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ISSUE 23| OCTOBER | FREE COPY

LAMU ON REPEAT WHY WE’RE STILL ENCHANTED WEEKEND AWAY FROM DAR

BABY ON BOARD

DISCOVERING GABON


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BUSINESS & LEISURE

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EDITOR’S NOTE

IT’S EASIER TO SPLURGE WHEN PAYING IN FOREIGN CURRENCY

I

remember my parents, my mom especially, always being avid collectors. She had this large tin that was packed with coins brought back from her travels, the fridge was always dotted with unique magnets and don’t even get me started on her collection of Asian fabrics. As I go on more trips of my own, I am realizing that I’m slowly plunging into this same sunken place, never mind that I’m actually a bit of a minimalist especially with spaces like my apartment.

It’s not always the most practical souvenirs either. I never think, “I actually need a wine cork, and this hand carved one from Ubud will be just perfect.” Oh no no no. I am drawn to that heavy beaded dinosaur stuffed with ashes from an indigenous tree, blessed by the ancestors of that land and said to cure things like overthinking, lactose intolerance and gout. Never mind that it’s probably going to be way above my weight limit at the airport, and the “ashes” might be flagged as some illegal substance that gets me locked up abroad. I have prized souvenirs, too, like an antique, bohemian, Morocan coffee set that I snagged from the owner of some hole-in-the-wall restaurant that I convinced to sell to me. My box of Ethiopian coffee beans was stolen from the table in my hotel room by a colobus monkey who proceeded to jeer at me from the top of a baobab tree all afternoon. I recently got flavour-bomb spiced tea from a Zanzibari spice farm, mixes like cardamom-mangolemongrass-and-tea. I don’t even like tea or coffee. Food can make for great souvenirs too, and some of my favourites to receive have been Swiss chocolates, Turkish baklava and dates from Oman. Ever notice, though, how much easier it is to splurge on overpriced goods when you’re paying in foreign currency? Most recently, I got a miniature dhow in Lamu for Ksh 700. What a bargain! Our souvenirs for you, however, come by way of all the exciting stories and photographs we brought back from the trip, and I hope you will enjoy this issue from our all-time favourite part of Kenya.

Wendy Watta

@WattaOnTheGo

NOMAD ISSUE 22 · OCT/NOV 2019 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR WENDY WATTA DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI SALES VANESSA WANJIKU DIGITAL FAITH KANJA CONTRIBUTORS SAMANTHA DU TOIT, JOE WAHOME, ANNA WUGHANGA, FAITH KANJA, MAURICE SCHUTGENS, KARANJA NZISA, OSSE GRECCA SINARE CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS BRIAN SIAMBI, SEBASTIAN WANZALLA, MEHLAM AKBARALI, PETER NDUNG’U OPERATIONS DANIEL MUTHIANI SALES ENQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22 EMAIL EDITOR@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO PRINTED BY RAMCO PRINTING PRESS

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ON THE COVER PEPONI HOTEL LAMU TOP ROOM VIEW PHOTOGRAPHED BY BRIAN SIAMBI

CONTENTS 26

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW Lamu has it all: stunning seafront hotels, untouched beaches, palm trees, traditional dhows, friendly people, exotic birds and more. We revisit this Kenyan favourite through the iconic Peponi Hotel.

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In this issue 10. TOP SHOTS This month’s featured photographers capture pelicans at Lake Elementaita and gerenuks at Samburu National Reserve. 14. NEWS Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence, Nairobi Arboretum Opens, The world’s oldest airline, KLM, turns 100, and more. 16. WHATS ON From Lamu Cultural Festival and Rusinga Festival to The Grand Nairobi Race, find a round-up of must-attend events this season. 22. GLOBETROTTERS We talk to Grace Mwari about riding in South East Asia, Southern Africa, East Africa, Morocco and parts of Europe. 50. WHAT I PACK FOR MY TRAVELS Luxury PR consultant and award winning fashion blogger Lucia Musau gives us a peek inside her travel bag.

FEATURES 15. MAGICAL KENYA TRAVEL EXPO 2019 We were in attendance at the 9th edition of MKTE. Here’s what went down. 19. SEGERA PASSING OUT PARADE Segera Retreat unveils an all-female antipoaching unit at a colourful parade.

28. IDYLLIC LAMU We revisit this Kenyan island through the iconic Peponi Hotel 36. OLD TOWN ROAD Faced with a slowly evolving historic town, Wendy Watta muses that some places should perhaps just be left untouched. 42. WHERE TO STAY We suggest some of our favourite properties in Lamu to consider on your next trip to the island. 46. WEEKEND AWAY FROM DAR Tanzanian Photographer Osse shares stunning photos from his favourite spots and hotels ideal for a quick weekend jaunt away from Dar es Salaam.

REGULARS 20. THE CONCEPT OF TIME After a visit to Olorgesailie prehistoric site, Samantha wonders how to break the centuries down to young children who still think waiting two ‘sleeps’ for a beloved Auntie to visit seems an age. 22. BABY ON BOARD! Anna Wughanga shares her no-holds barred approach to travelling to Venice, Italy, three months postpartum, with a baby in tow.

44. GABON: LONG ROAD TO LOPÉ NATIONAL PARK Gabon is a country of impenetrable rainforests, wild coastlines teeming with marine life and home to some of the most elusive species on the continent, writes Maurice Schutgens. 48. COTTAR’S CELEBRATES 100 YEARS IN KENYA Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp and bush villa: as the family celebrates a milestone, we look back at their history in Kenya. 52. LAST WORD: EXPENSIVE LESSONS The trip to South East Europe that didn’t quite go as planned.

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Sebastian Wanzalla Instagram: @wanzalla I took this shot of pelicans at Lake Elementaita at around 6:00pm using a Canon 5DMK IV camera with a focal length of 200, and a Canon 70-200mm F2.8 lens. TIP: The typical sunset shot sometimes just falls short. Try and look around for interesting compositions and different angles to create better imagery.

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TOP SHOTS

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TOP SHOTS

MELAM AKBARALI Instagram: @mehlamakbarali10 A gerenuk can go its entire life without water! I got this shot while on a game drive at around 11:00am at Samburu National Reserve, which is well known for these long-necked antelopes. I used a Nikon D3300 with the settings: ISO 200, 1/600 and F6.3, with a Tamron 18-200mm lens.


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NEWS

RADISSON BLU HOTEL & RESIDENCE, NAIROBI ARBORETUM OPENS This is the third addition of hotels by the Radisson Hotel Group in Nairobi following Radisson Blu Hotel, Nairobi Upperhill and Park Inn by Radisson Nairobi Westlands. Overlooking the Arboretum Park and adjacent to the State House within the affluent Kilimani neighbourhood, the hotel boasts of an ideal location that allows its guests to explore the city. Top notch facilities such as a signature heated infinity pool and business lounges are a great attraction. The hotel’s 122 rooms and suites feature contemporary interiors, private balconies, upscale amenities and exclusive services like free Wi-Fi, individual climate control and 24-hour room service. The hotel rooms are 37 square meters in size. The one-bedroom apartments are 67 square meters while the 2-bedroom apartments are over 100 square meters.

THE WORLD’S OLDEST AIRLINE, KLM, TURNS 100

Dutch flag carrier, KLM, celebrated its 100th anniversary having been founded on October 7th 1919, making it one of the oldest airlines in the world still operating under its original name. KLM has through the years grown to become a major player in the international airline landscape, connecting to about 165 destinations from its hub at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. The airline is known for being a pioneer. In 1966, it was the first to launch an in-flight magazine, Holland Herald (still in print today), and the first to even host an in-flight DJ. Now, a self-guiding robot named Spencer assists travelers in KLM’s Amsterdam hub, one of the first airport robots. As they look to the next 100 years, they are keen to stay on the cutting edge of aviation technology while experimenting with more sustainable fuel sources.

