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travelnew Kenya Resident Specials Special Wine Offer In Days Gone By Guest Photo Gallery Book Reviews 2 travel news October 2012
a for the world
issue 25 - october 2012
Something new and exciting on Diani Beach...
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A pool with a view at Kenya's newest beach resort - Swahili Beach. Read all abou 4 travel news October 2012
ut it on page 18.
our opening shot
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contents letters 9 the news 10 swahili beach 18 On The Cover by Geet Chana
crossing the simpson 30 miscellaneous ramblings 36 new wine of the month 38
Marketing & Sales
residents specials 40 coastal currents
hard cheese in limuru the inside edge book reviews
guest photo gallery
Tony Clegg-Butt Alison Clegg-Butt
Design & Editorial Consultant
Publisher & Editor
Duncan Mitchell, Julia Lawrence Steve Shelley, Jane Barsby Juliet Barnes, Ken Shannon Anthea Rowan Photographic Contributors
Geet Chana, Ken Shannon
The opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the publishers who cannot accept blame for errors or omissions. The publishers do not accept responsibility for the advertising content of the magazine nor do they promote or endorse products from third party advertisers. ÂŠ2012 Travel News (Kenya) Ltd. All rights reserved. Contact us: click HERE
The Kiwis do get carried away with their rugby!! A brand new A320 decked out for World Cup Rugby 2011.
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editorial There is only one word for this month's edition - ZOOM With the launch this month of our Version 3 viewer, we can now give you the choice of how much or how little zoom you need to be able to read all the good stuff and images herein. Simply click on the page you need to zoom into as before, you'll now notice a slide icon appear on the top right of the screen - slide to suit, it even remembers your settings for your next zooming moment. It is quick and clear, and easy to use and will make reading this great little digital magazine so much easier, not that it's been difficult in previous versions. Our iPad app is some way off unfortunately, but a work in progress nonetheless. Enjoy this month's edition, as always a pleasure to bring it to you. Tony Clegg
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Yet another excellent issue!
Tsavo River Camp was enjoying the height of its fame in the mid ‘80s when we lived in Nairobi. So nice to hear it is back on the way up. Our son went to school with a Ramsden and we met the family at Muthaiga Club one Christmas purely by chance, so it is nice to know more about the family’s connection with Happy Valley. The house series has been excellent. We want to get flights direct to Mombasa and this year looked at the few options available, primarily KLM. At over £1,500 a person per flight over Christmas our two-week holiday has been binned. Being quoted €500 (yes, five hundred Euros) a night for a house in Watamu and the associated flight costs was just an expense too far. I would dearly love to have the option of going via either Brussels Airlines or Qatar Airways and introduce some completion into the pricing, because Thompson Airways is the only other option I know of, other than Kenya Airways. But it makes Vipingo Ridge look like a great option after Duncan Mitchell’s praise. Watamu Plot 40 beach invaders take note. Watamu isn’t the only place to party. So sorry, Kenya, the McRae family have been priced out of it as will many others be. What a shame. Please make sure we know about what is happening on the flight front in future issues. A specific travel news section is really useful. New hotels, new resorts, security issues, Nairobi traffic, people moving on, etc. In some ways your magazine has almost taken on the role of my own personal travel agent! Keep up the good work. Ian McRae U.K. Ed: Keeping international airlines out of Mombasa has got to be addressed by the tourism fraternity, if not all citizens of this great nation. Qatar Airways announced scheduled flights from Mombasa to its worldwide hub in Doha, to start in August 2012. To date, the Kenyan government has declined to give its approval. This is followed by the similar scenario of Brussels Airlines announcing weekly scheduled flights to/from Brussels planned to start in November 2012. They too have hit the proverbial brick wall. Emirates have also indicated an interest to fly into the port city. In my opinion it can only be self-serving interests, probably those of our national airline, although I'd be happy to be proven wrong, that are holding up these well-needed progressive developments. I know coast tourism is suffering big-time, and these developments are not going to help matters. Let's get talking - click HERE and tell us your story - if there is enough interest, and there should be, we'll devote a good part of our next issue to this topic. October 2012 travel news 9
the news Wild Camel Day
Here is an event for the whole family - this now annual event includes a cross-country half marathon, both foot and bike track races for all ages, camel racing, camel polo and, of course, camel rides.
Eye Go Game Spotting (EGGS) is as it says on the packet and held in aid of the Mwatate Eye Clinic in Taita. Held on the Lumo Community Wildlife Sanctuary along the Voi-Taveta road only 6 hours by road from Nairobi. Who spots the most wins; it is a brilliantly social and entertaining long weekend in the bush. 18th-21st October - various camping options available or stay at Lions Bluff or Taita Hills lodges. Click HERE to get in touch
Plus a camel auction if you are so inclined. Farm and community stalls, fun activities for all, plus bar, nyama choma and canteens. Saturday, October 20th from 0700 to late. Camping sites available at Bobong. For more information click HERE
Samâ€™s House - Mbamba Kofi Holiday house rental right on the beach at Watamu. Sleeps 9, fully staffed, swimming pool, back-up generator. Reasonable daily rate minimum rental 5 nights.
Click HERE to enquire 10 travel news October 2012
New Mara Camp Black Leopard Mara Resort is now open after a year or more in the making. Located just outside the Masai Mara in the less travelled south-east quadrant on the 300acre private Olderkesi Wildlife Reserve. Access by air is into the Keekerok airstrip or by road through either the Sekanani or Olemutia gates - only 4x4 vehicles are allowed in this area. In a previous life this camp was known as Muthaiga Camp - but is hardly recognisable as that today. Two family villas with two ensuite bedrooms and a private lounge, or six luxury ensuite tents for double, twin or single use. Extra beds can be fitted if required. Resident self-drive rates from Kshs. 10,000/- per person per night. Full board of course. To visit their website click HERE
Join us on Facebook! October 2012 travel news 11
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the news British & Irish Lions Tour Australia 2013 Uniglobe Let's Go Travel Sports have only four platinum match tickets + 4* star accommodation packages left for next years British & Irish Lions Tour to Australia.
Includes: two nights accommodation in 4* hotel pre and post matches in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney - room only . With the very best tickets money can buy - platinum match tickets. 90-minute pre-match party in each city plus on-site staff. Airline tickets from Nairobi to all three cities from US$ 2,456. First Test 22nd June - Brisbane * Second Test 29th June - Melbourne Third Test 6th July - Sydney
Click HERE to enquire...
Cost-effective advertising solutions that reach your target with immediacy. Click HERE to advertise October 2012 travel news 13
Lets Go Skiing Lets Go Travel's annual ski pilgrimage to the winter wonderland that is Zurs in Austria has announced their group departure dates for 2013. Depart Nairobi on 31st March returning 8th April. Click HERE for more information
KWS Director Resigns
Fab 4 Turns 50
This year marks 50 years since the Beatles smashed onto the music scene and changed the shape of history (and hairlines). On 18 August 1962, Ringo Starr made his first appearance as the Beatles official drummer at Hulme Hall in the village of Port Sunlight, Wirral. The four members of the band had a two-hour rehearsal before taking to the stage as the headline act in the local Horticultural Society's 17th annual dance. On that night the Fab Four were born... the rest is history.
Julius Kipng'etich, the long-serving Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, has resigned to pursue personal interests. What those are is anybody's guess, some suggesting a County Governorship in next years General Election. He is pictured hear holding a rhino horn recently confiscated from poachers. 14 travel news October 2012
Read about how Britain is celebrating this landmark year in musical history here.
Tel: 254 41 4474600/1/2 Web: news www.tamarind.co.ke October 2012 travel 15
2-Litre Bottle Wall Planters Following on from our previous 2-litre bottle planter, which has found widespread use throughout Africa - here is another bright idea from the folks at Save Trees Save Earth. Click HERE to visit their Facebook page.
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Kenya's newest beach hotel thinks outside the box - and ticks all the right boxes. The intrepid Anthea Rowan discovers and amuses.
