When deciding whether to book our inexpensive last minute dinghy sailing holiday in Greece or Turkey, I spotted that Neilson had introduced a new Beachclub in Kenya. The reduced price was actually less than the other holidays we were looking at - so the temptation to try somewhere new was too much and we grabbed the opportunity to visit a new continent.
The Mnarani Beachclub is located between Malindi and Mombasa on the cliffs of Kilifi overlooking the Indian Ocean and Kilifi Creek, and set in 40 acres of landscaped tropical gardens. The name Mnarani is taken from the nearby village and means lighthouse, it originates from a lighthouse erected during the 15th century by Arab traders to guide trading dhow boats. Sadly the village has been in decline since the ferry crossing has been replaced by a bridge to Kilifi - which as boomed as a village.
There are few hotels and tourism is low in the area - so there is not the constant hassle from touts that you might find further up the coast at Mombasa. Security guards are always patrolling to further discourage unwelcome guests. There are many large holiday homes along the coast for British, Italian and Indian owners.
It was the rainy season (May), but we saw very little rain - most fell overnight. The last 2 days were a little wet, but it remained warm and didn't stop play.
Early morning view from the balcony on Day 1
The mosquito nets made the bad seem like a large four poster, but were drawn back during the day.
The roofs of a lot of the local buildings were an intriguing tree like structure, thatched with sisal.
Tsavo East and Taita Hills Safari
A Kenyan safari had to be a consideration - so, not knowing what to expect, we chose a 3 day tour which we hoped would be a gentle introduction to safari (and we were not disappointed).
OK, so the cost now exceeded Greece/Turkey, but this opportunity was too good to miss!
The 3 day tour included a visit to Tsavo East National Park, staying at Manyatta Camp; and a visit to the Saltlick Lodge in the Taita Hills sanctuary. See here for details and photo's
Cycling through Kilifi
The shopping Facilities at Kilifi include a Supermarket, Banks, Post Office, General Stores, Chemist, Local Craft Shops, Rug making, a Daily Fruit and Vegetable Market and a few Restaurants. A local Farm Shop stocks fresh supplies of milk, meat and day to day produce; & traditional market stalls sell fresh produce every day.
The kids go mad as you pass and will shout "Jambo" (hello) and want to high five you as you pass. An unforgettable exerience
The baobab tree is quite a common site in the area, it is also known as the dead-rat tree (from the appearance of the fruits), monkey-bread tree (the soft, dry fruit is edible), or the upside-down tree (the sparse branches resemble roots). Thought to be unlucky by the locals.
Excursion to Bofa Beach
Excursion on a traditional Dhow boat with Captain Issa, organised through the hotel. Sailing to Bofa beach for a beach side BBQ of lobster, tuna, and veg curry with fresh fruit and coconut, and snorkeling over the coral reef before returning to the beachclub.
Whilst waiting for lunch, coconut sellers persuaded us that we needed some fresh coconut as an appetiser.
The soft white sandy Bofa beach is said to be the finest beach along the Kenya Coast and one of the most idyllic in all the world. It stretches for miles, is protected by a magnificent coral reef, and is unspoiled and practically deserted.
Mansions along the coastline back towards Kilifi creek are holiday homes to British, Italian and Indian owners and are a stark contrast to the very basic living conditions of the local villagers.
Evening excursion to the mangroves
Excursion in the pontoon boat, upstream through the "bowl lake" area and into the mangroves, where we were let loose in canoes to explore a little. Hundreds of tiny crabs waved at us as we passed, and there was plenty of bird life to spot. My Webshots Album can be viewed here
You might expect the rest of the holiday to be pretty uneventful, but the facilities and excursions offered were all excellent.
Even when just relaxing by the pool you are treated to a fabulous infinity pool overlooking the creek, beautiful butterfly's floating by, swifts and other bird life swooping by at times, and maybe even a glimpse of the Vervet monkeys that occasionally pass through the gardens (and have been known to steal food from tables).
Watching the "commuters" travel up and down the river was also interesting
If you venture to the beach, the crabs are funny to watch, simply hundreds of tiny crabs scuttle out of your path at an amazing speed, diving into their little holes as you walk across the sand at low tide. The water is full of colourful fish at times.
The sailing & windsurfing equipment is all great - Laser Bahia, Laser 1, Dart 16, Laser Pico, Laser Vago, Laser SB3, Windsurf boards & Rigs, kayaks. A weekly race (Coconut Cup) is run as a fun activity, and a weekly tour around an island upstream in the bowl area is organised (too shallow for the SB3 to sail around, but the bowl area was more than large enough to play in).
The Spa centre offered a range of treatments - the full body massage was particularly appreciated after being bounced around on Safari.
So in 2 weeks we managed to do quite a bit, but there was still more that could have been done - more bike rides, visits to the old ruins of Mnarani, Malindi, Lamu.... maybe next time!