Saturday, 3 December 2016

Century Old Ngalawas Still Sailing East African Waters


Ngalawa, Traditional Fishing Boat Kenya and East Africa, Shazaad Kasmani, Swahili Boat, Wild Kenya Safaris, www.wildkenyasafaris.com, Wooden Boat Kenya Coast
Ngalawa returning from offshore fishing grounds

Its 2016 and a wooden dug out canoe with a triangular sail swiftly and steadily traverses the waters in front of you, remnant of a time when hundreds of these ancient looking boats would dot the horizon, departing from local ports early before dawn and returning to their moorings minutes before sunset.

The ngalawa is a traditional boat whose history is richly embedded in the coastal traditions of East Africa. Made from the hollowed out trunk of a mango tree and held together with ropes and bamboo, it is still widely used by traditional fishing communities today and its design has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. 


Ngalawa, Traditional Fishing Boat Kenya and East Africa, Shazaad Kasmani, Swahili Boat, Wild Kenya Safaris, www.wildkenyasafaris.com, Wooden Boat Kenya Coast
Ngalawa docked on the beach

Heading out to sea day in day out, local fishermen entrust their lives to this traditional six meter long ngalawa for various reasons. Its tough wooden hull reassures the crew that it will not fall apart while being bobbed around at sea, and remain relatively buoyant on the ocean surface should it in the rare event happen to capsize. The ngalawas streamlined design also helps the boat cut through water like a hot knife slicing ice-cream, while its two extended outriggers on the port and starboard side of the boat offers added stability in rolling seas and while crossing the treacherous breakers over the long fringing reefs. 

So its no wonder that this boats design has survived modernization. Unchanged it has remained a favorite among local seafarers for the last few hundred years and its minimal maintenance, speed and stability practically guarantees its existence, for the next few generations of Swahili fishing culture.

No comments:

Post a Comment