Kennedy Kariuki our Marine Program Coordinator finally has a chance to sit back, reflect and share a bit about our new Ocean Camp at Shimoni. We have had a great season and a lot of new and interesting challenges ahead to think about… As we all sit down at the restaurant, waves hitting on the coral in a systematic motion as though to create musical tunes and everyone evidently inundated with nostalgia from the serene silence in the camp now that all the school teams have left, I can clearly see it on their faces that the people are replaying scenes of their favorite moments of the season at the back of their minds. However, it‰Ûªs time to break the camp down though with the gratification that it‰Ûªs been a very exciting season for everyone at Ocean Camp, Shimoni and this means a chance for me to be able to let the world know what we‰Ûªve been up to at the Shimoni archipelago which is where we‰Ûªve been for the past one month doing some very exciting and worthwhile activities. Untitled Shimoni AKA Shimtown is a Swahili word that translates to ‰Û÷land of the caves‰Ûª as the whole place is believed to be covered with caves underneath though it‰Ûªs more like the land of the big fat baobab trees!!åÊ It is a peninsula about 73 km South of Mombasa with a total land area of approximately 105 km2 at low tide. The area encompassed extends from Ramisi River on the North to Umba river estuary on the South. Near shore habitats include sandbanks, mudflats and mangrove areas. The mainland consists of about 10 km2 coastal ‰ÛÏcoral-rag‰Û forest, several seasonal freshwater pools, high grassland, agricultural land, several small communities and scrub. Some of the main species here include the patches of tropical Mangrove forests all along the seafront that get submerged to almost half height at high tide, popularly known as Mikoko by the local people. The mangroves play a very important role in maintaining and preserving Shimoni coastal habitat and as breeding grounds for fish. Shimoni There is also about all of the seven species of dolphins found at the Western Indian Ocean of which we were lucky to spot three species namely: the bottlenose dolphins which are the most common around here. We also saw some humpback dolphins and Spinner dolphins which make the most spectacular acrobatic displays as they spin along their longitudinal axis as they leap through the air in their ‰Û÷salmon leaps‰Ûª and peduncle dives. Also worth mentioning was the one Green turtle believed to have been the same one people were seeing during different dives, as well not forgetting the humpback whales. The fish population in Shimoni is also very impressive as we saw loads of fish during the dives including; 12 inch sea horses, trumpet fish, spotted sting rays, moray eels, cattle fish, puffer fish, star fish, Angel fish, butterfly fish, the list is endless. At Camp Ocean Shimoni, our small way of contributing to the well-being of the Species biodiversity in the area was by organizing copious beach cleanup sessions where we cleaned the beach of plastics, flip flops and various other non-biodegradables. Marine debris is one major conservation disaster that has been ignored for a while; it would surprise everyone to find out that the ratio of plastic to plankton in the world ocean cover is more than 10:1 as found out by a recent research. We also have the Shimoni Slave Caves which is basically the other main tourist attraction site in Shimoni apart from the Marine Park and a monument of ancient brutality. The caves are believed to have been formed millions of years ago, by tiny coral polyps, under the sea. There are several caves, once joined together and reputed to extend some 7 kilometers inland. It is hard to imagine a more secure refuge! In the 18th and 19th centuries, at the height of the infamous slave trade, the big slaving dhows from Arabia came down on the monsoon winds to east coast of Africa, returning with their miserable human slaves. It is almost certain that these caves were used by the Arabs as a slave pen, where the slaves were held pending the arrival of the ship to take them to Zanzibar. Old rusted pieces of chain were found in the caves. The caves are run by the Shimoni community and proceeds help to buy medicine for the dispensary, books for schools and hopefully in the future better water supply and pay Madrasa teachers who are teachers who teach the little children of the area about their Muslim faith among various other community development projects around Shimtown. Untitled With that, we as the crew from Camp Ocean Shimoni are grateful to everyone who made the 2012 team season a success. We thank the office and administration team for all the supplies reaching us on time, effective communication and for giving us another chance to meet all those beautiful and inspiring people from all those teams we had who were also very kind, co-operative and understanding to us. We‰Ûªd also like to acknowledge Mr. Harm, for his kind assistance in everything as well as the whole diving crew, the propitious Shimoni folks, the ‰Û÷Jambo kids‰Ûª and everyone who made this a success. May all have a blessed time for the rest of the year in all that they get into… Kennedy Kariuki (Marine Program Coordinator)