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EVENTS

MAGICAL TRAVEL EXPO 2019 By Clara Orina Photos courtesy MKTE

The 9th edition of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE) came to a close after three days of a highly engaging event which saw over 200 exhibitors showcase their products to over 150 global buyers from Kenya’s 25 key source markets. Speaking at the event, CS for tourism & wildlife, Najib Balala, said that the presence of over 134 buyers is a positive indication of their readiness to sell this destination to all the visitors within their networks. “To sustain our growth in the tourism sector, the government has refocused its efforts on areas of safety and security, infrastructure improvement, incentives as well as sustained campaigns on source markets to increase destination awareness,” he said. This year’s event which took place from 3rd to 5th October made for better engagement as well as innovative ideas that will drive the sector. There were round table discussions on the latest tourism trends as well as insights on how the sector can capitalize on technology to drive business. For instance, one of the meetings was about the significance of storytelling in driving business achievement. Presently, local storytellers form an integral part of telling the African story in a way that is meaningful and memorable. However, this can only work when the main drivers of tourism such as travel agencies, tourism boards as well as hotels and other accommodation facilities recognize the value of stories and the people who narrate them in defining the travel experience. The last day of the event tackled the role of big data in informing the future of responsible and sustainable tourism. Data drives a great percentage of decision making and is vital to ensure proper planning, which consequently assists in maintaining the delicate balance between profitability and sustainability. Through its matchmaking programme, the MKTE 2019 event targeted to deliver over 5,000 confirmed meetings. A standby matchmaking team was at the hosted buyers lounge to assist with this in case one needed assistance with their appointments. “MKTE affords our partners the opportunity to access a gathering of Africa’s tourism leaders, policy makers, global buyers, local and international media,” said KTB CEO Dr. Betty Radier. “It is becoming a must-attend event for travel trade regionally and beyond.” Other tourism boards that also participated in the event and sought to position themselves as major destinations in the region were from South Africa, Rwanda, Seychelles and Uganda. NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019

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NEWS

LAMU CULTURAL FESTIVAL 2019 Held annually in November, The Lamu Cultural Festival brings together both local and international tourists for the three to four day event that culminates in a famous dhow race. The festival is a celebration of both the past and future, and the beliefs and traditions that are the very heart and soul of the Lamu community. Several competitions, races and activities are often showcased, and these include traditional Swahili poetry, henna painting, bao competitions, swimming races, donkey races, traditional artisan craft making, traditional dancing and music as well as a chance to sample local cuisine. Most visitors to the island fall in love with its relaxed and peaceful lifestyle, and visiting during the Lamu Cultural Festival is a chance to experience Lamu life at its most exuberant and joyous. Look out for this year’s dates on www.lamu.go.ke

RUSINGA FESTIVAL 2019

The 8th edition of the Rusinga Festival will be taking place on 19th and 20th December on Rusinga Island, - one of the gems on Lake Victoria. Expect two days of music, fashion, film, food, artistry, literature, sports and conversations that take you back in time into the wealth of the Suba culture. The 2019 edition is tailored along the theme “The Island Remembers” – which gives us a reason to reminisce, celebrate, re-imagine and connect Rusinga Island to the world through art, culture and literature. It will be interesting to see how the theme plays out in conversations on tourism, culture, identity, art, theatre, film, fashion, entrepreneurship, leadership, environment, disability, technology, women and youth empowerment, health, gender and so on throughout the festival. Connect with their page on Facebook.

The first ever cycling race within the streets of Nairobi will take place on 1st December 2019. This event will bring together over 1,000 professional and recreational cyclists to raise funds towards planting one million tree seedlings in Mt Kenya and Ngong forests. The event encourages participation from cyclists through corporate teams while serving as an opportunity for elite, professional, amateur and recreational cyclists within the sport to compete and enjoy this sport which has been increasing in popularity. This event is poised to become a marquee event for both spectators and athletes. Race categories include: Elite race, Amateur & MTB Race, Family Fun Ride and Corporate Team Race. Register on grandnairobibikerace.co.ke

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Image courtesy www.grandnairobirace.co.ke

THE GRAND NAIROBI RACE


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December early bird offer,15% discount for bookings confirmed before November 15th 2019.

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SILVERPALM SPA & RESORT EXPERIENCE Bofa Road, Kilifi P.O. Box 41247-80100, Mombasa | Tel: +254-780745837 /+254 707745837, info@silverpalmkilifi.co.ke | www.silverpalmkilifi.co.ke

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SEGERA RETREAT UNVEILS ALL-FEMALE ANTI-POACHING UNIT

Pictures: Joe Wahome, Taran Gehlot

Joe Wahome On 21st September 2019, Segera Retreat witnessed a colourful passing-out parade of 12 ladies from the surrounding communities who had been training for the past six months to be East and Central Africa’s first all-female anti-poaching and conservation ranger unit. The women who are all mothers, some with little education, form the first unit of its kind in this region after the success stories of the Black Mambas and Akashinga Rangers in Southern Africa. The ceremony was graced by, among others, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, the founder of Segera and the Zeitz Foundation, Jochen Zeitz, and the Segera community. CS Balala thanked Jochen Zeitz and the Zeitz Foundation for providing financial support for the establishment of the unit and said it was clear that women can protect the environment just as well as men and all that they need is support and opportunity. “The training of the 12 female rangers who we are about to see pass-out today is a testament that women can also thrive in this male dominated industry,” said CS Balala at the occasion. “I challenge other conservancies to emulate them so that more women are recruited in such academies” “Education, women empowerment, community engagement and conservation are some of the pillars of the Zeitz Foundation and Segera. The Ranger Initiative and Academy is just one example of how we can create employment, sustainable income as well as encourage women empowerment,” said Mr Zeitz. “In communities that have coexisted with wildlife for generations, women are natural custodians of the environment and astute managers of resources due to traditional responsibilities of providing for their families,” he added. The ladies underwent tough training in different parts of the country and demonstrated some of their acquired skills to the audience. These included self-defense, intelligence gathering, map reading, tracking, communication, mission planning and execution, first aid and community outreach. Virginia Senteiya, one of the rangers, said that women should be given equal opportunities with men and that the unit has proven that conservation is no longer a man’s world. She challenged the head of security not to send the women on joint patrols with their male colleagues

because both parties are equally well trained. Damaris Ngini, a mother of two who dropped out of school in class two thanked the Zeitz Foundation for giving her the opportunity in spite of her modest education background. “I was doing menial jobs around the Segera area and had no say in my community because it is said that women are only good at raising families and tending to our livestock. I now have an opportunity to give back to society and my kids will have a chance at a better life,” Damaris said. The confidence the ladies had could not go unnoticed from the way they presented themselves, spoke, did their drills and handled the attention they were getting from guests and family members. “I saw the interview videos way back in April and I can’t believe the progression the ladies have made. They were unsure, intimidated, some looked outright scared but now they are confident, can express themselves better and are ready to mix it up with the male ranger team due to the good training they got,” Jochen Zeitz said. Their trainer, Shane Sargeant, is a former French Foreign Legion Paratrooper, British Parachute Regiment, Special Forces and 22 SAS member and has been training rangers for 30 years. For this intense course for the ladies, Shane was reliant on his military background but also used yoga and meditation which he has himself been practising for 18 years. The selection process lasted for 10 days and what he was looking for was inner strength, self-discipline and an ability to learn regardless of the educational background. A new chapter is slowly being written in Laikipia’s conservation effort and it is great to see that local women will be playing a key and direct role unbridled by cultural practices and traditions.

