ISSUE 14 | FREE COPY
DEEP BLUE KITESURFING IN CHE SHALE
THE HUMPBACK WHALES OF WATAMU
KILIFIâ€™S FOOD MOVEMENT
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PHOTOGRAPHY PETER NDUNG’U
like to escape from Nairobi any chance I get. Having been raised by the water, my childhood is filled with blissful memories of being barefoot by the sea, braids held back in a wild ponytail, sarong loosely tied around my waist and snacking on a coastal embe dodo with pili pili, the juices of the overripe mango flowing down my arm. After our manic trip around Laikipia for our last issue, returning ‘home’ for a much more pole pole pace was a very welcome idea. We flew down to the north coast, hired a car and set off on a scenic drive from Vipingo to Kilifi, Watamu Malindi and everywhere in between. Trip highlights included Marafa Hell’s Kitchen, a striking canyon where the sun was so hot I could almost feel the blood reach boiling point in my veins. We also took a man-powered canoe at Kivukoni creek and for only Ksh 20, crossed over to Takaungu, a sleepy traditional coastal village. Heading a little further past this unspoilt town we discovered Vuma Cliffs, a spectacular point where huge angry waves crashed against rough jagged cliffs. The waves are said to sometimes get so wild that fishermen who happen to fall asleep on the cliffwhich is about 15 feet high- can sometimes get washed away by the tide. Testament to this, an unexpected wave startled our photographer who fell smack on the rough coral bloodying both of his palms. We also got to feast our way through each town, as always, all in the name of research. Our first stop was the bustling Watamu Road which is lined with restaurants, African curio and art shops; a place where scooters and tuk tuks rattle past and tourists walk around in bikinis and beach shorts and no one bats an eye. I first discovered this spot on an earlier trip to the town with family in 2014 and insisted that we stop by Bahati Gelateria whose gelatos were just as rich and creamy as I remembered. Here, we gorged on passion, lemon and coconut scoops in which you could taste the natural flavour of each fruit. We also stopped by Hosteria Romana next door for incredible pizzas, and had to practically waddle our way back to the car afterwards.
From Kitesurfing and savouring crab cakes at Che Shale with its beach that glistens with fool’s gold to pizza night coupled with rhumba at Distant Relatives where we ordered a little too much food, from sundowners at Crab Shack to chatting up too many strangers as we hopped from town to town, we found the county to have so much to offer, and all that is featured in this issue. Complete with a humpback whale watching excursion that didn’t go quite as planned, we round up the places we stayed, ate and explored, and more. One of our writers also embarks on an ambitious quest to complete a solo manpowered crossing of the African Great Lakes and the world’s first 100% recycled sailboat is launched in my favourite island- Lamu. As the year draws to a close, I hope that this issue does indeed inspire you to take a trip to Kilifi. Happy travels!
NOMAD ISSUE. 14 · SEP/ OCT 2018 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR WENDY WATTA DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI DIGITAL FRED MWITHIGA CONTRIBUTORS HOLLIE M’GOG, ROSS EXLER, MORRIS KIRUGA, KATIE NELSON, AMI DOSHI SHAH, THE TRAVELDOTE, SAMANTHA DU TOIT, FRANCES WOODHAMS, TAMARA BRITTEN, LEROY BULIRO CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS BRIAN SIAMBI, MIGWA NTHIGAH, MWANGI KIRUBI, JAMES LEWIN SALES, MARKETING & OPERATIONS VANESSA WANJIKU, NJERI GATHARA, DANIEL MUTHIANI, JANE NAITORI, MICHELLE SLATER, JOY WAIRIMU, SYLVIA KERUBO SALES ENQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22 EMAIL EDITOR@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO
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16 16. TOP SHOTS Betris Lemeri strikes a pose on a rock in Turkana while a herd of zebras fight on a parched landscape. 20. NEWS Flip Flopi launches the world’s first 100% recycled sailboat in Lamu, Kenya Airways partners with Kiran Jethwa on new in-flight menu while Safarilink launches flights to Kisumu. 23. WHAT’S ON Naivasha Farmer’s Market returns this November, Safaricom Jazz Lounge takes place in Nairobi & Hells Gate while Kilifi promises the ultimate new year’s party.
26 30 26. GLOBETROTTERS Media Personality Wanjira Longauer talks to Nomad about her recent trip to France, Spain and Portugal. 62. WHAT I PACK FOR MY TRAVELS Renowned fashion and wedding photographer Emmanuel Jambo gives us a peek inside his travel bag.
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32-47 FEATURES 32. FINDING HUMPBACK WHALES Wendy Watta goes deep sea fishing and recounts the much anticipated humpback whale sighting that doesn’t go quite as planned. 36. WHERE THE PAST RUNS DEEP While on a return trip to Watamu, Katie G Nelson can’t help but reflect on her first blissful visit to this charming vibrant town with her long lost first love. 42. THINGS TO DO IN KILIFI From Gede Ruins to Mida Creek and Vuma Cliffs, we round up a comprehensive list of must-do’s. 44. ACCOMMODATION GUIDE Whether you’re looking to splurge or want to explore on a tight budget, check out our list of fine properties to choose from. 40. FEAST AROUND TOWN Kilifi County resident Adam Kiboi suggests his top picks of places to eat for anyone heading down to Kilifi County. 50. REFLECTIONS FROM THE GREAT LAKES Ross Exler embarks on a journey to become the first person to complete a solo, man-powered crossing of the African Great Lakes. 48. JOURNEYING INTO A COASTAL FOREST Arabuko-Sokoke forest is important to so many people from all walks of life, and Hollie M’gog talks to some of the main players. 54. SPOTLIGHT ON We head to Mbweha Camp where we go on a camel safari and spot Lake Nakuru’s flamingos.
REGULARS 26. WHERE THE DEVIL COOKS Morris Kiruga mulls over the bizarre legends behind the striking Hell’s Kitchen canyon in Marafa.
56. GREAT HOTELS On the outer periphery of Nairobi National Park, Ami Doshi Shah finds Ololo Lodge, an unexpected gem of a place.
29. BABOONS AND US While on a walk to see baboons, Samantha du Toit reflects on their female hierarchy system and how this dominance relates to human society
60. BUDGET PICK The Traveldote stay at the affordable Lewel Cottage located in a gated community just outside Timau.
64. A WAITER’S LIFE Joseph has worked in a coastal hotel for more than a decade and it would be fair to say that he’s seen it all.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
Where are they traveling next before end of year?
JAMES LEWIN Topshots, Page 18
ROSS EXLER Dispatch, Page 50
KATIE G. NELSON Where the past runs deep, page 36
I am really excited to be going to Asia at the end of this year to photograph a couple of Asiatic Elephants with Ivory down to the ground. I have an obsession with big tuskers in Africa which is my main focus in my photography. When I learned that there were a few tuskers in Asia, I simply had to go and see them. This is very different for me as I’ve never photographed wildlife outside of Africa so let’s see how it goes.
I’m often drawn to a region and from there begin to romanticize big adventures and formulate objectives. I’m not sure where my next expedition will take me but Africa definitely holds a special place in my heart. In the future, I would like to begin the process with a targeted conservation goal then build the adventure around that. Crafting an expedition in that way really excites me.
Golden hour walks on the white-sand beaches of Paje on Zanzibar’s eastern coast was a perfect post-election escape. Diani and Lamu were also favorites for last-minute jaunts to the ocean. After spending the past year satiating my need for the sea, I think it’s time to turn inland. Camping, fly-fishing and safaris on horseback are up next!
LEROY BULIRO Globetrotters, Page 30 For me it has to be Kenyan desserts. Earlier this year, I made my maiden trip to Shompole Conservancy and that’s when it hit me: desserts are mine to conquer. I enjoy camping in the wild while always on the lookout for lions and hyenas, under starry skies. Next on my list is Suguta Valley. I love a good challenge and the sandy hilltop dunes of Suguta seems like the place to quench my desire for a good adventure.
It’s really easy to enter our competition to win a Sandstorm Wash bag and Passport Holder, worth Ksh 5,000. All you need to do is tell us your favourite trip of 2018 inspired by our magazine, in as many or few words as you wish. Send us an email with the subject line “My Favourite Trip” to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight EAT November 2, 2018, to stand a chance to win!
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MIGWA NTHIGAH Instagram: @migwa It was sunset when I asked Betris Lemeri to strike a pose on a rock and make it her throne, anchored right on the shore of Lake Turkana with the sun setting behind her. When she told me she loves to dance and gave her hips a wiggle, it became immediately clear what I needed to capture. I used my Nikon D800E with a 24mm-70mm lens. I shot at a focal length of 26mm at F2.8 and exposure time was 1/250. TIP: When shooting, first connect with your subjects. Understanding even a small aspect about who they are will add more depth to your photographs than any technique can. Second, go against the grain with your composition and lighting. The more unexpected your angles are, the more unique your photos will be.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
JAMES LEWIN Instagram: @james.lewin_photography This is one of the most dramatic photographs I have ever taken, but I must admit that luck played a crucial part in the success of the image. I could never have envisioned how the elements would come together; the locusts combined with the fighting zebras in a parched landscape tells a story about how tough the drought is for these animals and how desperate they are. The sky and the dust simply tie the image together. I shot this on a Nikon D750, using a 24mm lens, F1.8ED - 1/3200 f.7.1 ISO320 -0.3EV.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
FLIPFLOPI PROJECT LAUNCHES WORLD’S FIRST 100% RECYCLED PLASTIC SAILBOAT IN LAMU
On 15th September 2018, the world’s first 100% recycled plastic and flip-flop boat was launched in Lamu Island. To highlight the potential of reusing plastic, the Flipflopi project team built an incredible 9 metre sailing dhow from over 10 tonnes of collected plastic waste. The boat was painstakingly constructed by hand by Lamu dhow builder Ali Skanda and his team, and the finished product is clad in colourful sheets of recycled flip flops collected on beach clean ups on the island. “To create the Flipflopi boat we used only locally available resources and low-tech solutions, enabling our techniques and ideas to be copied without any barriers. So we hope people around the globe are inspired by our beautiful multicoloured boat and find their own ways to repurpose ‘already-used’ plastics,” said project founder Ben Morison. To create awareness on this, the boat will embark on a groundbreaking 500km expedition from Lamu to Zanzibar in Tanzania in early 2019.
