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vol. 1 issue 14 october 2011

travelnews digital media at its best

Kenya

Happy Valley Homes We find the Morgan-Grenville house

Pillow Talk

Debut of Nairobi’s new Crowne Plaza Hotel

Responsible Travel + Getting There + Africa Coast 2 Coast October 2011 travel news 1


2 travel news October 2011


our opening shot

View from Mt. Nyiru near Desert Rose Lodge in northern Kenya. By guest photographer, Neil Thomas.October See more on page 20... 2011 travel news 3


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contents the news

7

in days gone by

12

residents specials

18

guest photo gallery the inside edge

24

responsible travel pillow talk

20 27

30

africa coast-2-coast

32

miscellaneous ramblings 36 book reviews

38

getting there

41

speaker’s corner

On The Cover The view from the Morgan Grenville house by Nigel Pavitt

Publisher & Editor

Design & Editorial Consultant Jolene Wood Editorial Contributors

48

Tony Clegg-Butt

Elizabeth Loker Julia Lawrence Steve Shelley Jane Barsby Juliet Barnes Amita Vaux

Photographic Contributors Nigel Pavitt David Bromham Anthea Rowan Amita Vaux Clinton Lucy Elizabeth Loker 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. Š2011 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.

October 2011 travel news 5


letters

editorial I’m just back from the land of the midnight sun, and where Santa parks his reindeers in the summer: Finland. It wasn’t on my bucket list, but I’ve been there, got the T-shirt, etc...

Just received the latest issue of your online TravelNews in which I was interested to see the picture of the mural at Nakuru Railway Station.

To my children’s horror, I enjoyed my reindeer steak - hopeful Santa will forgive and forget - the kids, too!

This mural was painted in 1957 by Robert McLellan-Sim, a former art master at the Prince of Wales School (subsequently renamed Nairobi School).

Our readership has crept up to something in the region of 10,845 per month, which keeps us all happy and busy.

The Nairobi School old boys’ association gives more details and copies of his work on its website - to view click HERE

This month Juliet Barnes re-discovers the Morgan Grenville house way up high in Happy Valley; Nigel Pavitt’s pictures are superb. Anthea Rowan continues her road trips en famille through lesser known parts of Tanzania; and Elizabeth Loker keeps on telling her tales of her trip across Africa. Amita Vaux continues to educate us all about Responsible Travel; and Jane Barsby takes a look at Nairobi’s latest posh hotel, the Crowne Plaza. Enjoy the read, knowing we enjoyed bringing to you.

"He had won first prize of £200 in a competition organised by East African Railways & Harbours to design wall murals for the new Nakuru Railway Station. His winning entry comprised several murals totalling 750 square feet in size. The main mural overlooking the Main Booking Hall depicted settlers looking over the Rift Valley, with Maasai tribesmen and rolling wheat fields. A famous Hollywood film star is said to have been the model for the male settler - he subsequently had a successful career in American politics. Other murals included an imaginary scene of Nakuru Station in 1910, a decorative map of vignette portraits of Rift Valley tribes and the fauna and flora of the area." Jake Grieves-Cook

Tony Clegg-Butt

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6 travel news October 2011


the news Aberdare Country Club Set To Re-Open + The Ark Make-Over.. Marasa Africa, part of the Ugandan Madhvani Group, the new owners of both of these properties have already started on a thorough make-over of The Ark and are also working to re-commission the Aberdare Country Club and its 9-hole golf course.

New African Destinations for Emirates From 1st February, Emirates will launch flights to both Lusaka and Harare. Flights will operate five times a week from Dubai. Airbus A330 aircraft will be used on the route.

The Ark continues to operate, albeit at a reduced capacity, while the re-opening date for the Country Club is still to be announced. For more nformation click HERE

The airline additionally announced daily flights from Dubai to Dublin, effective 9th January. For more information click HERE

October 2011 travel news 7


the news Royal Jordanian Airlines Flies to Nairobi Early next year the flag carrier of Jordan will introduce flights from Nairobi to Amman, designed to connect to its multi-layered global route network. Watch this space for further information. For more information click HERE

Kenya Wins Big A Skal global eco-tourism award has been won by Gamewatcher Safaris and Porini Safari Camps in the category of Tour Operators and Travel Agents. A judge’s comment was that it was the first time ever that a candidate had scored a perfect 100%. Seen receiving the award from Skal International President Tony Boyle is Lucy Macridis, the President of Skal International Nairobi, at the recent Skal Congress in Turku, Finland. For more information click HERE

Treetops Closes for Total Renovation Aberdare Safari Hotels, the owners of both Treetops and The Outspan, have announced a raft of make-overs for these two landmark Kenya tourism icons. Treetops closed at the end of September for renovations, with plans to re-open in January 2012. 2012 marks the centenary of the founding of the Boy Scouts by Lord Baden-Powell. Paxtu Cottage, where he spent his last days, is within the grounds of The Outspan; it is now a Boy Scout Museum and declared a National Monument by the Kenyan government. He is buried in Nyeri cemetery, together with his wife, Olave. Events to celebrate the centenary will be announced in early 2012.

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the news

October 2011 travel news 9


the news

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Sam’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.

Check availabilty now. Click HERE to enquire.

REWARD! Do You Know Who I Am? I’m a leading travel industry luminary, I love samosas, but what’s that in my other hand? I’m a renowned party animal, known for frolicking on dance floors. Been around since Noah traded in the ark... Happily married with 3 kids. Who am I, and what’s that in my right hand (left 2 u)? Best answer wins. Click HERE to enter.

October 2011 travel news 11


The House on the Mountain Ledge

by Juliet Barnes

During my happy valley meanderings, I heard much about a large colonial house which once perched at 8,500 feet on the northwestern Aberdares. This house belonged to a man called Morgan-Grenville. But the specially-built road zigzagging up the steep mountainside and the house itself had long gone, people said. I spoke to Frank Daykin, who once worked for Morgan-Grenville (whose full name was apparently the Hon. Robert Plantaganet Margaret Morgan-Grenville). Frank remembered the house: “It was cedar... with twenty-seven rooms, stuffed with antiques. It also had a magnificent garden with rhododendrons, willow trees and bridges arching over a river that flowed right under the drawing room.” Morgan-Grenville himself sounded equally impressive: tall and aristocratic looking, talking with a slow drawl, he smoked a cigar, and wore a Stetson. “He had a huge Buick, then a Cadillac. He loved American cars,” Frank said. Morgan-Grenville arrived in the Ol Kalou area in the late 1930s with his business partner, Archibald Fraser Allen. Fraser Allen was tragically killed in 1942 when his tractor caught fire. Later his wife Mabel married Morgan-Grenville, who former neighbours remembered as rich, shy and good-looking, while Mabel was remembered as a very talented gardener. One day in 1954 Frank’s father, Frank Joseph Daykin, walked past South Africa House in London and on impulse walked in and asked for a job. Morgan-Grenville happened to be there. Six weeks later the Daykin family were on a boat to Kenya. After a train journey to Gilgil and a night drive through mud in the pouring rain, the 19-year-old Frank was thrilled, but his mother, Elsie Daykin, horrified at the outdoor long-drop and kitchen, burst into tears. In the early 2000s I accompanied the Daykins back to the area one cold, rainy Sunday. After getting lost on roads that had changed unrecognisably, we gave a lift to a young man called Wahome whose grandfather, who’d died recently aged 103, once worked for David Fraser Allen. 12 travel news October 2011


