2 Weeks At Mfangano Island: Priceless // Frame Ambition
I spent 2 weeks in June at a big little island right on the Kenya-Uganda border (water borders are weird) and had a really amazing, inspiring, exhausting, enlightening time.
Mfangano Island is a 65 square kilometre mass complete with a sacred mountain in its centre, prehistoric cave paintings and the open lake all around it which means sleeping to the sound of gentle waves lapping the black-sand shores. Its name is derived for the Suba word for ‘reconciliation’ and has been regarded as a symbol of peace for the community that has populated it since the 17th Century.
I was there on a Workaway (exchange work for a free place to stay) which is why I was able to spend all that time there and only pay for my transport and personal expenses. I stayed with a Suba and Luo family, helped out on their permaculture project taking some photos and doing social media posts and some architectural drawings.
Here are some of my favourite photos from the experience.
As it is all around Lake Victoria, the mainstay on Mfangano Island is fishing and most men, whether they have a farm or a business or a job, also have a fishing boat. Probably the reason I saw few to no potential bae’s. They were fishing all night and sleeping all day.
One of the highlights of the trip was causing a scandal with my Workaway-mate Morgs who had got chatting to a few fishermen and apparently arranged for us to go out with them early one Sunday morning. As in still dark, early. Alright I’m down, we get up and head to the meeting point. Silence. Wait for an hour. Take a few sunrise photos and get back to bed because two girls got stood up. Oh well.
Cut to the dinner table and Vero, the eldest daughter of our host family who says to us someone somewhere said that we had been flaky and didn’t go to the beach at the agreed time. There was talk of us wanting to go on a boat ride and not having money or wanting to pay them. We head out to find whoever said this and why, there’s talk of buying the guy tea so he’ll talk to us and that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Morgane.
We’re being asked for money from all directions every day - she’s had it and is crying, the person who spoke to Vero can’t really speak English to explain anything to her, I can barely understand why he was talking about us in the first place, there’s a crowd of men now offering to take us round in their boats, someone said they didn’t show to take us because a boat wasn’t available at the agreed upon time - MESS.
Until today I don’t know what actually happened and what was said - probably never will. WELP.
I honestly hadn’t heard of anything except the fairly high-end Governor’s Camp as far as accommodation options go and figured you could probably go on a boat ride and maybe some hikes for entertainment. I also saw a few mentions of historically significant cave paintings but even that had little information online.
On our whole-day whole-island hike we accidentally on purpose went to check out Governor’s Camp and were treated to a little private tour of the suites and permaculture garden where the restaurant sources much of the produce served to guests.
Hit my budget vs luxury travel post on Mfangano Island for more of what you can get/experience at what price points at the island.
We got the best of both worlds with a luxury camp to ourselves (albeit for an hour or so), a free place to sleep for two weeks, people to spend time with and a refreshing lake to swim in whenever we wanted. Mostly priceless.
Are you convinced? Have you been to Mfangano yourself? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!