SAFARILINK LAUNCHES FLIGHTS TO KISUMU
You can now fly to Kisumu twice daily thanks to Safarilink’s new service which was launched on 3rd September 2018. The new flight service now allows passengers from Kisumu a convenient immediate connection to the best safari and beach destinations such as Diani (Ukunda), Vipingo (Mombasa), Lamu, Zanzibar, Masai Mara and more. Safarilink is offering a special fare from Nairobi to Kisumu from as low as Ksh 3,500 one-way. Kisumu is considered a popular travel destination housing luxury lodges and resorts, enchanting sunsets from the shores of Lake Victoria, parks and other tourist attractions. It forms part of the Western Tourism Circuit with great geographic, cultural and natural diversity, and travelers will always find things to do, see and places to visit. If you are keen to visit and explore, find updated fares on www.flysafarilink.com.
KENYA AIRWAYS PARTNERS WITH CHEF KIRAN JETHWA ON NEW IN-FLIGHT MENU Kenya Airways has partnered with celebrity chef Kiran Jethwa to roll out a new catering service set to offer passengers on flights above seven hours an exquisite fusion of African flavours using Kenyan ingredients. “Collaborating with Kenya Airways has been an amazing experience and it is a privilege to be the first chef to reinvent our national carrier’s on-board menu,” said the renowned chef who has hosted shows such as The Fearless Chef and Tales from the Bush Larder. The menu is designed to reflect true African authenticity, hospitality and simplicity, and has been fully available across all of the airline’s routes from this past September. For business class passengers, other enhancements include signature drinks inspired by herbs, fruits as well as one of the country’s biggest exports, tea.
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ISRAELI FILM FESTIVAL
Watch eight of the biggest blockbusters in Israeli film history at the Nairobi National Museum from 15th to 17th November 2018 with the Israeli embassy. Featured movies include The Band’s Visit where a band comprised of members of the Egyptian police force head to Israel to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab arts center, only to find themselves lost in the wrong town, as well as Turn Left at the End of the World in which as a family from India moves in to a desert neighborhood in Southern Israel in the 1960’s, the eldest daughter discovers friendship and romance with the lovely local French girl. For more information, email info@ sherekea.com.
NAIVASHA FARMER’S MARKET
This charitable event runs every two months in Naivasha (Jan, Mar, May, July, Sep, Nov) at Longonot Farm (first right after Sopa Lodge). It is a great day out for families and groups of friends, and often runs from 11:00am to 4:00pm. You can get your hands on the finest produce in Kenya, from jams, pickles, artisan bread, cheese, spices, farm fresh eggs and meat to natural cosmetics and handmade craft items. There are plenty of kids games to keep your young ones occupied complete with a great bar set up for the adults...they even have a prosecco bar! Consider turning this into a weekend getaway by staying in one of Naivasha’s beautiful lodges or guest houses. Entry is free an donations go to charity. The last event raised Ksh 80,000 for the Naivasha children shelter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAFARICOM JAZZ LOUNGE 2018
This year, Safaricom Jazz Lounge will have two shows both headlined by five-time Grammy winner Diane Reeves in Nairobi (Uhuru Gardens) and at the Hell’s Gate National Park on 18th and 20th October 2018. The Nairobi show will feature supporting performances by Italian jazz band Double Cut and Kenyan guitarist Kato Change, while the Naivasha show will feature AdHoc, one of Kenya’s freshest new jazz bands. Proceeds from all ticket sales will be donated to the Ghetto classics music programme which has been the Safaricom Jazz beneficiary since 2014. Entry costs Ksh 2,000 for adults and Ksh 500 for students, and tickets are available at select Safaricom shops, Michael Joseph Centre and via m-ticketing by dialing 1511. For Hells Gate tickets, email safaricomjazz@ enashipai.com
ULTIMATE PARTY IN KILIFI
Start planning early! One of the most established and popular New Year parties on the coast, Kilifi NY is back for its sixth year. This year, it’s taking the party to the upper reaches of Takaungu Creek in Kilifi, where revelers will booze and party from December 30th to January 2nd. It’s not your average party, though. Onsite features include locally sourced organic food and drink stalls, fashion, art and craft vendors, workshops and classes promoting conscious and sustainable living, and a water park. As usual, there will be a top line-up of DJs and musicians, and incredible art installations. Think Burning Man festival in the desert, and you get the idea. Early bird tickets cost Ksh 6,000, and Ksh 7,000 thereafter.
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WHERE THE DEVIL COOKS here’s a small sandstone canyon in Malindi called Hell’s Kitchen. Located less than an hour’s drive from Malindi town, this captivating hole is nature’s art, and that’s even before you hear the legends about why the gods made it. If you stand at the viewpoint at sunset, the rays bathe the ridges and contours of the canyon in such splendor you won’t stop staring. It is an odd beauty, this hole in the ground. The kind of beauty we recognize in paintings and pictures, and sometimes people. That makes you forget that even now, in this serenity, this canyon could be growing right under you and you would never know. You could stand by the viewpoint and just appreciate the marvels of nature or hike down into the belly of the canyon to see its formations up close. The latter requires good shoes because the soil within is loose and the gullies are deep. Fair warning though, it is not called Hell’s Kitchen just
to sound goth; when the sun is directly overhead, it can get so hot that no one will let you explore it. If you ask about how the gods made Hell’s Kitchen, each story will sound more bizarre than the last. One goes something like this: when the floor of the canyon was once above ground, it was home to a rich family of the Wakiza clan. The gods were displeased with them so they sank only their home with the family still inside. What was left was splendour to the senses, but perhaps not for those the gods doomed. Another legend goes that when the gods were displeased, they warned the townspeople to either flee or face destruction. Everyone listened except one woman who stayed put and sank with the town. Everyday since then, the guide will explain with a straight face, she cooks or she burns, in some versions of this morbid legend. If this doesn’t convince you not to hike down the canyon at midday when temperatures could well be above 50 degrees, I don’t know what will. When my guide, Jefwa, was done
regaling me with these tales, we talked about community and erosion. The canyon and the community in Marafa are intertwined and because they consider it sacred, we were explicitly told that alcohol, cigarettes and carnal activities are forbidden within the canyon. I am not sure whether we were warned about this because we looked like likely offenders, or if there had been cases of debauchery just before we arrived. I also found it rather fascinating how Jefwa and his fellow guides were multilingual. A few of them could barely speak English or Swahili because here, there are more prominent languages of commerce such as Italian. There is another Hell’s Kitchen in Kenya. It is part of the Hell’s Gate gorges, which are named after sections of a house. There’s a bedroom where evil rests and a kitchen where he presumably gets his dinner made on days when he doesn’t want to sit and enjoy the splendours of Malindi. Morris Kiruga blogs about travel, culture and more at owaahh.com
PHOTOGRAPH BRIAN SIAMBI
Morris Kiruga mulls over the bizarre legends behind the striking Hell’s Kitchen canyon in Marafa.
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NOTES FROM THE BUSH
BABOONS AND US While on a walk to see baboons, Samantha du Toit reflects on their female hierarchy system and how this dominance relates to human society
e reached the troop of baboons just as the sun was beginning to peak above the hills in the distance. A few early risers were coming down from their sleeping site in the fig trees by the river while others were still curled up on the branches, resisting the moment of awakening as I had half an hour earlier. Sisco, a local Maasai who has spent the last five years following and studying the troop, told me where to stand and how to behave so as to be accepted as ‘safe’ by them. His presence and the fact I was wearing a cap like him also let the troop know that I was no threat. Growing up in Kenya camping and picnicking in National Parks, my childhood memories of being this close to baboons were in no way pleasant and my first walk with Sisco was somewhat unnerving to begin with. I however quickly realised that joining a troop completely in their natural habitat, who were not in any way accustomed to associating with humans, was a different thing altogether. I was soon absorbed in watching in complete fascination at the live drama that unfolded before me. A lot of things surprised me about baboons as I sat there watching and learning from Sisco. The first thing I noticed was a tiny baby, still black in colour meaning that it was less than six months old, sitting all
by itself on the plains far from the others with no mother in sight. It seemed very content playing with little bits of grass and putting things in its mouth and then spitting them out. When a large male came by, the baby happily hopped on to its back and off they went. Some distance away, I was drawn to a scene where a baby of similar age was having a little tantrum. Its mother, who seemed thin, tired and somewhat unhealthy, was trying to put the baby on to the ground but the baby was vocally resisting, insisting on being carried. I had so many questions about the two seemingly different temperaments and situations surrounding these two babies. Sisco explained that baboon troops are actually arranged around a female hierarchy. Females pass on their rank to their daughters and higher ranks are more dominant. What I had witnessed was the result of this rather regal system. The first baby was the youngest daughter of the dominant female of the troop. The perks of being at the top of the ladder were that the mother had access to the best food, the ‘best’ fathers and the best caregivers. Her baby had similar privileges and the male that I had seen pick her up was in fact her mother’s closest friend and consort at that time. The other baby, in comparison, was the daughter of one of the lowest ranking females so the story was the opposite. Her mother’s overall state was a result of being constantly denied access to the best
food, mates and social support. In turn, her daughter was possibly malnourished and insecure. I could not help reflecting upon how perhaps this seemingly unfair scenario was all too common within our own human societies. Was this therefore something inherent in how we have evolved? How was I to explain to my children where they stood in the privilege hierarchy? Where did I stand? Do we remain in the rank we were born into? Was there always to be a ranking system or could we step out of it? As the morning progressed, Sisco was able to tell me how to look for signs of kinship, friendship, courting and arguments, as well as looking for how the troop was deciding where to go for the day. As the heat became oppressive, the baboons made their way to the shady banks of the river to rest. I in turn made my way back to camp, reflecting upon what I had seen and looking forward to the next time I would be able to walk with the troop and perhaps take my children with me to learn about these intelligent and complex animals for themselves. Samantha du Toit is a wildlife conservationist, working with SORALO, a Maasai land trust. She lives with her husband, Johann, and their two children at Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the Shompole Conservancy.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
WANJIRA LONGAUER Media Personality Wanjira Longauer talks to Nomad about her recent trip to France, Spain and Portugal. Text: Leroy Buliro be spoiled. Barcelona was lively and filled with lots of young people from Spain or elsewhere, and everyone was looking for a good time. I also visited Toledo, an ancient medieval city known for its colorful history between Christians, Muslims and Jews. It was so hot and so pretty. Only really cold water and cervezas could keep you going in that heat. Portugal was the most welcoming of all the places I visited. Ironically, it was the only place where I couldn’t get past a “thank you” or “obrigada”. Many Portuguese however speak English and are inquisitive, helpful and kind. I not only enjoyed taking a tour of Lisbon but loved visiting Sintra where all the castles are, a gem to remind its visitors and residents of the colonial stronghold of a now fallen empire. There’s a distinct beauty that lives in the ruins and exhibits. It’s terribly romantic. When it comes to the food, one simply must get into jamón Iberico, pastéis de nata, anything to do with sardines and carne de porco à alentejana.
