Julia's Kenya - November 2007

Kenya
November 2007

Getting there
Kenya Airways offers a midnight flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi, which we decided to choose in order to enjoy a full day in Mombasa on arrival. We landed 4 hours later in Nairobi at 06h00 (Nairobi is 1 hour ahead of SA time), tired but excited. We had to collect our luggage and proceed across the road to the domestic departures building for our flight to Mombasa, which departed at 08h30 to arrive 1 hour later at 09h30 in sunny Mombasa. There are also midday flights which arrive in the evening, and direct flights on Sundays. I thought that it was really nice to arrive in the early morning, but must admit that I was exhausted after having been awake throughout the night! Our transfer vehicle from Turtle Bay Beach Club was there to whisk us away to the Watamu area, 3 hours north of Mombasa, across the Likoni bridge. It is a scenic drive, past vast sisal fields, small towns and locals commuting on bicycles. The roads are slightly potholed, but good for most of the way nonetheless

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Turtle Bay Beach Club

Returning to Turtle Bay after 2 years was like coming home to paradise. Once again, the staff were so friendly and welcoming - and the resort has been newly renovated. The rooms are simple, but very comfortable. Turtle Bay is ideal for families, as children will be entertained all day by the Kid's Club, while parents can relax around the pool or laze under the mangrove trees on the white sand beach. The hotel is also popular with groups of friends, couples and honeymooners.

The all inclusive meals and local drinks option enables you to eat and drink to your heart's content - from buffet meals to all day snacks, from juice and sodas to cocktails and shooters - it's all included in the price! There is however an a la carte restaurant for that special romantic dinner...and South African wines are available from about R 150-00 a bottle. The pizza restaurant is also very popular, situated in a beautiful garden setting near a koi pond frequented by lots of tiny weaver birds.

There is one lovely swimming pool and beach loungers under umbrellas. Activities include scuba diving, snorkelling (boat trips recommended as there is not much to see when snorkelling from the beach), reef walks, beach volleyball, kayaks and pedalos. The excursion desk offers a wide range of highly recommended tours to local places of interest, such as Gede ruins, Hell's Kitchen, Malindi town and more. The nightly entertainment was lots of fun - jugglers, Masaai dancers, acrobats and the always popular disco ensured that evenings came alive.

Turtle Bay is relaxed and casual...a place to truly unwind and forget the stress of everyday life. I look forward to my next visit to this barefoot paradise retreat

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Turtle Bay Dive Center

November is an excellent time for diving the Watamu marine reserve. The water temperature was 26 degrees and the visibility was excellent. We did 2 dives per day and saw a wonderful variety of hard and soft corals, rays, eels, stonefish, lionfish and more.

The dive centre staff are professional and offer a personalised experience, with no more than 4 divers per dive guide. The boats and gear are of good quality and Turtle Bay dive centre offer an all round pleasurable experience. October to April is the best time for diving and whale sharks and manta rays are common during these months. Make sure you plan your holiday including plenty of time for diving, as you will want to spend many a day in these beautiful waters.

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Leisure Lodge Beach and Golf Resort

Approximately one and a half hours south of Mombasa airport, on the exquisite Diani beach strip, lies the unrivalled Leisure Lodge Beach and Golf Resort. Dreams really do become reality at Leisure Lodge, where your every whim will be catered to - in serious style! This upmarket resort has it all - 4 gorgeous swimming pools, beautiful gardens, koi ponds, several restaurants and bars, a casino and 18 hole golf course...what more could you possibly want?

We stayed in the truly divine Bustani VIP Club, where the food was exceptional and the entertainment classy. The rooms are superbly decorated and very large, with TVs, safes and bar fridges in every room. Leisure Lodge offers an unmatched level of comfort and taste. Various room types are available throughout the vast property. The beach is breathtaking - endless and white against the sparkling azure ocean. Waiters will serve you cocktails as you enjoy the view from your sun lounger, or try your hand at a game of table tennis or snooker in the beach bar.

This hotel can offer anything your heart desires - day tours and excursions, overnight safari tours, special events dinners, scuba diving, snorkelling, jet skis, tennis, beach volleyball, shopping and a spa. This exclusive hotel will make you feel like royalty. A stay at Leisure Lodge is a real treat!

 

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Dive the Crab

With dive bases at several hotels along the Diani strip, Dive the Crab are well equipped to offer fantastic service and great diving. The staff were really knowledgeable and made every effort to show me what I had asked to see under water - turtles, octopus, eels, snakes, barracuda, rays and a wonderful array of schools of fish.

Again, we did 2 dives per day. The large boats accommodate several groups of divers, but also in the ratio of 4 divers per dive guide, so that there is never a crowd on the reef. The equipment for rental was of excellent quality and I was thoroughly impressed with the professionalism and high safety standards of this reputable dive operator. Without question, I can highly recommend Dive the Crab for an unbeatable scuba experience.

The large variety of reefs available to dive make the Diani area an excellent choice for all levels of diver, as there are easy shallow dives for beginners and more challenging deeper dives and wall - type dives for more advanced divers. My favourite reefs are Tiwi Reef, with its fascinating overhangs, and Kinondo, the reef bursting with fish life. Ask to dive these sites - you will not be disappointed!

 

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MV Funguo Wreck Dive

I have to specifically mention this dive, as it is an absolute must do! Dive the Crab sunk this wreck to create a very special dive site. At a depth of 24 metres, I could not believe the amount of fish life we saw on this dive... stonefish, giant batfish, octopus, rock cod, lionfish, crocodile fish, barracuda...the list goes on. Without a doubt, this dive is one for the record books.