in days gone by We drove on through the mist and drizzle, crossing the bridge over the Malewa, and there were the old workshops and the grey stone house were the Daykins had lived latterly. It had a threadbare shingle roof, patched with flattened-out tins. An overgrown muddle of salvia, nasturtiums and daisies were struggling to break through a mantle of litter. An elderly Kikuyu mama welcomed us into the house. As Frank stood in one dark room, a pale and ghostly figure against smoke-blackened walls, he whispered, “This was my bedroom!” Their first cedar house was higher up the hill. The road climbed in a series of slippery bends before Wahome told us to stop on a shelf of green land. The house had gone, but pink and white lilies mingled among stinging nettles and the verdant Kikuyu grass sprawling over scattered stones once the verandah floor. “Here was the sitting room!” Frank was standing beside a clump of blue agapanthus. At the back, the former kitchen was another pile of stones, behind which a few guava trees had survived. Periwinkle and amaryllis carpeted the spot where Frank Joseph and Elsie once slept. “Their bedroom looked out on flower beds and tall hollyhocks.” Frank’s blue eyes were bright as he recalled trout ponds and thick indigenous forest - now just figments of memory. We headed north, along the base of the mountains. An uneven patchwork of shambas clung onto bare foothills, once wheat, with fields terraced by Frank’s brother. To our left was a well-kept homestead, belonging to Morgan Grenville’s old cook. A little further along the road, also on the left, was Fraser Allen’s old house. The rusting remains of a 1950s Ford crouched in front of the cedar off-cut walls and tin roof of the house. Attached October 2011 travel news 13


to a fence post was an old grinding mill, inscribed: “R Hunts and Co, Earl’s Colne, England”. Further away, through the fields of carrots and chickweed, a patch of brambles entwined the smashed pieces of Fraser Allen’s headstone, now illegible. There was a tranquil view of Lake Ol Bolossat. Behind us, hidden somewhere in the low cloud, was Morgan-Grenville’s old house, long gone, according to Wahome, and impossible to get to anyway. But I was still determined to find it... Back in 1903, the East African Syndicate had leased 500 square miles of bleak, flat, high plateau between Ol Kalou and Ol Bollossat. In 1916 it was surveyed and farms were sold. Farmers battled against elephant and hippo mowing down fences and crops, while lion indiscriminately killed sheep and cows. It’s hard to believe now, looking across the densely populated plateau with its network of fences and the glimmer of many tin roofs. Early pioneers tried to grow flax, but in the early 1920s its price dropped. By the early 1930s livestock, wheat and pyrethrum were thriving, but during World War II, wheat farming was begun on a large scale, going hand-in-hand with further development in the district. Around this time a significant landowner called Robert Morgan-Grenville donated some land for the building of St Peter’s Church in Ol Kalou. Today there is still a chair with a brass plaque commemorating Mr. Morgan Grenville’s business partner, AH Fraser Allen, burned to death in a tractor accident. After one earlier - and abortive - attempt to find Morgan-Grenville’s old home, I returned in 2011 with photographer Nigel Pavitt, whose photos appear here. A bright and sunny day inspired our search for MorganBrezoni’slegendary grave Grenville’s house, impossibly 14 travel news October 2011

built on a high shelf on the steep sides of the Aberdares and now apparently no longer standing. I’d been told it had been a vast house, with expansive views and an incredible garden. There had even been a river running beneath the house... Although we could see where the hairpin bends of an old road cut into the steep mountainside, we couldn’t find where it started. After backtracking repeatedly and several five-point turns on the narrow road, a helpful lorry driver pointed through a fence which a farmer digging the field pulled aside. The road was grassed over, but surprisingly navigable. As we climbed steeply to and fro up the side of the Aberdares, the drop below increased dramatically. Eventually, when the road ahead looked impossibly steep and narrow, we abandoned the vehicle and ploughed through undergrowth, scrambling up the slope until the forest thinned. Suddenly there were exotic cyprus trees in a line - an old hedge grown impossibly tall - and clumps of agapanthus growing everywhere like weeds. We found ourselves back on the same road we had abandoned. But quickly it faded into a stone footbridge over a stream. We were there, stumbling over sudden, unexpected piles of old foundation stones, then as we climbed up through nettles, a concrete plinth. As we began to explore more, we found blackberries, acres of blue and white agapanthus and a tangle of blue periwinkle, yellow broom, golden honeysuckle and pink roses. There was even an English oak tree. Mabel’s legendary garden had outlived her - flourishing untended as it wove through indigenous forest and multiplied. It was hauntingly beautiful, with a backdrop of the dizzy heights of the Aberdares, then below, chinks of a breathtaking view glimpsed through the thick undergrowth: the shining


Rose and Honeysuckle live on in Mabel Morgan-Grenville’sOctober garden. 2011 travel news 15


expanse of Lake Ol Bolossat, as well as the less appealing glimmer of rows of plastic where a Dutchman grows flowers on the old Gillet farm. We turned back to garden flowers that had seeded themselves for generations, clambering at will over any rock, tree or foundation stone. There was an intoxicating feel of wanton abandonment. Yet apart from the tinkle of the streams and the calls of forest birds, it was wrapped in a deep peace: like a neglected graveyard. A shaft of sunlight beamed through the foliage onto a cluster of hydrangeas, their blooms bigger than a watermelon. The Morgan-Grenville’s had retired to Blue Lagoon and their Aberdare house had burned down after they left in the 1960s. Although nobody seemed to have a photograph of the old house in the Aberdares, their son Richard told me there was a painting of it hanging in the coast house. On a recent visit I was able to stand before the faded paintings of the view, a statue in the garden and the wooden houses itself. They weren’t great works of art, but I could finally get an idea of what the house had looked like, now lost forever beneath its wild and secret garden.

The writer Juliet Barnes with a watermelon-sized hydrangea bloom

16 travel news October 2011


Even an old English oak tree... This is the third in a series of articles on the houses of Happy Valley. The writer Juliet Barnes has submitted a book on all of the famous houses of the Valley to a publisher in the UK. Once published we will let you know where you can obtain a copy...

The stunning view from where the2011 house once October travel newsstood 17


resident specials offer an ideal base from which to explore western Kenya.  Includes: Two nights full board, return flights from Nairobi and one boating activity per day. How Much? Kshs. 35,240/- per person sharing. (valid until15th December) Click HERE to book. 

Satao Elerai Camp Amboseli

Fly-In Safaris Che Shale Malindi Located on a remote point just north of Malindi amongst sand dunes on empty beaches. Rustic, thatched-roofed cottages nestle in the trees with a large restaurant and lounge providing a lively gathering place for meals and drinks. Includes: Two nights half or full board and return flights from Nairobi. Excludes transfers from Malindi airport and vv. How Much? Kshs. 34,160/- (half board) or Kshs. 37,160/- (full board) per person sharing. (valid until 31st October).  Click HERE to book. 

