09 November 2010

Wasini Island

Wasini Island lies off the southern Indian Ocean coast of Kenya across the channel from Shimoni. It's only about 3 sq. miles in size. The island is sparsely populated and undeveloped. There are no cars, roads, policemen, or electricity. There is no source of water other than rain.

A site of early Swahili civilization, this coral island is occupied by the Vumba people, an indigenous group of Bantu speaking peoples who have a rich history. There are 1,500 residents on the island, living in only two villages - each at opposite ends. Their history includes invasion and settlement of Arab influence from the Persian Gulf states, and from the island of Zanzibar, just a bit south.

Located 50 miles south of Mombasa, this island's population has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. Poverty levels are indicative of poor historical and current development. Fishing is a main subsistence occupation, using trees hewn into canoes - meek refuge in rough waters of the Pemba Channel. There are repeated fatalities using such craft in each fishing season.

The island is only 6 miles from the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park. This park annually attracts many thousands of overseas and local tourists per year. The entry fees are not recirculated within the collection area - instead they are remitted to Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarters in Nairobi. The majority of visitors arrive on prepaid packages organised outside of the Island and outside of Shimoni. The larger operators are foreign owned.

You can see how close Wasini Island is to Tanzania

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