Simple dugout canoe
Mtumbwi is the most basic of traditional boats found along The Swahili Coast. It is a simple dugout canoe, generally carved from a large coastal tree such as a mango tree.
These canoes vary in size generally 2 to 3 metres, and rarely up to 6 metres in length. The smaller dugouts have the Swahili name ‘hori’, and are used to move between shore and larger vessels at anchor.
Mtumbwi are usually propelled by a small wooden paddle (kafi) or punting pole.
Smaller dugouts are more useful in confined areas such as mangrove swamps and narrow creeks. Hori are also popular with children learning to fish and get around by canoe.
Larger Mtumbwi are very popular with fishermen laying fish traps and nets, and handline fishing in calm coastal waters, especially creeks and mangrove swamps, as well as in lagoons sheltered by coral reefs from the swell of the open ocean.
Larger dugouts may be rigged with a mast and lateen sail to cover larger distances and transport a few people at a time. Although the general instability and low freeboard of the Mtumbwi restricts such transport to sheltered lagoons and creeks and estuaries.