Rusinga Island Lodge Lake Victoria  Verdant lawns lead down to the lake. The lodge’s renowned hospitality, delicious home-grown, home-cooked food and indulgent accommodation combine to 18 travel news October 2011

Located in a quiet, unspoilt setting on a 5,000 acre private conservation area, 10 kms southeast of Amboseli National Park at the foot of Kilimanjaro. Includes:  Two nights full board, return flights from Nairobi, return airstrip transfers and two game drives per day. Excludes park fees (SafariCard). How Much? Kshs. 43,875/- per person sharing. Extra night Kshs. 15,000/-. (valid until 31st October). Click HERE to book.  

Leopard Beach Resort and Spa South Coast An award-winning hotel situated on the white sands of Diani Beach. 155 rooms situated in a vast tropical garden of which 78 are superior sea-facing rooms and 18 are suites. Included: Two nights half board, return flights from Nairobi, and return airstrip transfers. How Much? Kshs. 30,500/- per person sharing, children below 12 sharing are free! (valid until 31st October). Click HERE to book. 


Drive-In Safaris

resident specials

Kilima Amboseli Camp

Suyian Soul Laikipia  A simple earthy camp set next to a natural spring and salt lick on Suyian Ranch, a 43,000 acre ranch located to the northwest of Laikipia. The property encompasses a series of dramatic escarpments, exclusive valleys and expansive grassland plains with significant populations of elephants, reticulated giraffe, ostrich, hippo, Burchell’s and Grevy’s zebra, buffalo, lions, leopards, African wild dogs and occasionally cheetah. Includes: One night full board. (valid until 30th November). How Much? Kshs. 9,500/- per person per night sharing. Click HERE to book.    

Rondo Retreat Center Kakamega Forest Right in the heart of the Kakamega Forest with enormous trees and a myriad of

birds. It is extraordinarily peaceful. Stay in the main house or in self-contained log cottages in the garden. Includes: One night half or full board. How Much? Kshs. 4,500/- (half board) Kshs. 5,000/- (full board) per person per night sharing. (valid until 30th November).  Click HERE to book.

Serena Mountain Lodge Mount Kenya Offers a game viewing opportunity while combining a glorious panorama of mountain vistas within an ancient rainforest. The lodge offers the champagne-clarity of mountain air, the tranquillity of the forest and a cavalcade of wildlife at the waterhole in front of the lodge. Includes: One night full board. How Much? Kshs. 6,340/- per person per night sharing. (valid until 22nd December).  Click HERE to book.

Serena Elmentaita

Che Shale

October 2011 travel news 19


Dawn Overlooking Lake Baringo

Neil Thomas has bee professional photographe work is varied and divers agencies to NGOs, the UN newspapers. Neil’s passio he has spent most of his li this selection of images, h more ‘off-the-beaten-track

To view Neil’s website clic

S

New Years Day Dhow Races - Lamu 20 travel news October 2011


guest photo gallery Maa boy just after his circumcision ceremony

en working as a er since 2000. His se, from advertising N to magazines and on remains travel as ife on the move. With he wanted to show a k’ look at Kenya.

ck HERE

Samburu Mother - Love The Joy

Sudanese Silhouette

October 2011 travel news 21


Looking down at Lake Bogoria

Sasaab looking south towards Laikipia 22 travel news October 2011


Joy...

Ol Donyo Sampu looking towards Tanzania October 2011 travel news 23


the inside edge

steve shelley A large proportion of Kenya’s tourist industry is made up of small businesses: travel agencies, hotels, tour operators, curio dealers, logistics operators, even some airlines; the majority of whom employ fewer than 50 people. In the UK, a small business is defined as one employing less than 500 people. In our neck of the woods, nearly everyone is a small business and our tourist sector depends on what we can only really describe as micro businesses. Ah, I hear you say, but so what? A small business can deliver a more personalised service. Maybe. But here’s the rub. You cannot grow an entire industry sector unless two things happen: either more players join in or - and/or - the existing businesses must grow. A lot of the former happens, all the time. You can barely pick up a travel magazine without seeing yet another new camp opening in the Mara; there must be hundreds there by now. Starting up a safari operation still seems to be a lifetime achievement goal for newcomers to Kenya. And very many local entrepreneurs sense excitement in the glitzy world of international travel marketing. 24 travel news October 2011

But... but, but, but... How many people have you come across in this business who are truly competent professional business managers? Those of us in business in Kenya know just how cripplingly hard it is to grow your business. There are so many things to hold it back, from a predatory tax authority, to everincreasing compliance requirements, disloyal staff, cut-throat competition, corruption and the ravages of rampant criminality. So here’s the dilemma... While government agencies continue to gaze into their collective navels and contemplate the wisdom and wonder of growth and all the social and economic benefits it could bring, there isn’t any. You don’t grow an industry sector through overseas promotions or even tax breaks back home; nor by improving the roads and expanding the airports. You grow it by growing the businesses within it. The maths are staggeringly simple. If every tourist business doubled in size, ergo the country’s tourist arrivals and bed nights would double too. This is not rocket science. But it is how to achieve growth.


You don’t grow on aid, donations, indigenous communities or eco fashion trends either.

for Startups lends itself readily to various forms of partnership with government and with travel industry associations.

You grow on hard work and business acumen. Both of which we need a lot more.

Entrepreneurial skills are not as naturally inborn as we might like to think, and this is just one way of equipping business owners to grow and develop themselves and their business operations.

My company has partnered with UK-based School for Startups run by former Dragon’s Den entrepreneur, Doug Richards. Doug trains people already in business to take their companies to the next level. The programme aims to accelerate small business growth through a specially designed and creatively delivered education and training system. It equips people with the foundations to learn and develop the broad range of skills needed for innovation and growth, coupled with the flexibility to upgrade and adapt as market conditions change. The approach depends heavily on a combination of action learning, coupled with intensive instruction using internetbased technologies to overcome the constraints of distance and location. The programme emphasises the skills and experience needed to run small business and is biased towards low-cost, quick implementation strategies, which exploit emerging technologies. School

Although in many ways Kenya has been spared the ravages of the ongoing global slow-down, history tells us only too clearly that another downturn will strike at some point. For us, they tend to come in fiveyear cycles. Building a vibrant mid-sized business sector is one way of helping to weather storms still to come.

Steve Shelley is a management and training consultant with his own company, Tack International. He lives in Nairobi.

October 2011 travel news 25


Sustainable, eco, community, ethical, pro-poor, fair trade, responsible – the prefixes are endless but are these just multiplying fig-leaves for business as usual in the cut-throat world of tourism in East Africa - or is genuine progress being made? This conundrum is explored in a three-part commentary by sustainable travel consultant, Amita Vaux. Responsible Travel is a new way of travelling for those who’ve had enough of mass tourism. It’s about respecting and benefiting local people and the environment - but it’s about far more than that. If you travel for relaxation, fulfillment, discovery, adventure and to learn - rather than simply to tick off ‘places and things’ - then responsible travel is for you. Responsible Travel suits life’s curious adventurers and enthusiasts. Click HERE to visit the Responsible Travel website.

In Part 1 of this commentary, I introduced a utopian world of sustainable tourism called Destination Responsible, where employees were treated fairly and given opportunities to be community and conservation ambassadors and where operators achieved zero waste and were carbon and water ‘positive’. Employee engagement and environmental stewardship are the keystones of a truly responsible tourism product, which is supported by six ‘pillars’ in this articulation. The next two pillars are equally critical in Destination Responsible. These are: treating suppliers as partners in procurement, and empowering host communities and civil society.