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NOTES FROM THE BUSH

THE CONCEPT

OF TIME

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After a visit to Olorgesailie prehistoric site, Samantha du Toit wonders how to break the centuries down to young children who still think waiting for two ‘sleeps’ for a beloved Auntie to visit seems an age.

ime is a tricky concept to grasp at any age. As an adult, imagining hundreds of years is hard enough. For the children, I have noticed that even hours and days can be hard to grasp. To our four-year-old, waiting for two ‘sleeps’ for a beloved Auntie to visit seems an age; to our eight-year-old, Christmas seems too far away to even bear thinking about and yet ‘ten more minutes’ in the pool is always too short. Questions such as ‘how many days is one hundred hours?’ and ‘did Grandpa exist one hundred years ago?’ seem to be a common line of enquiry at the breakfast table. I suppose this is to be expected given our recent visit to the Olorgesailie pre-historic site. Having driven past so many times over the past few years, we decided we should take some time to visit the site once again and link up with researchers from the Smithsonian Institute, whose work we have been following as a family for many years. Time now takes on a new dimension. How to explain to the children that this stone tool, or this ancient Oryx-like jaw bone that

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they can see in the excavation trench, is around between 350,000 and 500,000 years old? How many of Grandpa’s lifetimes is that? Can we as adults even imagine what these very savannahs might have looked like at that time, when our human ancestors and large mammals roamed across the very landscape we are walking on at this moment? What would an elephant look like that is one and a half times the size of the ones we see near camp? How did people use these basic stone tools to help them with daily chores? But then, to learn about the famous fossil excavation sites of Laetoli and Olduvai, which lie just over the border in Tanzania, threw our time scales out the window even further. In Laetoli in particular, is the fascinating discovery of the first evidence of ancient hominids walking on two feet. There were three of them, walking Northwards together across a muddy ash plain which sealed their steps for, wait for it children, 3.6 million years. There are other footprints there too, of over twenty different animals, ranging from Guinea-fowl to elephant, pigs to rhinoceros. Scientists say the landscape

of the Rift Valley today does not look so different from that time, when ancient beasts and the dawn of humanity crossed paths, right in this same place we as a family now call home. As I watch the sun sink behind the Rift Valley wall that evening, I can’t help but be struck by the idea that the landscape around me is not only really and truly the cradle of mankind as they say, but a story of coexistence between man and beast over time. And time in this case I will simply categorise as past and present. Our Maasai neighbours today coexist with wildlife, many of which look similar to species found in the fossil records. What the future holds is what of course I do not know, but I can only hope that the coexistence that has been evident for the last 3.6 million years ago will not disappear in the next generation. 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.


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NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 *This offer is only valid for bookings made between 23rd August and 15th December 2019 for stay between 23rd August and 15th December 2019. Other booking terms and conditions apply.

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BABY ON

BOARD! Anna Wughanga shares her no-holds barred account of travelling to Venice, Italy, three months postpartum, with a baby in tow

D

espite our love for travel, a high-risk pregnancy resulted in my partner Alex and I staying home for most of the pregnancy, with the exception of a weekend trip to Salzburg for a friend's wedding. Following the birth and trying initial postpartum period, we needed a break. My birthday, coming up in a few months, was the perfect excuse for a short trip. Alex began planning a surprise.

Additionally, I carried a few diapers/wipes and bought more in Venice. While I was unaware of the final destination, I asked Alex about the accessibility there. Following his response, I decided against taking baby chairs. Instead, we packed two baby carriers, one for each of us, and wore our son for the duration of the trip. After baby-related luggage concerns, packing was a breeze. Per our minimalist lifestyle, we packed a few neutral bottoms and a change of tops and accessories to introduce variety. With limited time, sleep and both mental and luggage space, minimalism is a top tip for new parents.

You Don't Know Baggage Until You Have A Baby! When packing, I use the ‘rollem-up’ method where you simply roll up your clothes in your bags as opposed to folding them. This helps maximise on space and has served me wonderfully in the past. I was however simply not prepared for the amount of equipment that comes with babies. Prior to birth, I had made the decision to avoid any unnecessary baby-related purchases, but still, the bottles, diapers, wipes, breastfeeding and changing equipment as well as baby clothes were overwhelming.

Getting There We could either take a twohour flight or a seven-hour train ride to get to Venice. Both options cost a similar amount. It may seem like a no-brainer to choose the flight, but oh baby! Our son was barely three months old at the time, which meant incessant crying. The prospect of being stuck in the air with a wailing baby and judgemental passengers was highly unappealing. Moreover, pressure changes in the cabin can be very distressing, even painful, for babies. We therefore

As I was exclusively breastfeeding at the time, I opted to leave all bottles behind and feed my son on the go. This saved a lot of space.

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KENYAN TRAVELER

decided on the OBB train. We booked two first-class return tickets (babies travel for free). At each border, passport control will look at your documents. As a non-EU individual (I am Kenyan), be prepared for closer scrutiny when traveling in Europe given the migrant crisis and right-wing populist wave sweeping the continent. You either need a Schengen Visa, depending on your travel plans, or a residency card to move freely within the continent. We arrived at the Venice Santa Lucia railway station, the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia. We avoided the additional commute from the airport to the island city, emerging right into the heart of Venice, with beautiful views of the Grand Canal as our welcome! Our Stay We stayed at the Hotel Carlton Capri Venice. It is a small boutique sister hotel to the Grand Carlton. We decided on it because it is cheaper than the Grand Carlton with access to the same amenities. Additionally, we find that smaller hotels are more willing to accommodate any special requests or considerations you may have when traveling with a baby. Lastly, the hotels’ location, next to the Grand Canal but dwarfed by the larger Grand Carlton, meant it was pretty quiet. Since Venice can get pretty loud, this was a priority. The room was relatively small but this is in line with Venezian standards. It cost $500 for a two-night stay in the superior rooms, breakfast included. Ciao Venezia! Romantic, otherworldly and unique are just a few words you can use to describe

Romantic, otherworldly and unique are just a few words you can use to describe the sinking city on the coast of Italy.

the sinking city on the coast of Italy. Our first stop was the Rialto bridge. Tourists and locals alike fill the streets, taking in the stunning architecture while snacking on the decadent gelato that Venice is famous for. Afterwards we walked to Piazza San Marco, which is the principal public space on the island. Here, we took in the winged lions atop the Basilica San Marco, transfixed by the intricate architecture of the Torre dell’ Orologio (clock tower), the Campanile and Doge's Palace. As with all things Venice, human traffic is immense so be prepared for crowds. Walking to Rialto Bridge and St Marks Square was exhausting. We had pizza for dinner then got lost as we tried to find our way back. Venice is a labyrinth with small alleys, waterways and numerous campi. To a couple of sleep-deprived parents with a screaming baby, the streets might as well have been interchangeable. The

language barrier meant asking for directions was pretty much pointless and when we desperately needed it, we had no internet connection! We bought a physical map and after enough bickering, nervous breakdowns and seriously sore feet, we were finally in our room. The next day we went to see the historic Jewish Ghetto which is filled with intriguing culture. We had lunch at the boutique Hotel Ai Mori D’Oriente which lies along a small canal. Here, we had the quintessential Venezian meal right next to the water; creamy pasta, freshly baked bread, exquisite cheese, crisp wine complete with fruits and vegetables, under the Italian sun. Prices were relatively steep but the meal was worth it. Thereafter we walked to the end of the Island where we could clearly see that it is in fact sinking. We walked into the direction of the main square, towards the famed Rialto Fish Market which was on my must see-list. Taking in the sights and sounds of the historic city, we mentally prepared for our departure the next morning.

Additional Tips • •

• •

Wear comfortable shoes. Where possible, breastfeed your child on the go. I was babywearing, and with the help of a breastfeeding cover, I nursed as we walked. Wear your baby. If you are considering traveling to Venice with a toddler, be aware that there is open water virtually everywhere. Buy a physical map.

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GLOBETROTTERS

BIKER

GIRL Text by Faith Kanja

Grace Mwari is an off-road motorcycle tour guide at Offroad Adventure East Africa. She takes riders for safaris in little known places to experience wildlife, culture and the most spectacular scenery. She is currently the only female enduro racer in Kenya and has been riding for the last five years. Her first ride was the Leh Ladakh region in the Himalayas. She has since ridden in South East Asia, Southern Africa, East Africa, Morocco and parts of Europe.

