Sitting in an open, narrow kayak, paddling in the deep waters of Indian Ocean is a nerve-racking adventure compared to sailing in a bigger boat.
But for most tourists, it is these small kayaking boats that bring them to Tudor Water Sports Club situated at Tudor Creek in Mombasa.
Hamisi Chai, my guide, hands me an orange life jacket, the first safety measure before going on board whether you are an expert swimmer or not.
He then hands me a black aluminium kayak paddle. It feels quite long, but I manage to hold the middle of the shaft firmly.
We walk through the jet-way, the path leading to the pontoon where most of the boats are anchored and the kayaks laid facing down.
The water beats hard against the strong pillars supporting the path. We go further down a staircase to the wooden pontoon. On the muddy shore, there are crabs which can bite when provoked.
The view of the ocean, with the speed, pedal and fishing boats anchored near the shore is fascinating.
“Be careful not to slip and fall in water,” says Mr Chai who is 27 years old and has been operating in the ocean for three years now.
He turns one of the kayak and carefully places it on the calm waters. It is a two-seater, blue kayak with some paints off, an indicator it has been on water many times.
It looks like it can easily capsize if faced with the mild storm of the Tudor Creek, but Mr Chai says it cannot sink. “We have to synchronise the rowing and also push back the water at the same time to accelerate movement,” he says.
He takes the front seat while I sit back because it is my first time paddling a kayak.
We navigate the calm waters between the anchored boats and find our way to the middle of the ocean.
We reach a very beautiful congested mangrove forest and pass a group of youth swimming. The ocean is spacial and not that busy, but there is a ship that is approaching us.
“Keep paddling, increase the speed by paddling faster,” he says.
We kayak across four fishermen in a small wooden canoe aiming for the middle of the ocean where there is more fish. I get curious and ask Mr Chai what could happen if we stopped paddling. We give it a try. Our kayak is moved slowly by the waves.
“When at sea, master the direction the wind is blowing from. Paddling against wind will make you wet because water enters the kayak forcefully. It is also muscle-wasting,” he says as we resume paddling.
We move deeper into the sea and carefully pass coral rocks which after a while are covered by the water.
“It’s advisable to avoid corals. They rub against the kayak hence making holes, and they become vulnerable as water leaks in,” says Mr Chai.
After 45 minutes of rowing, I feel exhausted, especially my hands, so we go back and dock.
“When I first rowed, I also got tired easily. But with continuous practice and doing hand exercises in the gym, I am now used to paddling. I can paddle up to six clients sometimes every two hours,” the guide says.
He helps me get out of the kayak and skilfully pulls it out of water, leaning it against the rest. My hands and legs are white, covered with sea salt.
Tudor Water Sports, being the only marina on Mombasa Island, has other water fun sports like speed and pedal boating and also deep-sea fishing.
Kayaking at Tudor Creek is not expensive. Gideon Kilonzo, the manager in charge of the marina says it costs Sh300 per person for a two-hour ride while a boat ride costs Sh3,500.
There is also a swimming pool at the marina and a hotel that mainly serves sea food.
I got myself a plate of rice, buttered fish and fresh juice.
The rooms at the hotel are artsy. Everywhere, from the staircase to the rooms, there are wall paintings of different fish and plants. There is a clock in every room which says “Welcome Aboard”.
In it, there are equipment used on water like ship, radar, sextant and compass.
Lovers of trees and flowers can spend time at the Tudor Creek recreational park that is separated from the ocean by the mangrove trees but on one side, one can catch a glimpse of the ocean.
While strolling in the park, I get distracted by a group of cheeky monkeys on a huge baobab tree that is about 110 years old.
In the park, there is also an old tent that was used by the Kenya Navy when they guarded rowing competitions that started in 1995.