Upon staggering into the Bahari Hai house with my giant suitcase I met Des, one of the founders of the Kuruwitu Conservation and Welfare Association (KCWA) which is the organisation in charge of the project, Cameron, his son, and Yael, another volunteer. I was shown around the house, which is gorgeously airy and spacious. The first room you see when you walk in has a long table for eating meals and a water cooler, then to your left you have two toilets, two showers and a bedroom with five beds (that’s where Yael and I are sleeping as there are two double beds in this room!). If you walk straight through the dining room there’s a sitting area with lots of wooden chairs covered with cushions and a long low coffee table in the middle. At first glance it looks like anyone’s house but then you start to notice the piles of fish identification books on the tables, alongside driftwood sculptures of dolphins and turtles as well as a giant wall hanging piece of a powder blue surgeon fish made out of bottle caps scavenged from the beach. Then there’s a similar sitting area outside under a canopy, sheltered from the hot sun where you can see the sea. There is another door back into the house that leads into Cameron’s room and another room with three beds and then the kitchen. The floors are all tile and the walls are white and it’s simple but gorgeous.
We then had a chat about the programme and, as I stared longingly out to sea from the sitting area, decided on a snorkel that afternoon because the tide was out too far to go yet. We then had a presentation from Benji, who told us all about permaculture and how it is being implemented on the farm they have at the house, and about the underlying principles that can be applied anywhere. His enthusiasm was infectious and he showed us around the gardens and told us a bit about what we’d be doing there. The use of spare materials is seriously ingenious, including hanging mobiles of horizontal two litre plastic Coke bottles whereby cutting out the top curve of plastic you can fill the bottle with soil and grow herbs inside. That way the monkeys don’t get to them as they can’t see the bottles hanging as they move through the trees. It was boiling hot so we were quite glad to come inside and have some water and lunch. We had rice and sukuma, which is a traditional Kenyan dish made with kale and onions and garlic and also one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten. After lunch I unpacked my bags and waited desperately until 3 o’clock – our proposed snorkel time. We had a presentation from Cameron on the first wave (haha) of around forty fish species that we would need to be able to identify as we go on surveys. We then had a presentation on dangerous marine species (of which there are quite a few but the overarching theme was – don’t touch it or step on it and you’ll be fine) and then Cameron, Yael and I walked down to the beach.
The house is literally three hundred metres from the waves. You walk out of the canopied seating area, through the garden and a gate and then you reach a beach bar and, more importantly, the beach. I almost had to wipe the sand off my chin my jaw dropped so far. The beach is insane. White sand runs down into this incredible blue sea and you can see the waves breaking against the barrier reef further out. The beach bar has lots of wooden chairs and loungers, including some big wooden (kind of) sofas that are suspended on wooden frames so they can rock from side to side. They told us we can come down here whenever want when we’re not working. Incredible.
When we finally got into the sea the water of the shallows was so warm it was almost unpleasant (the struggles of being in Kenya right?). It was around thirty degrees Celsius which, when the last seaside you’ve been to was Wales in December, seems impossible. We swam out a bit, luckily it got cooler, and went for a little explore. We saw two huge pufferfish (about 60cm long), a moray eel and loads of awesome reef fish. After our snorkel we went up to the house and had a presentation from Dickson, another founder of KCWA, about how it all came to be. This was, again, fascinating, however my one hour of sleep was beginning to catch up on me, combined with his lovely soothing voice and the warm are with a gentle sea breeze, so a couple of times I was slightly mortified that I was falling asleep. Then we went down to the beach bar for a drink and it didn’t get dark until SEVEN! I had forgotten that was even possible. We met Des there and caught up on what needed to be done over the next eight weeks and all of the exciting tasks we have to get through. This includes; discovering, mapping and naming new dive sites, recording for films they have planned, developing the welfare programme, collaborating with headmasters from local schools so we can go in and teach about conservation, transects and data collection, developing alternative incomes for the locals (including setting up a shop by the beach bar), developing their marketing strategy etc. The list goes on and on.
I think I’m going to be pretty busy for the next eight weeks.