August 08, 2008

Jambo Kenya

JAMBO KENYA

I’ve never been to Kenya and my knowledge of the country was limited to media publications, which mostly focused on safari’s to the Masai Mara. This is my experience of this wonderful destination.

We were booked on a flight at 00h40, but the plane was delayed so we only departed at “ridiculous o’ clock” (03h45am) from OR Tambo Airport. We flew with Kenya Air, a very good airline, which served great meals and lots of drinks on the way to Nairobi. There were plenty of seats open so I could make myself comfortable and catch a few hours sleep along the way. The flight was under 6 hours and we touched down in Nairobi just after 11 o’ clock (Time zone: GMT + 1 hour). After border post formalities, we made our way to the domestic departures for a 45 minute flight to Malindi. Upon arrival we've been met by friendly faces in the national greeting “Jambo” (hallo). Being a coastal town close to the equator means tropical weather. We left a cold Johannesburg at barely 5 degrees C and arrived in Malindi where the winter temperature seldom drops below 25C. The Kenyan people are extremely friendly. We took a short transfer from the airport to Tropical Village, a Plan Hotel resort, located in an area known as Malindi Beach 1.

Tropical Village is true to its name- sultry with plenty of palm trees, landscaped gardens, typical Swahili architecture and Morocan d├ęcor. On arrival we checked in and received welcome cocktails…the first of many during our stay. I was a taken by the friendliness of the staff – jambo-jambo and karibo (you are welcome) was the lingo everywhere we went.


Malindi Beach was so different than what I imaged it – Kenya is world apart from everything I know in South Africa. As the sun set, more cocktails were served and we sat at the bar meeting new people from around the world.

Our first night in Malindi was rounded off by a Masai performance at the entertainment area in the resort. Back in our room we laid in a king size four poster bed, wrapped in a mosquito net, listening to the sea breeze rustling through the palm trees. This is the kind of stuff, romantic holidays are made of.



The next day we explored Malindi Village. The resort arranged a Village tour and we jumped into a mini bus. The streets were busy with busses, bicycles, cars, trucks, tuc-tuc’s (three wheeler motorbike taxis), pedestrians, coats and chickens …”the world and his wife was in town” (a description used by Charley Boorman in his book The Long Way Down – the book I was reading for the holiday). Even though the streets were packed to capacity, nobody lost their temper…”hakuna matata” – not a problem, is the outlook on every aspect of life here. Malindi Village is characterized by Arabic architecture and many small shops and informal markets. It is a colorful town with a fusion of Swahili and Italian culture. On tour we stopped at an informal market where eager sellers met us with friendly “jambo” greetings and traditional curios ranging from leather products and creative wood crafts to interesting fabrics. Price was negotiable and sellers liked to bargain on every item. Later the day we stopped at a typical Tavern for a taste of the local drink – palm wine. It is easily the most revolting thing I have ever drunk but at KES350 (less than US$1) per bottle, it is popular with the locals. On route we visited the Gedi Ruines, Watamu beach and a wood craft factory where local tradesmen hand crafted curios. At the hand craft showroom I could not resist buying more curios.

The next few days we spend lazing on the beach, the stress on normal life evaporating into to the clear blue sky over head. At Tropical Village there are plenty to do – morning stretching by the pool, aqua aerobics, archery, beach volleyball, dance lessons and many more. The resort sports a PADI centre and non-motorized water sports. In the evenings there is entertainment (“animazion” as it is called) which includes games, cabaret and African dancing…never a dull moment. The open lounge offered a relaxing atmosphere where you can just sit enjoy a few drinks or mingle with the other guests.

As an extra surprise, my husband arranged a romantic private beach dinner for two. It was picture perfect, with a wooden gazebo draped in soft white linen floating in the breeze and romantic background music against the brake of the waves just a few steps away. Our waiter served us wine, delectable seafood platters and decadent desert. It was a very special occasion.

When in Kenya one has to include a safari as part of your stay – the perfect beach and bush destination.

We departed at mid-morning from Malindi and made our way inland. We passed several villages and a natural forest, before the landscape started to change to a drier savanna. Tsavo East National Park is located about 2 and a half hours drive from Malindi. We were again welcomed by friendly staff and our ranger joined us for a late lunch before we embarked the game viewer for a game drive. The ranger was very knowledgeable and good in spotting animals, birds and plants along the way. We saw huge buffalo herds and elephants at the river. Back at the lodge we enjoyed a hearty dinner and we chatted to the other guests, who came to Galana River Lodge for bird hunting the next day. We had an early night, as we planned a morning game drive, starting at 05h30. The next day’s game viewing was exciting. We spotted hyena, lynx, bat eared foxes and jackal, animals which we do not often see in South Africa (perhaps because I usually do not get up at ridiculous hours in the morning for game viewing). By mid-day we returned to the lodge with great photographs of elephants, a variety of antelope and birds. We unfortunately did not see lion or leopard, but the experience was still satisfying. After freshening up and a quick lunch, we made our way back to Malindi.

All to soon our stay in Kenya has come to an end. We had one last night in this idyllic setting and we tried to make the best…but we were very tired after the safari and went to bed quite early.

Waking up I had a stone in my heart. I have fallen hopelessly in love with Kenya, but I had to return to work, home, traffic, bills and the normality’s of life. As we transferred to Mombasa for our flight back to South Africa, I was already busy in my head, planning our next visit to this amazing part of the world.

For more information about holidays in Kenya go to
www.lathita.co.za or write to info@lathita.co.za

I wish to thank Plan Hotels and their staff for their hospitality.