EVERYONE KNOWS WANJIRA AS THE BUBBLY MEDIA PERSONALITY WHO LOVES AND ENJOYS LIFE. WHAT IS IT THAT THEY HOWEVER DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU? I love food, drinking and travel... living my best life. My mom has this wonderful quote which she often reminds me of in Kikuyu, and paraphrased it says “the child who never leaves home thinks his or her mother’s cooking is best.” That is why I believe it is important to try new things and visit different places. AFTER YOUR DEPARTURE FROM CAPITAL FM YOU SET OFF FOR VACATION, GOING TO FRANCE FIRST. WHY SO? I chose France because I was quite the Francophile growing up. I’ve always wanted to see the country, I’d always watch movies about it and loved their food culture, cuisine and wine. I even studied the language, can sing you old French songs and even quote old French films! I wanted to attend Afropunk’s Paris edition but got too engrossed in exploring the city to attend the concert. YOU VISITED SPAIN AND PORTUGAL TOO. WHY? I decided I’d make a Eurotrip out of it and see Spain and Portugal as well. I’ve wanted to travel to these countries for almost as long as I’ve wanted to see France. In each country, I hopped around: from Paris to Nice, Barcelona to Madrid to Toledo, and Lisbon to Sintra. Every place has its own magic. TELL US MORE ABOUT THE ART AND CULTURE YOU DISCOVERED WHILE IN EUROPE? WHICH ONE DID YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH MOST? France, Spain and Portugal are steeped in art and culture, and often they’re intertwined due to their history and the borders they share. It’s in the food, drink, dress, architecture, afternoon siesta, languid way people spend hours sitting in the same outdoor bar, restaurant or café sipping apéritifs and eating tapas all summer long – it’s
everywhere! In France, spending hours walking through the Louvre and and the Musée d’Orsay were a dream come true, but so was walking up to the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame and Eiffel Tower. The Riviera is about as perfect as you’d expect it to be. I jammed out to a dizzying jazz festival out there for two nights too. And the food – oh là là! From Paris to Nice, street to bistro, it all took my breath away. I expected to come home with not only new memories but 20 extra kilos on my hips! I loved Spain because it’s old and traditional, particularly Madrid. The Retiro, which I think of as the Spanish Central Park, was wonderful. I went with some friends there one afternoon to get lost in Five Men Who Broke My Heart (which is a great read, by the way). I recommend you go to any restaurant or tapería and order the ribera with croquetas de jamón; neither can ever
AS A PERSON WHO LOVES TRAVEL, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE DOS AND DON’TS IN YOUR PERSPECTIVE? DO: • Know something beforehand about the place that you’re going to, from safety to basic phrases to help you get around. • Keep an open mind; you’ll learn exponentially more. • Have a plan, even if it’s a loose one; a lot of time can end up wasted going to a new place and not knowing what sights, sounds and tastes it has to offer. DON’T: • Be provincial; it’s bizarre to go somewhere and then complain about how “strange” everything” is. • Shut yourself off from meeting new people, even if traveling with a partner or friends. Half of the beauty of travel is the people from all over the world who you meet along the way • Over pack…or you’ll be miserable for it
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Finding HUMPBACK WHALES Wendy Watta goes deep sea fishing in Watamu and recounts the much anticipated humpback whale sighting that doesnâ€™t go quite as planned. PHOTOGRAPHY : MWANGI KIRUBI
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magine sitting in a catamaran on a windblown Indian Ocean surrounded by nothing but blue as gulls call out above. Perhaps you’re out amateur sportfishing and because you see some ripples in the water, idly wonder what might have been caught in the skipper’s line. Without warning, out jumps a 30 ton humpback whale propelled by a massive fluke, and it is almost as big as the PSV buses you see around Nairobi. Like an acrobat performing a well rehearsed trick at a circus, it lands neatly on its back setting off a tremendous splash which rocks your vessel as you stare on, dumbfounded. Imagine then that a second humpback whale slowly lifts its head out of the water and peers inside your deck like a nosy neighbour, and you can almost swear that it just winked at you. Because it is your lucky day, the water explodes a couple of feet away as two whales break the surface and launch straight into the air with shocking agility, rotating about in an invisible spot before slapping back into the sea. Just as you finally stir out of your stupefied state and take out your camera to snap a few pictures, you see the pod swimming away, singing out to each other in complex melodies that echo in your head for weeks to come. The catamaran is surrounded by nothing but blue yet again, as contented gulls caw above. I had watched enough videos of these majestic mammoth creatures and read up some material from Watamu Marine Association, and my imagination was running wild. According to the association which published responsible whale watching guidelines to aid commercial vessels at the coast, humpback whales pass through the Watamu Protected Area from as early as June making their migration north from Antarctica to warmer tropical inner reefs during breeding and birthing. In October, they then swim over 4,000km back to seas teeming with sardines or krill. By the time we drove down to Watamu for the last two days of our trip around Kilifi County, I was unable to even sit still enough to eat. I don’t remember ever being that excited even for a first date. Not even having recently watched Jason Statham’s 2018 movie, The Meg, with a brother who kept taunting me about a prehistoric 75-foot Megalodon shark that might be lurking underneath our boat waiting to attack was enough to deter me. I wanted to see humpback whales breaching!
Our maiden five hour whale watching trip takes place in September with Hemingways who pioneered such excursions at the coast in 2014 before other companies literally jumped on board. I’m not prone to seasickness but take some medication the previous night nonetheless, having been advised by a manager at Hemingways that the sea has been particularly choppy lately. There are four guests and we all hop aboard a speedboat which takes us to a 30 foot sportfishing boat where our three crew members of the day are waiting. The sea is dark and moody. About two hours later and still no sighting, the boat continually rocks up a few feet before swinging down with each passing wave and much like a baby in a crib, I am simply unable to stay awake. I slip in and out of sleep enough to fill my lungs with the fresh salty air and catch yet another squall clearing on the horizon. The other guests have also been lulled into slumber and only the crew, who are setting
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
Deep sea fishing
There is still no whale in sight but the crew has been trolling for about an hour when they
I was the only female on board and we went out for about seven hours in which ciders were drunk and the only way to pee was over the edge of the boat and into the sea. catch something in their line and quickly reel it in. “What fish is that?” I ask animatedly, peering at the small beautiful fish with colourful vertical stripes and forked tail, excited to finally see some action. I spent part of my childhood around Lake Victoria and in all the time, fish never got as bold or vibrant as this. “It’s a frigi!” shouts back one of the crew members as he dexterously hooks it to the end of a rod and casts it out at sea as live bait for whatever will bite. He tells me that frigi is Swahili for mackerel, but seems a little uncertain about his translation prowess. A few minutes later, he shouts that there is something bigger caught at the end of the line, gestures for me to sit in the fisherman’s chair and reel it in fast while sweeping the line from side to side, which is no mean feat. With some help, we pull it close to the boat and the crew leans
over the edge emerging a few seconds later brandishing a fighting giant trevally that might as well be about 7kg!
As we approach the reef, the water and winds get quite rough and the captain decides to manoeuvre us back to land. Five hours and no sighting. My disappointment is so intense that I spend the next hour lounging alone in my room. That is however the way of the wild- you cannot set up an appointment with wildlife. You simply book a trip and hope for the best. About two a week later when I am finally over the disappointment, I chat up photographer Mwangi Kirubi who spotted humpback whales in Watamu about a week before our trip on the same boat and with the same crew. “We saw ten whales and two breached eight times. We had actually only been in the ocean for about 30 minutes,” he says. Lucky chaps! “They were far and near. We actually also saw dolphins and turtles, but the whales were the star of the show. For me it was mostly just shocking that this has been happening since Adam and this was the first time I was hearing about whales migrating through Kenya.” Needless to say, it has now become an almost obsessive thought that I must see humpback whales in Watamu. Better luck next year, I suppose. Tours often run from early July to end of September. Cost: Kh 10,000 per person per trip with Hemingways Watamu.
PHOTOGRAPHY : BRIAN SIAMBI
up the fishing tackle, remain alert. There are no excited shouts that jolt me awake or frantic scrambles for photography equipment to capture a spectacle out at sea, and as I doze off, all I hear is the endless sound of crashing waves and lapping water reverberating through the boat’s hull, drowning out even my own thoughts… My first deep sea fishing experience was with a group of Swedish sailors at Kiunga Marine National Reserve in the Lamu archipelago, with a small speedboat from Mike’s Camp in Kiwayu. It had no overhead cover and I remember not only having to contend with the sun’s harsh reflection off the water but also with its scorching mid-day rays. I was the only female on board and we went out for about seven hours in which ciders were drunk and the only way to pee was over the edge of boat and into the sea. Ah, such good times! Watamu is said to be one of the few places where three kinds of marlin, sailfish, broadbill swordfish and short bill spearfish are all in abundance, and Hemingways actually pioneered the ‘tag and release’ practice with billfish at the Kenyan coast. Depending on the season, you can spot blue marlins as they follow shoals of tuna in the deep sea, drift in the night to catch broadbill with light sticks on the leader and squid weighted to various depths, and more.