What do you love most about travelling via motorcycle? I love the freedom that comes with it. Biking offers me access to places less travelled and is quite affordable and fun. How did you get into motorcycles? A friend encouraged me to try it out and consequently embarked on training me. Around that same time, I had housemates who were riders and they thought I was capable of doing it. I was living and working in India and when they invited me on a trip to the Himalayas, I did not think twice about it. I got hooked after that trip and have been riding ever since. What have been some of your most memorable expeditions so far? I did a four month expedition through India, Nepal and most of South-East Asia. This trip was part of my maiden ride to the Himalayas, and it started north of Delhi in a place called Manali. We rented our Royal Enfields and started the journey riding on some of the world’s highest motorable roads and mountain passes such as the Khardung Later pass. We rode through Leh Ladakh, ending the trip on a houseboat in Dal Lake. It was physically and mentally demanding. I had an accident on the third day when I hit a rock and literary flew off the bike, landing in a pool of freezing water. A nice Tibetan family took care of me. Their Tibetan butter tea definitely kept us from freezing. My “bike packing” all over South-East Asia was also amazing. For most countries, I had to enter by air and rent out a bike. Food in Laos and Myanmar reminded me of home. I also visited Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and more. I had some challenges traveling solo as an African woman but I’m glad to have seen beautiful places, made new friends and experienced different cultures. My Morocco trip marked my first ride on desert sand. Jordi Arcarons, a Dakar legend, taught us what it takes to ride in the biggest dunes of the Sahara. While in Europe I enjoyed riding through the mountains near Madrid in Miraflores De La Sierra.

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What’s it like taking on solo adventures? Having company is good but solitude is also valuable. In addition to the convenience of riding at my own pace, I also get to learn how to do motorcycle fixes on my own. Most people are genuinely happy and excited when they see a woman riding but there are also a few occasions during my cross country rides when I have met really hostile men who felt I shouldn’t be riding. Any interesting encounters you’ve had on the road? I broke my chain when riding at 130km/ hr south of Tanzania... It was raining and there was no town within a 200km radius. Luckily a friend came to my rescue! When I took on a solo ride to the northern frontier on the Matthews Range, I had an encounter with bandits between Wamba and Maralal. They took all the cash and water I had then let me go. I have also ridden unknowingly into a war zone between the Myanmar army militias 20km from the Chinese border in the Kachin State. You are currently the only female enduro racer in Kenya...how did you get into it and what's that like? When I returned home from India, I met Yuri

and Yuki of Dirt Masters who invited me for their weekend off-road rides. I bought my first dirt bike and tried out one of their enduro race events. Aside from being fun, I got to improve my skills during the races. It usually feels great when I get ahead of some male participants because there is no special treatment . What are some of your top tips on travelling via a motorcycle? Carry a map and have a tentative plan for checking distances between gas stations. Pack light but bring appropriate clothing for riding and when you’re off the bike. For offthe-beaten path adventures, ride responsibly; mind the people and animals that are using the same tracks. Bring enough water and energy snacks. Be prepared for unexpected weather and pack some tools and spare parts. How has travelling impacted you? Travelling has helped me grow mentally, built my confidence, helped me make memories and appreciate my home country of Kenya even more. I have also met the nicest and most humble people who give meaning to the sense of humanity. I have learnt so much from them.


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LAMU

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SOMETHING OLD SOMETHING NEW Lamu has it all: stunning seafront hotels, untouched beaches, palm trees, traditional dhows, friendly people, exotic birds and more. We revisit this Kenyan favourite through the iconic Peponi Hotel. TEXT: WENDY WATTA PHOTOGRAPHS: BRIAN SIAMBI


LAMU

Back home to roost

Ever since I first set foot on the pristine shores of Lamu in 2016, it has become my favourite place in Kenya. So much so, in fact, that I have returned at least twice every year since then. For someone who grew up in Kenya, and a keen traveler at that, one might wonder why it took so long to visit. While this storied archipelago has long been a playground for royals and Hollywood’s elite, particularly in the 80s, it hadn’t been marketed much to domestic travelers until recently. Most of us didn’t think there was much to see beyond Malindi. Add in the steep cost of flights to the island coupled with the rough and unsafe roads, and you can see why the average Kenyan traveler would never have ventured out.

I

actually first learned about Lamu via Instagram, which is as millennial as it gets. It was a place of many firsts. I went on my first ever dhow cruise here, an activity that has become a must-do on every subsequent trip. It was here that I first dabbled in yoga which I became really good at before quitting altogether. In lamu I made a lot of friends, which speaks to the kind of community here; from store keepers and yoga teachers to fishermen and homeowners, and more. Lamu to me is the kind of place that you can arrive in as a solo traveler, stay a week and leave knowing pretty much everyone in town. Another year, I decided to stay for a month at the remote Mike’s Camp in Kiwayu, at first to help with digital marketing but soon, because there was not much to do, learning how to cook with the chef, whipping up cocktails behind the bar and going deep sea fishing with some long-staying Swedish guests. I wasn’t very good at this gig towards the end and started to crave some semblance of civilisation. When I met Isabelle, the French owner of the famed Forodhani House, who popped around the camp for lunch and invited me to spend a couple of days with her, her husband Anwar and some friends at their house in Shella, I happily obliged. That very night they threw an epic party complete with traditional drummers and a flame thrower, attended by locals and tourists alike. I continued to mingle with all sorts of people at the vibrant Peponi Hotel, the only place in town which served cocktails at the time; excellent ones at that. My annual trips to Lamu have taken me all over, from Majlis Hotel to Kizingoni Beach, but while I’ve had many a merry social outing at Peponi Hotel, possibly the most iconic place to stay in Shella, I had never ventured beyond its bar and restaurant. Don’t judge me...if you visit, you would understand why.

A hotel called Peponi

The three of us, Brian (Nomad’s photographer), Peter (videographer) and myself arrive at Manda Airport and find the boat captain from Peponi Hotel waiting. He helps us carry our luggage to his boat, we hop on and immediately set off for the hotel. A sense of nostalgia washes over me, and this quickly gives way to exhilaration. I cannot articulate the kind of joy that being on this island always brings me. As we advance upon the Swahili-meets-southern-Europe whitewashed seafront buildings of Shella, I spot some all-too-familiar places. We get off at a jetty, navigate some narrow alleyways above which bright red bougainvillea flowers bloom, and before I know it, I am having a complementary old pal cocktail served to me at Peponi. As far as check in counters go, this is pretty darn sweet; we’re taken through the usual stuff while sitting on a balcony looking out onto a sea dotted with boats and dhows, a stark contrast from the gloomy traffic of Nairobi only some two hours earlier.

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The boys get a two-bedroom apartment next to the pool. I am shown up to my own room, accessed via a staircase next to the kitchen area, a well-positioned casual-chic rooftop pad which sits right above the restaurant and comes with an impressive spacious balcony outfitted with two sunbathers, a swinging daybed and a pair of comfortable Swahili ‘proud chairs’, all looking out onto the sea. Every morning I wake up to catch the sunrise from this balcony. The views here could help a journo get through writer’s block, a singer compose their best work, and the works, and I’m not just being dramatic. Windows directly in front of the double bed also open out onto the sea, and through this opening, trade winds do the cooling. On another side, the window opens out to the garden, a rainbow of colours with white, red and orange flowers, towering green palm trees, boats bobbing on the water with the dance of the waves, the bird or two that flutter past every so often, and different shades of blue from the sky and the sea. In the evenings, this place comes alive as people from around Shella gather to mingle and drink, and I always find myself torn between being a silent merry observer or going downstairs to join in the fun. When I do join, I meet an Ethiopian couple, a Ghanaian writer, a local dhow captain, a Google Exec...all sorts, I tell you. I get a door key for my room, which I don’t even use for the duration of our stay. I meet Carol Korschen who currently runs the hotel at breakfast the next morning. I am tucking into a cheese omelette with toast and fresh passion juice while checking something on my phone when she appears, takes the phone from my hand and instructs me to take a moment to enjoy the meal and the view. Neither is lost on me. She is very hands on, and I often see her bustling through the restaurant, chatting up guests, exchanging a smile here and giving a recommendation there. After breakfast I ask her about the black canon facing the water out in the garden, one of several along the main wall of this hotel, the kind you’re likely to see at Fort Jesus. She tells me that the main house was built in the 30s as a fort to protect Lamu town. Shella village itself was actually in the present-day Takwa Ruins. There were a lot of territorial battles in the coast. “My parents-in-law had their farm in Rumuruti compulsorypurchased from them in 1966 and had gone to Malindi to have a last holiday before leaving the country,” she says. “There they learnt about this amazing house in Lamu that would make an amazing hotel. They flew here for a day, and three days later, they owned it.” Peponi opened on 20th March 1967 with four rooms, one of which now serves as the hotel shop. When her father-in-law later passed away, Carol’s husband Lars took over the management of the hotel and gradually started purchasing surrounding property to expand, and when he later married Carol, they would organically continue to expand to 28 rooms, all with sea views and unique layouts, as well as a pool which is only open to hotel guests. With Lars passing away in 2014, Carol has continued to run this fashionable hotel. Her two daughters can sometimes be seen doing the rounds whenever they are in Lamu. She credits a particular safari company for putting Lamu on the international map in the 70s and 80s, and while it is whispered that several renowned celebrities have stayed at Peponi through the years, she is tight lipped about their names.