 

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Pinewood Village Beach Resort

Located at the end of the Diani beach strip, Pinewood Village Beach Resort is, as the logo says, a special place for special people. This intimate hotel really captures your heart, with its smiling staff and delicious food, the sand-in-your-toes lunch restaurant and the swim-up pool bar (my personal favourite!).

Pinewood Village is a peaceful place, with one swimming pool and a quiet stretch of beach where palm trees blow gently in the breeze. There is very little in the way of organised entertainment, so one can really enjoy the tranquillity of the surroundings. This lovely hotel is ideal for honeymooners or a romantic getaway.

An all inclusive meals and drinks option is available and highly recommended - as the food is superb and the cocktails tempting. A different buffet theme every night made dinner a well anticipated occasion, with the beach BBQ being the highlight of the week. Indulge in a massage or simply laze the days away by the beach or pool. Those seeking some action can enjoy a jet ski dolphin safari, scuba diving or a snorkelling trip.

Escape the pressure and noise and head to Pinewood Village to really get away from it all and just relax.

 

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SX Scuba

SX Scuba, the dive base at Pinewood Village, is fully equipped to offer you a great diving experience. With it's small and comfortable boats and good quality gear, you can dive Diani's abundant reefs without fear of crowds. We saw dolphins 3 times from the boat and I really enjoyed the diving. With flat seas, warm water and 20 metre visibility, you may just want to spend every day under water!

 

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Charlie Claw's Wasini Island

This is the ultimate day tour to do from any of the south coast hotels and is an absolute must do! We left the hotel at 07h00 and were driven to Shimoni slave caves for breakfast and a quick tour. Then we boarded the dhow for our day at sea - dolphin spotting and snorkelling in the dazzling blue water...what an unforgettable experience! We snorkelled out to a tiny beach in the middle of the ocean and enjoyed the brightly coloured corals and curious fish until we had worked up rather a large appetite...

The dhow took us to Wasini Island, where we were served giant red crabs and beer - never before has anything tasted so good. Followed by grilled coconut and fish, we lunched with our feet in the sand and the sea dancing before our eyes. After the feast, we swam in the infinity pool and relaxed, while others went to explore the coral gardens and island village. In the late afternoon we were transferred back to our hotel. This really is a day not to be missed.

 

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The Sands at Nomad

This boutique hotel offers the ultimate in romance and tranquillity. A variety of room types are available - from Forest View rooms in the main building to Ocean View superior suites with Jacuzzis on the balconies. All rooms are fully equipped with minibars and satellite TV, ensuring the utmost in comfort.

The beautiful swimming pool, secluded spa and beachfront restaurant complete the ambience. Ideal for couples, honeymooners or families seeking peace and quiet, The Sands at Nomad is a place that will touch your heart and draw you back time and time again.

 

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The Sands at Chale Island

Chale Island is a small romantic island situated 600 meters off the mainland, 10 km south of Diani, 1.2 km long and 0.8 km wide. Chale Island is divided into 2 parts; hotel and sacred forest or "Kaya". The hotel lies on approximately 15 acres with a stunning white sand bay 150 meters long by 60 meters wide and an intriguing and mystical inland tidal mangrove lake.

This is the definitive island paradise for a honeymoon or memorable vacation. With it's exquisite and well equipped rooms, serene pools and unique design, this island is the place you will never forget. The over water bandas, with their Jacuzzis overlooking the ocean are, quite simply, heaven on earth!

I was completely blown away by this magical island and have no words to describe it - The Sands at Chale Island is a precious gem waiting to be explored by those lucky enough to visit this unique and wonderful place.

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Conclusion

Once again, Mombasa captured my heart completely. The warmth of the people, the beauty of the beaches, the richness of the ocean and the sheer tranquillity make Mombasa an ideal destination for everyone. There is so much to do and so many places to explore - yet the beaches tempt you to just lay back and relax. Do yourself a favour - book a trip to Mombasa and experience it for yourself!

General Info and Tips

Do not check your luggage through from Johannesburg to Mombasa unless you are on a Sunday direct flight. Always check your luggage through to Nairobi, then collect it and check it through to Mombasa, to decrease your chances of baggage loss or delay.

There are lovely views of Mount Kilimanjaro on the flight from Nairobi to Mombasa - ask for seats on the right side of the plane (F and G) to get the best view!

Cell phone networks are excellent.

There are no TV's in the rooms at Turtle Bay Beach Club or Pinewood Village Beach Resort.

Ask for a room in a quiet location if you do not want to participate in the nightly entertainment, as it can be quite noisy at times.

Seaweed on the beach is common due to the tides, but less likely during December to March. April to June is the rainy season.

All of the resorts that I visited can arrange magical weddings and romantic honeymoons - please enquire!

Special Thanks

This trip could not have been possible without the following generous contributions:
Turtle Bay Beach Club - complimentary accommodation and transfers (thank you Sabine)
Turtle Bay Dive Centre - complimentary diving (thank you Rahel)
Leisure Lodge Beach & Golf Resort - complimentary accommodation and transfers (thank you Jane and Maria)
Dive the Crab - complimentary diving and transfers (thank you Daniel)
Pinewood Village Beach Resort- complimentary accommodation (thank you Mariam)
SX Scuba - complimentary diving (thank you Claudio)
Charlie Claw's Wasini Island - reduced rate tour (thank you Sally)

From the bottom of my heart, a sincere thank you to all those who made this magical trip possible!