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Look at the online images of Swahili Beach, on the northern tip of Diani’s long white swathe of sand, and you don’t imagine it’s the kind of place you, or more correctly I, might feel comfortable. I gawped at the voluptuous interiors, the lavish décor, the decadent architecture. Swahili Beach was orchestrated by innovative coast design team Tibor Gaal. I was worried about my wearing my old faded bikini with the saggy derriere (not unlike its owner) to the multi-tiered sparkling blue pools fed by water from the hotel’s own saline borehole. It brought to mind the naturally terraced limestone ‘cotton castle’ ponds at Pamukkale in Turkey. I looked down at chipped nail polish and grimaced, pushed my recently cellotaped onearmed sunglasses atop my head and began to panic about what to pack: a khanga to disguise vintage swimwear? Sandals to camouflage toes that needed a lick of polish? My single piece of aspirant evening attire (courtesy of mitumba) which was passable in a kind light – the dark kind? If I worried about what to pack, I worried a bit more when my daughters looked over my shoulder at the screen and asked, ‘Are you going there?!’ And again when Husband dropped me at the entrance and tipped me out of a pickup which coughed and snorted up the drive, belching exhaust fumes, rattling perilously on its rusty chassis and generally giving the impression that its contents had arrived at quite the wrong address. The liveried porters smiled broadly as I, hair standing on end because said chariot lacks modern air-conditioning so one is compelled to ride with windows wide open, attempted a nonchalant sashay to the Front Desk. Collecting a room key and downing a Virgin Dawa offered brief respite from trying not to trip up and generally promote the impression of one who regularly patronizes such luxurious joints. I sipped and took in the long view through a telescope of wide open foyer to the pool where whipped meringue minarets with upswept arches framed infinity which tipped to unseen pools below and the Indian Ocean beyond.
Whipped meringue minarets and domes
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The grand main entrance, where Husband tippedOctober me out...2012 travel news 21
Left - The Malijis Restaurant from on high and below a bedroom the size of a London flat, plump with pillows and draped in mozzie net.
The bathroom would accommodate a small family, the sunken bath...
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Cleverly the gardens were landscaped, tended and allowed to mature before building began. Garden designer Bruce Hobson, who masterminded the film set gardens for Out of Africa, White Mischief, The Kitchen Toto, The Constant Gardener, the real life garden at Lamu for Prince Ernst of Hanover and Princess Caroline of Monaco and is also the creator, with illustrator Adrienne Kennaway, of the much loved Mwenye Hadithi children’s’ books, told me he ‘collected all the plants I thought would be useful, starting four years before the hotel opened’. He is right when he observes this gives the illusion of a longer history to the buildings. He elaborates, ‘the main concept was to give the guest a feeling of something quite different from other coast hotel gardens; my gardens are designed to draw the guest into experiencing the planted areas, rather than just looking at them.’ It’s worked: the head gardener has requests from guests asking for guided tours of the grounds which are a profusion of interesting, colourful and indigenous, some planted on the advice of the local Colobus Trust, and vibrant exotics like the Giant Bougainvillea ‘smarty-pants’ trees outside, as well as some rare and interesting palms like the Cocos schyzophylla. The hotel owner, Kelly Kalsi, founder of Ramboo Furniture in Nairobi, was charming when I was introduced as the hack who’s going to write his hotel up; he shares Bruce’s passion for his work. His affection for his project palpable not just in his involvement in the gardens, as Hobson observed, ‘my clients let me do what I want, which is an ideal way to work, but no client has thrown themselves into the garden part of a project with as much enthusiasm and joy and talent as Mr. Kalsi’, but in the hotel too, as evidenced by the tiny, pertinent details that present everywhere which endorse and authenticate this place as Swahili. I was threaded through Bruce’s creations to my room. The hotel is reminiscent of a Tunisian or Zanzibari or, indeed, Swahili village arranged in small clusters with verandas festooned with creepers and dripping greenery which shade and soften contours and help you forget this is a 140-room hotel. Aesthetically, this place couldn’t be further from the 1970s monoliths that stomp unimaginatively down the beach with their tired prints and over-varnished, over-carved furniture. My bed for the night would make my children swoon – it’s the size of a London flat, plump with pillows and draped in mozzie net; the bathroom would accommodate a small family; the sunken stone bath a whole flock of bathing geese; and the view from my balcony is into perpetuity. My only gripe – and it’s a small one – are the duvets and the aircon. Why not drop the net, fling the huge windows wide open, turn off the a/c and turn on the fan when the wind drops. I need to hear the sea to know it’s there as I sleep, and air conditioners are anathema to somebody who grew up sweating under a single sheet and being told by her mum, when she complained that it was too hot, to ‘think about something else'. ‘What’, I demanded of acting General Manager Tim Challen later, ‘are you doing about your carbon footprint?' (Bearing in mind the weight of those duvets, the chilly hum of the offending air conditioners.) 'Where’s your Green initiative?' He is direct and certain in his October 2012 travel news 23
response, ‘Solar for hot water, energy efficient LED lights around the hotel, a sewage treatment plant that produces fresh water to irrigate the gardens, (with plans to harvest bio-gas in the future)’, and, he adds, ‘the composting of organic waste from the kitchen is also in the pipeline.’ And guests, I am pleased to hear, are encouraged to reuse towels. Mindful of those not very pretty toes and the fact I was to be joined by Husband (who would presumably present himself with the same exhaust-fumed, rattling entrance as I had) for dinner, I navigated my way to the Spa which offers the usual in terms of manicures, pedicures, massages, yoga, Pilates and exercise classes with personal trainers. I had a pedicure and selected a colour from a bowlful of glossy berry hues whilst I sat by a huge window onto the sea, a muslin curtain billowing in the breeze. Less usually for this part of the world, the Spa has signed the same revolutionary beauty product line as Liberty’s of London; Anne Sémonin was one of the pioneers of made-to-measure treatments and the focus remains on combining trace elements and essential oils in a prescription unique to each individual. When I visited, the product wasn’t available yet; had it been, I might have been able to avail of the Age Defying Cryotherapy Super Facial, in which case I’d have had pretty toes and looked seventeen again. So to dinner, with Husband who recognizes me because though my feet looked younger and daintier, nothing else does. I don my best mitumba and we mince off to Baharini on the beach for a pre-supper drink. There are several other bars and restaurants in the hotel: Spice Route, for Swahili-Indian fusion food and shisha; the Champagne and
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Oyster bar – the first of its kind in Kenya; the Kahawa coffee shop, decorated with a plethora of Arabic coffee pots (had my cavernous handbag not been full of camera and note book I might have nicked one along with handfuls of stolen cuttings and seeds to transplant in my own garden - my mother-in-law always said the plants we pinch are those that do best); and Majilis, where we ate and which means ‘meeting or gathering’ and is the main, and biggest, restaurant in the hotel.
It does buffets, which I’m a bit allergic to. Here’s why. At my grand old age I am a little averse to standing in a queue clutching a plate waiting for my supper. It smacks too much of boarding school and, given fast approaching dotage, I want to squeeze as many pleasant surprises into a day as I can – if that surprise means eagerly anticipating what’s on a dinner plate: great. Who doesn’t love inspecting what they ordered and either being smugly thrilled or disappointed and wishing they’d ordered what their husband has. It all adds a certainly little frisson to the tedium of utility bills and school fees. But whilst I might enjoy awaiting whatever little surprise a waiter throws at me, I do know, as a mother, that children rarely approach the experience in the same spirit. Frequently my delighted surprise manifests as their revolted shock. ‘Yuk, what’s this green stuff on my fish?’ If you’re dining with kids, a buffet is perfect. They put it on their own plates and they can eat it. That means they can avoid the broccoli without a scene and you can eat without a conscience because it all costs the same anyway. My advice if you stay here is pack the kids off to the buffet (that way if they behave appallingly nobody will know they belong to you) whilst you escape to dine in surprise, anticipating peace a la carte at the Spice Route. October 2012 travel news 25
And that brings me to this: Swahili Beach is, notwithstanding preconceptions and, let’s face it, a 'don’t touch' elegant appearance a child-friendly hotel. When I visited, they were advertising special East African rates (see Resident Specials on page 41). The pool is a kid’s dream and, despite the signs, ‘Please don’t jump from pool to pool’, there were plenty of children doing just that and having a blast. The beach here isn’t great – it’s a collection point for end of bay seaweed despite the hotel’s best efforts to manage it – but kids prefer swimming pools anyway: there are no sea urchins and the water stays at the same level all day long. They can avoid the greens in the main restaurant and eat pizza and chips at Baharini’s. I think it’s a chic hotel with Heart and it doesn’t seem to mind a bit that some guests are a little on the tatty side. For more information click HERE
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Read Travel News on your iPad or Tablet. App coming soon!