The views here could help a journo get through writer’s block, a singer compose their best work, and the works, and I’m not just being dramatic.

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LAMU

Personalised service is one of the key attractions at Peponi with some guests having been returning for years, and this is evident in the restaurant which serves up an eclectic mix of seafood, pasta, meat and Swahili dishes. Even vegans are considered. Our dinners are often three or four courses of delicious concoctions in handsome portions. My favourite is the Swahili dinner, an experience in itself. We’re served at a private section of the restaurant with traditional Swahili-style seating in form of big red pillows on the floor, with a large sinia (tray) on the table as the centerpiece. Dining in this culture is often very communal. Then, out flows an array of food; pojo (green grams in coconut milk), mbaazi (pigeon peas in coconut milk), chapati, chicken and fish curries and kachumbari, and by the time we are done, we would have all moved to Lamu in an instant had someone asked. The next day we decide to explore. “People always say there isn’t much to do in Lamu, but I can keep you very busy,” says Carol, as she takes out a pen and draws us an itinerary based on our interests. By the time she’s done, I have no doubt. (www.peponihotel.com)

Turtle hatching

We take a speedboat through the mangroves and dock at the base of a gigantic sand dune. A ten minute walk leads us through a glade of shrubs past an old well where cattle still come to graze, and a simple Oromo homestead where some kids are playing a game of sticks and stones in the evening shade. Our group then walks out to a completely deserted golden stretch of beach begging for a barefoot excursion, with water too angry for even the most daring of swimmers. Another time, perhaps, as we’re here to see endangered green turtles hatching. This initiative to improve their chances of survival is by the Lamu Marine Conservation Trust, supported by the Tusk Trust. Sea turtles are such fascinating creatures as they will leave the water and come to the beach to lay eggs in the same spot where they were hatched. Wearing gloves, the guide begins to dig out the sand covering the nest, and shortly after, black, tiny turtles scurry out of the hole and start to flap their little flippers in the direction of the

sea, as though they can instinctively smell the water. After surviving natural predators like crabs, this is often a race to outrun birds and other hunters. After about three decades, the females of this generation will return to this very beach in Lamu to lay their eggs.

The birds that look like flowers in a tree

On our way back from watching the turtles, we hear the call of carmine bee-eaters and follow the sound to a mangrove with the old town in the background. When these little birds perch on the stems of the mangrove’s leaves, they look like bright flame-red flowers in full bloom, and might even pass for fruits. Their song is interrupted only by the nearby Floating Bar which is playing a familiar hip hop tune. The birds, said to “go to work during the day” and return to roost in the evening much like humans, however seem unperturbed by Jay Z. With the sun now setting behind the old town like an orange stroke of paint added to an already perfect painting, even those not often won over by birds and sunsets would admit that this is indeed a beautiful sight. Fun fact: When hunting bees, these birds will return to their perch and smash the insects into the branch, rubbing the abdomen to remove the venomous stinger before eating it. Just like the wildebeest migration in the Mara, they also follow the same annual migration route and keen birders often go to Botswana and other parts of southern Africa just to see them.

Sunset dhow cruise

This will simply never get old. A fleet of about seven boats gently gliding along. Breeze brushing against your skin. An old white sailing canvas unravelled somewhere mid-water to show the dhowowner’s art. Ours shows a young boy kicking along a football, and Peter, a passionate fan of the sport, is visibly pleased. The canvas on the dhow across from us simply asks, “Will you marry me?” You cruise along the sea, sipping a glass of merlot and being momentarily lulled out of your worries by soothing Taarab music, or whatever you can master on your Bluetooth speaker. You lie back on the pillows and look up at the sky as it changes from the most vibrant of orange to a pitch black, and suddenly it is time to get off the boat at the Shella jetty.

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LAMU

WHERE WE ATE

Diamond Beach Village

This castaway-chic property has affordable to mid-range accommodation, with plenty of lounging areas and hammocks. The prices are a big draw for backpacker types, and they are known for their variety of delicious pizzas from a wood-fired oven, movie nights every Friday and the occasional full moon party. They are moving away from frying food so expect dishes like the very healthy baked vegetables with fresh red snapper fillet and blanched spinach. www.diamondbeachvillage.com

Kijani Hotel Lamu

Kijani, meaning 'green' in Swahili is as a tropical oasis of indigenous plants and trees, nestled among swaying palms and makuti roofs. Family-owned, it came highly recommended for lunch, and Trisala who currently runs it with her boyfriend has done a fantastic job of revamping the menu with the chef. The spacious open-air restaurant overlooks the beach and on hot afternoons, the breeze here provides relief. The menu is very eclectic and covers various types of cuisine, with the seafood and pastas being a must-have. For dessert, you must try the moltenlava chocolate cake which takes a while but is absolutely worth the wait. www.kijani-lamu.com

Get to know: Maskani Youth Initiative

We head off on a walking tour of Shela, teaming up with Maskani Youth Initiative on the invitation of their passionate and animated founder, Hakim. If you’d like to get a glimpse of Lamu beyond the incredible seafront houses and the golden beach, this is recommended. Maskani translates to a shared hang-out space. The company has a Dada Swahili Cafe where people come in to eat but often end up staying to chat about the projects the company is involved in. I have come to find that the difference in the price of a piece of art in Shella sometimes just lies in the shop in which it is sold and not necessarily the talent, and Maskani is keen to give more local artists a chance to fetch fair prices for their work. There is an office space, a library that welcomes book donations, and more. They are involved in so many projects, including an anti-jigger campaign that has already done tangible work in the past year alone, and a beach clean up initiative that’s keen to keep Lamu kempt.

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MBH.CO.KE info@mbh.co.ke

+254 729 403 697 CALL/TEXT/WHATSAPP

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OLD TOWN ROAD

While staying at Subira House in Lamu Old Town, Wendy Watta delves into traditional Swahili architecture and, faced with a slowly evolving island, muses that some places should perhaps be left untouched. PHOTOGRAPHS BRIAN SIAMBI


LAMU

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LAMU

A

UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest continually inhabited town along the Kenyan coast, Lamu Old Town has retained its authentic Arabic architectural fabric as well as its social and cultural mores, making for a rich and authentic getaway. Women whisper by along the narrow alleyways in bui bui while men in simple kofia usher along donkeys (aka the local Ferrari) laden with everything from heaps of maize flour packets to construction bricks, as stray cats slink nonchalantly through the labyrinthine maze of streets. Following the stories I heard about the black cats in Mombasa as a child, how people in Lamu don’t recoil in terror when they see these cats is beyond me. This time we’re staying at Subira House which stands right behind Lamu Fort and is a key examples of Omani architecture of eras past. There are a few key structural differences with surrounding Swahili houses, including higher ceilings for self ventilation, the absence of zidaka niches and a more grandiose air about the space. The house is owned by Paul and Christina Aarts, a Dutch and Swede respectively who first met and fell in love in this very town. They then bought, renovated and ran an abandoned hotel in rural Sweden for almost 10 years, before later returning to Lamu to show their two children where they met. They had no plans to stay. An architect showed them Subira House whose owner was living in Oman at the time but was slated to visit soon. A meeting was set and in two weeks, they had an agreement, initially intending for the house to be a vacation home. In fact, they went back and continued running their hotel in Sweden for years after that. The house has been a passion project for this now elderly couple. They started restoring it, buying a lot of antiques and second hand items from local shops, finally deciding to make the move to the island in 2008. They have since extended the building which now has seven rooms spread across three spacious floors. It is a peaceful green heaven with plenty of potted plants in the open courtyard next to the ground floor dining area where we share all our meals with the owners as they regale us with stories of their time traveling in India. The food here is incredible and the restaurant has been known to draw people staying in other parts of the town, made even more so by the fact that the pair are into permaculture and have an organic farm where they grow a lot of the food whipped up by the chef. They say that the house was initially built

