I was introduced to Mzee Bakari when I was looking to take a boat ride and discreetly inquired around how to go about it, the introduction was made by a barefoot young man he was spotting aviator sunglasses, a Bluetooth hands free device on his ear and a kikoy wrapped around his waist and pointed him out, the same bejeweled hand that pointed also seamlessly balanced an iPad, a Samsung smartphone, a few twigs of khat, Zippo lighter and a packet of Dunhill cigarettes. Real savvy fellow.
A small group was surrounding Mzee Bakari. They seemed to be in some kind of uniform, the men who could rock it wore vests while the others hid their proof of roast meat indulgence under corporate branded polo shirts and “run to save a life marathon” t-shirts. They all wore three quarter wayside pocket shorts. Dasani water bottles were in most hands but a cold canned Tusker beer discreetly made an appearance here and there.
The women wore sundresses and hid their expensive weaves under those big Victorian hats that are usually seen in weddings and funerals; they hid their eyes under huge diva sunglasses.
The odd member out was their driver who they kept sending back to their rented safari tour van to pick up shopping bags, selfie sticks, and power banks.
The men were in the process of hiring Mzee Bakari’s boat and his expertise for a two-hour boat ride.
A laid back Mzee Bakari was learning firsthand the unique and overwhelming task that is bargaining with Nairobians.
I stood aside and watched them, Mzee Bakari was clearly out of his league, plus it was tourist low seasons so he must have been low on Euros and it was clear he had reached his limit, but the Nairobians had reached their last offer too, it was a standoff.
Being a former Nairobian myself I sheepishly stepped in and offered to put up the paltry balance between their two figures and join the group. That suited Mzee Bakari just fine, the Nairobians weren’t so happy about it but what could they do? Into the boat we got, and off to sea we went, a flurry of selfies, tusker cans, Nakumatt bags and expensive weaves that were kept far from the water surface.
The ocean was beautiful that day, a montage of blue shades and turquoise. The boat was open-sided and we sat on the side, clad in orange inflatable jackets and could put out our hands and run our fingers through the water. The boat was glass-bottomed, which meant that a small part of the floor was glass and you could supposedly see schools of beautiful fish underneath, which was a complete waste of glass because you could see better directly on the sea outside, but a glass-bottomed boat, does sound cool, so a glass-bottomed boat it is.
The glass-bottomed boat ran on a Yamaha propeller engine that was attached by a bracket to the back, the bracket had a handle and could swing from its hinges, doubling up as the rudder.
Out in the open water, Mzee Bakari changed, right before our eyes the old distinguished boat captain became a joyous boy, full of stories and jokes. The boat had a roof canopy and he climbed up there and executed Olympic grade dives.
That toothless old fossil could somersault and dive, then stay underwater forever, I couldn’t be certain but I suppose he may have been trying to impress the ladies.
Not to be outdone, Mwas, one of the Nairobian men who had changed to biker pants and had been good at swimming in high school, took a long last sip of his tusker can, belched loudly and threw the can overboard, he then pulled himself onto the roof, did some stretches, inhaled to tuck in his stomach for the photos, requested someone to take a video of his upcoming awesomeness and dived.
That boat roof was about two meters from the water and the ensuring splash sent the weave bearers scampering for shelter on the furthest part of the boat. He landed flat on his belly, parting the water like Moses and sent huge ripples far and wide, all phones were recording as he struggled to swim back and by the time he got on the boat, his epic belly flop was trending on “twirrer”, he was referred to as “hashtag whale” for the rest of the trip.
With theatrics out of the way, Mzee Bakari assumed his boat captain aloof businesslike demeanor and pointed out different kinds of fish and explained the tides. He is a great guide and knows his ocean well, and everyone wanted to take a selfie with him and shake his hand by the time he safely got us back to the beach, he even got a kiss on the cheek and a business card from one of the ladies, he bid us farewell beaming like a real pimp.
Location: Malindi Beach
Written by Kevin MK
The views and opinions expressed in this guest blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Bora Bora Travel.