In Summary
  • The Three Sisters caves were used by Digo people as a hideout from slave traders.
  • Others claim, slave traders used the caves to keep their captives as they waited for ships that ferried them to the infamous Zanzibar slave market.
  • Kwale County is also home to the Maji Moto springs in Lunga Lunga.

Traversing the hinterland on the Kenana-Shimoni road in Kwale County, one hardly notices a small signage on the left side of the road.

It is not easy to see it because it is covered with dust from the ongoing road construction.

The signage shows the direction to the Three Sisters caves at Fikirini in Tswaka village.

The caves are about 15 kilometres from the Kenana-Shimoni junction.

The caves — Pangani, Kisimani and Mdenyenye — all have cultural artefacts of the Digo people.

The entrance to one of the Three Sisters caves at Tswaka village in Kwale County. PHOTO | SAMUEL BAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

HIDEOUT

A Tswaka villager, Dote Salim, guided us through the caves. Salim told us the rich history of the caves.

“The first cave is called Mdenyenye and is the largest. It has a wooden staircase built by the locals,” he said.

Salim said the word Mdenyenye means the act of ascending or descending using a rope or roots.

“Most of the visitors who frequent this cave prefer using the hanging roots of the trees to go down the cave. History has that this cave was specifically used as a hideout for the villagers who were running away from slave traders,” he said.

ESCAPING SLAVERS

The second cave, Pangani, has several chambers that Salim said were used for prayers and resting. Their ancestors also had their meals in the Pangani cave.

Pangani is unique since it has an underground tunnel stretching six kilometres that connect to the Shimoni caves.

“Unfortunately the tunnel has been blocked and it is impassable now. The slaves used to run away from Shimoni using this tunnel,” he said.

The third cave, Kisimani (Swahili for a well) has a fresh water well that never runs dry.

“This is an important site where visitors can spot baboons and monkeys as they quench their thirst. This cave is also home to thousands of bats,” he said.

There are at least seven species including Egyptian fruit bats, common bent-wing, long-fingered bats, tomb bats, as well as angle-faced bat.

The three caves are managed by a community-based organisation and opens doors to tourists and locals at an affordable fee.

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