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as a palace of sorts for an Omani Liwali who was posted to the island by the Sultan of Zanzibar. He actually wanted to marry a girl from a rich family but wasn’t allowed to initially because his nobility wasn’t good enough for them. He eventually got the girl. At the entrance of the house is a dome. To the right sits a 12m long room called a sebule, with six windows to the street and with six arches. This is where he would receive people coming to see him about their issues. There is a long baraza outside which is where they would sit as they waited their turn. Being eco-certified, the house itself doesn’t use any water closets and the loos at therefore dry/recyclable. All toilets in lamu have no drainage given the age of the houses. I am curious to find out more about architecture in this town, so Paul hires one of his go-to guides to show us around. Being a muslim town, the best time to go on a walking tour is in the morning as the town generally comes to a close at 12:30pm. We kick off at the waterfront mosque, Msikiti wa Pwani, said to be almost 900 years old. It gets its name from a high wall which would keep away the water during high tide. The shoreline has since receded. The alleyways are narrow because when they houses were constructed, no one fathomed that there would one day be cars. In between the art galleries and stores like Natural Lamu (where I buy natural soaps and spices), it is the architecture of the houses and set up of the town that I find most fascinating. Stone houses made in the 18th and 17th century are still intact. Some are made from dead coral and plastered with limestone. Most houses have wells for fresh water. Neighbours would join their higher balconies so they could visit each other without having to go downstairs, and for us, these “roofs” provide respite from the heat. Each house has a front porch raised a little above the street level and lined with barazas where people could hang out with the house owner before going about their day. An intricately carved wooden door (there’s a woodwork section in town, in case you’re keen to see how they are made) opens to an inner porch overlooking a courtyard, if the family has space. For ventilation, parallel galleries regulate the breeze. There is no modern-day drainage system so bath water runs through narrow channels constructed into the side of each house, depositing into the sea. Some houses have a birika, a bath which is filled with water and looks like a little pond, complete with tiny fish said to ward off mosquitoes and keep the bath clean. Zidaka niches are outfitted with decorative porcelain plates and metallic incense holders. It is such a stark difference from Nairobi. Our guide gets us some labaneer, a really sweet candy made with milk, sugar and cardamom, and as I tear off a piece

out on the street, I can’t help but think about how much Lamu is changing (or how this sweet could give me diabetes). This thought continues to run through my mind when, back on the balcony of my room at Subira House, a delightful chorus of evening birds is interrupted by rap music blaring from a boda boda in the alleyway below. These motorbikes that whizz past on the narrow streets, jostling for space with pedestrians, so out of place in this ancient backdrop. In a fast changing world where everything is moving towards modern technology and big hotels, perhaps we should leave Lamu untouched. It is a pearl to be polished and looked after, as it is its innocence that still continues to attract visitors in a shoreline with so many other splendid beaches. I want to enjoy its present state while I still can. And so I sit on the rooftop of Subira House tucking into freshly baked bread with a delicious homemade jam whose recipe I’ve already slipped into my pocket, taking in the surrounding sea of houses and listening to the innocent song of nursery-age kids singing their ABC’s in a nearby class.


IN A FAST CHANGING WORLD WHERE EVERYTHING IS MOVING TOWARDS MODERN TECHNOLOGY AND BIG HOTELS, PERHAPS WE SHOULD LEAVE LAMU UNTOUCHED. IT IS A PEARL TO BE POLISHED AND LOOKED AFTER, AS IT IS ITS INNOCENCE THAT STILL CONTINUES TO ATTRACT VISITORS IN A SHORELINE WITH SO MANY OTHER SPLENDID BEACHES. NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019

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PLACES TO STAY

WHERE TO STAY LAMU Photography: Brian Siambi and Respective Properties

KILIMAWINGU HOUSE A Parisian couple fell in love with Lamu in the late 90s and bought this exceptionally charming house which was then converted into a private holiday home. The almosttriangular pool is set in a lush green garden dotted with vibrant bougainvillea flowers. Renovations have since been made to make the house very child-friendly with guarded staircases, balconies and a wood-fenced pool. It can accommodate up to 16 guests in eight characterful double/ twin rooms spread across several floors, with numerous stylish lounging areas. Their kitchen makes the best shortbread cake in the area. Book via www.eastafricanretreats.com MNARANI HOUSE, SHELA ‘Mnarani’ means ‘near the minaret’ in Swahili and this house stands next to Shela’s historic Friday Mosque, around 75 metres from the beach. It was renovated in 2014, one of the new additions being a lovely courtyard pool. Expect walls of intricate zidaka niches, decorative plaster friezes and traditional painted hardwood roof beams. On the ground floor is the kitchen and bar area while the first and second floors have the four ensuite double bedrooms. Rooms are beautifully decorated and furnished in traditional style, including original antique Swahili doors and windows brought from Pate Island. www.lamuislandproperty.com MAMA DAKTARI HOUSE This is where the ‘Flying Doctor’ Anne Spoerry resided from the late 1960s in between her medical expeditions.The house has two suites and is connected to Betty’s Suite (double room, set on the rooftop, with an impressive private infinity pool) and Garden House (recently renovated, has two ensuite double rooms and has front row sea views). It’s master bedroom is the highest point of the property with an outstanding view of the channel. The property also hosts Kiwandani House which has a pool that guests to Mama Daktari may have access to. www.themoonhouses.com

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THE BEACH HOUSE This magnificent private home sits in a commanding position above Shela beach and offers wonderful ocean views making for the perfect retreat for 12-14 guests. On the first floor, raised up above beach level, is a stunning infinity pool – it has a bar area and low comfortable baraza seating and sunbeds. Up the first flight of stairs is a large dining and living room. Another door leads onto the wooden deck above the pool – a perfect dining area – and to two double bedrooms with their own private sea-view terraces. www.eastafricanretreats.com

MSAFINI HOTEL Built in 2007, Msafini is owned and run by a local family who have been living in Lamu for several generations. The limestone, five-storey structure combines modern architecture and traditional Swahili design for an authentic yet comfortable stay. Mango Rooftop Restaurant boasts views of the entire village, the sand dunes, Manda Island and the sea. Enjoy made-to-order breakfasts, lunch or dinner on top of possibly the tallest building in Shela. The rooftop is breezy and serene, and the food is delicious. The hotel can easily take groups and conferences. www.msafinihotel.co.ke LAMU HOUSE On the edge of Lamu town, this stylish hotel offers quiet seclusion away from the fray. The entrance opens up into a charming open courtyard, several swimming pools and petal-bedecked seating. Some rooms overlook the seafront, giving a quite different perspective on a Lamu sunrise. All the rooms are different, each with its own character and a private terrace.The restaurant overlooks the sea and serves international cuisine. The apartment building is minutes away through the narrow streets of town. There are nine apartments with magnificent views, suited with all the comforts of a modern facility. www.lamuhouse.com

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Season Guide                                                                     Â  

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GABON: LONG ROAD TO LOPÉ NATIONAL PARK Gabon is a country of impenetrable rainforests, wild coastlines teeming with marine life and home to some of the most elusive species on the continent. It is Africa’s Eden. Maurice Schutgens heads out in search of elephants in one of Gabon’s most spectacular wildernesses.

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DISPATCH

For reasons I still do not know, Patrice decided this was the perfect moment to practice his elephant trumpeting skills. The elephants didn’t hesitate and charged.