Pillar 3: Creative engagement with clients to encourage responsible travel Tourists on holiday don’t want to be told what to do. In Destination Responsible, visitors are empowered to make the right judgment when given choices. For example, Basecamp Explorer offers its clients an opportunity to do a camp walk to view the environmental innovations on the site. At a more sophisticated level, Eos Visions, a tour operator in the region, offers professional clients the opportunity to share best practice and develop long-term partnerships with professional counterparts, primarily in the fields of healthcare or advocacy. Clients touching down in Destination Responsible have a huge respect for host communities. However, connecting clients with the community is a highly complex and sensitive issue. Overexposure poses a real danger of creating ‘spectacle tourism’ and fuelling dependency culture, a trend which East Africa is finally retreating from. But underexposure renders the client experience ‘shallow’ and minimises philanthropic and developmental partnerships between client and host. Basecamp Explorer has identified the middle ground by introducing communities to clients in a positive light (i.e. avoiding exacerbating the stereotype of ‘starving’ Africans or voyeurism), initially via films and community talks 26 travel news October 2011


Responsible Travel: Simply Greenwash? Part 2

feature

within the camps and then, if the client is interested, through non-intrusive visits to projects which its foundation supports. Photos are limited and groups never visit schools during schooling hours or clinic sessions in progress.

Pillar 4: Suppliers as partners In Destination Responsible, suppliers are sourced from within a 10 km radius (with very rare exceptions) and fair trade principles are adhered to whereby producers are paid a guaranteed minimum price, pre-financing is given to producers who require it, suppliers are treated as partners, trading relationships are long-term and conditions for the production and trade of a product are socially and economically fair and environmentally responsible. Pro-Poor Tourism Kenya has developed an innovative model of reaching more marginalised communities and integrating them into the tourism system. PROACT - ProPoor African Curio Trade is a non-profit program that is aimed at addressing poverty, youth unemployment and gender inequality through the selling of curios. Furthermore, Basecamp Foundation has facilitated the development of local enterprises to October 2011 travel news 27


supply Basecamp Explorer. These enterprises range from dhow building to sapling nurseries and beadwork. By partnering with a specialised microfinance organisation, the Foundation aims to develop enterprises in soap and essential oil production around the Masai Mara, with a view to supplying Basecamp Explorer and others.

By beginning to address these two complex pillars, in addition to environmental and employee concerns, the tourism industry in Destination Responsible begins to minimise economic ‘leakage’ outside the region, and invests continuously in the destination through employment and procurement as part of a fairly traded product. The final pillars which support Destination Responsible will be introduced in the next edition of Travel News Kenya.

Support in responsible tourism practice in East Africa:

Ecotourism Kenya: Promotes responsible tourism practices within the tourism industry. This entails encouraging the adoption of best practices in the use of tourism resources, working with local communities and managing wastes and emissions. Click HERE to visit their website.

Eos Visions Consultancy Services: Advice, consultancy and project development relating tourism, conservation andtheir development. Click HERE to visit their website. Above:to The Kawai Women’s Group with cattle Below: The hippo water roller

Pro-Poor Tourism Kenya: Offers a wide range of management and development support in the pro-poor tourism sector. Click HERE to visit their website.

Amita Vaux is Business Development Manager at Eos Visions, an educational travel company operating across East Africa, and also a freelance journalist and commentator on responsible business practice. Click HERE to contact her.

28 travel news October 2011


October 2011 travel news 29


Pillow Talk

Jane Barsby discovers Nairobi’s latest debutant... You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can certainly judge a hotel by its pillows. At the top of the pile are the banks of plump, feather-filled, dream-puffs that jostle for position on the five-star king-sized bed. At the bottom is the foam-chip wad that leers knowingly from the poly-cotton paucity of the budget single. In the interests of avoiding such pillow fights, the cunning traveller carries a personal pillow at all times. It’s cmbersome, of course, but the heavy air-miler is more than happy to sacrifice a second business suit for a first class sleep. Full marks to the Crowne Plaza hotel chain then, whose every room offers a ‘pillow menu’ with choices ranging from soft to hard, and hollow-fibre to duck feather. ‘If the pillow supplied doesn’t please you’, says the tent card on the bed, ‘just ring for another’. How very clever of them. But then at Nairobi’s new Crowne Plaza Hotel, which stands in the heart of the corporate-chic ‘Upper Hill Business District’, cleverness is putting in overtime. Smartly aligned to the needs of the networker, the hotel offers free WiFi, halogen-lit work desk, wall-to-wall data ports, satellite TV, radio alarm, safe, properly stocked mini bars, 30 travel news October 2011

24-hour (sensibly-priced) room service, limitless mineral water and even, can you believe it, an iron and ironing board. Oh, and a seamstress on call to mend rips in your suit, or rents in your presentation. Describing itself as an ‘upscale hotel catering to business travellers and the meetings and conventions market’, the Crowne Plaza chain is part of the InterContinental Group and, founded in 1983, has 400 hotels in 52 countries: so they should know what they’re doing. Ideally located in Nairobi’s latest corporate ghetto, alongside such giants as Coca Cola, the 162-room Nairobi Crowne Plaza doesn’t aspire to tropical gardens: its glass doors are indecently close to the pavement and its brash glass walls fill every centimetre of its undoubtedly expensive plot. Nor does it pretend to be a tourist hotel: it attempts neither safari chic, nor eco-greenness: and there’s no ART. Its traffic-savvy location, however, is a masterpiece in itself. Blandly beige, steadily brown, the Crowne Plaza’s decor is studiously anodyne. Glitteringly if unsubtly lit, it has all the allure of a first-class airport lounge. Unadventurous and uninspired it may be, but it works. Lawrence the water genius


There’s airport pick-up, car hire, an underground car park, a no-nonsense check-in, a jaunty concierge and an exceptionally informative bellhop who doesn’t hang around for a tip. And if you’re on business, you can hire a boardroom, host a banquet for 550, or call a conference for 350. Swathed in sheer cream curtains, the circular bar offers faceless intimacy downstairs and a jovial sports TV upstairs. There’s a bustling lounge where families spoon ice cream alongside espresso-gulping executives; and an all-day restaurant overlooking the swimming pool. It’s not ‘infinity’, sun loungers are cramped and there are no waving palms, but it’s heated, which is rare; and it’s flanked by a businesslike health centre. What more do you need?