In the meantime, you need to tap twice to zoom in... October 2012 travel news 29
Crossing the Simpson Former Kenyan resident now ardent Aussie - Ken Shannon takes us on an outback odyssey crossing Australia's spectacular Simpson Desert...
This outback odyssey started in the Flinders Range north of Adelaide in South Australia. The Flinders are a fantastic place to begin a journey. There are many well serviced camping spots within the National Park and the scenery is stunning. The area is a geological textbook and one canâ€™t help becoming an amateur geologist. Mountains and gorges spring out in every direction. Sunrises and sunsets are always spectacular due in part to red dust suspended in the atmosphere. While the outback can be a hot dry place in summer, our journey in winter 2012 gave us beautiful sunny days and very cold frosty nights.
Flinders Range 30 travel news October 2012
Sturts Desert Pea (Swainsona formosa) the floral emblem of South Australia
After reluctantly leaving the beauty of the Flinders Ranges, we drove up to Mt. Dare Station, which is the jump-off point for the five hundred kilometre trail across dunes to Birdsville in Queensland. Mt. Dare is not much more than a big shed (with a pub inside it) on the edge of the desert. The people there were friendly, helpful and have developed a great rapport with the Aussie 4WD community. Just eighty-five kilometres out of Mt. Dare we arrived at the Dalhousie thermal springs: a very pleasant 38C to 40C degrees. It was just beautiful to swim in on a cold windy 14C degree day.
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Leaving Dalhousie we were quickly into sand dune country. The desert colours were stunning and the light at dusk and dawn really was spectacular. For most of the trip the going was quite slow and we generally averaged slightly less than 20 kph. Each afternoon we would stop driving sometime after three and set up camp, collect some firewood for the chilly nights and then kick back and enjoy some quality Aussie wine and beer. Mornings were chilly and the female members of our party were very happy to let the men get a fire going and emerge once the sun was up and the coals were glowing.
Each day we crossed the endless dunes with clay-based swales in between. The swales were easy driving, however the dunes required 4WD and sometimes low-ratio. We learnt quickly that lowering tyre pressures made the dune ascents much easier. On our fourth day we started to encounter dry salt lakes between the dunes. Some of these had only recently dried out and we came close to sinking in on more than one occasion. Our strategy was for the lead vehicle to advance cautiously with the second vehicle on hand some fifty metres further back in order to provide a tow out if necessary. As we closed in on Birdsville we encountered the last and largest dune known locally as â€œBig Redâ€?. We got the surprise of our lives to encounter a huge freshwater lagoon on the far side.
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Perhaps the best sundowner spot in Africa...
Nachos with guacamole heated over campfire coals in a cast iron oven.
Desert Cake - one tin pineapple, self-raising flour & sugar cooked slowly over camp coals in a cast iron oven. October 2012 travel news 33
We covered 585 kms in five days and four nights. The Land Rover used ninety-eight litres of diesel and the Nissan used eighty-six. We carried one hundred litres of fresh water, two crates of beer and an assorted collection of wine and champagne. Meals were cooked in cast iron camp pots and ovens on the campfire coals. The round trip from Melbourne was approximately 3,000 kms and took almost three weeks at a leisurely pace.
Dry salt water lakes found between dunes
'Big Red' sand dune with huge fresh-water lagoon near Birdsville 34 travel news October 2012
Been there - done October 2012 travel newsthat! 35
In last month's column I made note of international airlines trying to gain access to fly directly into Mombasa with scheduled service, being denied operating permits by the Kenya Government. Qatar Airways, due to start service to the port city in midAugust from its global hub in Doha, has now indefinitely postponed this service after hitting a brick wall. Brussels Airlines, which was due to fly a weekly scheduled service from Brussels to Mombasa starting in November has also terminated its plans for the self-same reasons as above. Emirates, who had previously indicated interest in serving Mombasa will now, some say, fly to Zanzibar instead. What’s going on? It is not that hard to fathom, really. The obvious culprit, if that is the right word, is Kenya Airways - who more than likely objected to these airlines flying into Mombasa through the normal course of licence applications to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) - without doubt to protect its home turf from more worthy competitors. Of course, I’m being naïve to the max as ever here. Short-sighted as this might be, a real reason to protect one's turf at the coast is perhaps the fact that Ethiopian Airlines, 36 travel news October 2012
flew in under the radar, so to speak - no one noticed or more likely paid attention to their route application to the KCAA to serve Mombasa and they now have daily flights to and from their hub in Addis Ababa. I’m reliably told that Ethiopian have made a massive dent in Kenya Airways' international revenues to and from Mombasa. So good was business that they used large capacity aircraft to operate flights during peak periods, usually 260+ seat Boeing 767-300s. The knee-jerk reaction to Ethiopian's success was to stop anyone else from further diluting Kenya Airways' international revenues, hence Qatar, Brussels Airlines and perhaps Emirates being stonewalled by the KCAA. These decisions fly in the face of a tourism industry already under serious stress. Already beleaguered by the global economic slowdown, the global war on terrorism which at times spills over our borders, negative press by ill-informed journalists, a Tourism Minister more intent on being re-elected in next year's General Election and who from industry insiders is totally out of touch, and a cash-strapped Tourist Board. Surely turning away new entry international airlines might just be the last straw. And talking of the last straw...
You probably didn’t know, and to be honest I didn’t either, that the World Tourism Awards Africa gala dinner, was to be held in Nairobi later this month. Here the great and the good of Africa’s tourism industry would be feted with awards as the world’s very best. A gala evening hosted by Kenya through the Kenya Tourist Board, with all the glitter and glamour and as importantly the kudos Kenya would receive for hosting such an event, was well - all for nought. It seems at the eleventh hour the powers that be cancelled the event citing a lack of funds, even after the organisers had made considerable concessions. This egg-on-face moment certainly underlines the government’s lack of understanding of what it takes to promote tourism to this country. Budgets mercilessly slashed they might have been – but a showcase event such as this was something that surely should have been included, given the exposure this country would have had around the globe.
line. The tourism fraternity is obviously lobbying against this, but is anybody in government listening? Pity the investors and employees of today’s tourism establishments, hounded out of business and jobs, by a government that doesn't appear interested in its tourism sector. Many years ago I asked a politician friend why government wasn’t interested in tourism. He said, ‘TCB, my friend, tourists don’t vote; and we are being elected solely to serve our people’ - not thinking for one minute that a whole herd of unemployed waiters were his constituents. Please go to page 9 and read a letter from a tourist - then get involved in our forum by simply clicking HERE. Have your say... Prozac, please, nurse! TCB
Leaving no time to find an alternative African venue, Africa’s winners will now be announced in Singapore. How silly is that! One final frightening addition to all of the above is the proposal by government to impose VAT (value added tax) on all tourism products and services – which will add another 16% to today’s tourist’s bottom October 2012 travel news 37
intense purple colours plum, spice and smoky oak with a soft, warming finishâ€Ś to be served with hearty robust food and good friends
90% shiraz, 10% malbec
sunny, warm days and low yields â€“ un-crowded vines = happy grapes and richly flavoured, long lived wines
wine was fermented in stainless steel vats and aged in french and american oak barriques, prior to final blending and bottlling
intense purple with violet and pink fringe.
plum, spice and dark chocolate
warming, lush palate with soft, mouth-filling flavours
alc/vol â€“ 14.0%
now - 2015
italian sausages and roasted vegetables
TA 6 g/L
james halliday 2011 australian wine companion 38 travel news October 2012 5 star winery rating
wine-of-the-month special offer
Until now only available in upmarket restaurants and clubs Now exclusively available to our readers! In case lots only (12 bottles) Kshs. 17,400/- per case Free delivery to most of Nairobi. Click HERE to order.