NOMAD MAGAZINE JULY/AUGUST 2018
Where the past runs While on a return trip to Watamu, Katie G Nelson can’t help but reflect on her first blissful visit to this charming vibrant town with her long lost first love.
he ancestry of ancient spirits, legendary adventurers and drunken writers, the entanglement of cultures and sacredness of crumbling ruins, the vibrance of turquoise waters running over white sand beaches...these are the elements that make up Watamu. There, the past runs deep. Hugged by coves of tangled mangroves and surrounded by crystalline waters, Watamu is a catchment of the Indian Ocean’s best elements. It is also where history and myth are combined with the audacity of nature at its most raw; a place much more than a weekend destination but a paradise all on its own. It was ten years ago that I made my first visit to Watamu, my first love seated at my side. I was a fresh-faced 20-something on a quest to cut my teeth as a writer in a foreign land. I was already falling for my second love – a life in Kenya – but much of my heart remained with my first. While his inclination was toward stability, he supported my wanderlust enough to fly from Midwest America for an extended holiday on the coast. That’s how we found ourselves on a 12-hour matatu ride from Nairobi to Watamu, our bodies worn limp with exhaustion, our souls drunk with adventure and young love entwined. My memories of Watamu are still vivid, but while my love affair with Kenya has remained, our love did not. When I was asked to revisit
my former bliss alone, I was wary, afraid my love of Watamu was too closely shaped by a past I no longer lived and a man I no longer knew. Still, curiosity gnawed at me. I wanted to know if the place that provided a point of direction for spice traders, adventurers and a disorderly writer or two could offer some guidance to me as well. A longtime favorite among Italian exiles and British families who came and never left, Watamu – which translates to “sweet people” – has maintained much of that small-town feel. My first stop was Gedi Ruins, a sprawling archaeological site of Swahili-style mosques, palaces, homes and tombs connected by criss crossing pathways enclosed in crumbling walls. Once a bustling hub, the eleventhcentury village was suddenly abandoned and the cause still remains a mystery. Some claim the spirits of Gedi guard the ruins, along with gangs of roving monkeys that scale the walls with nimble grace. While the site seems to be succumbing to the encroaching roots of nearby trees, the history of Gedi is still palpable if only in the intricate stone carvings and elaborately adorned tombs within it. The sun beat down as the call of Islamic prayer rang over the ruins. I decided to forge on, seeking asylum at Papa Remo, a favorite for long and lazy afternoons indulging in cold chardonnay and Swahili crab to panoramic ocean views. An extended afternoon sounded divine
but I found myself drawn – barefooted and windswept – toward the ocean. I boarded a glass-bottomed boat commandeered by Captain Kanga of Hemingways Hotel, setting off just a few meters from the hotel’s stunningly manicured grounds, a recent revamp striking a perfect cord between casual and luxurious coastal aesthetic. Peering at the turquoise waters at my feet, I felt a pang of nostalgia remembering our last ride on a ramshackle boat hailed from a shifty fisherman ten years earlier. Kanga ushered me toward the side of the ship, his broad smile far bigger than his tiny blue speedo which he revealed before slipping into crystal-clear water, snorkel, fins and all. Bobbing above the surface, he waved me in and I obliged. What lived below took my breath away. Scores of vibrant coral covered in a thousand tiny fingers pulsated to the curvature of the tide. Neon green, blue and yellow fish swirled en masse, my hands outstretched as they danced around my limbs. Below my toes, Pufferfish cowered under coral rock emerging to inflate, their cheeks comically wide before sinking into safety. “Amazing!” I yelled to Kanga, my awe ringing through my mask. He grabbed my hand and propelled me toward another reef covered in the shape of a million tiny fish which broke and reassembled on repeat. Eventually we emerged wrinkly, covered in salt and exhausted but exhilarated. I let out
a sigh, disappointed the tour was over. But Kanga had one more stop. “This island is only visible for three or four hours a day,” he said as he plopped down on a sandbar. Rubbing his arms, legs and face with fistfuls of sand, Kanga was soon covered in a million specs of white, no inch of skin spared. I couldn’t control my laughter. “See?” he laughed. “It’s like a European spa!” I thanked Kanga and disembarked at Hemingways, my heels pointing toward the bar named after the famous author Ernest Hemingway who came to Watamu to chase the biggest catch. I wanted to spend my evening writing with a glass of whiskey but knew I needed to revisit one last thing; a Watamu sunset. We boarded a dhow on Mida Creek – a tidal inlet that’s home to a myriad of exotic birds, fish and sea turtles. I was charmed by wind-swept ships set on flickering waters surely named after King Midas, a man whose touch could turn anything into gold. There was something familiar and exotic about them, their history held in the old moans of creaking wood planks, their masts having witnessed decades of celestial turns around the sun. I watched the cusp of the sun’s curvature disappear toward the other side of the world. I still had lingering memories of time spent here with my first love, yet, I found peace in knowing our love could still be found under the orange and red sun setting in Watamu. There, the past runs deep.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
STAYED PHOTOGRAPHY: BRIAN SIAMBI
MEDINA PALMS, WATAMU With its distinct North African and Mediterranean flair which followed through to the dishes served, this hotel became a fast favourite. We checked into a chic all-white apartment-style villa with two ensuite rooms, a kitchen, private lounge and balcony overlooking the pool, an upstairs living room complete with a rooftop plunge pool on the terrace. Families and honeymooners whiled away the day by the main pool which stretched across the length of the hotel, culminating in an infinity pool overlooking the sea. Choose from 50 units ranging from cozy one-bedroom apartments to palatial five-bedroom villas. Meals can be enjoyed at Amandina Restaurant, or under the moon by the pool, beach or garden. Thereâ€™s a fitness centre as well as the rooftop, open-air Sakina Ocean spa offering full-body massages using rose quartz crystals, shea and water jets, as well as a range of deep facials. Rates start as Ksh 24,000. www.medinapalms.com
SILVER PALM SPA & RESORT, KILIFI With 38 rooms, this contemporary Swahili style accommodation sets the benchmark for chic luxury accommodation in Kilifi. A grand pool wends its way around the midsection of the resort which majestically sits on a cliff overlooking the sea. We were each booked into one bedroom executive suites complete with a living room, shower and bathtub, all housed in a white-walled villa. The best part about each of the rooms is however that one can step right from the terrace of the living room and into the pool. There are two restaurants and bars: Forodhani Beach Bar & Restaurant offers freshly caught seafood, wood-fired pizzas, Indian dishes as well as a teppanyaki grill, the beach bar offers tropical classics like the (Kilifi) sunrise, and there is also the option of Bustani Lounge Bar and Mambrui Restaurant. Using Theranaka body and skin care products, Barizi Spa offers a range of massages and grooming complete with a jacuzzi on the balcony of the coupleâ€™s massage room. Rates start at Ksh 16,000. www.silverpalmkilifi.co.ke. VIPINGO RIDGE Set within a 2,500 acre estate, this exclusive residential golf development has a top-ranked PGA championship golf course, best enjoyed from the Clubhouse. With a distinct moorish flair, the Clubhouse has the signature high ceilings, central courtyard as well as Arabic decor marked by intricately carved chests and mirrors. Vipingo ridge offers luxury accommodation in the form of villas ranging from two to four bedrooms- you may enjoy the public swimming pool or opt for a villa with a private plunge pool on its rooftop terrace. If you would however prefer an even more homely feel, you can book a private homestay. There is a sundowner bar across the road from the 10th fairway right next to the horse stables, but our favourite part was however the pristine private beach bar set on Kuruwitu Marine Park which is perfect for snorkelling, and serving some of the best seafood and cocktails you can ever have at the coast. The property also has a 1.5km Private Airstrip with flights being only an hour away from Nairobi. Accommodation starts at Ksh 15,000 for a single room in the low season. Golf and fly in packages are available on enquiry. www.vipingoridge.com
NORTH COAST HEMINGWAYS WATAMU, WATAMU The hotel sits on the protected Watamu Marine National Park, considered one of the best snorkeling and diving areas at the coast. With simple luxury at its core, recent renovations, now a combination of a 39-bedroom hotel and 21-unit Residences, have boosted it into the ranks of one of the most highend accommodations in the area. Hotel rooms and apartments are decorated in bright and crisp colours that reflect a modern Coastal style. Wide balconies overlook the sea and well-manicured gardens. Deluxe rooms provide the most luxurious experience, each containing marble tiled en-suite bathrooms and four-poster beds. Water lovers have direct access to pristine, white sand beaches, two new swimming pools surrounded by immaculate gardens, an outdoor restaurant, spa and the iconic Hemingways bar. Apartments are in the south wing and offer 1, 2 and 4 bedroom configurations. All Residences include a lounge room, dining area, modern fitted kitchen, ensuite bathrooms and private balcony. Rates start at Ksh 20,750. www.hemingways-collection.com www.hemingways-collection.com
Unique Stays CHE SHALE HOTEL, MALINDI The hotel is set on a beach that is quite literally golden because it has mica, a mineral often referred to as “fool’s gold” because it’s not actually the real deal. Located a little after Malindi, this is a hub for kitesurfing along the Kenyan coast with a well stocked kitesurf center complete with beginner courses. Private and secluded, it blends low-key luxury with natural beauty and has been one of Kenya’s most iconic destinations for almost 40 years. All the charm and quiet of nature is captured in nine uniquely designed, castaway-chic style beachfront bandas. Fresh seafood by the beach, an organic crab farm and a tempting array of experiences to choose from – including big-game fishing, dhow sailing, kayaking and more - will keep you as active or as chilled as you wish to be. Rates available on enquiry. www.cheshale.com.
ROCK AND SEA RESORT, WATAMU Rock and Sea Bubble Eco Lodge & Gourmet Restaurant is the ideal base for various activities including romantic candlelit dinners in the middle of the savanna and aperitifs at sunset on hills that offer breathtaking panoramic views. Perched on a 55-metre high rock overlooking nature at its best, it promises a magical dining experience with exquisite cuisine using locallysourced fresh ingredients. Suites are ecofriendly and completely immersed in nature. Start with a lunch at the restaurant built on a 50-metre high rock, taking in the fantastic views of Mida Creek, Arabuko Forest and Indian Ocean. Thereafter, relax with a soothing massage. There are four rooms available, including a bush bubble suite. www.rockandsearesort.com
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
TOWN CHE SHALE, NEAR MALINDI. Che Shale Hotel, 20 km North of Malindi, is pretty much the go-to option for great kitesurfing and ranks among the top accommodation options in the county. They however have another title; Che Shale has the best farm to plate seafood experience in Kenya. In an environment best described as castaway-chic and by a beach that is literally golden, tuck into an array of fresh juices, seafood pasta, steaks and more. They have an organic crab farm, a passion project by owner Justin, which provides massive mangrove crabs served in various ways blended with local flavours and spices. If you’ve never had soft shell crab fried until golden crispy with a dab of mango salsa, or the perfect crab cakes, this is the place to go. +254 722 230 931 CRAB SHACK, WATAMU. Crab Shack on Mida Creek is proof that collective effort can result in great cuisine. Owned and run by the Dabaso Creek Conservation Group, access to the Crab Shack is via a 200-metre boardwalk through a mangrove forest. The boardwalk and restaurant support local community conservation efforts. The restaurant itself sits on stilts in the creek and offers stunning views of Kirepwe Island providing an excellent sundowner setting. Crab Shack can sit about 15 people comfortably so they do insist on making a reservation at least 24 hours ahead of time. The food is incredible and as their name suggests, your best option off their menu is, of course, their crab. The crab samosas, for instance, are delectable to the point of being sinful. +254 725315562 BAHATI GELATERIA, WATAMU. Bahati Gelateria on the bustling Watamu Road is touted as the go to spot for the best artisanal gelato in East Africa. Opened in 2006, it is a small unassuming place surrounded by tailors and woodcarver shops but it is busy from morning to evening. You might find yourself in a queue due to their popularity but it’s well worth the wait. They use fresh fruit to ensure
Kilifi resident Adam Kiboi suggests his top picks of places to eat for anyone heading down to the county.
rich natural flavours in their products, and favourites include passion, lemon, coconut and pistachio gelatos.
and organic products including clothing. The cafe is open from 8 to 11pm every day. +254 791 183312.
