Our Traditional Arab Dhow-Kasa

Thanda Team

Ernest Hemingway, the famous author and adventurer, is renowned for his prose and tales of Africa. Indeed, it was his works that ultimately inspired the owners of Thanda Safari and Thanda Island to invest in Africa. Hemingway’s last major work published during his lifetime was The Old Man and the Sea, a story about a down-and-out fisherman and his battle with a marlin and the elements while far out in the ocean on a small boat. It is all too easy to picture exactly how this battle would have unfolded, especially after meeting the incredible Muhammed, captain of our 30-foot traditional sailing dhow named Kasa, meaning “Turtle” in Swahili.

Muhammed is without question straight out of the pages of Hemingway’s classic. Hailing from the local community of Mafia Island, Muhammed has been sailing in this archipelago his entire life. As a young boy, Muhammed spent many days and nights fishing in these waters with his family and friends, before crewing on big dhows. Their principal voyages were from Dar Es Salaam to Mombasa, transporting goods, as well as Lamu on the north coast of Kenya, and Socotra Island on the Horn of Africa, where they would load dried fish to bring back to Kenya to sell.

Muhammed speaks not a word of English, but his passion and knowledge is second to none, especially when it comes to Kasa which he knows inside and out. In 2022, one of our projects involved the rebuild and refurbishment of a traditional sailing dhow. She was ushered over from northern Mozambique, where she used to be used as a fishing boat, with the refurbishment taking six months to finish. This involved the replacement of her planking using local wood from Kilwa, called mnepa, including the replacement of all ribs. In fact, the only parts of the boat that were not replaced were the keel, made out of a tough timber from Mozambique, that was luckily still in excellent condition. The shape of the original hull was copied, identical to what she used to be, to preserve her exquisite curves and shape, with the process being painstakingly laborious in order to keep the original form. Amazingly, the entire process involved the use of no power tools, using only local hand-made tools that have been used for hundreds of years in traditional dhow making.

Whether it be on a sunset cruise, a day trip out diving with whale sharks or exploring the surrounding islets for kiting spots, Kasa is the perfect vessel to reconnect to nature and sail in full traditional style with no engine sounds, just completely in sync with the natural forces of the open ocean wind, like ancient traders once did navigating the trade winds before our time.