TCB says, 'Here is an Aussie red that is real value for money. Its online price in Oz is A$ 15.00 (equiv Kshs. 1329/-) here we are selling it for Kshs. 1,450/- per bottle - case lots only. A brilliant 2007 shiraz from Celestial Bay Wineries in the Margaret River region of Western Australia. A great taste for the good times.This is an incredible wine at an incredible price, and you canâ€™t buy it in the shops, so buy it here today'. Offer valid while stocks last. James Kinuthia arrived in Australia Today he is the proprietor of Makkin, in 2004 to pursue a BSc at Murdoch a company that exclusively distributes University in Perth. Four years later, he Australian wine. not only had a double major in Biological and Environmental Sciences, but had also developed a keen interest in Australian wine. So how did he develop an interest in wine? James explains, â€œWe did odd jobs during the holidays to make some pocket money and one of our first jobs was pruning vines at a remote country town called Boyup Brooke in the famous Margaret River region, well known for its wineries. Back home, he noticed that there were few Australian wines in Kenya so decided to turn his hobby into his business. October 2012 travel news 39
resident specials ........................................ Includes: Three nights half-board, return flights to/from Nairobi, airstrip transfers, day and night game drives and guided bush walks. Plus FREE hot air balloon flight. Excludes conservancy fees. How Much? Kshs. 77,000/- per person sharing (valid to 31st October) Click HERE to enquire
Karen Blixen Camp Masai Mara
Elephant Bedroom Camp Samburu
Set on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in Samburu NR, surrounded by doum palms, sits this small camp of 12 luxury tents - all furnished in rustic African style while offering all the comforts expected of a luxury camp. Includes: Two nights full-board, return flights to/from Nairobi, airstrip transfers, shared game drives and sundowners. Excludes park fees. How Much? Kshs. 54,500 per person sharing (valid to 15th December) Click HERE to enquire
Encounter Mara Masai Mara
This camp offers an authentic â€™yesteryearâ€™ experience for visitors wishing to gain that little extra from their safari. Set on the banks of the Mara River the location is spectacular, with the great Mara plains behind the camp and the impressive escarpment and river in front. Throughout the day, zebras, elephants and hippos come to drink from the river. Includes: Two nights full-board, return flights to/from Nairobi, airstrip transfers, all drinks except spirits, two game drives per day and a night game drive. Excludes conservancy fees. How Much? Kshs. 74,990/- per person sharing (valid to 31st October) Click HERE to enquire
Stay 3-nights and get a FREE hot air balloon
Turtle Bay Beach Club Watamu
Tucked away in a stunning valley in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy, adjacent to the Masai Mara. The camp is designed for those seeking an authentic and unique safari experience, with an intimate setting of only 12 guest tents, located in a private area.
Situated on 200-metres of beach on the edge of Watamu Marine Park. Set in 10 acres of tropical gardens with 145 rooms, four restaurants, three bars, an entertainment lounge and two swimming pools, it is one of the most extensive allinclusive properties in Kenya.
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..............................by Kilima Amboseli Camp
Includes: One- night fully-inclusive How Much? Kshs. 8,700/- per person sharing (valid to 31st October)
bathroom, tucked away under the shade of spreading acacias andBay separated by Turtle Beach Club green lawns and natural rockeries.
Click HERE to enquire
Includes: One night full-board, conservancy fees not included.
Swahili Beach Diani Beach, South Coast
How Much? Kshs. 8,000/- per person sharing (valid to 15th December)
As featured on page 18 of this edition.
Click HERE to enquire
Includes: One-night half-board
Tsavo Safari Camp Tsavo East National Park
How Much? Kshs. 8,500/- per person sharing (valid to 31st October) Click HERE to enquire
Island Camp Baringo The camp is informal, relaxing, and surrounded by spectacular scenery, a perfect retreat for weekends, private parties and conventions. Situated on an enchanted and remote island - Ol Kokwa in Lake Baringo. Accommodation is in comfortable tents, each with their own
Kitaani Kya Ndundu also known as Tsavo Safari Camp is set on the banks of the Athi River in Tsavo East National Park with the impressive Yatta Plateau forming a natural backdrop. An article on this wonderful little camp appeared in last months edition. Click previous issues below to view. Includes: One night full-board How Much? Kshs. 8,300/- per person sharing (valid to 15th December) Click HERE to enquire
Encounter Mara tentscape
On most Drive-In Safaris, you can choose to fly. Please ask for air options. October 2012 travel news 41
duncan mitchell This story is not Kenya Coast orientated, in fact it’s not even wholly Kenyan, but it does reflect on Kenya’s changing epicurean scene… and, proudly, it’s about my son, so all the more reason to slip it in under my byline.
How things go around. Some years ago Jane and I had an English couple come stay with us in Provence, in the South of France. The two were gourmands kabisa, serious food fundis, and they insisted on taking us to a Michelin 2-Star restaurant deep in the Luberon Mountains. A fantastic drive to get there; steep wooded valleys, thick forests, hairpin bends, ancient olive groves, gnarled grape vines and finally, just outside Bonnieux, we were at “Restaurant Edouard Loubet a la Bastide de Capelongue”, a superb luxury boutique hotel and restaurant in an old French chateau clinging to a precipice with fantastic views. We are introduced to Monsieur Edouard Loubet, La Bastide's proprietor, chef extraordinaire and author of numerous tomes on the culinary arts.
Everything was impeccable, but having been ceremoniously handed the only menu showing the prices, I was rather silent throughout the meal. The memory of our English host’s shocked white face as he generously intercepted the bill and then fumbled for his diamond-tipped credit card will forever remain with me. Move to earlier this year when M. Loubet, came to Kenya to demonstrate his art to a top chain of Kenya hotels, and happens into the Talisman Restaurant in Karen where he meets my son, the chef, Marcus. 42 travel news October 2012
He invites Marcus to spend two weeks of intensive exposure to the world of French haute cuisine at his establishment in the South of France.
Marcus’ first week at La Bastide was ‘at the back of the kitchen’… the menial side of chopping, cutting, peeling and prepping, always under constant pressure from the cooking team. “Voila, you, Rosbif queek weeth ze pomfrits…” In between he gathered recipes, preparation tips and watched the chefs in action. Then he plunged into the front-line trenches and really found out what Michelinstar cooking is all about. Forty patrons are expected for dinner and five chefs take 8 hours to prepare the menu with an extra three chefs drafted in for the final touches. Each dish is carefully scrutinized before it is released to the servers; every tiny detail is painstakingly covered or rehearsed; for instance, a whole truffle is baked in pate du foi gras and when laid before the lucky diner with a grand flourish, yet more truffle is shaved over the dish. French chefs don’t slack around. They don’t chitchat, listen to iPods or make jokes. They are deadly serious about their jobs and regard working under Maestro Loubet to be a great honour. Strangely, most of the sous-chefs Marcus spoke with don’t want to eventually have their own 2-Star establishment - all agree one Michelin star is preferable, easier, and cheaper to manage. But whatever, Michelin stars are more than prestige; they are the pulse and temperature of French gastronomes.
