Kayaking in a mangrove jungle

A kayak ride along the Funzi Bay at Funzi Island in Kwale. PHOTOS | wachira mwangi | NMG
A kayak ride along the Funzi Bay at Funzi Island in Kwale. PHOTOS | wachira mwangi | NMG 

Thick, green mangrove forests stretch deep into the sea. I paddle the small kayak into the pencil and tilt roots of the mangroves as they swing to the jolly wind emanating from Funzi Bay in the Indian Ocean.

Canoeing on this side of Indian Ocean in a small boat in the middle of nowhere is not for the faint-hearted.

We had travelled almost 70 kilometres from Mombasa town, getting lost in the many bushy roads with numerous palm trees, blue gum trees to reach the secluded Funzi island.

I decided to jump onto a kayak at 11.30am, I had no patience of waiting for sunset, an ideal time to paddle into the ocean, according to my guide Ali Yakub. And anyway, I was the only courageous person to be on water in a kayak.

“The kayak is too small and much open. It is scary to ride on the deep waters of the Indian Ocean,” one of my friends said, resigning to sit by the beach as they watched the kayaking guide and I paddle through the water channel at Funzi bay.

Mr Yakub says kayaking at sunset is the most breathtaking adventure as you get to watch the evening sun cast a beautiful gleam on the water, watch birds like Pied kingfishers hunt for fish, turtles swim swiftly and also listen to the ocean roar.

We paddle through the thick mangrove that stands side and side like a beautiful lawn with the channel acting as the runway that opens up at the end to the vast water view.

Abandoned wrecked dhows clinging to the mangroves are proof of numerous made trips on the bay.

From far, we see an approaching speed boat which had earlier ferried tourists to Bodo village. We paddle back to the dry land to pick up rest of the team.

Bodo is the main entryway to Funzi Island. Mr Yakub, 33, born and raised in the isle says there is a small jetty at Bodo where boats arrive and depart with commuters and supplies for the island.

“It is much easier to navigate and explore the numerous water channels on a boat. It accommodates even those who fear the sea,” says Abbas Abdalla, the captain.

Dine on sandbanks

We all jump onto the boat ready for another adventure. We sail towards Ramisi River which has Nile crocodiles. The waterway feeds the ocean with fresh water which mixes with the salty one as accorded by nature.

Towards Shirazi beach we can see naturally formed sandbanks that stretch almost a kilometre apart. At low tide, tourists sunbathe on the sandbank, swim and roast fish that they have caught at sea.

Ramisi River is fed by springs from the nearby Shimba Hills and empties into Funzi Bay. Other streams include Ndoni, Muunji and Shirazi that also drain into the sea.

After two hours of navigating the numerous channels, I was unable to trace where we came from. One can easily get lost in the muddled channels without a guide.

Wild pigs

“Look!” I said, pointing at an object following our motor boat. Everybody was startled. We were in a river infested by crocodiles.

“It is just my fish bait. The crocodiles are scared of noises from the engine,” said Mr Abdalla as we took a U-turn back to Funzi Bay.

Funzi Island also has several islets namely: Mlimani, Mwamboje, Kinazini also known as the place of coconuts and Kigamboni which have beautiful hotels offering sea food and ample resting points after a long day on the water, in a boat or a kayak. But not all islet hotels offer accommodation facilities.

We went to Kinazini Island and a hotel but it was full. The hotel serves Swahili food.

The sofas made of raffia, placed strategically on the sand with pillows made from Khanga offers a nice resting point. Also, pots with attractive flowers marks the entrance of the only hotel at the isle.

We left for Funzi Island. We reached Mikoko Cove just in time for lunch. At almost 4pm, we drove through Funzi forest.

“One can see wild pigs,” said Mr Yakub leading the path.

We left our vehicle to saunter through the footpaths to the pristine Baobab beach. Maybe the name originates from the numerous gigantic baobab trees lining the shore.

The beach is perfect, unspoilt, spotless, save for coral and sea creatures.

The Island is also close to the Pemba Channel for lovers of deep-sea fishing and the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park is 21 kilometres away for those who enjoy snorkelling or watching dolphins.