I love seafood – I love the sea-saltiness in the oysters, the calamari, the prawns and the crabs. And I love seafood that’s fished out of the ocean without damaging the local ecology while sustaining the local people and economy.
So I’m feasting at the Dabaso Crab Shack, a wonderful little shack on stilts approached via a boardwalk through a mangrove forest next to a village in Mida Creek.
It’s a beautiful late afternoon and we hail a tuk tuk (motorbike taxi) on the main road where the sign for Dabaso Crab Shack Boardwalk and Canoe Rides is for a sunset sail around the creek before dinner.
The tuk tuk chugs its way down the straight murram road, past the local villages where people relax under tall coconut trees after work and children run around playing. We go right to the very last village.
There we’re met by Kahindi Charo. A local conservationist born in the area, his concern about environmental issues at hand – like over-fishing, low-fish catches and over-harvesting of local mangroves trees in the area led him to join a conservation group – the Watamu Marine Association.
There he works on dolphin and whale surveys including raising the plight of the marine creatures locally. He was instrumental in organizing the crab shack in 2008 with the Dabaso Conservation Community that’s part of the Mida Creek Conservation Community.
Dabaso Fish Landing by the quaint little village on the edge of a creek has boxes in the mangroves where crabs are kept for fattening. Mature crabs are caught from the wild in the Creek and although crab-fattening may look easy, it can be challenging as the bamboo cages wear away and the crabs wander away.
Charo leads us down the few stairs to the hand-crafted dug-out canoe from the kapok tree called a dau and as we find our spots to balance the sailing vessel – Charo picks the long oar to push us out of the shallow waters and into the deeper creek.
It’s a picture out of the heavens – so green and lush with mangroves of different species edging on to the blue waters of the creek that change colour with the light. It’s surreal.
It’s a quiet sail as we float along the mangrove tributaries to Kirepwe Island – Charo could be our gondolier from Venice.
This 32-square- kilometre inter-tidal creek is amazing. Part of Watamu Marine National Reserve, it’s an Important Bird Area (IBA) that’s internationally recognised for its rich bird life, especially for the waders and migrants. It’s also a nursery for little fish and turtles.
The mangroves provide another ecological service – the roots filter the waters clean for the ocean and add nutrients besides giving the birds a place to roost, nest and breed.
Charo points to other equally amazing places as we reach the end of a tributary – in the horizon where the sun will set shortly are two globally recognised forests – the Arabuko-Sokoke and the Dakatcha woodlands where the endemic Clarke’s weavers were discovered nesting in the wetlands by the eminent Fleur Ng’weno and the Dakatcha Woodland Conservation group in 2013.
Towering above them is the tallest hill in the area – Mangea and then the sun burnishes the sky in colours of molten gold and orange and Charo rows us back to the Crab Shack.
From the water-front, it’s a quaint little shack on stilts. Patrons seated at the tables watch us sail by. The only access to the shack is to walk on the board through the mangrove forest.
Lit lanterns lead us to a table by the creek-front with stars touching the waters and a full chorus of frogs.
The menu is pre-set and the food arrives soon after we sit down. Fresh oysters from the mangroves are downed with freshly-squeezed lime juice – so tangy and mouth-watering followed by crab-filled samosas, deep fried prawns and calamari rings.
“All the fish and seafood on the Crab Shack menu is sustainably fished from Mida Creek,” says Charo while one of the shareholders of the community project doubles up as the waiter and the other as the master-chef.
By the end of the seafood bonanza, the moon is above us and the walk along the boardwalk to the mainland where our tuk tuk awaits is just perfect.