Kendwa’d Without Ken


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, May 18, 2004 was originally posted on May 22, 2004.

DAY 213:  The Mnemba Atoll, the coral reef and island pair off the northeast coast of Zanzibar’s Unguja Island, is arguably one of the world’s premiere scuba diving destinations, sporting an impressive display of tropical marine life.  Most people have come to the atoll with scuba gear to see just what beauty lies beneath, although some privileged people — i.e. “missing” Enron corporate criminal Kenneth Lay — have been rumored to hide out at Mnemba Island, the privatized part of the Mnemba Atoll which costs $1200 per night (in embezzled money from government funds of course).

Since I didn’t exactly have all that money to stay on Mnemba Island myself, my only option was to see the atoll as a scuba diver.  Doing so was up in the air since my SSI diver certification card had been stolen in Cape Town, but with the probable combination of my competent diving conversation, an e-mail from SSI saying they could verify my information over the phone if a divemaster didn’t believe me, and the fact that I fixed a web page for free using the dive shop’s copy of Dreamweaver, Chris the divemaster at Scuba Do permit me to dive.  (I had my SSI membership number handy anyway.)  Since his company’s speedboat had been stolen, he sent us to Mnemba with another diving operation he worked a deal with, East Africa Diving out of neighboring Nungwi.  The East Africa Diving boat picked me up in Kendwa, along with divers Jordan and Janice, and Jess who was coming along as a snorkeler. 

“What are your names?” the woman asked us.

“Jordan,” Jordan said.  “This is Janice and Jessica.”

“I’m Erik.”

“We just call him John,” he joked.

The three J’s and I arrived at the dive shop where divemaster Mikhail sorted us out with wetsuits, masks and fin fittings.  When we were all geared up and ready to go, we hopped back in the boat with other clients, a snorkeling French couple, and a German guy who was going for his 99th and 100th dives.  The boat cruised around the northern tip of Unguja and down the east coast were turquoise waters ebbed and flowed underneath the muscle of our boat’s motor.  With the different depths of coral beneath, the water’s indigo and turquoise hues ranged in a wide spectrum.  Jess and I tried to figure out the Crayola color name equivalents, but couldn’t quite place it.  Jordan and I kept a watch out for Ken Lay, but that was a dead end too.  The only thing that was found was a big trevally fish, which Mikhail caught with a fishing line and brought home for dinner that night. 

The full day of diving included two dives at two different sites, Kichwani and Wattabomi, each spectacular areas with 75 ft. visibility and 84°F water temperatures.  Ten fathoms below were amazing fields of lettuce and bed coral where all the characters in Disney’s Finding Nemo resided and interacted.  Big grouper fish lazily dwelled under rock formations, camouflaged to their environment.  Tubular garden eels stared at me as I hovered above them until they retracted into their holes like tape measures into their spools.  Big sea turtles just chilled out on top of some of the corals without much resistance of us surrounding it.

Like one fish piggy-backing and relaxing out on the shell of one of the big sea turtles, I had to piggy-back my dive budd Mikhail; when I ran out of air on both dives after the 35-minute mark.  I breathed using his secondary air regulator and held onto the tank — at arm’s length to decrease the gay undertones of the situation.  (I mean, we were already wearing skin-tight outfits, let alone being in a lateral position that looked like I was mounting Mikhail from behind.)

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, but it didn’t last long.  On the way back from Mnemba — still no sign of Ken Lay — storm clound filled the sky ahead of us.  In the distance we saw part of the gray cloud mass distort into funnel clouds, and on four occasions, the funnel touched down to the earth in a tornado with a tail like a cat (picture above).  Each twister was brief though, only lasting no more than a minute before dissolving and retracting back into the heavens.

The twisters stayed away when we left the calm weather in the east and into the rainstorm of the west.  We waited out the storm for a big in Nungwi back at the dive shop, where the guy who had just completed his 100th dive celebrated with a snorkel beer funnel.  We left him there to celebrate while we headed back down to Kendwa.  The storm cleared out by the time we arrived.

TWO NEW FACES, an Aussie named James and a Brit named Adam were lounging out on sofas at the Bikini Bar, no doing much of anything.  Chris at Scuba Do labeled this inevitable lazy behavior as “being Kendwa’d;” from his experience, so many people come to Kendwa with many plans to do things — catching up on reading, or journals or snorkeling or diving — only to just fall into a slump of relaxed lethargy.  In fact, Jess and I originally rented a vehicle to zip all around the island, only to have been Kendwa’d into giving up all plans to move on.

Adam continued his lazy streak while James (the latest “J” name) joined Jess and i for a little informal beach volleyball with a local guy.  But even that didn’t last long and we were all Kendwa’d again at the bar with a couple of sunset cocktails.

During the hazy sunset I walked alone up the beach to check out the out-of-place monstrosity that everyone agreed was a total eyesore:  a new luxury resort whose architecture made it look more like a stuffy corporate office rather than a beach-front paradise.  Chris told me that it was all built on Italian mafia money to corner the new Russian millionaire market and that he had been approached by them to run their dive shop — which scared him because they might as him to perform offers he couldn’t refuse.  “I want you to go diving with these six, but come back with five,” I joked.  Anyway, in less than a minute of snooping around the not-yet-complete facility, it wasn’t an Italian mafia-type that kicked me out; it was a Maasai warrior working there as a guard.  (The Maasai have gained a reputation of being the best security.)   

ADAM, THE FOUR “J"S AND I HAD DINNER at the nearby Kendwa Rocks, a bar/restaurant on the beach named after what most people probably say when they arrive in the shore village and realize how chilled out a place like Kendwa is.  Afterwards, we went back up to the bar with the swingset on the bar to play.  With the exhaustion of having snorkeled and dived that day, we didn’t do much after a couple of drinks on the swings.  I suppose we could ahve started a search party to track down Kenneth lay over on Mnemba, but when you’ve been Kendwa’d, even thinking about it was already too much work.

Next entry: Caught Up In Stone Town

Previous entry: The Things Up North

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Comments for “Kendwa'd Without Ken”

  • Erik - I want to be you.  Please, please do some magic and switch places so I’m there, and someone else is in work hell.  *sigh*  The turquoise water pic is beautiful, and the twister is cool.

    Posted by Liz  on  05/22  at  04:08 PM

  • Erik….I am really enjoying your blog.  I feel when reading it that I am there, which is great for the armchair travellers who can not do what you are doing!  Keep up the great writing and pic’s. Rose

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/22  at  08:19 PM

  • That water.
    There’s no more to say. I’m with Liz - *sigh*

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  10:21 AM

  • ROSE:  Thanks for the kudos…  I try to write The Blog in a way that truly captures the experience of traveling rather than just saying “I did this” and then this and then this, etc.  (Sorry if sometimes it reads like that, but like travel, blog writing has its ups and downs too!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  05:43 PM

  • Lovin’ the truly blue waters and the bar swings =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/23  at  08:51 PM

  • a snork beer funnel?  cool… fill it up again!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/24  at  12:55 AM

  • Too Kendwa’d to proofread, eh? Okay so you’re too busy drinking an sitting on a beach to spell “have” H-A-V-E. “ahve” is better. Hehe!

    Just kidding. Sounds very pole, pole. I’m jealous too!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/24  at  11:25 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Caught Up In Stone Town

Previous entry:
The Things Up North


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