HOSTERIA ROMANA, WATAMU Watamu Beach Road can feel excessively busy sometimes but once you step into Hosteria Romana, you may lose your bearings. It is reminiscent of a tiny Italian restaurant right down to the red and white tablecloths; proprietors Julio and Francesca have created the perfect ambience to enjoy their selection of pasta, seafood and pizza. Try the ‘Saltimbocca alla Romana’. Saltimbocca literally means jump in the mouth and that’s how the flavours of their veal wrapped in prosciutto works around your palette. For meat lovers, the best option off the menu has got to be the beef pizza. +254 710 369039
THE SANDS AT MANDHARINI, KILIFI. This is set on a private beach with panoramic views of Kilifi creek and is part of a luxury housing development. Don’t let the luxury tag fool you though; the blend of coral faced walls, granite bar, modern decor and understated furnishing with a Swahili makuti roof balances beach bar comfort with informal dining. Their menu changes with what’s readily available ensuring fresh ingredients are constantly in use. You can however always expect house favourites like whole taffi grilled with a Swahili coconut sauce. “My favourite combination would be chilli buttered crab claws followed by garlic and ginger prawns finished off with a lemon sorbet. It is fresh, not too heavy and ideal for lunch in this coastal climate,” suggests General Manager Hugo Needham. This is predominantly a lunchtime venue but can also take dinner bookings if you make a reservation. +254 719 164 664
DISTANT RELATIVES ECO-LODGE AND BACKPACKERS, KILIFi Their Friday pizza night is a weekly event that also serves as a Kilifi community get together complete with good music. They have classics like the margherita as well as truly unique options such as their pumpkin avocado pizza. Another great dining option from Distant Relatives is the moonrise sail with dinner on a secluded temporary beach. A jolly Captain Issa will pick you up from Fumbene Beach for a sail down the creek while treating you to a delectable Swahili dinner cooked on the dhow. If you’d like to book the moonrise dhow cruise, check your calendar for the next full moon and call ahead ; cast off is usually at 6pm. +254 746674038 WILD LIVING CAFÉ, KILIFI. Wild Living Café, 1 km after the Kilifi Bridge as you head to Mombasa, was a much needed addition to the establishments in the area. It serves the best pastries in Kilifi and provides a great spot for quick lunches. It is also a great spot to take your laptop and work over good coffee. Stop by the Wild Living Hub where you can get various ethical
THE FOOD MOVEMENT, KILIFI PLANTATION This eatery is run by Warren Wilson, a man truly passionate about his food. Formerly a chicken farm, the quirky and rustic restaurant is surrounded by fig and baobab trees and one wall has a striking mural by 4shore design whose studio is right next door. The innovative dishes on the menu are constantly changing, and each is a carefully curated blend of flavours that one might either not think to put together or an entirely new take on a classic. They use fresh locally grown vegetables, free-range organic beef and fowl and freshly caught seafood from Kilifi Creek to create their meals. With menu options such as “Free range poached eggs served with caramelised balsamic onion jam, deep fried sweet potato balls stuffed with mozzarella and basil pesto.“ The Food Movement has got to be on your bucket list of places to eat. They’re open Monday to Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00pm and take reservations via +254 711 284 347.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
THINGS TO DO IN KILIFI By Tamara Britten
MALINDI AND WATAMU MARINE NATIONAL PARKS
At 213km2, Malindi Marine National Park is one of the largest and oldest marine parks in Kenya. It has fringing reefs, coral gardens and mangroves, all of which protect the species that live within it: fish, turtles, crabs and the rare dugongs amongst others. The marine park encloses the much smaller – 10km2 – Watamu Marine National Park. Both parks have resident pods of dolphins throughout the year and some of the largest groups of humpback whales migrating through their waters seasonally. To protect these and ensure that dolphin and whale spotting as well as other tourism activities are managed sustainably, a group of local volunteers formed the Watamu Marine Association in 2007. This estimable team
has implemented a bunch of conservation, tourism and community projects throughout the region. Hop on a dolphin-watching boat – as long as it’s following the WMA guidelines – and cruise through the waters looking for these enchanting sea creatures.
The ancient town of Gede, now in ruins, is today an evocative and peaceful place in which to wander and picnic. Its history, however, is less serene. The place grew up as a port on the trade routes, as can be seen from the multitude of artefacts found here including Chinese coins, Venetian beads, Islamic glazed goods and Persian stoneware. These findings have led archaeologists to conclude that Gede was one of the most important sites on the coast despite the fact that few historical documents mention it, and
it is thought to have been established as late as the 13th century well after ports like Takwa in Lamu. Gede was abandoned at the beginning of the 17th century because of the growing aggression of the Portuguese, skirmishes with the Wazimba and Somali peoples and the sudden scarcity of water. Strolling around the 45-acre jungle site, you’ll see the remnants of outer and inner walls, a palace, a few mosques, several houses and the distinctive pillar tombs of the Swahili people – and perhaps you’ll encounter the spirits that the Giriama people believe reside in the ruins.
ARABUKO SOKOKE FOREST
The last remaining part of the Coastal Forest that extended across much of Africa, Arabuko Sokoke Forest is only now 420km2. The largest and most intact coastal forest in
East and Southern Africa, this shady forest with towering trees and dangling creepers makes a welcome respite from the heat and humidity of the coast. Wander along the myriad of walking trails and see if you can spot any of the many endemic species here: look out for the Clarke’s weaver, the Sokoke scops owl and the gloriously named golden-rumped elephant shrew. Climb up to one of the tree platforms to get a birds-eye view of the forest, head for the lookout atop Nyari Cliff for panoramic views then bask on the banks of one of the seasonal pools. The Visitor Centre at the Forest Station makes a good place to gather information and if you want someone to point out the rare species of flora and fauna, we suggest you pick up a guide from there too.
Mida Creek is an International Bird Area and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. As if that isn’t enough, it is framed by extraordinary numbers of mangroves. One of the most productive ecosystems on earth, mangroves are responsible for water filtration, prevention of erosion and carbon storage. They are the reason so many birds from around the world choose to stop in Mida Creek during their annual migrations and why so many mud crabs have made their homes here. Fun things to do include kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and floating with the tide down the creek in a life jacket, but everyone’s favourite activity has to be the sunset cruise. Clamber into a dugout canoe and let one of the enterprising locals pole you down the creek as the sun sets the sky on fire and the water turns golden.
TAKAUNGU AND VUMA CLIFFS Takaungu, just south of Kilifi, is a small coastal village. It is also one of the loveliest coves you’ll see along the entire Kenyan coast. Think craggy cliffs studded with shells, white sand beach with the ocean crashing onto it and sunlight streaming along the unlikely upside-down branches of an ancient baobab. It’s exactly like that. Stark colours, coarse rocks and hot sun. It is somehow both bleak and tropical at the same time. Here you can plunge into the crashing waves, scramble up the abrasive cliffs or lie flat on the sand letting the sounds of the ocean roar in your ears. When you’re done with the beach, head to nearby Zinj and check out their enticing eco-products: leather bags, belts, accessories and dog collars, all made by hand and sustainably sourced.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
HIGH END ACCOMMODATION IN NORTH COAST ABOVE KSH10,000
Kilifi County, stretching along the northern section of Kenya’s stupendous coastline, has beaches and bays that draw the eye. For those looking to splurge, Tamara Britten recommends these six.
TEMPLE POINT – WATAMU
PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY RESPECTIVE HOTELS
On the site of an ancient temple whose ruins still stand on the headland today, Temple Point is set in sweeping tropical gardens that expand across the whole promontory. Where the gardens meet the sea is a private white sand beach that can only be accessed through the resort. From here, boat trips set off for Watamu Marine National Park, deep-sea fishing trips or snorkelling with the chance of seeing some of Watamu’s resident dolphins. Matthais of Extra Divers Dive Centre operates within the resort and can open your eyes to the wonders beneath the sea. The 100 rooms are housed in 20 thatched villas and all have modern amenities like air conditioning and Wifi, and views of the garden or the bay. Also on site are snack bars, restaurant, spa, gym, boutique, conference centre and floodlit tennis courts. Rates: From 8,700 Ksh per person B&B, From 9,800 Ksh per person half board. www.templepointresort.com
LONNO LODGE – WATAMU
With only four tower rooms and four historical suites, this boutique lodge really does offer privacy and peace. Built using ancient techniques and Swahili styles, the lodge stands elegantly in lush tropical gardens near the beach. The open-sided restaurant beside the pool is adorned with swathes of white curtains that flutter beneath a high makuti roof. The menu combines African and European dishes with flair, using fresh ingredients bought daily from the local markets and fishermen. More surprisingly perhaps, the chefs can cater to any food intolerances, specialising in gluten-free bread, pasta, cookies and muffins. The bar beside the pool makes an ideal place to while away a day, while the Wellness Centre is on hand to offer a selection of Swedish massages. www.lonnolodge.com Rates: From 28,000 Ksh per double room (2 pax) half board, From Ksh 18,500 pp sharing for the beach honeymoon package
LION IN THE SUN – MALINDI
Established by billionaire Formula One tycoon Flavio Briatore – and with Tatler Spa Awards: Best Spa of the World 2011 and World Travel Awards: Africa’s Leading Boutique Hotel 2013 already under its belt – this place has truly hit the headlines. Best known for its Thelaspa with six treatment cabins and three sea-water hydrotherapy facilities, and based on the science and technology of Henri Chenot, the spa offers curing, treatments and biolight diets: a system of eating that uses food correctly for our bodies. The suites, rooms and annexes are formed of whitewashed architecture that evokes Arab, Indian and African heritages and overlook the four seawater pools. As you might imagine, the menu is a delight: combining the flavours of Italy and Africa, the dishes here are fresh and fabulous. www.lioninthesun.net Rates: Available on enquiry
WATAMU VILLAS - WATAMU
For something a bit different, why not opt for the privacy of a villa? Having a house to yourselves is a different experience from staying in a resort – yet it offers the same exemplary service. The team of staff can do as much or as little as you want: prepare the house, cook your choice of food and even go to the shops for you. Ibambe, overlooking the Watamu Marine National Park, has five bedrooms and a host of chill-out spaces, dining areas and verandas. Tazama, on the headland between Mida Creek and the beach, has four bedrooms, two sitting rooms and a spacious poolside deck. Matalai, on the beachfront, has three bedrooms, a traditional thatched sitting room and a top floor plunge pool. All three villas boast coastal Swahili architecture, stunning sea views and sweeping swimming pools. Rates: Ibambe 60,000 Ksh per night, Tazama 45,000 Ksh per night Matalai 30,000 Ksh per night www.watamu.villas
KILILI BAHARINI – MALINDI
The expansive white spa overlooking the swimming pool epitomises this elegant resort. Medicallife Spa uses products and certified methods for its range of treatments and relaxation techniques – and who could fail to feel relaxed in such a setting. The rooms – all furnished in Swahili style with whitewashed walls, draped mosquito nets and subtle lighting – overlook one of the swimming pools, and each has its own fully furnished private veranda. All the modern amenities you might expect from a resort of this calibre are here: air conditioning, satellite TV and Wifi to name a few. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be served on your private veranda, by the pool or in the restaurant. Rates: From Ksh 18,000 per double room (2 pax) per night. www.kililibaharini.com
LEOPARD POINT LUXURY BEACH RESORT AND SPA – MALINDI
The Bien Être Spa is just one of the high points of this lovely new resort. Combining phytotherapist and herbalist Marc Mességué’s wellness philosophy with the properties of locally grown plants, the spa offers Turkish baths, whirlpool thalassotherapy, scrubs, massages and more. The resort has 15 rooms in four Swahili villas; each villa operates as its own boutique hotel with a pool, garden, kitchen and team of staff. The restaurant, Jiko Gourmet, puts a modern spin on traditional dishes and is particularly known for its grills, be they seafood, meat or vegetarian. Aligning its menu with its wellness philosophy, the restaurant uses fresh seasonal ingredients and locally grown produce. Water sports, dhow trips, yoga and golf are all on offer here. Rates: From 14,000 Ksh per person B&B. www.lpbresort. com NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
BUDGET PLACES TO STAY UNDER KSH 10,000
There are a host of more affordable places in the region that will give you a taste of the coast without breaking the bank. Tamara Britten recommends these six.