I

have dreamt of visiting Gabon for decades, but somehow it has always been just out of reach. No longer. As the plane started its descent into Léon-Mba International Airport the vast Congo Basin came into view. Broccoli as far as the eye could see. Simply mesmerising. Libreville, French for “Freetown”, is Gabon’s unassuming capital city of about a million souls. Situated directly on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in the protected Estuaire of Gabon, it exudes a supremely relaxed vibe. One that just happens to be extremely appropriate for the stifling equatorial humidity. We headed straight for the refuge of La Tropicana, a simple hotel with dark wood paneled rooms situated on a picturesque stretch of beach in the middle of Libreville that has become a favourite amongst expats visiting the country. With only a day in the city, we were excited to be immersed into what Libreville had to offer. We navigated our way through the manic traffic on the oceanfront boulevard, swinging past the extravagant yet imposing golden glass Palais Presidentiel, built by the late President Bongo in the 1970s. Sadly, visitors are not allowed inside and any attempts at photography would also be considered a major faux pas. We quickly moved on to marvel at the architectural wonders of the Ministry of Mines and Petrol building which is positively futuristic. As evening fell we strolled along the beach to La Voile Rouge, one of the most popular restaurants serving mouth-watering dishes with a French flair best consumed in the warm sea breeze. Next morning, after a Parisian breakfast of Pain au Chocolates, croissants and excellent French coffee at Chez Paul situated on Boulevard Quaben, we departed Libreville heading for one of Gabon’s premier national parks: La Lopé, a Unesco World Heritage Site. While a six hour stint aboard the famous Trans Gabon Railway is the easiest way to make it to Lopé, the night-time departures from Libreville’s Owendo Station mean that you miss the opportunity to appreciate the stunning scenery through which you travel. Instead we opted for a sturdy landcruiser. As a result we quickly became intimately acquainted with the affectionately known Gabonese massage. The road out of Libreville deteriorated with an insatiable appetite as massive potholes erupted all around us. Despite slowing to a crawl, our bodies were still regularly flung through the cabin. It didn't matter, however, as I stared out of the window at the tunnel of vivid and vibrant greens. After about four hours we pulled into the town of Ndjolé, situated on the banks of the Ogooué river, the fourth largest in Africa. Ndjolé was never going to win any aesthetic awards but there was still a special reason for interrupting our journey east: lunch. Down by

the river there was an open-air kitchen of sorts with individual stoves, each presided over by a chef. It was a hectic affair. The moment we arrived we were pounced upon with offers from deliciously slow cooked meats to oily potato chips and deep fried bananas, each served with a smile. As our journey continued eastwards, somewhere along the way we passed the village of Junkville (pronounced Chengué-ville). An up and coming metropolis it was not - take my word for it. We plunged ever deeper on worsening roads, the rain making a muddy mess ahead of us. Yet, somehow the lowhanging fog made it a hauntingly beautiful experience. By mid-afternoon we were settled into some simple cottages situated just outside of Lopé village. Suddenly Patrice, the caretaker, came to fetch us. He had spotted a couple of forest elephants tucked away just beyond the clearing. This was too good an opportunity to miss! We followed enthusiastically, albeit cautiously. He beckoned us closer until we were no more than 15m from them. There they stood, three of them - completely unaware of our presence, feeding peacefully. For reasons I still do not know, Patrice decided this was the perfect moment to practice his elephant trumpeting skills. The elephants didn’t hesitate and charged. We turned and ran, slipping and sliding through the mud, the animals hot on our heels. From the safety of the cottages we watched the elephant signalling its displeasure one final time at the edge of the clearing before slinking away into the darkness. Patrice was in stitches of laughter on the ground. Come sunset we headed into Lopé National Park with the conservateur, in search of elephants, gorillas and whatever else this magical place had to offer. It was the golden hour. The undulating savannahs, framed by the Ogooué River, turned a vibrant shade of yellow. The gravel crunched happily under our tyres. It was one of those Ernest Hemmingway moments. We headed deeper into the park, dropping down into dense forested patches in the valleys. We stopped the car and listened and looked with bated breath but the elusive gorillas were nowhere to be seen. All I wanted was a fleeting glimpse of one of the estimated 25,000 gorillas, but it was not to be. As we emerged out onto another patch of savannah, the sky was turning a deep shade of purple, tall trees of an ancient primary forest creating silhouettes on the horizon. Suddenly out of nowhere, a sound erupted from the tall grass to our left. It was two forest elephants. They had been spooked by our sudden appearance. The elephants and I stared at each other, one of them lazily lifting its trunk to taste the air. Then just as quickly as they had appeared they disappeared into the undergrowth. As the night closed in around us, I promised myself I would return to see what else Gabon had to offer.

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Weekend away

FROM DAR

Tanzanian Photographer Osse Grecca Sinare shares stunning photos from his favourite spots and hotels ideal for a quick weekend jaunt away from Dar es Salaam.

Kilwa

Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, Kilwa was one of the most important trading sites on the Indian Ocean during the 11th to 16th centuries. Located on the southeastern coast of Tanzania, it may not be a widely popular spot with tourists but it is its history that is one of the most interesting things about it. The town is divided into Kilwa Kivinje, Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kisiwani. Kilwa Masoko is the most developed town and the regional hub whilst Kilwa Kivinje and Kilwa Kisiwani have spectacular historical attractions. Kilwa Kisiwani is reached by dhow and has an amazingly well preserved collection of ruins. The most striking sight is the old Omani Fort, which is built on the foundations of an old Portuguese fort. The Big Mosque dates from the 12th Century and was once the largest mosque in East Africa. Stay at Slow Leopard Hostels which is perfect for bigger groups and backpackers.

Gran Melia Arusha

Chemka Maji Moto

Also known as Kikuletwa Hot Springs, This little oasis is deservedly famous and a must-visit spot off the main road between Moshi and Arusha. The place is a relaxing paradise with clear turquoise water and lush green surroundings. It’s a bit of a rough journey to get there from Moshi, but it’s definitely a memorable experience that’s well worth the trip. Entry fee is about Ksh 1,000 for nonTanzanians.

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Peace, balance and tranquility are some of the words you can use to describe the feeling you get while visiting Gran Melia. I found this place so special because the property’s main source of water is the river which flows through it, and the view from the hotel is also unmatched as it overlooks the second tallest mountain in Tanzania, Mount Meru. There is so much more to this place than meets the eye. An oasis within Arusha set out on 18 acres of beautiful landscaped coffee and tea plantations, the attention to detail in this stunning hotel is impressive.


WEEKEND AWAY

Matema Lake Shore Resort

If you love chocolate, Matema in southwest Tanzania is the place to visit. Surrounded by cocoa plantations, it is located in the Mbeya region in a striking area right by Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi). The road leading to the resort reminded me of Hawaii because of its lush green mountains, and the property is set right on the edge of the lake making for the utmost tranquility. Boating and other activities out on the water are also available.

Firefly Bagamoyo

While Bagamoyo is a well known destination for travellers, one of its most visited places would have to be Firefly. This spot, a camp and lodge set in a beautifully restored historic building, is both unique and serene. If a fun weekend filled with food, drinks, the occasional live music events, swimming and lounging in the sun sounds like an appealing getaway for you then this is the place to be. There are rooms and tents for those keen on a camping experience, while the staff will impress upon you their passion for the environment. Bagamoyo is an hour away from Dar es Salaam and is therefore an ideal location to drive out to for a relaxing weekend away from the city and be back at your desk on Monday morning.

Kilimanjaro Golf and Wildlife Estate

The avid golfers will be more than pleased. The golf course here, which faces Mt Meru and Kilimanjaro, is the first 18-hole championship golf course in Tanzania and is up to par with the most demanding international guidelines. It was designed by former Irish National Coach and Kenya Open Champion David Jones. Surrounded by astonishing natural beauty and spectacular views, it is a one of its kind experience with dramatic backdrops, challenging holes, fairways meandering through ponds and streams and all the comfort and service imaginable on offer. Step outside of your villa, meet up with your personal caddy and tee off to start an unforgettable experience

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COTTAR’S CELEBRATES 100 YEARS IN KENYA WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS WENDY WATTA

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Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp and bush villa: as the family celebrates a milestone, we look back at their history in Kenya.


