Kenya’s flip flop dhow starts inaugural trip to Zanzibar

Thursday January 24 2019

The Flipflopi dhow made entirely from recycled marine plastic being prepared on January 24, 2019 to start its inaugural journey from Lamu to Zanzibar. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The dhow made entirely from recycled marine plastic, the world’s first, has set sail from Lamu Old Town and is headed to Stone Town, Zanzibar.

Flipflopi Dhow, as it is known on Thursday started its 500-kilometre expedition.

Aboard 16 crew members, all who were involved in the invention of the vessel, will sail south along the coast of Kenya, stopping in Kipini, Malindi, Watamu, Kilifi, Mombasa, Diani and Shimoni before crossing into northern Tanzania with planned stops on Pemba Island and onwards to Stone Town in Zanzibar.


The Flipflopi’s maiden journey is meant to raise awareness about marine plastic pollution.

The dhow will take at least two weeks sailing across the Indian Ocean and is supposed to arrive in Zanzibar on February 7.


It is sailing for approximately 50 to 80 kilometres a day whilst simultaneously broadcasting the #Plasticrevolution massage to a global audience.

Speaking in Lamu Thursday morning before setting off for Zanzibar, Flipflopi’s main inventor and builder Ali Skanda said they are looking forward to arriving in Zanzibar safely.


Mr Shafi Shetai, one of the crew members sailing on the Flipflopi dhow to Zanzibar. The dhow is expected to arrive in Zanzibar on February 7, 2019. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Along the way to Zanzibar, the Flipflopi team will make several stops where they will be visiting schools, communities and government officials as they discuss solutions and changing mind-sets concerning plastic wastes and the importance of maintaining a clean environment free of plastics.

Mr Skanda said he is confident that the Flipflopi will assist in raising awareness on the danger of using plastics and damping them anyhow along the beaches.

“We are set for our journey to Zanzibar. We will be passing through various towns along the Coast where we will be making some stops to educate the dwellers on how they can maintain clean beaches as well as avoiding plastic disposal on our ocean beaches.


Mr Ali Skanda who was the main builder of the Flipflopi dhow. He says their main objective is to spread the message of maintaining a clean environment free of plastics. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP


“Through the Flipflopi invention, we hope people around the world are inspired to find their own ways to repurpose already used plastic so as to maintain clean beaches which are free of plastic wastes,” said Mr Skanda.

Mr Shafi Shetai, a Flipflopi crew member, said he believes the dhow will serve to reinforce the need for continued adherence to the already existing plastic ban since it demonstrates how the increasing amounts of plastic garbage can affect not only marine life but also the lives of residents and the economy.

Mr Shetai said apart from the existing ban on plastic bags, the government should also ban other plastic materials used daily including straws since they are also posing a challenge to the environment.


The founder of the Flipflopi Project, Mr Ben Morison, said, “The Flipflopi Project has always been about encouraging change in a positive way, making people smile first and then sharing the very simple message that single use plastics really don’t make sense.”

Hemingways Watamu, is set to host the FlipFlopi Expedition crew when they stop over at Watamu Marine Park during which presentations on clean beaches and recycling will be made.

“We are among the champions of clean oceans with our continuous support of beach cleanup exercises along the Watamu coastline. Over the years, we have worked with our fellow community members to clear plastics from our beach and convert them to better use and are actively reducing single use plastics used in our properties throughout Kenya” said Hemingways Collection Operations Director, Mr. Ross Evans.

Mr. Evans applauded the FlipFlopi Initiative, terming it a huge boost to ecotourism, the hospitality industry and in pushing forward the blue economy agenda.

 “We greatly support this initiative in partnership with the UN Clean Seas Campaign as it benefits the ocean’s natural habitat, the society and is in line with Blue Economy and Kenya’s Vision 2030 for sustainable development,” he said.

The Flipflopi is a 9 metre sailing dhow made up of over 10 tonnes of collected plastic waste.

The venture is aptly named the Flipflopi Project as the boat was built by traditional dhow makers led by Mr Skanda using thousands of repurposed flip-flops and ocean plastic collected on beach clean-ups along the Kenyan Coast.


The Flipflopi crew gets ready to sail to Zanzibar on January 24, 2019. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Limiting themselves to locally available technology and materials, the builders collected discarded plastics, shredded them into small pieces, then heated them and remoulded them.

They then carved the plastic parts exactly the same way they would do to wood.

The Flipflopi dhow was launched on a day when the world was celebrating World’s Beach Cleanup Day on September 15, 2018.

The dhow now serves to reinforce the need for people to maintain cleanliness on the various ocean beaches in Kenya and the world.