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There is an air of romanticism and adventure being on board a truly beautiful, completely hand crafted Arab dhow

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For the family or group of friends who are relaxed and adventurous and down to earth, going on a sailing holiday on a dhow is seriously good fun. There is also an air of romanticism and adventure being on board a truly beautiful, completely hand crafted boat, such as an Arab dhow.

Dhows are thought to have been invented in China between 600 BCE to 600 CE. They have been documented by the Greek and early Roman historians. Dhows today still make commercial journeys between the Arabian Gulf and East Africa utilising sails as their only means of propulsion. The dhow is known for its two distinct features – firstly, its triangular or lateen sail and secondly, for its stitched construction, made by sewing the hull boards together with thongs, cords or fibres.

A dhow is a thing of unmistakable beauty. The exterior is generally speaking beautifully carved in wood and the cotton sails are enormous. Sailing the ocean, rather than listening to the sound of a motor, in a boat with so much history, and all hewed by hand, evokes a sense of wonderment, of what it must have been like for the earlier explorers.

Happily, what we can offer you is a lot safer and more enjoyable with the most amazing food!

 

Kenya

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The Explorations Company, where no two journeys have ever been the same

Where do these sailing holidays take place?

Our Arab dhow safaris take place on the Indian Ocean, in the northern Quirimbas archipelago in Mozambique, as well as along the northern Kenyan coast, between Lamu and Kiwayu.

What sort of craft are used?

Beautiful, wooden dhows! For example, in Kenya, some of them are 50 foot and one sleeps out on the deck where comfortable bedding is laid out after the evening meal. Below deck offers bathroom facilities which comprise of two loos (toilets) – a flushing and a traditional dhow toilet, as well as an open air shower.

There is plenty of space on board to change and dress. They also offer WIFI. The lower decks are also kitted out with all the latest fishing equipment and scuba diving gear and a small tender boat, an outdoor dinghy is carried to the rear.

In Mozambique, the dhow is 14 metres and it has a toilet on board.  It has a top deck where one can suntan or jump off and a bottom deck which is covered, allowing one to be out of the sun, and where one can read or simply take in the vastness of the ocean.

What activities are on offer?

Gosh – where does one start? In Kenya, the activities might include kite surfing, kayaking, visiting the ancient pedestrian only (and donkey!) town of Lamu, which is simply wonderful, with its ancient Arab Swahili history and architecture. One can end off either at Kiwayu, at a gorgeous Robinson Crusoe retreat in Kiwayu, which offers sensational kite surfing, fishing, as well as super snorkelling and swimming and kayaking, water skiing, laser sailing, dough-nutting, wake boarding, banana boating etc.  The best is to sail between Lamu and Kiwayu, and one can visit the beautiful town, and then end up at Kiwayu or on Manda Island in Lamu.

In Mozambique, one starts off at Ibo Island. This is the most extraordinary island which is home to one hotel. This is where time has quite literally stood still. The island dates back to 600 AD when Arab merchants set up trading posts here for ivory, gold and slaves, to be sold to the Arab world.

The architecture (much of it dilapidated), is exquisite, colonial in style and this is very much a working village (albeit with over 3000 inhabitants). It is utterly safe, and one can walk through the streets, watch fishermen working on their boats and mending their nets, see children play, and it feels completely comfortable and non- voyeuristic.  

Soak up village life for a couple of days staying at the lovely hotel, which was originally two governor’s houses which have now been converted and brought up to date, whilst remaining sympathetic to their surroundings and architecture.  Visit the forts which were built for political prisoners who were incarcerated during the Frelimo/Renamo war years. See artisanal silver smiths beating ancient silver coins into jewellery.

You then board your dhow for three or four nights, sailing between private islands during the day. A tented camp will be erected for your party on each island. Delicious meals will be served to you and of course, it is entirely privately guided. The days will be spent sea kayaking, swimming amongst dolphins, snorkelling and scuba diving and learning to sail a dhow!

Go for long walks on the beach. You can then either end your safari at the same lodge on Ibo island or you can visit islands north of Ibo, such as Quilalea and spend a few nights at a luxury lodge which occupies its own private island. Here you have the opportunity to go on night dives. It has a fabulous diving reef just off the island which means one doesn’t have to venture far to dive or snorkel on these fabulous reefs.

How many people can they take?

In Kenya, the dhow can take up to 10 guests. In Mozambique, the dhow takes 8 guests. In Kenya, one sleeps on board the dhow, whereas in Mozambique, one does not sleep on board the dhow.

Having said that, we tailor each dhow safari and if one wanted to sail right to the north of Mozambique, perhaps spending nights between staying in a private eco tented camp erected just for you or your party  on a private island, and perhaps culminating at a luxury lodge in the north of the archipelago, then it might be necessary to spend one night on board the boat.

The food is excellent on both our dhow safaris! Freshly caught fish of the day, together with crustacea, it is simply delicious, but naturally, we talk through all dietary requirements with you beforehand.

Is this type of holiday good for families and are there age restrictions?

This is the perfect holiday for a family – we can think of nothing better! Either before or after a safari, or as a holiday in its own right! If you have more time, such as 10 days or so on the ocean, we recommend perhaps exploring and going right to the north of the Quirimbas archipelago in Mozambique. 

In Kenya, the minimum age for the dhow is 7 years of age.

When is the best time of year?

In Kenya, the best time of year is from October to March when the kaskazi monsoon brings warmer winds, clearer water and better fishing and diving. Having said that, one can sail at any time of year, but we would leave out the rainy months of late April, May and perhaps even early June.

What is a typical day on board one of these dhows?

In Kenya, it would be fishing, sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming with dolphins (at the right time of year) and visiting the spice island of Lamu.

In Mozambique, it would be fishing, sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming with dolphins, sea kayaking and visiting Ibo Island beforehand.

 

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