The Facts 162 air-conditioned en suite rooms (13 suites, club floor and executive lounge), a pillar-less ballroom (banquet: 550 guests, conference layout: 350), extensive conference facilities, business centre, 8 meeting rooms and 6 board rooms, coffee lounge and patisserie, all-day brasserie, fine-dining restaurant, free parking, air-conditioning and free WiFi throughout. For further information click HERE

As to dining, choose from the extensive in-room menu, the buffet choices and easy anonymity of the all-day Baraza Restaurant, or venture into the hushed ‘fine dining’ embrace of the dimly-lit Sikia Restaurant, where the leather wing chairs are so all enveloping that you can’t see your neighbours — which is handy if you’re a corporate traveller dining alone. The menu is extensive, the service good, the prices reasonable; and if you’re into judging things, you won’t be disappointed by the chips. Along with the other tried and tested hotel indicators (pillows, fluffy white towels and as much bottled water as you can drink), they come up trumps. So, what’s not to like? Nothing. This is a business hotel whose time has come, and whose unassuming but canny presence must already be causing headaches to those who, until just a year ago, reigned supreme. Just one thing: if you’re looking for a romantic weekend, think again. The pillow menu is fine, but the general ambiance might not deliver quite the night you had in mind. October 2011 travel news 31


The Trouble with Gherkins

A modern transAfrica adventure. Part Three of a four-part series by Elizabeth Loker The shortest border in the world is between Botswana and Zambia; a mere 750 metres of river frontage crossed by a ferry which takes five minutes. You’d think this would be a simple procedure. Queue up. Wait your turn. Cross. Alas, such things are not always so simple in Africa. We arrive at the border crossing at a respectable 9.30 am, full of optimism knowing there are not many cars ahead of us. Three hours later and we’ve learned the unwritten rules of African ferry crossings: pushing ahead and cutting in front of others pays dividends; tour operators get preferential treatment and go to the front of the queue; only one lorry at a time can fit on a ferry. Even the mildest of mannered individuals lose their temper. Once safely across the border, Zambia is a surprise. I’ve never thought of it as an A-list safari destination, but it’s beautiful. Significantly less populated and deforested than other parts of Africa. 32 travel news October 2011

There is of course the world-famous Victoria Falls with its high-adrenalin sports offerings, but it’s the less visited Lower Zambezi National Park which for me is the uncelebrated jewel. The timing for our visit is not perfect. As we drive, great sheets of rain make the roads nearly impassable and the driving unsafe. It’s unclear whether any of the campsites or lodges along the river are open. Do we press ahead? Do we risk getting stranded with no place to sleep? As the lightning and thunder crash around us, we pluck up our courage and carry forward slip-sliding along the sodden track. With a sigh of relief, we find the only lodge still open for the season. We’re the only visitors. Mana Pools National Park, on the opposite bank in Zimbabwe, and the Lower Zambezi National Park together constitute one of Africa’s finest wildlife areas. Beautiful flood plains alongside the river are dotted with acacias and large trees.


Africa To Coast AfricaCoast Coast-2-Coast Several other rivers flow through the park with swamp areas and river islands. It’s a haven for the large mammals that are making a swift comeback from poaching up until the early 1990s. We take a boat trip down the river and are greeted by hundreds of hippos, and close encounters with elephant. A majestic place we intend to return to... in the dry season. After a quick stop in Lusaka to stock up on supplies and have the front brake pads replaced, we continue up the road to another of Zambia’s highlights. South Luangwa National Park also claims to be one of the best in Africa. And indeed it is. But in this particular case we find the characters in our campsite (both human and animal) to be more fascinating. First there’s Piers and Eva, a dynamic, professional couple who have chucked in their seemingly lucrative jobs in Cape Town and sold everything to run a campsite on the edges of the malaria-infested park. They walk around barefoot and bare-chested chatting with campers and encouraging liquid libations. The whole thing seems incongruous somehow. We can’t help wondering how long they will enjoy the party. And that brings us to the second set of characters. We spend a good portion of our four-day stay defending ourselves against marauding monkeys. They are clever beasts, calculating and patient. They use well-honed diversionary tactics to distract on one side, only to steal food on the other. The final straw (and an enduring memory of our trip) is an

October 2011 travel news 33


alpha male baboon. We think we have locked away all food of possible interest, until he sneaks into our camp and steals a large bottle of gherkin pickles. He saunters away with the bottle tucked under his arm like he’s going off to school with books. I mustn’t let marauding monkeys taint my view though. South Luangwa is a spectacular park. For scenery, variety and density of wildlife, accessibility and choice of accommodation, it’s difficult to beat. Impalas, waterbuck, giraffe, lions, elephants and buffaloes wander on the wide-open plains; and leopards, of which there are many, hunt in the dense woodlands. On one of our night game drives, we see two hunting leopards. Perhaps they’ll happen upon a baboon with a belly full of gherkins? Clinton Lucy and Elizabeth Loker have returned to Kenya after many years living and working around the world. They bring their considerable international experience in leadership and organisational development to their new business, Origin Consulting Group. They are inspired by the prospect of innovative business in Kenya and beyond. Click HERE to contact them

Next month: Camp Life...

34 travel news October 2011


Africa Coast-2-Coast - A Word To The Wise The Sensible Stuff: What to Pack (and not pack!) Our vehicle was completely and stupidly overloaded for this trip. It became quite a nuisance. The problem for us is that we were moving from London to Nairobi and even though we had shipped a container, there was a gap in time before we left. Based on our experience, we suggest you travel as light as you can without sacrificing too much comfort. Packing and unpacking becomes a chore! This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does give a sense of what we found to be essential: Comfortable chairs – We chose two sturdy camp chairs by OzTent. These were the first things we’d unpack and plop into after a long day of driving. Table – So civilised to sit at a table. We chose an aluminium Gelert that folds away nicely and seats four comfortably. A table cloth is also a nice touch. Tent – To have a pop up tent on the roof, or an old-fashioned ground tent? This is the perennial debate. In the end, we went with a ground tent. Not sure this was the right decision, but it was significantly cheaper and probably more in line with the type of camping we are likely to do in the future. We chose a Malamoo 3-second tent from Australia. We bought this in Namibia at the last minute, thinking we might get tired of putting up our big tent. Oh my, that was the best decision we made on the trip. Bedding – We packed a self-inflating Thermarest, a sleep sheet, blanket and camping pillow for each of us. Good idea to be able to distinguish who’s whose too.

Cooking stove/stand – We chose a two-burner gas stove with underneath grill for toast. Even though it was a bit cumbersome, we loved it. We also packed a collapsible cooking stand with various shelves for storing food and kitchen equipment. Cleaning Up Equipment – Not all campsites have good cleaning up space, so you’ll need to be able to clean your dishes after a meal. Two plastic washing basins come in handy: one for washing and the other rinsing. And besides all the obvious cleaning equipment, we bought one of those new hi-tech cloths that wipe up dirt easily. We used it for the inside of our car to keep the dust and dirt at bay. Very handy. Medical Kit – It seems that if you don’t pack the medicine you’ll need it. Fortunately we had a well-stocked medical kit, including malaria prophylactic, various antibiotics, pain killers, you name it... We didn’t use any of it. Catapult – For those pesky monkeys, it would seem the only thing they respect is a catapult pointed in their direction. Cash/ Cash Card – It’s US dollars... plain and simple. Or local currency. That’s it. When you’re crossing borders, have your dollars to hand. Crossing into Zambia we misjudged how much we needed and had to unpack the back of the car to get to the safe. So stressful. Lonely Planet – Indispensable for planning where to go, where to stay and what to do. We also used Rough Guides, but found LP better for the actual logistics of overland-style travel.