The chefs are precise to a point of pedantic; Marcus was delicately dissecting a pigeon when a chef angrily stopped him and grabbed the knife to show how he wanted it done. Marcus could not see any difference between his cut and the chef's slice, but obviously the chef wished his own brand of refinement. An ordinary mushroom on toast becomes a major art work; unfolded to the dining table as “chantrelles, pied de mutton, crepes and seasonal porcinis on an assiette of winter rye.” Marcus reckons if you thought the dish sexy, you could call the rye bread pornographic; dirty, rough, well kneaded, wonderfully sour and just beautiful! Eduard Loubet is renowned for his liberal use of herbs, and the South of France has just about every type and kind of herb to be found in a kitchen. For one dish he infuses mixed herbs with milk and cream heated precisely to below boiling and then quickly whisked to produce a delicate froth which looks great, for instance, with seafood, almost as if the waves are still lapping the lobster's claws. Service in such a restaurant is massive entertainment. The pace incredible; so precise is the organization that almost immediately after serving 40 something clients with some 300 different plates of food, the sections are spotlessly clean with every utensil put away in its exact place. It’s hard to believe that a short two hours ago the entire kitchen area was an explosion of organized chaos. Marcus returned to Kenya in a state of semi-shock. Now he has to apply two weeks of highly intensive French art-cuisine to the
Talisman that traditionally works at a slower pace. Will he manage to do it? Marcus is convinced he will make it work. Of course, one cannot simply introduce years of Frenchtype dedication to a kitchen; but he will apply some of the most-telling lessons learned at la Bastide to his Karen establishment. The essential elements are commitment, discipline and meticulous attention to detail, which Marcus reckons he already has in spoonfuls at the Talisman. Ah ha, cry the critics, but what about those superb South of France ingredients? Well, counters our Kenya chef, we have just as good here, if not better! We have great ostrich meat, the tilapia from Lake Victoria is almost legendary for its delicate taste, and the Indian Ocean produces fresh lobster, great crab, prawns and any type of pelagic fish you would want. There are fresh veggies, herbs and farm products available from small holdings and cottage industries everywhere in Kenya. We have superb grainfed beef and of course all the dairy products; cheeses, yogurt, creams. Sadly, our pork and poultry industry needs upgrading, but hopefully that will come. As to that wonderful rough rye bread that Marcus enthuses about; well, he has his own Nairobi bakery and soon the ovens will give birth to a whole range of Frenchinspired breads.
Duncan Mitchell is a retired gentleman who lives on Kenya’s north coast at Vipingo Ridge. His twin passions are his partner Jane, and golf. October 2012 travel news 43
Bubbles Delap Outlives Her Happy Valley Home by Juliet Barnes
Kikuyu elders of the Wanjohi region still remember a settler called “Dilap”. My mother corrected this - Delap. She’d taught Susan, Dinah and Jacinthe Delap at Nyeri School in the 50s, when she was still the young “Miss Platt.” I was escorted to the former Delap home, passing a sign to Rayetta Primary School. The house was tucked below the steep, western walls of the Aberdares, Not much was left: an old cedar cottage with a shingle roof, up which a red rose bush still scrambled defiantly. Some distance away was a brick fireplace and stone chimney. Apart from one ornamental palm, there was little else to commemorate the beautiful gardens created by those European settlers. A few colobus monkeys spied on us from the edges of the dark line of forest, where it abruptly opened onto acres of naked earth, broken by tree stumps. In the background the sound of chain saws ground out a demented anthem to the death of these ancient trees on which so many creatures depend. Several women paused from digging up potatoes to stone the monkeys. Matters of environment carried little importance around here: the Aberdares was scarred with burns, the loss of forest cover resulting in topsoil washing into rivers, eventually to be dumped in the Rift Valley lakes, affecting yet more fragile ecosystems. I visited Bubbles Delap, whose real name is Maureen, in the Charles Disney Home in Muthaiga. Charming and eccentric, Bubbles, now 87, excels at reminiscing. “Yes! Rayetta was the name of our farm,” she explained, but didn’t know what it meant. Doreen, Bubbles mother, ran away from Rodean School at 16, and came to Kenya, where she lived until she was 97. According to Bubbles, her mother was the first woman pilot in East Africa. “She was pushed into it by my father, but never flew again after she got her license,” explains Bubbles, who seemed prouder of the fact she’d inherited her mother’s long, leather flying coat. Doreen was married four times, twice to Sandy Wright, Bubbles' father. Tim Hutchinson’s Directory of Up-Country Kenya Settlers, in the Njoro section, mentions him as Wright, E. H., Hon. Sandy, arrived in 1911 from Southern Rhodesia and died in 1965. He was also Chairman of Njoro Club from 1937 to 1949. Doreen also married Dickie Peel, an army major, and a professor in South Africa, whose name Bubbles had forgotten. But, most famously, she had a child with Grogan. Edward Paice’s biography of Grogan confirms this. Grogan, a highly intellectual and adventurous pioneer settler, famously walked from Cape to Cairo to win the hand of his beloved Gertrude, who also happened to be an heiress.
44 travel news October 2012
in days gone by
Dashing Bill Delap October 2012 travel news 45
The story’s romance is sabotaged by Grogan’s many affairs, one of them with Doreen, an attractive and spirited girl, who served as a dairy maid at Windsor Castle during the First World War, before coming to Kenya to work for Lord Delamere, who didn’t expect - or want - a female employee. Doreen, who always wore shorts - eccentric at the time - persuaded Delamere to take her on, but soon married Ernest Hay Wright, 16 years older than her and Grogan’s friend and fellow-politician. In 1929 Doreen, by then having an affair with the 54-year old Grogan, had a daughter, June. Both possible fathers amicably stood by her bedside after the birth, joking about the child’s paternity. June grew up looking remarkably like Grogan, who was happy to fill the gap left by the non-maternal Doreen. He remained a dutiful parent, often taking June out from school, his affair with Doreen continuing until after the next war. He built her a house at Taveta near the Kivoto Springs, irrespective of the fact that Doreen had by then divorced and remarried Wright. Sandy Wright remarried Mary Lawrence-Smith, 30 years younger and related to Churchill, Bubbles explains. “She was very tough, but intelligent - she had a doctorate. She loved racing and cars.” Ironically Mary was killed in an accident near Njoro Club. At the time, Sandy Wright ran Egerton Estate. He was a womanizer, which Bubbles remembers once causing a very public scene. In her late teens, Bubbles went to a ball at Muthaiga Club “with some Earl who talked politics”. He bored her, but she met Bill Delap, who shared her love of dancing and was very handsome. He was already married to Rosemary Montgomery, but married Bubbles, aged 19, in 1946. Bubbles remained, “good friends” with Rosemary, although inevitable tensions arose over the two sons of the first marriage, who went to Pembroke House in Gilgil - Bubbles was only 8 years older than her eldest stepson. Rosemary, who Bubbles said was very attractive and part of the original Happy Valley set, died of nephritis - a renal illness - at the age of 39. By the time Bubbles moved there, Happy Valley’s heyday was over. “Several people tried to recreate it,” she smiled, but nobody, it seemed, had Idina’s indelible recipe for those parties that had shocked the colony in the 20s and 30s. Idina was still living at Clouds: Bubbles remembers her as not at all pretty, but petite and very chic. Women adored Bill Delap and according to Bubbles, plenty were “after him” - including “one married one”. Even Mary Miller, much older than Bubbles, used to flirt with Bill. He was fit and enjoyed climbing mountains: He’d skied down a glacier on Mt. Kenya and took people on safari up the Aberdares. Creative as well, he won prizes for his photographs and wrote a weekly column for The Shamba Man. His mother, Audrey, had written poems. When Bill died in 1982, he was buried at Point Lenana, as he’d wished. When I showed Bubbles my recent photographs of the wooden house, she confirmed that it was the original house Bill built. Later an Italian POW built their larger, five bedroomed L-shaped house, with a cedar shingle roof - singing as he laid the tiles.
46 travel news October 2012
Above - The Delap's managers house in the 30s. Left - as it is today, set against the magnificent backdrop of the Aberdares.
October 2012 travel news 47
David Begg and Jimmy Bird ride out.
