Julia's Photo Album of Kenya
Kenya Airways flies direct from Johannesburg to Mombasa and back every Sunday. After drinks and snacks in the Premier Lounge, we departed Johannesburg at 13h30. The flight duration is 4 hours and the view coming in to Mombasa is spectacular! Since Kenya is 1 hour ahead of South Africa, it was 18h30 local time when we landed at Moi International Airport, Mombasa.
After passing through immigration at the tiny airport, we were met by our friendly driver for our transfer to the south coast. Although it was already dark, the sights and sounds of Mombasa were fascinating - from shops lit by candlelight to football games and bustling nightclubs - we knew we had found a special place. Crossing the Likoni channel by ferry was so quick that we hadn't even realized we were moving and found ourselves already on the other side. An hour and a half after leaving the airport we arrived at Jadini Beach Hotel.
South Coast Alliance Hotels
The Alliance Hotels and Resorts group has 3 family-friendly resorts based on the legendary Diani Beach strip. Guests are welcome to use the facilities and restaurants of all 3 hotels, with complimentary shuttles traveling the 5 minute journey throughout the day and night. We particularly enjoyed the dinners at Safari Beach Hotel.
Jadini Beach Hotel offers simple but comfortable accommodation - the rooms each have a double bed and a single bed, equipped with mosquito nets. There is a shower in the bath and drinking water is provided, as it is not recommended to drink tap water in Kenya. The bar fridge can be stocked on request - soft drinks and alcohol cost approximately the same as in South Africa, ranging from around R 7 for a coke, R 8 for a beer and R 20 for a glass of wine.
Africana Sea Lodge offers a fully inclusive meals and drinks option which is great value for money. The accommodation is in rondavels, again with a double and single bed. These units have showers only and can be a bit noisy due to the nearby disco and nighttime entertainment, so request a unit further away from this area if you are a light sleeper! Entertainment at night includes acrobats, Masaai dancers, discos and singers. The resort is also home to many cats and monkeys - this took a bit of getting used to but added to the experience of a holiday in Africa!
There is plenty to do - there are several lovely swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, beach volleyball, a spa and of course the exquisite beach. The sand is the softest white clay, the sea a mirror of unbelievable shades of turquoise. The water beckons and one can spend many happy hours canoeing, windsurfing and snorkeling. Diani Beach is within a marine park and the amount of fish life is incredible.
The Alliance Hotels have a strong Kenyan atmosphere and the shops, activities, palm trees and beach are all right there on your doorstep waiting to be enjoyed.
We were invited for a lunch at this world renowned vacation and golf resort and blown away by its luxury and elegance. Leisure Lodge is for those who want to experience Kenya in style - from the exquisite Diani beach to the numerous inviting pools, from the spacious and luxurious accommodation to the wide range of boutique shops, from the casino to the golf course, from the cyber café to the spa - this resort has it all! The 18 hole Championship golf course hosts several international tournaments and the facilities are excellent.
The buffet lunch was so delicious that we had to return one evening for a seafood buffet dinner, complete with the freshest oysters, fish carpaccio, mussels, prawns and various other tasty side dishes. We also tried our luck in the casino - cosy and well-equipped, this is an entertaining way to spend an evening.
Leisure Lodge is the perfect setting for an unforgettable experience - various sporting activities are available, including a Diving the Crab base, windsurfing, deep sea fishing, tennis courts, volleyball and more. There is also a kids club and a tour office where various fabulous excursions can be booked, such as the Dolphin Dhow trip or even an overnight safari to Tsavo National Park for some game viewing! What are you waiting for?
Diving the Crab
Since most of the Mombasa coastline is a marine reserve, the coral is pristine and the marine life abundant. This makes for fantastic diving! I was impressed with the quality of the Diving the Crab boats, their hire equipment and most of all the friendly, experienced and knowledgeable staff. After a thorough briefing we set out to do our first dive at Igloo Reef….lionfish, parrotfish, surgeons and triggerfish greeted us in the warm Indian Ocean. After a brief surface interval during the boat ride to Mwanamachi, we dived again and this time were treated to the sight of several moray eels and some well-camouflaged stone fish. We really enjoyed diving here as it is so easy - the water is warm and clear, average depths are around 12-18m and the staff are always willing to assist with anything you need. The usual diving situation is 4 divers to a divemaster, so you really get personal attention. Most divers wore 3ml shorties - all equipment can be hired at the dive base and is of very good standard. I highly recommend this reputable dive operator.