October 2011 travel news 35


miscellaneous ramblings

tcb

I’ve been told that I have unfairly been passing along half-truths (their words, not mine) about the state of our beloved Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). It might surprise you all that I do not and never have told anything but the truth, so help me God — in this magazine, I might add for clarity. But this taunt did beg an answer. What exactly is a half-truth? Being a complete idiot, I decided to Google the words. Of course it doesn’t exist, but I checked, just in case. My Internet adventure did uncover some relatively famous quotes.  ‘A half-truth is a full lie’ a Yiddish proverb. ‘A half-truth is the most cowardly of lies’. ‘A half-truth is usually less than half of that.’ I couldn’t help myself; I wanted more. ‘In battling evil, excess is good; for he who is moderate in announcing the truth is presenting halftruth. He conceals the other half out of fear of the people’s wrath,’ says Khalil Gibran – philosophical essayist (1883–1931). An epigram is a half-truth so stated as to irritate the person who believes the other half. Now that rings a bell! I do go on... Last week I again sampled the delights of JKIA, and what I have previously told you sadly is still yours to experience the next

36 travel news October 2011

time your journey takes you there. It is not a pretty sight – a building site now, and for many years to come, that hopefully will one day metamorphose into a world-class international airport. We do live in hope, don’t we? Over the last year, we have received a number of emails and calls from readers bemoaning the perceived shortcomings of our national airline and a number of its competitors. Nothing to really write home about, but all brought into clear focus at a recent travel gathering addressed by the Kenya Airways (KQ) commercial guru. Making light of their never-on-time record and in-flight entertainment systems that never work: that really got my attention – and perhaps that was the plan. For these were the two recurring complaints about the Pride of Africa. You might call it fate, but two emails were waiting for me on my return to the office on these very two subjects. One about a trip where the in-flight systems didn’t work in both directions; the other about a cancelled flight and what happened or did not happen next. In-flight entertainment systems not working seems to be endemic across this airline’s system and across most aircraft types. From what we hear and experience, this has been ongoing for a couple of years.


People worry, as they do, that if a perceived small problem like this can’t be fixed, what about the rest? The other email was about a cancelled flight to Bangkok. Overnight accommodation was arranged near the airport, but first the passengers had to get their vouchers. This turned out to be anything but easy. They were led from the check-in area to the Customs Hall in the arrivals area, entering by the back door, passports retained, and security questions asked. Some very confused passengers were later transferred by bus to said nearby hotel. Wake-up calls were made for a very early start; the return transport would depart the hotel at 0400. It simply didn’t arrive. Who to call? Eventually at 0600, as they described it, a matatu arrived and took some of the passengers to the airport, leaving others behind to fend for themselves — no doubt adding more stress to their already delayed journey. There is a better way, surely. The other airline in for a good number of barbs and which also features negatively on Facebook is the LCC (low-cost carrier) Fly540. I won’t debate their LCC label, just to say that I’ve never found it to be so. The major bone of contention is the airline’s schedule integrity or, more importantly, lack thereof. “Never on time” seems to be the collective opinion of our readers and a lot of the Facebooker faithful.

On a recent trip to Finland, by way of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, I was hugely impressed with this relatively new terminal complex. Complex it is not, with loads of space for loads of people – and an excellent variety of tax-free shops. The whole Heathrow experience (I also used Terminal 3 on one leg of the journey), was easy and stress-free and, dare I say it, almost a pleasure. Finland was better than expected, but then what did I expect? Snow, vodka, Nokia and beautiful women! Except for the snow (a balmy sunny 14C), it was as expected. However, I left full of guilt – the farewell dinner was traditional fare – reindeer steaks. Delicious beyond belief, but what would I tell my children?  That I ate one of Santa’s reindeer? I did, and they were not impressed. Why am I always whinging, is it that there is so much to whinge about? I’m a positive sort of person - gotta make a plan. Send me good news - click HERE to share. Happy news received as a result of my last column about the Driftwood Club in Malindi. Seems the new owners, if it’s a done deal, do not necessarily plan to tear the place down. Roger says if the deal is done the party is on... TCB

October 2011 travel news 37


book reviews THE ABSOLUTIST by Jon Boyne

Readers will recollect Jon Boyne’s brilliant novel, “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”. In common with the earlier book, “The Absolutist’s” underlying theme is war’s ghastliness, this time the Great War. The plot involves many of the horrors of that most tragically senseless of all conflicts. Throughout the struggle, one issue that frequently reared its ugly head was the conscientious objector’s dilemma. Between 1914-18 objectors, provided they applied officially, went before a tribunal, which usually ended up, assuming the applicant agreed to participate in a nonarmed capacity, in their being seconded to stretcher-bearer duties, where the survival rate was minimal. Alternatively, it was gaol. Should a soldier suddenly become an objector in the field, he was shot for cowardice, eternally shamed both in the eyes of the army and the civilian public. These were the ‘feather men’; more precisely, recipients of the white feather symbolising cowardice. ‘The Absolutist’ is plotted round an intense but erratic friendship between two young volunteers who in 1916 meet at Aldershot, during preliminary training for the war in France. Directly before they leave for the Front, one of their company, who has previously made his legitimate ‘objector’ application, disappears and dies under mysterious circumstances. This is the plot’s watershed since, as they depart, the death deeply affects Will Bancroft, friend of Tristan Sadler who relates the story. Further brutal incidents in the course of battle convince Will of war’s futility and unreality. He is ‘The Absolutist’, ‘one step beyond conscientious objecting’, who cannot compromise himself to be associated in

38 travel news October 2011

any way with the armed conflict. ‘It was as though we died before we left England’, he says. By this he implies that all they have been taught is how to prolong their lives for as long as possible, which isn’t long, since soon out of their company of twenty, only two remain alive. In 1919, Tristan feels obliged to return letters written by Will’s sister Marian to her brother. He also must somehow unburden himself to her of a deep, secret guilt. Their confrontation provokes a variety of strong emotions between them, which remain with Tristan until the end of the story. This is a sobering tale, but one that through its literary craftsmanship which sensitively brings to life the 1914-18 intellectual blinkers, provokes thought. Boyne’s narrative is outstanding, as he uses words economically but to maximum effect, creating a thoroughly outstanding book.


book reviews MONTY AND ROMMEL: PARALLEL LIVES by Peter Caddick-Adams

The author undertook a Herculean task in this, the first comparative study of Monty and Rommel. He has skilfully kept the threads of both lives disentangled, at the same time emphasising their closeness. These two outstanding personalities shared much in common in background and career development. They fought and were wounded in the Great War in 1914, were from non-military families, both were small in stature and. most significantly, realised the importance of a close personal relationship with their troops. However, despite their many other similarities, they always remained “very much creatures of their respective societies.” Considering the state of the British Army in 1939, how Britain weathered the storm remains a miracle: they were ill-prepared, alone in the struggle until the US joined them, and made many glaring judgemental mistakes. The prologue begins with the Dunkirk retreat in which Rommel and Monty fought, both as Major Generals. We then move back to a lengthy coverage of the Great War, and after. It was during that strange era between the two wars that Rommel fell under Hitler’s thrall, a relationship that continued almost until the end of the war. The War in the Desert remains the highlight of this long saga, as it becomes clear that despite their achievements before and after, this was when Rommel and Monty reached their zeniths, through a campaign that highlighted their distinctive marks of genius. The book gives vivid glimpses into the realities of frontline warfare, including the mystique of Rommel’s Desert Fox role, which almost had the British troops

wondering if he possessed supernatural powers. Descriptions of D-Day are also absorbing and underscore the invasion’s early touch-and-go situations. Both Monty and Rommel had however shot their bolts by then. Rommel became disillusioned, while Monty grew insufferably self-opinionated. In the end, in contrast to their careers, they died in very different circumstances. This is a ‘big read’ and not always an easy one, since the military detail sometimes causes the reader to plough through pages before returning to the main narrative. The photographs are disappointing, especially of Rommel. But if you have the staying power, the author has packed this biography with real insight into both these largerthan-life characters, outstanding in their own spheres, yet not without their faults and weaknesses. For both, their happiest moments were in the North African desert. This explains perhaps why these chapters are the book’s best.