Brezoniâ€™s grave 48 travel news October 2012
A mere half century wiped it off the face of Happy Valley, along with Bubbles’ garden where she’d grown foxgloves and daffodils. After exhaustive searching of her tiny sitting room, Bubbles found the photograph. The Delaps did market gardening, as well as raising jersey cattle, pigs and ducks. The fifteen mile journey their produce took to Ol Kalau was not always an easy one. The roads were diabolical, according to Bubbles, and a trip to town once took twenty-four hours. Slains, former home of Idina and Josslyn Hay, was a short distance away to the north, following the sharp ridge of the Aberdares. In Bubbles' day it was the home of Lyduska whose surname was Piotto when she died, but had also possibly formerly been Cesaroni and Hornik. Also known as Miss Gorgonzola, this attractive and wild adopted daughter of a Count, also made cheese, was an excellent cook and hosted great parties. Bubbles added that she never had children, but lived with a man. Monthly parties were highlights for these otherwise isolated settlers. They were held in different people’s houses around Kipipiri. Bubbles, still young and attractive, enjoyed sunbathing beside and swimming in the ice-cold, crystal clear Wanjohi River. Their three daughters were sent off to boarding school. Bill had also leased the neighbouring Flau Farm and things were going well. Then Mau Mau put pay to the monthly parties: driving at night became dangerous and Bubbles learned to use a gun after the murder of neighbouring farmer, Fergusson, and his young apprentice, Bingley. Among the Delap’s employees was Dedan Kimathi, future leader of the Mau Mau. Bubbles recalls him as a tailor: he made her curtains. Gradually other employees disappeared to join their fellow freedom fighters in the forest. “They all liked Bill,” Bubbles said, “they tried not to kill him, but Mau Mau was organised: The white men had to go, there was no liking or selection.” One night the Mau Mau tried to break in through their roof. Bill, after several shots of whisky didn’t wake up, but Bubbles heard them. She woke the children, shut them in a room, then ran through the house slamming doors and shouting. Their attackers fled, but Bubbles remains convinced they were there to kill. After this incident, Bill built a fortified extension with an iron door and barred windows where they could all sleep. Meanwhile a man called John Carter, far away in Toronto, read about Kenya in a local newspaper in 1953: stories of attacks on white farmers and something about a Mr. Delap. He later visited Kenya in 1961, where he met and married their daughter Susan. In 1963 the Delaps left for Australia, selling out to the British Government, who were distributing land to the Kenyans under the million-acre scheme. It was 600 acres, 300 under pyrethrum by then, which also included a school, a duka (basic shop) and plans to build a church. They were only paid £4,000, complained Bubbles.
October 2012 travel news 49
However, the last time I visited Bubbles, she was on great form after attending a birthday lunch, spending most of it talking about the commercial value of bat guano with an 84 year old man called Jack Fordyce. Increasingly deaf, Bubbles was financially very hard up until the British Legion offered assistance. Even now she can barely afford biscuits for her cat. She appears not to be on intimate terms with her daughters, but her niece in Malindi visits occasionally. Yet 30 years after losing her beloved Bill, Bubbles retains her secret recipe for joie de vivre. I had to leave to attend an Old Pembrokians ball at Muthaiga Club - I wished I could take her with me!
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This is the thirteenth in a series of articles on the old houses of Kenya. The writer Juliet Barnes has submitted a book on all of the famous houses to a publisher in the UK. Once published we will let you know where you can obtain a copy... To view previous articles, click HERE.
To try and give a broader perspective to these old Kenyan tales – the ever present web is always close to hand. Very little can be found quite obviously from these times so long ago; but gems sometimes appear. Perhaps here is one. Artist and Malindi resident Sylvia Delap is Bubbles' niece who was born in Kenya to Alan and Jeanine (the latter wrote under the pseudonym, Francoise Arned) who met in Madagascar during World War II. Her parents were well known for the creation of the then legendary garden and coffee plantation at Kayata Estate near Ol Donyo Sabuk, where Hollywood made three movies - two of which were Tarzan films, one starring Sean Connery in Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959). Her father brought in Peter Greensmith, a naval officer, trained him at Kayata and then supplied all the palms and tree seedlings, which Peter planted along Nairobi’s avenues.
Alan’s parents had come to Kenya in 1919 from England. J.O.K. Delap also built Nairobi’s
water system and the Nairobi Dam. He commissioned his friend Edwyn Lutyens (the renowned English architect) to build a large “folly” at Kayata complete with swimming pool and open-air bathroom on top of a tower.
Alan’s mother was the famous Audrey Delap, later of Muthaiga. President Kibaki now lives in her old house.
50 travel news October 2012
Muthaiga Branch Now Open
Triad House, 83 Muthaiga Road, Tel No: 020 266 0335/6 - 0719 385296 - 0733 488966 Monday - Friday 8.30 am - 5.00 pm, Saturday 9.00 am - 1.00 pm ground floor location - no parking hassles - garden setting - great staff - TCB in residence
Sylvia went to school and college in Nyeri and Nairobi and lived at Kayata and Vasco da Gama Point in Malindi with her two brothers. She was a founder of Nairobi’s ‘Hootenanny’ in 1968, a highly successful traditional folk group that played to large audiences and privately for Jomo Kenyatta and Tom Mboya at Gatundu. It is still going strong today, 44 years on! Sylvia has been a singer, guitarist, (well known for her blind band the Mighty Sparrows in the 80s), school teacher, actress (in both Nairobi and London) - stage, film and TV, trained at R.A.D.A., a motorbike stunt rider and diver, astrologer, writer, photographer, riding instructor, Arabian horse and poodle breeder, exotic landscape gardener... and an artist. She infrequently hosts art exhibitions in Lamu.
October 2012 travel news 51
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Hard Cheese in Limuru? No Ways! Julia Lawrence discovers there's a lot more than just cheese at East Africa's premiere cheese maker.
It all started a long time ago – 32 years back, in fact – when a husband developed a great desire for Brie cheese, in those days still unavailable in Kenya. Both he and his wife were great food enthusiasts with a special interest in cheese, and because of this, she found and brought back to Kenya a culture with which to make their own Brie while on holiday in Scotland. Cutting a long story very short, the couple were David and Sue Brown, who then lived in Tigoni. Having produced Brie successfully, they suddenly found themselves rather unexpectedly launched into cheese making (and not just Brie at that), instead of starting up a solar power business, which had been their original intention. Limuru is renowned for its Channel Island (Jerseys & Guernseys) rich milk and dairy products through the available good rainfall and abundant rich pasture. Additionally it enjoys a surprisingly cool climate for a large part of the year. In those days the Browns recalled that the ‘winter’ was more prolonged than it is now, which is hard to imagine. (It falls approximately between the end of May and the beginning of September.) Even during the warmer months it is seldom if ever too hot. This meant a reduction of worries over scientific cooling during the manufacturing processes, which of course was and remains a huge production bonus. As they kept two cows on site, to begin with milk supply was not a problem, that is until business took off. However, even then as milk was plentiful it was not difficult to buy for their requirements, which they continue to do today from Limuru Creameries. October 2012 travel news 53
And so began the production of cheese, which someone aptly defined as ‘milk’s leap towards immortality’. Awards soon started to appear: first in 2002, they received the David Dunn Memorial Trophy at Nantwich in the UK. Back home in Kenya from 2006 to 2009 they won the best cheese in show award at the East African Cheese Festival. Further afield in South Africa they received two Quality Championships and five others at the South African Dairy Championship in 2010. David and Sue Brown have now retired from their successful business venture, and have handed over the manufacture and running to their daughter Delia and her American husband Andy Stirling. The cheese making in Tigoni now boasts seventeen different types of cheeses with plans to increase the selection. This is an international record, since most individual manufacturers, both in Kenya and elsewhere, settle either for one particular brand or for a small selection only, and many European cheeses are of course regional. Working in the food industry is a far cry from their respective careers in USA, where Delia was a commercial office property broker and Andy an aerospace engineer with a Master’s degree.
