from different countries, Rashid said he had to go to school to learn foreign languages.
He can speak five foreign languages fluently, including German, French, Spanish, Italian as well as English.
Katiba Ali also earns a living from snorkelling trips.
He refers to the screen of the glass-boat through which one can clearly see the different species of fish as “African Television.”
Hamisi Juma, the coxswain of the boat, has been taking tourists to Robinson Island for 15 years now.
On a good day, he says, he can take home Sh15,000.
But currently the business has been affected as it is a low-season and only a handful of tourists are available.
The island, which is perfect for honeymoons, anniversaries or excursions with friends and family, is also easily accessible by speed boats and dhows.