A daring mangrove forest. While on an assignment of facilitating a beekeeping training exercise at Junda, Mombasa in Kenya. I was struck by the thought of getting drowned by a massive swampy mangrove mud during a practical session of setting up a bee hive stand at the mangrove rehabilitation site. Frightened, I followed the instructions given by one of the trainers to walk rightfully through the path marked with footsteps of the person walking ahead of me. I have heard stories of the dreadful experience of people drowning in the muddy mangrove swampy site from the locals who work on a project of rehabilitating the mangroves forest that has degraded in the past at Junda Creek. Junda Creek is situated at Kenya's coastal island-Mombasa with water coming from the Indian Ocean. The group has managed to plant some mangrove through a grant received from Kenya Coastal Development Kenya (KCDP) and now they are setting up an apiary to start the business of selling honey to sustain the project that acts as a safeguard to discourage mangrove logging through the promotion of apiary set up in the mangrove trees. The area has seen rampant felling of trees that has caused serious marine eco-system degradation.This training concluded with a practical session of constructing a bee hive stand also known as banda– a semi-permanent structure for housing the bee hives. This bee hive set up is a requirement to prevent the high tides from washing down the bee hives since the mangroves are short to house the bee hives. The mangroves, short, shrubby with roots densely tangled and propping up hence providing a spot to sit and rest our backs whenever we got exhausted from working at the site. We exerted so much force when pushing down the logs we brought into the soft muddy ground and tied the others across each other to make the bee hive stand.
Members reinforcing stands into mangrove ground
The little sea creatures found in the mud like the juvenile crabs are a little bit scary if you watch them crawl into their burrows while the flat crabs are normally hidden or washed away into the ocean by the tides. These little creatures are very harmless unless disturbed. The mangrove is a home to a complex and diverse species thus the slight destruction of the site would wipe away their existence and consequently cause degradation of the marine environment. This is to caution tourist to avoid littering around the area and observe marine environmental conservation code of conduct for the promotion of sustainable eco-tourism. Here, I have outlined various safety concerns for tourist to be aware in detail.
Best time to visit the site
The best time to visit the mangrove site is morning when the tides are low, that is when we conducted our practical session, however, we ran a little bit late. During this time the water table is low and hence it is easy to walk around. Before noon you can also find the sticky muddy ground to be dry, making it easier to walk.
Walking through the mangrove forest
Walking through the mangrove forest is no easy task because of the barnacles found in the soil that can cut or bruise your legs and some parts of the body if you are not keen. When walking in the waterlogged soft muddy soil of the mangrove trees, be careful of the slippery soil too as it can easily fall you down, hold the tree branches or stem if you are not stable to walk freely. While walking, observe the condition of the place you want to step as it can mislead you into thinking that it is ground surface. Most mangrove trees are surrounded by still water, and in most cases the water can be very deep so one has to be careful not to find himself in a drowning situation. Like I started off, cases of people drowning and buried by the sludge are very rampant. A simple log in sight can turn out to be a deep still water in place. In most cases when there is lots of still water, it is advised to use a vessel to peddle around if not sure of the depth of water. If you are moving in a group, step at a point marked with footstep of the person ahead of you, this is a sign that the spot is safe.Use a boardwalk if there is one as most of the eco-tourism sites have such infrastructure placed.
Members walking on the sticky mangrove soil
Be careful when choosing to sit on the prop up bent mangrove roots as they might tend to be slippery. At one point I lost balance when I was trying to secure a sitting position at the mangrove prop up roots. Lastly walk slowly and not hurriedly, it is better to be slow but sure.
sitting on mangrove roots
Parking your vehicle
I remember the other day when we drove into a swampy area and got our car stuck in the mud for almost 5 hours trying to remove it from the mud with the help of different sized vehicles by pushing it. So I would warn anyone against parking a vehicle close to the mangrove area because of the mud. It is advised to park at a reserved dry area or a distant away from the mangrove.
A vehicle parked far away from mangrove site
Dressing for a mangrove trip
The dressing required for this kind of outing is quite simple, no exaggeration, very light dressing, above the knees clothes so that the water does not wet your cloth hence short clothing is preferable. It is advisable to be barefoot enabling you to walk with ease because the sticky mud sticks your shoes on the ground. This makes it very exhaustive walking while pulling your legs from the ground. If you’re scared to walk barefoot choose either very light boots or shoes as the sticky mud left on your shoes add extra weight hence making it heavy to walk. To be very comfortable in this kind of environment I would route for one to walk barefoot. Carry yourself a cap for your head as you may need it with the hot sunny rays found before noon, it is usually very hot during this time and the sun rays may cause a migraine. You can also carry sunscreen lotion for your skin protection and extra clothing in case your clothes get dirty during the trip. After the walk in the muddy forest, you can wash your feet and shoes at a nearby lagoon found nearby on a separate land from the mangrove trees.
A member washing her feet by the lagoon
Extra Items to carry
I didn't remember to pack a bottle of water for my departure to the site, so you can only imagine the need to quench my dehydrating thirst. A bottle of water will definitely be on top of your list of the things to carry on a 25 degrees celsius Junda Mangrove site. The kind of the temperature experience on the site is enough to make you faint.
It is safe to add that during our visit to the site, we found people illegally harvesting sandy soil, a free natural resource found near the mangrove forest. This is illegal considering the threat put on marine life thus some countries have banned it. So you should be vigilant when visiting the mangrove site because it attracts such lawbreakers that can put your safety at risk. It is better to walk with a tour guide who is familiar with safe spots.
This article will help you stay safe while you are having fun. Your goal is to enjoy the trip while exploring the mangrove area. With the sludgy mud, we had lots of fun while working to put up the bee hives in the mud. One of us was partly submerged into the sludge but she was strong to move around, she smiled as she stayed composed in the mud.We enjoyed every moment of it, at the end, it was all worth it.
A woman partially submerged into the mangrove sludge