A sailboat, made partially from flip-flops, takes on Africa’s biggest lake

Early last year a dhow – a traditional East African sailing vessel – travelled over 500km south down the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania, calling in at nearly a half-dozen ports along the way.

It’s a trip made by many boats. However, the Flipflopi was a dhow with a difference. Rather than the traditional wooden construction, the 10-metre, seven-tonne vessel was made entirely from waste plastic collected on Kenya’s beaches.

The crew of the Flipflopi are partners of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Clean Seas campaign, which aims to encourage a movement among governments, the private sector and civil society away from single-use plastics and towards a circular supply chain.   

A year-and-a-half on from its successful first trip, the Flipflopi is now embarking on another expedition, this time a voyage around Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake.

“The rationale behind this is to take the message upstream,” explained Dipesh Pabari, co-founder of the Flipflopi project. He says more than 90 per cent of ocean plastics originate in eight major rivers, including the Nile, part of which begins in Lake Victoria.

Man on a boatThe crew of the Flipflopi kicked off their voyage around Lake Victoria on 22 September. They say the vessel, made almost entirely from discarded plastic, sails “magically”. Photo by Dipesh Pabari