At the shorelines, the crystal blue and the green Indian Ocean, waters hit and wet the white sand. A white couple, barefoot, playfully splashed water at each other as they walked the 18-kilometre stretch.
In their bliss of love, the sun chose to kiss and warm their bodies as it brightened the water bubbles further. Along the shorelines, beach boys, men and women were happy to make a living by selling coconut fruit and handicrafts.
From the raised lawns of Neptune Hotels, tourists relaxed, some of them occasionally sipping on colourful drinks in cocktail glasses as they enjoyed a stretched view of the beach that also included motorised boats as they buoyantly awaited to cruise adventurous tourists on marine expeditions.
Mid-morning hours, the weather was perfect for a voyage. Our captain, Yahya Ali of Luna Fish Club, alongside his assistant helped us into the glass white boat.
We were eager for what lay ahead of us in the sought-after Mombasa coastline whose waters are plentiful with a variety of fish of different types and colours as well as creatures that come alive in the salty environs.
True to beach culture, some folks went shirtless, and for the pot-bellied one, jibes were generously thrown at him. He responded with a joke whose contents your writer can’t relay in this publication.
Well, the cruise was a good start for the day, moderately speedy to allow the travellers to have some bubbles onto their bodies. We sat side by side to balance the boat and in the middle of the boat, was a big magnifying glass through which we were able to see stuff at the bottom of the Indian Ocean up close.
The zebrafish, jellyfish, sea urchins, water spiders, sea crabs, sea stars, and corals were some of the highlights of our excursion. Then Captain Ali announced that he was going to dive into the ocean water for interaction with the sea mortals.
For a minute, I was not sure what the captain meant because it sounded risky. In a split second, he went shirtless, put on water gaggles, and took a back-style dip into the waters and emerged with a water spider which he told us, as he floated, is harmless.
To prove it, he placed it on his hand, holding it out for us to see and went on to put it on his tongue which was a creepy sight for the fear of the worst that could happen, of course, imagining the common spider that is known to release a substance that’s toxic to the skin.
He swam and brought the spider for us to have a hold and feel of it. Travel buddy Solomon was quick to find a distant corner in the boat while adventurous Hamza not only held it but went on to put it in his mouth just the way Captain Ali had done.
He brought more creatures, each unique and distinct in look and form which said a thing or more about the creator’s artistry. For example, he fetched the sea stars of different colours which could pass for dead until we took a closer look to realise that they are only too slow in their movement.
Reading from our curiosity, Captain Ali gave a dose of education by explaining: “They can survive for two hours out of the water, and in a shed. If under the sun, they will survive for one hour. The sea stars don’t have eyes. They only sense.”
Then, he brought the ball-like sea urchins with what seemed like spikes but were soft limbs that moved to the chagrin of the travellers who marvelled at what the ocean and sea can offer.
Well, somewhere in the ocean, were several fun lovers swimming, cuddling, walking on the sands and sailing. And as we cruised on, the captain continued to enlighten us: “When you see dark parts, there are seaweeds or corals at the bottom of the ocean. When the waters are blue and clear, there is sand at that point.”
The sighting of brown patches meant we had started seeing corals, and skeletal calcareous marine polyps. The particular ones are called Kilimanjaro which looked semi-fragmented amidst the clear waters.
After more than three hours out on the ocean, the bellies seemed to agree that there was a need for some hot and tasty refills which Chef Dharmpal Rawat did with some delightful culinary treats.
And with the full bellies, was the need to cut some slack. There were three swimming pools to choose from at the uniquely three-in-one facility that caters to the vibrant, partygoers, those on holiday and the cosy or honeymooners.
I still hadn’t had enough of the ocean, so I chose to sit on the dock of the bay, watching the tide as wind and kite surfers animatedly showed off. As sleep seemed to steal my glimpse, I felt a touch of a monkey on my back.
When I looked back, he was hastily feeding on grass. I couldn’t join but gladly captured the moments.
Kenya gave us a marine treat every Ugandan tourist should try when they visit the warmly comfortable and beautifully inviting Neptune properties on the south side of coastal Mombasa.
Later, as this writer interacted with Vickram Korla, the regional director of operations at Neptune Hotels, he said that many Ugandans have hosted weddings at the facility, thanks to the ease of transportation provided by Uganda Airlines which has a direct flight to Mombasa every Friday.