54 travel news October 2012
Delia and Andy have exciting plans for the future of their business, which as one might expect, include new products. “We are currently working on seasonal cheeses”, Delia explained, “such as Reblochon, which is a strong, or as we tend to classify them, ‘stinky’ cheese. There are others such as Valençay. Also there will be a new clothbound Cheddar which should be available by Christmas”. There will also be Brown’s ice cream on the market, and if that’s anything like the Greek yoghurt they make, and I have tasted no better in or outside Europe, it will be worth waiting for.
As we talked, it was fascinating listening to what Delia had to say about changing gourmet tastes in Kenya today. “To begin with, more Kenyans are eating cheese and it is interesting to trace the differences in what their palates now demand. The trend is moving towards softer, blander cheeses: for instance our Cheddar used to be matured for approximately eight months. Now preferences tell us that four are sufficient. Also interesting to note, Kenyans are becoming much more particular about the quality of their food: in other words, it has to be good. Despite strong competition from elsewhere, wine makers have also realised this, and the Leleshwa products illustrate my point”. This was interesting news. Kenya has always been a country where good food abounded and on an international basis, but in some ways in the past, it was more tourist-orientated. What Delia said meant that nowadays Kenyans do care about what they eat, and are no longer prepared to settle for second-best. As Brown’s Cheese demand increases locally, so correspondingly does their export market. Surprisingly their products go to Southern Sudan and to Rwanda, and equally surprisingly, not to South Africa. Although they have won prizes at exhibitions there, unfortunately to date the respective veterinary authorities have never come round to agreeing on export regulations. October 2012 travel news 55
Another of Andy and Delia’s innovations is the availability of organised small lunch parties at the farm. These are strictly by appointment only, and reservations must be made well in advance. They may take the form of a strictly cheese and wine occasion, or a cheese hors d’oeuvre with homemade bread and the Brown’s yummy crackers, followed by a three course lunch. A tour of the factory, together with a cheese making demonstration, are included. This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate a special occasion in a novel way, and will certainly be of interest to the tourist industry as well. Six-person minimum - Kshs. 3,500/- per person - includes 3 glasses of wine or beer per person, a three-course lunch, factory and biodynamic vegetable garden tours, farm cheeses at factory prices... Click HERE for more information.
Delia and Andy Stirling seem to pack at least 36 hours of work into a 24-hour day. They have two small sons under five, a factory staff of 48, manufacturing, marketing, development of new brands, business to organise on a daily basis, and as if that wasn’t enough, they have also generated what they call a Phase One day’s training in basic cheese making for hotel and game lodges’ executive chefs. “We are working in the food industry at an exciting time”, concluded Delia – from the sound and the looks of things, they certainly are. “There is no love sincerer than the love of food”, observed cynical old George Bernard Shaw. But if the food is as good as Brown’s Cheese products, why not? At least they won’t let you down! Click HERE to visit website and buy-online facility. 56 travel news October 2012
October 2012 travel news 57
the inside edge
steve shelley It was a bit ironic that I chose to fly on Qatar Airlines to a conference on customer service. After all, if you’ve seen their ads on TV, this looks like an airline who’s got it pinned down, performing in a different league. Unfortunately, it’s their ad agency that’s great, not the airline. This story shows just how dangerous it can be for a company to say one thing and do another. It started with the online check-in, when the seat allocation software refused to let me sit anywhere other than the rearmost row. You know, the place where the crew fill the baggage lockers with their own kit, where everyone stands in line for the toilets, whose doors open every few minutes wafting dubious odours into the cabin, flushing with a powerful whoosh. It’s also the row where elbow room is the most squeezed due to the tapering of the aircraft’s body. Well, never mind, it’s only a four-hour trip to Doha. But there’s a strange feature of the Airbus A319 that no-one sings about. Every window seat has a metal box riveted in the foot-well, so that you can only stretch one leg at a time. Four hours begins to seem like a long time. I begin to think the designer was that same CIA-trained engineer who devised the economy seat in the 747-400, the one whose reclining 58 travel news October 2012
angle was guaranteed to pop your lower vertabra, the same guy who devised waterboarding, I suspect. In fact, it was the issue of seat back reclining that popped Qatar’s reputation on my way home. I had carefully chosen an aisle seat near the front. But the seat ahead was occupied by a rather large lady who, immediately after take off, fell backwards almost into my lap. Her seat back was so close to my nose that I couldn’t open the tray table, nor see the TV screen. If I didn’t suffer from claustrophobia, now I did! I pressed the call button. No-one came. I stood up, something of a challenge in itself, and called out to the nearest stewardess. “See if you can find another seat”, she advised. Wait a minute, this was my chosen seat, and the plane is full. How about asking this passenger to pull the seat up to a more reasonable angle. Or escorting me up to business class with an apology. No, she flounced off with her trolley, with more important things to do. A more senior lady passed, I stopped her. “Please do something about this seat”, I asked. “It’s positively dangerous like this.”
“Thank you for the information”, she said. “It’s not information”, I responded. “It’s a complaint. This is a danger, you must do something”. “Oh, then I must write it down and give it to my supervisor”. And that was the end of the matter. No action, no supervisor, nothing. Four hours with a seat back ten centimetres from the bridge of my nose. Can’t eat the food, can’t watch the screen. This is truly terrible service on any measure. But it was made worse by the announcement earlier to the effect that we’re here for you and we welcome any feedback. No, they don’t welcome feedback! There is no mechanism for giving it and none for acting on it. It was a miserable flight. Thanks, Qatar. We’d been staying at a really terrific hotel in Kuala Lumpur, amazing food and incredible service. At every turn, lovely ladies dressed in silk kimonos insisted we have an amazing day. And mostly we did. Until it was time to check out. It seems so many staff were busy meeting, greeting and smiling that there were none
left to man the front desk. I waited and waited. Finally, I was presented with my bill. “But this is more than I was told when I checked in”, I exclaimed. I had been hoarding just enough cash and was now faced with a bill about 50% more than expected. The guy disappeared behind a screen and went silent. Finally he popped up again with another bill, this one for an even greater amount. “What’s going on?” I demanded. “Every time I try to pay, you tell me it’s more!” By the time I had drained my last reserves and settled up, the memories of those ‘amazing days’ had rather waned. Now I needed a taxi. But there was still no-one at the desk. Moral of the story? If you can’t deliver what you claim, your credibility goes out of the window. And if your service is not seamless across the entire operation, don’t expect people to come back.
Steve Shelley is a management and training consultant with his own company, Tack International. He lives in Nairobi.
October 2012 travel news 59
Hello Handsome - Masai Mara
Rhinos at Play - Nakuru National Park 60 travel news October 2012
guest photo gallery
Geet Chana was born in Kenya, and grew up with a passion for the bush and wildlife. Any spare moment she had was spent behind a lens somewhere in the wild. Geet is also an avid collector of vintage cars and relics. Photography has taken her to Australia, Botswana and Namibia: but her all time favourite destination is Kenyaâ€™s Masai Mara. She is also involved in wildlife conservation projects through her business, where conservation competitions are run among schools, annually with the Born Free Foundation.
She loves to share her passion with family and friends. A more recent venture behind the lens is food photography. To contact Geet click HERE
Hey Bird - Masai Mara October 2012 travel news 61
Wild Dog - Loisaba
Big Mouth - Masai Mara 62 travel news October 2012
Flirting - Masai Mara
Dust Storm - Loisaba October 2012 travel news 63
Male Lion - Duma, Botswana
Early Days - Masai Mara
64 travel news October 2012
These pages are offered FREE of charge to both amatuer and professional photographers in East Africa. Meaning we donâ€™t charge you to display your work here neither do we pay you for the priviledge thereof. Click HERE to send your images to us.