KILIFI MAGHREB - KILIFI
PHOTOGRAPHY: COURTESY RESPECTIVE HOTELS
This recently-established hotel is in verdant gardens near Kilifi Creek. The almost private Sea Horse Beach is less than a five-minute walk away, while the shops, bars and restaurants of Kilifi town are within easy reach. The accommodation options are many and varied. The thatched Garden Rooms are constructed of ecofriendly materials and cooled by fans. The hostel rooms have bunk beds and shared bathrooms. The tents are furnished with two mattresses, and have access to shared bathrooms. The suites have an en-suite bedroom, living room and kitchenette. The villa has three bedrooms, lounge, kitchen and dining room, and would make an ideal space for a family or group of friends. There are also a couple of conference rooms and a swimming pool surrounded by a spacious deck that just cries out to be basked upon. Rates: From 2,100 Ksh per tent (2 pax) B&B, From 4,500 Ksh per garden room (2 pax) B&B, From 5,900 Ksh per suite (2 pax) B&B, From 35,000 Ksh per villa (8 pax) B&B. www.kilifimaghreb.com
THE DRIFTWOOD – MALINDI
Possibly Malindi’s favourite beach club, The Driftwood has wound its way into the hearts of locals and visitors alike. A family-owned and managed hotel, the place offers a collection of cottages and villas in traditional coastal style – albeit with the addition of air conditioning and other modern amenities. The restaurant has a tasty bar menu and a more eclectic a la carte menu with an appealing selection of fresh seafood as well as such treats such as Swahili beef and traditional coastal curry. There are plenty of water sports to try, or just hang out at the open-air bar and sip your beer while looking across the glistening swimming pool at the white sand beach. Rates: From 10,000 Ksh for a single room B&B, From 14,600 Ksh for a double room B&B. www.driftwoodclub.com
MAWIMBI LODGE - WATAMU
Centring on its courtyard restaurant, this lodge offers some of the finest Italian food on the coast – and that’s saying something! With a selection of melt-in-your-mouth handmade pastas, fresh seafood, Italian specialities, inventive salads, fresh breads, authentic pizzas and desserts that have to be tasted to be believed, this is one not to miss. Chef Maurizio Marino – born in Sicily and trained in Rome – experiments with local and Italian flavours to create his own distinctive dishes. The lodge has standard, superior and deluxe rooms that are set around the garden or overlook the inviting swimming pool, and the staff are friendly and welcoming. Available on enquiry www.mawimbidune.com
DISTANT RELATIVES BACKPACKERS – KILIFI
This eco-friendly and hospitable backpackers took the Kenyan coast by storm when it opened in 2012. With an extraordinary range of accommodation including camping, dormitories, safari tents, private rooms and standalone bandas, the lodge promotes socially conscious living, environmentally friendly practices – and parties! The gardens are dotted with little treats like outdoor bamboo showers, shaded hammocks, cushioned hideaways and poolside sunbeds. The restaurant serves tasty local treats, seafood specials, vegetarian delights and pizzas straight from the wood-fired oven. With water sports, dhow cruises, beach volleyball and more, there’s plenty to do here. Don’t miss their epic, three-day New Years’ Eve parties. Rates: From 1,000 Ksh per person for a dorm, From 1,500 Ksh per person for a safari tent From 2,500 Ksh per person for a private room, From 3,500 Ksh per person for a private banda www.kilifibackpackers.com
BAREFOOT BEACH CAMP - CHE SHALE BEACH
Half an hour north of Malindi on an almost private beach is Barefoot Beach Camp. As its name suggests, bare feet are recommended here as sand floors stretch out beneath towering makuti roofs, and the makuti walls are open to the breeze. The five tented cottages are shaded by palms and surrounded by tropical flowers; fans and lights are powered by solar and at night, gas lanterns are strung along the paths. The seafood here, cooked by owner Eddie Aniere, is delectable: prawns, squid and crab fresh from the ocean blessed by Eddie’s special touch. Hang out at the little tables on the beach, relax in one of the many secluded spots or – if you can bring yourself to get out of your hammock and stroll down the beach – try your hand at one of the many water sports available here. Rates: From 7500 Ksh per person half board, From 8600 Ksh per person full board.
MIDA ECO CAMP – WATAMU
This eco-friendly community camp offers three traditional huts and two campsites. On the rustic platform-restaurant, visitors can look out over the Arabuko Sokoke Forest and the tangle of mangroves and watch a multitude of birds ducking and diving, while the friendly staff cook Giriama food over a fire for them or serve cold beers and coconut wine. A hanging bridge leads from the restaurant to a simple bird hide with panoramic views of the creek and its birdlife. This community project was built from private donations and all profit goes to community projects in Mida Creek including health, education and agriculture. Be sure to ask the staff to take you to their secret spot on Kirepwe Island and grill seafood for you as you wallow in the warm water. Rates: From 900 Ksh for a single room B&B. www.midaecocamp.com NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
JOURNEYING INTO A COASTAL FOREST Arabuko-Sokoke forest is important to so many people from all walks of life, and Hollie M’gog talks to some of the main players.
NORBERT ROTTCHER, THE DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER What species would you chase after? The famous one-of-a-kind golden rumped elephant shrew which is one of the rarest mammals in Africa. Then there is the Sokoke bushy tailed mongoose, Ader’s duiker and if you are really lucky, the caracal. When it rains the pools of fresh water attract multitudes of species, especially birds, and are fantastic through the camera lens. Are there species there that would make good subjects for short films for budding Kenyan wildlife film makers? The world is waking up to the importance of amphibians and becoming more interested in their lives and in their role as biological indicators of healthy ecosystems. In Arabuko there are many interesting species including the Ornate Tree Frog and the Bunty’s Dwarf Toad. More than anything it is the botanic richness
that is phenomenal – just look at a Google Earth image showing the complete lack of trees outside the park boundary. Sokoke is an amazing web of life that exists because of the floral diversity, many of them endemic. ELOISE AND REUBEN- TRAVELLING HIKERS In comparison to all the places you travel, what do you love about the forest? The sheer diversity! We loved that so many of the forest guides were so passionate about the place and know exactly where to take us to see certain creatures and plants. I hope they rebuild the tree-houses soon. The pools with all the frogs were amazing and the Gede ruins quite unforgettable. What did you do while you were there? We actually arrived early and went for a morning run then had a picnic breakfast in the forest at the Nyari cliff viewpoint where you can see across the top of the forest. We had a drive through the thick forest and visited the bird hide and boardwalk at Mida Creek. We will certainly be back to cycle and camp- there is too much to see in one day. JOHNSON KAFULO AND COLIN JACKSON, THE BIRD WATCHERS How many species could a visiting birder get in the forest? This forest is so special because of its endemic species. These are six - the Sokoke scops owl, Sokoke pitpit, East Coast Akalat, Spotted Ground Thrush, Amani Sunbird and Clarke’s Weaver. There are lots of migrants at Mida Creek in the shallows and in the mangroves, especially the Crab Plover and sometimes the flamingo. There are over 230 species of birds occurring here, a real birder’s dream. Mixed-species feeding-parties of birds are very thrilling too as suddenly you encounter a plethora of species and types all in one place.
What about birding at Mida Creek? If you time it right to be on the boardwalk, high and neap tide in late afternoon in the Northern Hemisphere winter then you have the sun behind you and up to 10,000 Palearctic waders and terns roosting just 80m from you! Imagine a flock of 800 crab plovers in dapper black and white plumage with overweight bills, Lesser Crested terns with glowing orange bills and shaggy crests, sand pipers and plovers and the Eurasian Curlew with its outrageously long snout! WILLY KOMBE, THE ARABUKO FOREST GUIDE How important is the forest to surrounding communities? Many community groups have formed in response to tourists coming and are earning money to survive. There are Community Forest Associations (CFA) that practice things from butterfly and honey farming to hosting visitors in camps and bandas. There is controlled firewood collection and the Mida Creek boardwalk gives many community guides work. Individuals with traditional or learnt knowledge in indigenous trees and activities and medicines, birds, mammals, insects and amphibians can earn money using that knowledge. We think there are still many places to grow the services we offer to visitors and would like to see numbers increase. Is there a problem with poaching? There used to be a lot more poaching but now it is drastically reduced because over ¾ of the community are involved in the protection of the forest through income earning activities. That is why the community programs like butterfly and honey farming, guiding and the new clean water points put in on the boundary are so important. 500 students are being put through school because of the tourism at Mida Creek.