Reviews by Julia Lawrence October 2011 travel news 39


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Getting There: In Celebration of Road Trips

In Grandmother’s Footsteps Dodoma - Morogoro - Kilwa 2,500 kms round trip = 4 days on the road. My aunt said when I catch a frog, we’ll get across. It was the fifties; she was six. They were marooned at the edge of a raging torrent that raced over the plains and across the road that ran from Dodoma to Morogoro. SheHotel caught her frog and they Jane Barsby finds solace in the garden oasis that is the Kijani at Shela on Lamu Island... were over: almost immediately the water subsided and a night’s long vigil ended and they could drive home to Kongwa where the groundnuts failed and my mother remembered blood red beetles thrived. Born and raised in Kenya, Anthea Rowan is a wife and mother whose other life as a freelance journalist was a happy accident borne of a good idea for a story and the subsequent baptism of fire at the hands of a formidable editor at The Times in London. Since then Anthea has continued to write at The Times and has also written at the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian and for the BBC, as well as for a number of travel publications across east and southern Africa. She lives in an outpost in western Tanzania with her husband, Anthony, in a house swiftly emptying of growing up children.

I have found myself often since outpost bound, retracing my grandmother’s footsteps: her stories, her 1950s geography, suddenly brought to life in my own: Urambo (up the road from where I live now, a dirt highway ribbed with potholes and puddled with the deep dark shade of mango trees); Natchingwea, down in the south, inland from Mtwara and Lindi, and now Kongwa too. I have witnessed the raging torrents of water that raced and which my mother described: ‘the rains fell so heavily and for so long that our house stood on stilts’. I’ve watched it tear across the same plains and rip and curl beneath culverts rendered almost useless. But it’s not like that for now: for now it’s baked bone-white and ash-dust, and the sky is high and hot without the tiniest puff of a cloud.  

Kettuvallam Houseboats, Kerala - India

October 2011 travel news 41


Fishing with Dad

Hordes on the beach... Horde free...

42 travel news October 2011


Tanzanian Tales And the road is no longer dirt. Now it’s a sleek black ribbon of tar that whips down the hills and through valleys where the distance looks egg-white whipped for the peaks that pierce horizons.  The Outpost to Morogoro is almost 600 kms and takes a mere nine hours today, given that more than half of the journey is asphalt smooth.  It might have taken less if there had been fewer of us, but a full-fat five including three apparently never-endingly hungry teens meant tea stops (and pee stops) were more frequent than I’m usually allowed. We were in Morogoro by drinks time; a delicious evening at Kim and Simone Axmann’s Mbuyuni Farm Retreat on their 600-hectare organic farm which reclines in the shadow of the Uluguru Mountains’ shrugging shoulders. Take an early morning walk and you will inevitably witness claret coloured carpets of hibiscus petals out to dry in the sun. I’d happily have lingered, but road trips necessitate that the pace be maintained.  We were back in the car shortly after dawn to negotiate our way into and out of Dar es Salaam without tying ourselves in knots of traffic. The Eid holiday was on our side for now at least, and it didn’t take long. By lunchtime we were 200 kms south, eating yesterday’s leftover egg sandwiches on the edge of the Rufiji Delta, one of the most beautiful and precious ecosystems in Tanzania. (You can thank the local community for that: despite no support from the Tanzanian government, they thwarted an Irishman’s $200 million dollar plan to implement a prawn farm here which would have destroyed 1100 acres of mangrove and caused untold damage to the delicate ecosystem.) Early afternoon and we’d reached our destination: Kilwa, 140 kms from the Delta and 300 from Dar on mostly smooth roads,

Kilwa Ruins except for the 60 km stretch immediately after the Delta that the Chinese seem to have lost interest in. Tell-tale weeds grow incriminatingly tall. Kilwa, or the Kilwas - for there are three - are a trio of settlements of exceptional historical interest and quite lovely coastlines: wide white beaches as broad and as pale as a whale’s skeleton, not dissimilar, I am told, to those found just south in Mozambique.   Kilwa Kivinje (Kilwa of the Casuarina Trees) is a sprawling fishing village that was once a slave trading hub and then a German Garrison. Kilwa Masoke (Kilwa of the Market) is the focus of the three and where we and most visitors hung out. Kilwa Kisiwani (Kilwa of the Island), is about a October 2011 travel news 43


Lake Rukwa mile offshore). A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most fascinating of the three, Kilwa Kisiwani boasts ruins that are both plentiful and to a large extent intact or restored to a point where their stories have not entirely collapsed. The island’s history is coloured by Arabs and Portuguese (Vasco de Gama was a visitor); it’s onetime prosperity the product of gold and slaves and ivory. It had connections with Great Zimbabwe and Fort Jesus and trade routes that wrapped like ribbons around the globe as far away as India, China and Europe. But a tour of the Ruins (where the island has stilled to that of a quiet fishing village today) had to wait, for now we were checking into the once lively Kilwa Ruins Lodge set prettily on a bay; a vista that tempted me three years ago to come and spend more than the half hour then that it took to drink a Coca Cola. 

Then it had a buzz and a hum and a reputation that sold it well. Things have changed. I never did establish who the management was, nor why when I turned on the hot water tap in my shower, it ran from the basin faucet instead? Shortly after we’d enjoyed a first swim, the beach began to heave with people, a trickle at first and then a veritable torrent; so close to our cottage verandah – a proximity compounded by a creeping high spring tide - that the crowds were squeezed disconcertingly close. Privacy was out of the question. We were a spectacle for Eid partygoers until the sun went down and the beach disappeared in the dark. In the meantime we watched the hordes, witnessed a shade-wearing, gunbearing askari beat the odd pick-pocket up, and try in vain to shoo crowds off the boardwalk. If we had come expecting quiet retreat, we were disappointed. I asked the very evident and very efficient management next door at Kimbilio what it was all about. Alfredo is an unlikely lodge owner, given he’s a neuro-physiologist from Milan who rather happened upon his investment and current part-time occupation by chance; he and his delightful wife, Elisabetta, are keen divers. He shrugged and said, ‘it’s always-a the same: Easter, Christmas, Eed; the same-a mess’. He assured me that the rest of the year the revellers would leave the beach to the holiday makers. He and Elisabetta run the 12-bed hotel alongside their Mad Ass Dive shop. ‘What’s the diving like?’ I asked him. ‘Compared to Fiji, Australia, and the Philippines, not so good. Compared to Pemba, Zanzibar, mucha better’, he said. And the security, I asked, taking in his ungated, un-fenced pretty little cinnamon coloured rooms. ‘Not violent’, he said, ‘you must just use-a your head’.  And noting my expression, elaborated, ‘If you are stupid enough to walk-a on the beach with valuables, somebody might