Just Like Mum - Masai Mara October 2012 travel news 65
book reviews Ivory, Apes & Peacocks
by Alan Root
Alan Root’s earliest memories are of wartime London. An evacuation to the countryside stimulated his interest in nature, especially birdlife. Initially heartbroken when his father accepted a job in Kenya, he soon came to know and love his new home. His first box Brownie camera marked the beginning of an outstanding photographic career. Although unfair to say that Root was ‘lucky’, he was certainly fortunate in meeting the contacts he did to help develop his photographic abilities. His first mentor was Myles North, a well-known ornithologist. Next he encountered Des Bartlett, Armand and Michaela Denis’ brilliant cameraman, who taught him perfection in wildlife photography, as did the father-son team Bernhard and Michael Grzimek. No one with Root’s talent could have had better mentors. They exemplified the importance of team work and patience, two qualities that he and his wife Joan later epitomised in everything they did. The Roots were a formidable team, and having started as a cameraman for others, it was not long before Alan was making his own films. His ingenuity in devising ways to capture seemingly impossible choices of subject on film knew no bounds. His commitment was to escape from the travelogue-throughgame-parks concept and to produce ecological themes hitherto unexploited, such as filming hippos underwater, getting inside birds’ nests and in his own inimitable way, observing relationships in the bird, animal and insect worlds. The Roots’ ingenuity in photographing what others regarded as nonstarters through their sheer impossibility, created the unforgettable story of termites in ‘Castles of Clay’, and in ‘The Baobab’ the unusual habits of nesting hornbills. His accounts of filming gorillas in the Congo are intriguing if heartbreaking, and include live 66 travel news October 2012
encounters with Dian Fossey. Most Root enthusiasts know that Alan’s marriage with Joan ended sadly. Ours is not to reason why, but it is still difficult to comprehend. The book’s photographic illustrations, considering what must be available, are slightly disappointing, but the drawings by Wolfgang Weber are a delight throughout. The story leaves the reader incredulous at Root’s inventiveness in making the impossible possible in the films he produced. Nor does he ever lose his deep respect for his subjects. He is perhaps the most original wildlife photographer the world has yet seen. His book is written with wit and humour, and his skill with words almost parallels his genius with a camera.
book reviews Park Lane
by Frances Osborne Frances Osborne delighted readers with her recent brilliant biography, ‘The Bolter’. ‘Park Lane’ is her first novel and a ‘best seller’. Incidentally what exactly constitutes ‘bestselling authors’ and ‘best seller’ books? Whatever they are, there does seem to be an unconscionable number of both species about: one wonders how can it be possible? ‘Park Lane’ tells the story of the Masters family who have made their now dwindling fortunes through international railway building during the early nineteenth century. Interwoven with the main plot is the story of Grace, one of the parlour maids, and Michael Campbell, whose lives become interwoven with the Masters, especially the younger daughter Beatrice and her brother Edward. The book is divided into three sections – ‘peace’, ‘war’ and ‘aftermath’. It begins in early 1914 when the suffragette movement is on a full collision course with the government. Although she is very much part of it, Bea Masters, as yet unmarried at twenty one, does not entirely fit in with the superficial life of the upper and moneyed classes. Influenced by her radical Aunt Celeste, she becomes an active suffragette, committed to their policy of violence. However, the outbreak of war puts an abrupt end to all that, and Beatrice, seeking further escape from society life, signs on as an ambulance driver. Although Osborne’s narrative is beautifully written and carefully researched, somehow it lacks ‘The Bolter’s’ sparkle. The pace of the ‘peace’ section is slow, although it gives an interesting picture of 1914 London, how the grand houses of the rich were run, and how so many of society’s upper echelons lived at such a superficial level with little idea of what went on further down the social scale. The Great War, probably the most pointless and unproductive of all wars ever fought, is well described. Osborne’s account of ambulance drivers’ experiences is vivid, also she captures the disillusioned utter
exhaustion caused by the pointless to'ingand-fro'ing of trench warfare which brought no results other than terrible and needless slaughter. Realism is present up to the end and the ‘happy-ever-after-this-dreadful-waris-all-over’ atmosphere, in accordance with the story’s ambience remains noticeably absent throughout the final chapters. This is a book you will want to read. Osborne is a born author, and it is a guarantee that she will never produce a mediocre book – she undoubtedly qualifies as a writer that is going places.
Reviews by Julia Lawrence October 2012 travel news 67
jane barsby Grey Matters
It’s a grim little fact, but one worth knowing: there are now more elderly people (classified as over 65 years of age) on the planet than at any other time in the history of the world. If you are young, this fact will not interest you. Because you will not yet have appreciated the fact that grey is a destination to which we are all heading. If your business is hunting revenue in the destinations jungle, however, you will know that grey matters. In Britain, for instance, whose citizens are one of the top ten highest tourism spenders in the world (the list runs: Germany, USA, China, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Russia, Italy, Japan and Australia), 17% of the population is in the 55-64 age bracket. And, by 2035, that figure will have risen to 23%. This matters because the typical over 65-year-old British ‘silverback’ is a creature worth tracking. Wily and information-hungry, it has the time, the inclination and, generally, the disposable income required for travel. It has been less affected by the global crunch than any other of its race. It considers holiday spending essential, and takes more holidays a year than any other Brit: 28% going on holiday more than twice a year. It’s remarkably intrepid, increasingly seizing seats on the cross-Africa bus trips that were formerly the preserve of the young. And it’s so technology savvy that two-thirds of its 68 travel news October 2012
numbers book holidays online without batting an eyelid; in short, it’s the perfect tourist. Strange then, that the global travel industry is still experiencing a senior moment when it comes to wising up to what grey people want. How to entice the high-spending grey panthers of the world? Easy. Get to know their habits. Discerning in their choice of sleeping platforms, grey panthers usually prefer twin beds to double; and they like a ground floor location close to the lift and the fire escape. Though generally less gregarious than cubs, they appreciate being greeted on arrival in a new territory, but not too effusively: cold drinks are OK, lukewarm, slimy-stale towels are not. Ultra-alert, especially when distant from their home range, grey panthers like to be given clear and concise instructions regarding meal times, hotel layout and entertainment options. Secretive hoarders of chunks of information, they are particularly fond of in-room information that is well written and easily consumed. Though not greatly clubbable, panthers like cultural pursuits. They also like to be able to foregather for a chat without having to sit by a hot pool or in a dark bar. In general, panthers hate loud or sudden noises and flashing lights; discos are, therefore, anathema to them.
Because they like to see in the dark, panthers must be provided with good lighting: by the bedside, on the desk, in the closet and at room entry. Keen on personal and ecological energy preservation, they also like to have a ‘master’ electrical switch at the bedside controls, which switches off all the lights at once. Also a ‘night light’ that provides a soft glow to illuminate nocturnal prowls. If you insist on making panthers use electronic door lock cards, it is imperative that you ensure the lighting in the corridors and over the doors is such that the panther is not required to paw around in the dark. Irritated by reminders of potentially failing eyesight, panthers demand TV remote controls that are easily read, clear in direction, simple to operate and hygienically clean (in general panthers are dirt-phobes). Often skittish when in water, panthers tend to grip better when non-slip bath and shower mats are provided, and they are not averse to grab rails. They also like to be able to read which is ‘hot’ and ‘cold’, and which is shampoo and which conditioner, without having to hunt down their glasses.
shiners and sufficient good quality coat hangers for their many coats. They also require a high magnification mirror on an accordion bracket in the bathroom (for the extraction of grey hairs in the wrong place), and a hair-dryer with a wall-hung bracket (whether required or not). Finally, though the typical grey panther frequently leaves its room with its jumper on inside out having failed to see which side the seams are on, it objects bitterly to being shouted at by staff who believe that everyone over 60 is deaf. Also to being addressed as ‘dear’, ‘sweetie’ or ‘darling’. All sound perfectly normal to you? Well there you are, then. It takes one to know one.
Jane Barsby is a well-known and respected travel writer who lives, works and plays in Nairobi.
Often nocturnal and sometimes insomniac, panthers are happier when provided with blackout curtains. They also desire alarm clocks that are both easily read and set (in case of inadvertent sleep-ins). Avid groomers, panthers’ closets should contain irons, ironing boards, clothes brushes, shoe October 2012 travel news 69
Around campfire at Ol Pejeta Bush Camp 70 travel the news October 2012
our parting shot
October 2012 travel news 71