Samatian Island
Airbnb Magazine

In the fall of 2019 I visited two islands for a story in Airbnb Magazine, the first being Oak Island in Maine, the second Samatian Island in Kenya.

Arriving at the water’s edge of Lake Borego after two planes and a six hour journey by car, everything was shrouded in a velvety darkness and silvery moonlight that revealed dead trees reaching from the water against a backdrop of mountains and massive lake. I had been told that hippos and crocodiles called the shallow, muddy water home.

Greated by the Whitey family at the Island’s edge, I immediately fell asleep once I made it to my room. Waking each day before the sunrise thanks to the syophoiny of bird calls, first things included ginger tea and honey from the neighboring village. 

From this elevated point in the middle of the Lake, Samatian is the perfect theater to witness the natural spectacle of nature and time. No two weather patterns evolve similarly, nor does the quality of light that’s filtered.

A bird watcher’s paradise, you can canoe around the island in an hour and not see the same bird twice - King Fishers, Spotted Cormorants, Weavers, Fish Eagles, and the resident Eagle Owl named ‘Woo’; he regularly visits throughout the day and night, keeping tabs on everyone’s movements.

All of this felt luxurious and indulgent, from the surprise waterski sessions, the long wanders to Samatian’s peak to witness a rainbow, and the true ‘hakuna matata’ feeling from everyone I encountered in this country. I learned about the complications around invasive plant species, keeping the local Rothschild giraffe heard safe from poachers, the alarming rise of water levels in the lake, and navigating the needs of local groups involved in each of these complex problems.

To feel truly connected to this place on earth and at the same time completely removed, is an emotion that I have been drawn to over and over again. A space within a space, or even a space outside of a space, detached of all the things which bind me in my every day, and yet still somehow in touch....without being completely in touch. A duality like this creates a complexity of experience that is rich and illuminating and a direct example of the outer world reflecting the inner world and back again. 

Slightly hilarious was the fact that I came and went inside five days, upon returning back to JFK the experience felt so palpable and fleeting. Had it all really happened? In my mind, Samatian proved to be a surreal version of an island paradise, dreamlike in its reality and memory.

Commisioned by Katie Dunn and Natasha Lunn