PHOTOGRAPHY: ROBERT ROTTCHER
MSANZU KARISA, THE BUTTERFLY FARMER Why did butterfly farming start and how did you get into it? Butterflies used to be caught in large numbers and sold as souvenirs. It started nearly 30 years ago and as the forest has around 200 species we were able to make good money. Now we sell only pupae so I collect female butterflies from the forest only once a year and build breeding stock. You collect a lot of these species from the forest, how is this controlled? Scientists at the centre of biodiversity from the National Museums of Kenya carry out training for us on how to sustainably harvest the butterflies. We now have a butterfly breeding cage and plant the host plants of the larvae so that we do not need to collect wild ones. We can average Ksh 30,000 monthly but this is a seasonal market only.
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NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
FROM THE GREAT LAKES
Ross Exler, an ambitious world adventurer passionate about biodiversity and the sustainability of ecosystems in Africa, embarks on a journey to become the first person to complete a solo, man-powered crossing of the African Great Lakes. His aim? To understand more about sustainability, conservation and the balance between humans and the environment.
’ve always felt a magnetic appeal to wild, mysterious places and I think that most people who are drawn to studying biology are keenly interested in observing the natural world, always wanting to go out and explore. Even with my curiosity for adventure, I knew a trip of this scale, with this level of commitment, was something not to be entered into lightly. I also knew that the most important thing I could do to succeed and remain safe was to prepare sufficiently. One of the first things I realised was that instincts and hyper-awareness are all magnified greatly when alone. At a baseline, you’re certainly more at risk when you’re alone and have fewer options for recourse if things do go wrong, but perhaps more challenging is the psychological aspect of spending months making decisions and then dealing with the endless internal monologue that is second guessing each decision. Overall, my thorough preparation gave me confidence for the voyage which surprisingly went off largely without a hitch. No journey like this is without significant danger. On the third day, while paddling north along the shoreline of Lake Malawi, I heard a splashing sound from the water. When I turned to look, I saw that a 4 or 5-meter crocodile had surfaced and was staring at me icily before it disappeared back under the surface. After that, I took
even greater precautions to avoid crocodiles - paddling several kilometres offshore, avoiding river mouths and wetlands and staying away from the water at night, and was largely able to neutralize that threat. Still, I looked over my shoulder every few minutes for the remaining months of the trip hoping that I wouldn’t find a large predatory reptile behind me. After every long day’s journey came the chore of figuring out where I’d be resting for the night. I generally only bush camped when there was no one around to know of my presence. If that opportunity didn’t present itself, I would go into the local community and present myself (usually to great fanfare) and ask if it was alright for me to spend the night there. By somewhat declaring my presence and asking for permission, I got to feel as though I belonged, even if only for the one night. When I would arrive in a village, I would immediately be greeted by a crowd of curious onlookers. Connecting on a human level, even when there was a language barrier, was relatively effortless. Several weeks passed with a continuously smooth expedition until midway through my time on Lake Tanganyika when things quickly turned for the worst. I was heading for Greystoke in the Mahale Mountain National Park when I heard a powerful stormfront was about to roll through. I tried to come up with alternative strategies and even thought about
waiting it out, but with the forecast stretching out so far, I was just going to have to paddle through. They call it the Rukuga wind, a powerful north wind that occurs in the rainy season. It carries storms down the lake and usually lasts a few days. Sometimes though, if you’re unlucky, it lasts longer. I knew that my next realistic rest point was a larger village on the lake called Karema, but the direct line I had to take would mean travelling up to 9.6 km offshore but would save me about 6.4 km in total. Over the next 90 minutes, as I rhythmically paddled to the point of exhaustion, the moving time didn’t change! Despite my efforts, I was frozen in place by the headwind and lake current. My decision to make the crossing was also coming back to bite me, as my only option to go to land would require me to give up hard earned kilometres and I wasn’t willing to do that. After a while, the wind speed dropped a little, not abruptly, but enough that I started to make some progress again. I limped into Karema close to sunset, badly beaten. I had managed 27 km on the most exhausting paddling day of the expedition. For comparison, my best day on Lake Malawi was 52 km, which ended with me feeling more or less fresh. After a week of battling a north wind, faced with the unappealing reality of a forced and unsafe night in the national park, I was now moving northwards under
favourable conditions at an extraordinary pace. I headed further into the park and at 12:30 reached the point that looked like my best option for the night if I wasn’t going to make it to Greystoke, and I was forced to make a decision. I needed to head to the beach and set up camp or go for broke and head to Greystoke. As far as I could tell from the satellite maps, it was the point of no return. Once I went north, I had to make it to Greystoke and it was only 12:30, so I pushed on. Another 3 hours went by until I could see camp, to say that this was a joyous moment would be a wild understatement. It’s kind of amazing to me that I have only been back from my trip for a few months. It feels like a lifetime ago, so it’s great to reflect on successes and failures I endured along the way. Whenever you set out to do something, whether it’s starting a business, writing a book, remodelling a kitchen, or paddling and biking across Africa, I think you embark on it with an idea of what you want to accomplish but perhaps don’t exactly know how you’re going to get there (no matter how much preparation you do). You have to retain flexibility as challenges arrive and one way or another you do eventually make it to a suitable conclusion. To read more about Ross’ expedition through The Great Lakes of Africa, visit discoverinteresting.com/reflections-from-thegreat-lakes
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
COMPETITION At the beginning of this year, the Angama Foundation, in partnership with Nomad, launched a competition to find the best images from the Maasai Mara. Here, we showcase the monthly winners. From 10 monthly winners, one lucky photographer will take home $10,000 in cash and win a five-night stay at the Angama Mara. For details on how to enter, see opposite page.
JULY WINNER REFLEX, BY ANUP SHAH “Wildebeest were emerging on dry land in long lines having crossed Mara River and evading all sorts of hazards. Even on dry land, they were watchful and alert. The legs of a wildebeest look fragile like thin sticks, but don’t be fooled. These legs can power standing jumps which, coupled with lightning reflexes, help it to evade a lion on ambush.” Camera Settings: Canon Eos 5DS | 14mm | f8 | 1/1000 | 400 Instagram: @anupshah
AUGUST WINNER LION HUNTING GIRAFFE BABY, BY JAMES KAANI NAMPASO “Two lionesses were moving to the nearest bush to rest when one of them spotted a five day old baby giraffe. They started stalking and chasing the mother and her baby to separate them. Here, the lioness jumped onto the mother in order to get her away from her baby.” Camera Settings: Canon 5D MARK III | 100-400MM | 5.6 | 1/8000 | 1000 Instagram: @jamesknampaso
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
MBWEHA CAMP Nakuru
DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE
The Nomad team heads to Mbweha Camp in Soysambu Conservancy where we go on a camel back ride to Lake Nakuru and encounter a bevy of flamingos before tucking into a bush breakfast. PHOTOGRAPHS: BRIAN SIAMBI
GETTING THERE By road: About three hours from Nairobi. By air: Fly into Congreve airstrip which is only serviced by charter flights. THE LOCATION This rustic lodge is set within the vast Soysambu Conservancy and lies on the southern boundary of Lake Nakuru National Park. Given that it is outside the national park, after tucking into a delicious threecourse supper, we set off on a night game drive where we encounter numerous jackals, after which the camp is named, as well as aardvarks- burrowing creatures fondly referred to as the “African Kangaroo”. The conservancy is also teeming with various antelope species, zebras, buffalos, leopards, and more, and is said to have an elusive albino giraffe which we unfortunately didn’t see. THE LODGE The living areas feel like a contemporary African hut with the signature circular shape and thatched roof. There are two family suites, four double cottages and four twins. Mine, a double with lava-stone walls and stone floors had a private terrace, hot showers throughout the day with simple earthy colours in the decor. With only 10 cottages separated by bushes and gravel walkways, it is as intimate as it gets. My cottage came complete with a private outdoor bathtub, and I initially had every intention of ordering some wine, lighting some lamps, running a salt bath and soaking under the starry night sky with my safari playlist playing from a portable bluetooth speaker, but our stay turned out to be more adventure-filled than anticipated. OF CAMELS, LAKE NAKURU AND A BUSH BREAKFAST It is about 5:15am on our first morning at the camp and I am snuggling by a central crackling fire in the lounge, completely bundled in warm clothing and with a steaming cup of hot chocolate at hand. We have an early morning call time for our first activity of the day and as I wait for the rest of the team to arrive, a waiter mercifully adds yet another thick log of wood into the now ebbing fire. Everyone finally shows up and we shuffle
to a waiting Land Cruiser Van then set off across the conservancy to an open patch where we find our guide Barabara waiting with four camels for each of us. After our last expedition across Laikipia where we went on a similar camel safari, Nomad’s photographer Brian vehemently refuses to ride again. This is with good reason, as I can still vividly recall my legs being sore for the rest of the day after that trek. He chooses to remain in the car for the drive to the lake while the rest of us mount our camels; these saddles are admittedly more comfortable. For the next hour, I rock back and forth on my saddle as the camels slowly make their way towards Lake Nakuru which seems ever so near, yet so far. Barabara breaks into song and invites us to join, birds and cicadas call out, curious zebras, giraffes and elands stare at us curiously. Cautiously. Eventually, we get to the lake just as the sun is starting to rise over the horizon, its orange reflection glistening in the water. Lake Nakuru is a haven for numerous bird species, and is particularly a magnet for large flocks of flamingos that paint the water a soft blush pink with their plumageit is indeed a sight to behold! We collect feathers from the shore and take pictures, but mostly wait for flamingos to gather in one part of the lake so we can sneak up to them before they get alarmed and take off, wings fluttering in unison as though part of a well choreographed ballet dance. To crown an already perfect morning, we drive up to a clearing where we find that the camp has set up a lavish English bush breakfast, and the entire thing is so well thought out that I half expect them to pop out a ring, get on one knee and ask me to stay at the conservancy forever. OTHER ACTIVITIES • Sundowners • Bush Walks • Cultural Safaris • Mountain Biking • Guided hikes at ‘Delamere’s nose’ • Visit to surrounding areas, including Menengai Crater, Lake Elementaita Hot Springs and Lake Nakuru National Park RATES These start at Ksh 25,000 to Ksh 40,000 per night.
