My wife saved me after our boat sank in Lake Turkana, Safaricom staff recounts

Derrick Wesonga a senior Safaricom staff
Derrick Wesonga, the Digital Channels Tech Lead at Safaricom PLC. [Photo: Courtesy]

Derrick Wesonga, the Digital Channels Tech Lead at Safaricom PLC had planned to undertake a lot of adventure in 2020 but the coronavirus pandemic struck.

He shelved his adventure plans until 2021 when he took his leave and decided to enjoy a trip on his motorbike to Northwestern Kenya.

From Nairobi to the north, it is about 600km to Lodwar in Turkana County. It was a daring trip that he was hell-bent on covering and so he did little did he know that it would end up giving him the scariest memory in life.

“I was really looking forward to this. I had also seen a documentary on a local TV station of how one could drive all the way to the North thanks to improved infrastructure. I tried to rally up my friends in different WhatsApp groups and as usual as the day drew nearer people dropped out. So it was a solo trip for me,” he recalls.

On April 9, he left Nairobi cruising on his bike and headed for the Rift Valley. He enjoyed scenic views in Kerio Valley which he took a route to from Baringo. His first night away from home was spent in Kerio Valley.

Wesonga then headed to Iten, Moiben and later Kitale using Google Maps. He then headed to Kapenguria and later on Lodwar which is where he nearly lost his life.

 “The roads were truly beautiful and finally I got to Lodwar. One of the things I really wanted to do was to go to Eliye Springs, a resort by Lake Turkana. Some friends had stayed there and they really hyped it,” he recounts.

In Lodwar, he proceeded to Eliye Springs, a magical place on the shores of Lake Turkana. He enjoyed the rough riding across sand dunes leading to Eliye.

When he got here, he was taken aback by Turkana’s beauty and he decided to visit other places and his pick was Central Island in Lake Turkana.

In 90 minutes, he would have crossed to the island via a small boat operated by locals.

He left for Central Island with two boat operators Osama and Bobo together with Simon (an intern at Eliye Springs).

It was an adventure beyond imagination at the Central Island. He spent hours there taking pictures to share with friends and family on his return to Nairobi.

Then, on his way back to the resort, the worst happened.

“All of a sudden, I just glanced at Osama and I see panic. I looked down and the boat is half full of water,” Wesonga narrates the tragic event.

He immediately called his wife, Janet Wesonga who was exercising and informed her.

Unknown to Derrick, though, he was minutes away from the scariest boat ride and a near-death experience atop the waves of Lake Turkana.

“Janet, I am in Lake Turkana and the boat is sinking,” he told his wife.

Janet immediately called Eliye Springs and informed them of what had happened. By then, Wesonga and his boat crew were holding on to Jericcans and one small mistake to let lose would end their lives.

Hours went by without any support until a boat headed to the island came by and they were rescued. He returned to the resort at 3 am the following morning tired but grateful he survived.

The following day, he took a flight back to Nairobi and had his bike transported by G4S to the city.