We were collected from our hotel at 7am for the 1 ½ hour drive to Shimoni, then had breakfast in the Shimoni Caves, made famous by the slave traders many years ago.
From the pier we boarded a large dhow - a traditional Arab sailing boat. The Charlie Claw's Wasini Island Tour caters for both scuba divers and snorkellers, with separate dhows for each. We boarded the divers dhow and sailed off to Kisite Marine Park where we did 2 dives. The equipment on board was superb and the staff fantastic. After checking our logbooks and C cards, we were given a briefing and planned our dives.
Although we averaged 6-12 m in the marine reserve, there was so much to see….Huge snappers, crocodile fish, moray eels, blue spotted rays and beautiful corals of various types and colours. This excursion is a must for all divers!
Now we were ready for lunch! We sailed to Wasini Island and disembarked to find an exquisite beach restaurant ready to welcome us. Huge red crabs and fried coconut starters were delicious - the crab is served on a wooden plate with a mallet provided to crack it open! Fresh fish and rice were followed by an enormous fruit platter - all washed down with tasty cocktails. This was truly a wonderful day in every way.
After relaxing for a while enjoying the beautiful view, we took a walk to the Coral Gardens. This was fascinating - the coral stands tall on reclaimed land and the sea has receded, leaving a strangely beautiful garden of coral statues and home to the large crabs we ate for lunch. The women's boardwalk project is also included in the tour and is also most interesting.
Another early start for the drive to Shimoni again - but this time when we reached the pier we boarded Dolphin Dhow. Breakfast was served on board the very comfortable dhow and we set sail in search of dolphins. Within 10 minutes we were successful and spotted dolphins continuously for about an hour. Some came right up to the dhow to play in the wake. It was great fun.
Next we stopped off at a lovely shallow reef and snorkeled for a few hours, enjoying the warm sun, the clear water and the numerous fish to see. Life jackets, masks and snorkels are provided - bring your own fins if you are a serious snorkeller (they are allowed but not provided in order to protect the corals from being damaged). A snorkel trip leader offers a guided tour of the reef for beginners, others explored on their own. This trip is excellent for all ages and experience levels - even small children are welcome on board! Since the dhow is so large and the sea so flat, nobody felt seasick at all.
After working up a healthy appetite we were served lunch on board the dhow - delicious whole crab starters followed by fish and rice with unbelievable coconut sauce. A range of drinks flowed - Kenyan beer, South African wine, bottled water and soft drinks. Fruit platters were put out for dessert and everyone ate well. After lunch it was divine to lie on the dhow admiring the exquisite views of the ocean and its many islets - the more energetic people went snorkeling again.
The staff were truly excellent and made sure that everyone had plenty to eat and drink, told us interesting facts about the area and the dolphins and sang Swahili songs during the boat ride back. We arrived back at the Shimoni pier early afternoon for a tour of the Slave Caves and then the drive back to the hotel. This was yet another fantastic day and an excursion highly recommended for all.
We were sad to leave the breathtakingly beautiful south coast but also excited to see what the north had in store for us. The drive to Mombasa from the south coast hotels takes approximately 1 ½ hours - depending on how busy the ferry is!
Mombasa is actually a coral island measuring just over 14 km? and is East Africa's largest port. Approximately 4 million people work in Mombasa, but only around 40 000 live on the island - the rest commute, crossing the Likoni Channel by ferry on the south side or by crossing the Nyali Bridge on the north side.
We arrived at The Castle hotel to await our transfer to Turtle Bay Beach Club. The driver arrived with a cooler box of refreshments and we sat back to enjoy the scenery during the 3 hour journey to the north.
North Coast : Turtle Bay Beach Club
We were already so much in love with Mombasa that we didn't think it could get any better, until we arrived at Turtle Bay Beach Club. This fantastic hotel is built on 200m of white sand beach on the edge of Watamu National Marine Park, with 10 acres of tropically landscaped gardens. We had found paradise at last!