SPOTLIGHT

F

rom the moment I picked up a book offered for entertainment in one of the tents at Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp, I get through the entire thing in one sitting as it makes for quite the captivating read. The beginning chapters chronicle the life of Charles Cottar, the writer’s (Calvin Cottar) great grandfather, described as a rebel often in search of the unregulated freedom afforded by wide open spaces, who, bored by the already won Wild West, was inspired to come to Kenya after reading Theodore Roosevelt’s book on his safari across Africa. Kenya turned out to be exactly what his restless soul yearned for. The early 1900s were a different time with a different set of regulations that would probably make a modern day conservationist recoil, but back then, wildlife hunting was legal, socially accepted and big business. Hunting, just like he did back in Oklahoma, Charles would set up Cottar Safari Services in 1919, specialising in filming, big game hunting and animal capture for circuses overseas. Chatting about filming safaris with Calvin Cottar, Charles’ great grandson who set up Cottar’s 1920 Safari Camp in the mid 90s with his wife Louise, he explains that

the earliest filming safaris were nothing like today. Animals were known to hide in the bushes. A photographer would therefore set up his equipment a little far off from the bush, and when he was ready, his counterparts would scare the animals and they would go charging towards the photographer who would get his pictures, fingers-crossed that he didn’t get trampled in the process. I see an old black and white advert; Big Game Hunting in Africa and Asia with Cottar Service. In it, a man on a horse, a pack of dogs charging in front of him, pursuing a leopard leaping over a bush close to the camera. Pictures of Charles show a man mauled by a leopard, later being killed by a charging rhino that he was trying to film in 1940. With the onset of wildlife conservation and management laws, the landscape has drastically changed. Calvin explains that when they set up in the mid-90s, there was a lot of poaching and insecurity in the Maasai Mara, and it was hard to ascertain that the money that was flowing in through tourism was actually doing good. At the time, he was a guide working with KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) which resulted in a lot of thinking about Kenya, its people and its lands. One of his tasks was to develop forums where landowners and communities had a voice in wildlife conservation policy. We have an interesting chat about the place of big game hunting in securing lands today, a story I am keen to follow up on. Set in Ol Derkesi Community Conservancy, Maasai Mara, the classically elegant ambiance in the tents draws inspiration from ‘old Africa’, with the tents being outfitted with colonial antiques, pops of colour coming from the bedding or cotton dhurries. The staff, most coming from the local community, have been with the family for decades. We stay at the five bedroom bush villa which has plenty of comfortable lounging areas and terraces, boasting unobstructed views of the surrounding savannah, best taken in from a hammock set on a ground floor lounging area. Perks include a staff of eight at your disposal, a private chef, a 25-metre private swimming pool, a dedicated game vehicle and guide (some of the best guides I have ever encountered on the numerous game drives I have been on) and WiFi. As I was there for the first-time unveiling and tasting of the Louis XIII Cognac in Kenya, we had a round of befitting sundowners and magical dinners out in the bush. I am also quite certain that I got married to a Maasai warrior during a dance I got swept up in at around 10:00pm around a bonfire. If all else fails, I will be returning to Cottar’s to find him. www.cottars.com

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WHAT I PACK

Lucia Musau is a luxury PR consultant and an award winning fashion and lifestyle blogger. She shares some of her travel essentials. A BOOK I carry a different book on each trip and like having hard copies, although I’m currently reading an e-book called ‘Contagious: Why Things Catch On” by Jonah Berger.

PERFUME I carry at least two on a trip. I’m currently loving the Tom Ford Rive d’Ambre. If it was a drink, it would be a limited edition. There’s also Chanel No. 5 which is an all-time classic.

CANON G7X MARK II I use this to take videos and photos of my family whenever we travel, not necessarily to share on social media but to for instance share those memories with my son when he’s older.

SUNSCREEN Protecting the skin is essential, and the Clinique SPF 50 sunscreen works well with my skin.

IPHONE X AND A TECNO PHONE These are great for capturing content I would like to share instantly to my social media pages. I carry a second phone for backup.

WATCH I wear one, always, even if I happen to be in a different time zone. I have a classic Daniel Wellington watch and the more fancy Cartier which I really love.

LIP GLOSSES Lately, I’ve really been loving the Fenty Gloss Bomb and Clarins’ lip oil. DOLCE & GABBANA SUNGLASSES I’m always wearing sunglasses whenever I travel. This pair is big, wide and super stylish.

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KENYAN FLAG BRACELET This is always such an ice breaker whenever I’m traveling in a different country. A fellow Kenyan might spot it and we can always strike up a conversation about home.


PAY W I T H M - P E S A

NAIROBI PIZZA WEEK 1ST - 10TH NOVEMBER 2019 T U R N TA S T Y I N T O TA S T I E R W I T H I N C R E D I B L E P I Z Z A & C O C A - C O L A D E A L S & 5 % C A S H B A C K W H E N Y O U PAY W I T H M - P E S A AT 1 0 0 + R E S TA U R A N T S

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LAST WORD

EXPENSIVE

LESSONS By Karanja Nzisa

E

arlier this year, my partner and I were scheduled to vacation in a tiny resort town on South East Europe’s Adriatic coast, so with just 14 days to my intended departure date, I gathered my duly filled visa application, supporting documents and frequent traveller bravado and went to the supporting embassy for submission. The office, a lean operation that felt more like visiting a family friend than an outpost for a foreign power was warm and welcoming. While there, I was lucky to meet the highest-ranking officials of the mission whose affability put me immediately at ease. After some light banter, rubberstamping and promises of “there shouldn’t be a problem” my file was accepted. That evening, I went straight home and confirmed with full payment, all the provisional bookings I had made. These included return tickets and my contribution for the accommodation costs. Such sweet folk these South East Europeans, they’d even agreed to retain a scan of my passport rather than the physical document itself as I was due for work travel that same week. There shouldn’t be a problem they said. With anticipation for my trip building up, I started to make frequent calls to the

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Embassy to track my application and when the responses from the lovely phone operator didn’t suffice, I used the personal numbers of my senior official friends which I had been able to source through my very reliable networks. Introducing myself to them, all protocols observed and whatnot, it became clear that what I always thought was a memorable presence I possessed wasn’t quite so as neither of them could remember me from our encounter less than two weeks before. There’s no telling you what a thing like that does to a man’s ego. Confident trooper that I am, I replayed conversations we had had in verbatim which jolted their memories in the same exact moment they remembered pressing matters that they had to attend to. In an almost rehearsed fashion, I was very diplomatically told to wait until they got back to me, goodbye. And so I waited. It went on like this for a few days until finally on my day of travel my anxiousness grew into desperation. When after my umpteenth attempt, one of my rafikis from the embassy answered the phone; it was to tell me that I must never call her again. Period. End of story. There’s a common phrase in the English language that’s used to denote that moment when it becomes clear that the universe is playing a sick joke on you, something about dawns and realisation. Well I can tell you that it is nonsense because the realisation

that there would be exactly zero visas for me that day pounded rather than dawned on me. After a small breathing exercise to regain control of my bearings, I swung into disaster management mode. My options were few and extreme but my enduring and noticeably irritated lover got on the phone with me from the U.A.E for a process of elimination. It was agreed that to cancel the holiday with no knowledge of when next my leave from work would be approved and with air tickets already paid for would be foolhardy which left me with only one course of action. We had to find a new destination for our holiday in a matter of hours. Naturally, we had booked accommodation on a cheaper, non-refundable policy so we didn’t get a single dime back for the cancellation. Then came the impossible task of finding a spot on the globe where the carrier servicing the second sector of my trip flew to that was visa exempt for me or could issue a visa on arrival. Because my partner is an employee of the airline, we could secure generous discounts, saving us from impending financial ruin ergo other airlines were out of the question. When we finally decided on Nepal and tickets were booked, I tore out of the office like a mad man, went home to finish packing and was on my way to JKIA. Still, I went on to have a most romantic emergency holiday and at the end of the day, it was I that had the last laugh.


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Nomad 023 October 2019