44 travel news October 2011

Kimbilio

Kimbilio


approach you, but you can just tell them to ‘F**k off’. My eyes widen and he continues, ‘And they will F**k off’, he explained. Kimbilio is getting a name as a serious dive operator in the area and for its excellent cuisine, something the proprietors aren’t keen to advertise given that they want to keep the operation tight and cater to and for their 12 resident guests. So I didn’t ask if a family of five could book in for dinner, which I was just about to do, given the grub next door – rather like the ambience and the plumbing — wasn’t much to shout about either. A second evening of beach revellers appeared when the excitement of a fight spilled over our boardwalk and behind our room. That’s when husband announced,

“Enough is enough”. For our third night we relocated. Mwangaza Hideaway is, indeed, tucked away, and the approach might be a little disconcerting: opposite the airport (a strip and a windsock) and down a pitted track that winds its way between the fragmenting edges of Kilwa Masoke. But the joy of arrival dispels any preconceptions that might have begun to mount. The Hideaway describes itself as an affordable lodge in perfect surroundings. It has 4 bandas, each with a queen-size bed and 2 singles. There is also the “Dhow House” with two rooms to accommodate a family. The rooms catch the breeze and are open and cool, with mosquito nets

Mwangaza Hideaway October 2011 travel news 45


and fans for every bed. Set high on a hill overlooking the Kilwa waterways, it faces west and the sinking sun. The central mess is relaxed, inviting like you’ve pitched up a coast friend’s house to stay; a feeling that is enhanced with the presence of tailwagging dogs, a beer fridge you can help yourself to and a deep, deep plunge pool that your kids can hang out in whilst you hang out at the bar. And it was gloriously, deliciously quiet. The bucks and the brains behind Mwangaza are serious, serious fishermen: this is the thrust of the place and they’re jacked-up to accommodate your every

angling wish. My eldest daughter’s wish was to spend a morning deep-sea fishing with her father. They departed with Warren before sun up and were home by noon, sunburned, seasick, but delirious with delight, as daughter had hooked a 20kg Wahoo. Warren, I was told, had moved heaven, earth and the oceans to make sure she got her heart’s desire. Kilwa had restored itself. On our last evening we drove 5 kms north and walked on a beach utterly devoid of another soul. This must, I thought, have been like the beaches of my grandmother’s day. Vast. Unspoiled. Bone-white and broad.

Old Farm House - Kisolanzaza

46 travel news Hotel October 2011 New Dodoma


And then we drove north, delivering children to airports for return journeys to school and college whilst we schlepped home with a night in the gloriously kitsch, eminently affordable, always delightful if fading New Dodoma Hotel. It was once the Railway Hotel where my mother and my aunt took tea with my grandfather before they lynched that frog...

Where to stay en route: Mbunyi Farm Retreat - click HERE          Mwangaza Hideaway- click HERE       Kimbilio Lodge - click HERE   New Dodoma Hotel - +255 26 232 1641                  

Missing past issues? Visit our website at

www.travelnewskenya.travel

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October 2011 travel news 47


speaker’s corner

jane barsby Sleeping with the enemy You may think you know your sleeping partner. But familiarity breeds contempt. Tonight as you climb into bed, take a closer look. Is he or she putting on a lot of weight? Becoming more secretive, skulking in dark corners? Nibbling you...? If so, check out the legs. If there are six of them, you’ve got problems. It’s likely that your new best friend will also be very keen on getting close to you, especially at night, particularly when it’s cold. You may also discover that he or she is cripplingly socially unacceptable, irreparably damaging to your sex life, and may even nudge you into negative equity. Worse still, your latest squeeze will not be a winner in the looks department. Expect ratcheted jaws, a flat body, an aptitude for gluttony that allows him or her to consume their own body weight in five minutes, and a shiny red skin that turns a deeper and deeper shade of claret in direct ratio to the volume of blood they’ve sucked out of your veins. Is it a car? Is it a plane? Is it a vampire bat? No, you’ve merely climbed into bed with Cimex lectularius. No need to feel bad, the bed bug has been cosying up to mankind for thousands of years, and up until the 1930s it was a 48 travel news October 2011

relatively stable relationship. Between the 1930s and the 1980s, however, the relationship hit the rocks: largely due to the invention of insecticide and the vacuum cleaner, both of which proved severely detrimental to the cracks in which bed bugs had traditionally holed-up between relationships. From the 1980s onwards, however, the bed bug began to box clever. Rather than relying on the frowsy comfort of the domestic double bed, it took to hanging out in hotel rooms, hospitals, and plushly padded bus seats. Around that time, too, a change occurred in human habits: we began to travel more, and to less salubrious corners of the world. A trade in secondhand furnishings built up, we rested on the laurels of insecticides and stopped waging war against the bed bug. As a result, according to a recent survey by the University of Sydney, since the year 2000 bed bug infestations have increased by 5,000%. As with many other world events, social networking is also implicated in the ‘Arab Spring’ of the bug world. Between the 1930s and the 1980s, bed bugs moved swiftly down the social ladder – appearing, it was thought, only amongst the lower classes.


After 1980, however, they crept radically upmarket. Now, not only do they frequent 5-star hotels and classy clubs, but they’re also regular occupants of airline seats. Recently, they also moved into one of Manhattan’s most expensive residential areas. Naturally the homeowners rushed like lemmings to sell at a loss rather than sign up to the social shame of hosting an ‘infestation’. Bed bugs are, however, not stupid. Delicately attuned to the fact that their arrival may not always be welcome, they’re masters of the art of getting all six legs under the table before revealing their true agenda. Hard to believe, but a determined bug can sleep with you for over a year without claiming its first suck. Then, intoxicated by your flesh, it will leave a perfectly straight line of bites known to the medical profession as ‘breakfast, lunch and dinner’. It could be worse, the bite of a bed bug has not been proven to directly spread disease — yet. They do, however, promote itching, infection, rashes and unsightly sheet stains. Besides which, surely even the most socially ruthless would balk at actually BEING the free lunch.

Here, the more enterprising bugs wait to jump ship, straight into your luggage. Later, cosily ensconced in your mattress or pillow they will wait dreamily for the first kiss. And once bitten, being twice shy won’t help. How to avoid the honey-trap? When travelling, always place your suitcase on the luggage rack and hang your clothes in the wardrobe furthest from the bed. In other areas of your life, never bring home a mattress you don’t know, and if you do suspect infiltration, act quickly. Seal all mattress and pillows into hypoallergic zip-on covers, hurl all bed linen into the freezer for five days, and apply a scorched-earth policy to all domestic crevices. Be warned though, the war on terror has recently stepped up a pace: the enemy is now known to have moved into electric sockets, televisions, clocks and… phones.

Jane Barsby is a renowned travel writer who lives, works and plays in Nairobi.

There’s also the fact that one of the easiest ways to invite a bed bug between your sheets, is to stay in a hotel. October 2011 travel news 49


Crater Lake, Naivasha 50 travel news October 2011


our parting shot

October 2011 travel news 51


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What's news in tourism Kenya - in-depth articles of what to do, where to go - get the inside info from Kenya's best travel wrtiers. Out mont...

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