Turtle Bay Beach Club caters for everyone and is especially popular with families, due to the entertaining kids club which offers guided beach walks, kids meals and a cast variety of games and activities. While the children are busy all day long, the adults can enjoy their own range of activities, including windsurfing, pedaloes, snorkeling, tennis, deep sea fishing and scuba diving. Of course, the best way to spend a day might be lazing by the lovely pool or relaxing on a sunbed on the beach with a cocktail in your hand.
One of the most appealing facts about Turtle Bay is their All-Inclusive rate - you really can eat and drink to your heart's content! The breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are varied and cater for all tastes, including vegetarians. The midmorning cakes and pancakes and afternoon and midnight snacks are equally delicious! Drinks include water, soft drinks, Kenyan coffee and a range of teas, as well as South African wines and Tusker beer. All local spirits are included too - just name your cocktail! This really was a pleasure as we could enjoy ourselves completely without the worry of a growing room account to settle at the end of our stay.
The rooms are also exquisite, with double and single beds and mosquito nets. There is a stocked bar fridge and bath/shower in every room. We were treated to an upgrade to the luxurious suites and had an entire floor to ourselves - complete with lounge area, huge 4 poster bed, an unbelievable bathroom with a shower and a massive bath, and of course a large balcony with the most beautiful sea view!
There is so much to do at the hotel - a guided reef walk at low tide is a must. Take some thick soled shoes down to the beach and ask the guides to show you the eels, octopus and other marine life hidden in the rockpools. There are various local stalls on the beach for some bargain souvenir shopping. There is also an excellent but pricy gift shop in the hotel. They also stock useful items such as sunblock, stamps and toiletries.
Turtle Bay Beach Club is highly recommended. The hotel is beautiful, the food delicious, the drink plentiful, the activities endless and of course the staff and locals are among the friendliest and most hospitable people I have ever met. A large percentage of guests are returning clients and I can see why - once you have discovered paradise, you will return!
Tours and Excursions
The Turtle Bay Discovery Centre offer a range of tours and excursions. There are wildlife safaris to the nearby game reserves, horseriding excursions, birdwatching tours, historical tours and so much more. Full information is available and the team are happy to assist you in choosing the right tour for your personal interests. We sampled a few….
Turtle Bay Dive Centre
The Turtle Bay Dive Centre has some of the most fantastic staff around - very capable and friendly, they make the diving experience truly excellent. The rental gear and boats are in top notch condition and the sea beckons!
The diving is again 4 divers to each DM and there are a wide variety of reefs available - from beginner 6-10m dives through to advanced drift and deep dives. Watamu National Marine Park is a turtle breeding ground and home to over 150 species of coral and more than 1000 species of fish.
Although it was not peak season for diving, we saw an unbelievable amount of fish life and several octopus swimming about. Again, the coral was breathtaking and untouched. October to April is prime diving season here, when whale sharks, manta rays and barracuda visit in droves, as well as numerous turtles. I cannot wait to return!
General Info and Tips
Visas are not required for South African passports but your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after return date. Yellow fever vaccinations are compulsory for re-entry into SA after visiting Kenya. These vaccinations last for 10 years and can be obtained at a travel clinic, along with other advice regarding malaria and other recommended precautions.
Money changing facilities are available at all hotels but the rate is better at the banks in town. Strangely enough, the exchange rate given for travelers cheques is better than for cash and the commission charged is lower! Travel with US dollars as these are also accepted for payments at hotels (hotels also accept most credit cards). The local currency is Kenyan shillings and when we traveled it worked out to around R1 = KSh 10. Do not convert more money than you need, as Kenyan shillings cannot be exchanged for dollars or rands!
A very special thanks to all the wonderful people who made our stay in Kenya so unforgettable!
Kenya Airways - sponsoring our flights
Alliance Hotel - hosting us at Jadini Beach Hotel and Africana Sea Lodge
Leisure Lodge - the kind hospitality and complimentary meals
Diving the Crab - complimentary diving
Wasini Island - complimentary diving and tour with lunch at Charlie Claw's
Dolphin Dhow - complimentary excursion with crab lunch
Turtle Bay Beach Club - hosting us in exquisite suite on full board basis
Turtle Bay Discovery - complimentary tours and excursions
Turtle Bay Dive Centre - complimentary diving