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY
On the outer periphery of Nairobi National Park, perched on the elevated cliff at the bank of the Mbagathi River, Ami Doshi Shah finds Ololo Lodge, an unexpected gem of a place. PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OLOLO LODGE
bafflingly stressful Monday morning at work had gradually led to an eager anticipation for later that afternoon when my husband and I drove through the Kenya Wildlife Service main gate of Nairobi National Park where we spotted three bored impalas with Nairobiâ€™s sprawling skyline as a backdrop. We could have admittedly tried a little harder in a park teeming with wildlife to search for game, but on this occasion being self confessed glampers, the desire to make the most of our one night at Ololo Lodge won over. A 35 minute drive through the park and we arrived at Ololo Lodge, crossing a wooden suspension footbridge that swayed gently with our movements and up a gravel pathway to the property. Thatched roofs, exposed raw stone masonry walls and cottage windows softened by English garden landscaping sat unobtrusively overlooking a horizon of acacias and waist-high straw-coloured grass that swayed with the wind from an incoming rainstorm. The earthy addictive smell of rain in the distance wafted through, and I find it interesting that this has a name - petrichor. Over some homemade pistachio biscuits and
coffee, we learned from the manager that Ololo Safari Lodge has been operating for 2 years now and as such, has been organically growing its client base over that period. It was originally a family home owned by Australian couple and tea tree farmers, Joanna and Craig Chapman. Having bought the property over a decade ago, they conducted extensive renovations of the existing colonial farmhouse over the years and eventually decided to turn their hard work into a hospitality business, which now includes Old Stables, Stable Rooms, Terrace Room, The Tower Room and Tented Cottages, bringing the total to 12 rooms with a three bedroom family cottage. Inside the property, the incredible attention to detail and clear passion for creating a casual space without foregoing eclectic design sense became obvious. Framed sketches and intricate drawings of wildlife interspersed with contemporary landscapes hang on almost every wall. A mixture of Scandinavian style sofas and armchairs were combined with antique dressers and four poster beds with authentic touches of local materials. The spaces exposed a love for beautiful objects - put together and styled effortlessly as magazineworthy vignettes. Our evening was as special as our first few hours. I soaked in our clawfoot tub with dried lavender bath salts, and this was blissful. We had dinner in the open dining room gorging on homemade arancini and a delicious savoury tart with tender steamed asparagus and finished off with a glass of wine next to the roaring fireplace in our room. The main reminder of the proximity of Ololo to Nairobi’s urban sprawl was the commercial airliners flying above the National Park to and from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport occasionally interrupting the lullaby of frogs and crickets. There was something truly special about the opportunity to experience and enjoy someone else’s home. Something comforting in the feeling that every space and room was put together in a unique yet deliberate way and that even the glazed terracotta water jug in our room was personally chosen and not bought en-masse. If you don’t enjoy that level of intimacy, Ololo Lodge, or any family-run boutique property, might not be the right place for you. For us, the chance to get away from the maddening Nairobi pace (and dare I say, my kids) within an hour and for a night while still experiencing the solitude of the bush and home in this whimsical country-style property was magic. Go to www.olololodge.com for more information about rates, conferencing and their restaurant, ‘The Kitchen at Ololo’ (prior reservation only).
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
THE PERFECT APP
FOR FOODIES How to claim your EatOut discounts & oﬀers 1. Scan the code on this page to download the EatOut app 2. Register with your mobile number or login with Facebook 3. On the app, select the restaurant you’re dining at 4. On the restaurant page, choose the discount / oﬀer you wish to claim 5. Click to claim your oﬀer at the time of placing your order / when requesting your bill 6. Show your SMS notiﬁcation code to your server 7. You will be presented with a new bill with the discount / oﬀer applied 8. Only applicable when paying with Visa 58
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LELWEL COTTAGE TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY THE TRAVELDOTE
We were in search of a place to do nothing but sit next to a crackling fire, listen to the sounds of the earth, have a conversation with people in person while disconnecting from our virtual world, all while being comfortable and at home. When we stumbled across Lelwel Cottage, we instantly thought it ticked all those boxes and therefore decided to escape the city for two peaceful nights. A quiet getaway up north, Lelwel cottage is located in the gated community of Lelwel estate just outside Timau town, about 3 hours 30 minutes from Nairobi. It sits on a private 15 acres and is a guest house neighbouring the owner’s home. OVERVIEW This delightful home has lush green gardens and boasts views of Mt Kenya. It has two en-suite bedrooms comfortably fitting four people. There’s a fireplace and living room space shared with a fully kitted kitchen (fridge, oven, toaster, pots, pans, cutlery and crockery). A sofa couch and ottoman are strategically positioned directly opposite the fireplace. The only drawback here is that there is no dining space inside and all the furniture is white so if you’re a messy eater there’s bound to be some stains. Luckily there is outdoor furniture but for dinner, it’s a very chilly option. The interiors are clearly inspired by the beach which contrasts well with the cold region. There is a large, life size
painting of the beach with ocean waves gently lapping against the yellow sand. The wooden storage cabinets have silver details of ship wheels and the colour palette of the entire space is light blues and white. The rooms are very spacious with plenty of wardrobe space so if you’re looking for a long term stay around Timau, this is your ideal stop. Both rooms have a signature huge window, but the room we stayed in was particularly special because it faced Mt. Kenya. The bathrooms have cement interiors (again, very coastal). They provide clean towels and toilet paper on a daily basis while also cleaning and setting up your fireplace daily. WHERE Lelwel cottage is about 220 Km from Nairobi and is easy to get to with any kind of car. The A2 highway from Nairobi all the way to Timau is very smooth and scenic. The place is not on Google Maps but is very easy to find with the directions sent by the host. From Nanyuki you come through Timau town and take the first road off to the left (same dirt road to Ngare Ndare forest). Drive down this for about 2 km passing a gate on your left called ‘mlima’- the Lelwel estate is the next gate on the left. PROS • Quiet and relaxing getaway • Views of Mt. Kenya on a clear day
• • •
Ideal for an intimate time A home away from home Cozy fireplace
CONS Not so close to grocery stands so make sure you have everything beforehand (Nanyuki town is about 20 Km away) No dining table in the cottage if you prefer to sit down and have your meal WHAT CAN YOU DO? If you’re the sporty kind, the Timau sports club is right next door if you fancy a game of tennis. Nanyuki town is close so you can have a taste of all the delicious restaurants there. If you want to experience the wild then Borana conservancy is just 20 minutes away and our personal favourite, Ngare Ndare is just up the road too. Here you can enjoy a jump in the icy cold azure pools with water fresh from the mountain. If you’re looking for a longer road trip, an early morning drive to Shaba National park should result in an exciting game drive. HOW TO BOOK & COSTS A night at the Lelwel cottage will cost you Ksh 11,000 and if there are four of you then that’s a mere Ksh 2,750 a night each. You can check the availability and book it on Airbnb by searching for ‘Lelwel Cottage’
NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
What I pack … for my travels Emmanuel Jambo is a renowned photographer who specialises in fashion, weddings and portraits. He is always traveling, and this is what he likes to bring along: Instagram: @emmanueljambo Tan Moshi Ksh15,900
BOSE SPEAKER - I almost cannot listen to music from the laptop without it. Sometimes I’ll use it to watch movies when I’m in a hotel...I like the surround sound effect.
TRAVEL PILLOW - I travel a lot and have to make each experience as comfortable as possible. It’s good for the neck while sleeping on the plane or lounge chairs.
HAT- Not only is this a fashion statement, it also comes in handy on sunny days
DARK REBEL BY JOHN VARVATOS COLOGNEI like smelling fresh.
SNEAKERS - You can never go wrong with a comfortable pair.
HOUSE OF MARLEY HEADPHONES- If I’m not in a quiet room then I’m likely in a car or plane and can use these to listen to music or watch a movie. Sometimes you also just want to escape from the noise in your environment.
PHOTOGRAPHS: BRIAN SIAMBI
MACBOOK - It’s great for killing time in transit. I work, edit photos, watch Netflix and HBO, etc.
NAIROBI: The Hub, Junction, Sarit Centre, Village Market, Yaya Centre, Westgate DAR ES SALAAM: Slipway NOMAD MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
oseph has worked in a coastal hotel for more than a decade and it would be fair to say that he’s seen it all. “Oh hello...Joseph!” A guest exclaims, leaning over the salad counter to plant a kiss on both of his cheeks to greet him like a long lost friend. “It’s so great to be back.” The lady is sweating profusely, the sure sign of a new arrival. “Karibu!” Joseph replies, expertly disguising the fact that he has not the faintest recollection of meeting the woman. The gold embossed name badge on his chest makes it easy for guests to remember him. “Welcome back,” Joseph says with a warm grin. It’s the lunch shift and although just 12:00 pm and breakfast barely cleared away, guests in various states of undress are quick to rouse themselves from their horizontal torpor around the pool to queue up for the next round of food. One man wobbles, brandishing a plate dangerously above the head of a small child. He’s been drinking since breakfast and fully intends to stay inebriated until he leaves on Monday. Joseph takes the man’s plate, loads it with food then plants him at a corner
DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE
By Frances Woodhams
table where he can stay out of trouble with a watered down beer. A clutch of ladies in big straw hats and diaphanous beach robes approach, one grabbing Joseph’s arm. “What’s good to eat today Joseph? You know that I can’t do all this buffet business,” she says, wafting her hand airily over counters groaning with fine food. Joseph restrains himself from referring to the fact that the hotel has been awarded a gold standard for catering but instead steers the ladies to the fish skewers, noting that they are not afraid to each grab a full plate of chips on the way back to their table. A team of minibus tour drivers arrive in beige safari suits coated in a fine layer of Tsavo dust. Joseph corrals them onto a large round table, summoning a junior waiter to bring water and large plates of ugali, stew and sukuma. The Otienos like a table in the sun but the Kariukis prefer to stay in the shade. There is much chair and table scraping as three generations of Joneses decide they would all like to sit together. The kitchen staff have been notified that it’s Margaret’s birthday, so are poised with pots and pans to form an orchestra for the presentation of the birthday cake when the guests start moving on to dessert.
Palms sway, fans spin, diners murmur, the sky is blue and for a moment Joseph feels he has the best job in the world. But then little Johnny steps on a piece of glass (in spite of the dining dress code specifying shoes) and cries out. Joseph dashes for the first aid kit just as the kitchen staff are pouring out of the service area in full song. “Take a photo will you Joseph?” Margaret’s brother says as he hands over a very expensive looking iPhone X. Joseph grapples with the settings, trying not to drop it while passing the first aid kit to another waiter to take on to the wounded child. “Oh but you must make it a selfie.” The family choruses, “We want you in it!” Joseph responds with his ready smile, recapturing the moment scores of times before the family are satisfied. Once the photography session is over and Johnny has calmed down with a bowl of ice-cream, Joseph turns his hand to clearing plates. He notices that the drunken guest has fallen asleep in the corner and wonders if he’ll still be there at tea, which is in less than an hour... Frances Woodhams is author of the blog: www.africaexpatwivesclub.com
SKETCH: MOVIN WERE
A WAITER’S LIFE
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