There is hardly a nicer month to choose for traveling than January. The cold, dingy winter is always a great motivator to pack your bags and flee south for a few weeks. However, since we have not had the time and leisure to plan an individual trip in the past few weeks/months, this time it should be something “all-inclusive”, but not too boring. And so Tanja and I decided on Kenya 🙂
Strictly speaking, our choice fell on the Swahili Beach Resort on Diani Beach, south of Mombasa. A perfect place to relax and unwind, but also great for getting to know the local people and planning a trip or two inland.
About 6 hours west of Mombasa is Tsavo National Park. Anyone planning a trip there is well advised to do so in a local travel agency. Of course you can also book a safari in Germany, in the hotel, or with one of the many beach boys on the beach, but these are sometimes much more expensive alternatives. Following a recommendation, we ended up at wildkenyasafaris and met the incredibly nice and lovable Carol there. We not only booked two excursions with her, but also learned a lot about life in Kenya and especially about the people from the neighboring town of Ukunda. But more on that later.
In all my travels, it always inspires me to meet the animals live in their real home, which you otherwise only know from the zoo or on TV. The feeling you get when you watch a herd of elephants as they move through the seemingly endless steppe has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with what you feel when you see the same animals behind bars or a screen. Well, you just have to experience it. And so we can warmly recommend a visit to one of the many national parks to anyone who makes the long journey to Africa.
Life in Kenya
Whether by car, tuc tuc or on foot, it doesn’t take long to get a first impression of life in Kenya. Because as in so many warm countries, it mainly takes place on the streets. In the land of “eternal summer” everything seems bright and colourful. But you can often tell from the looks of the people that life here is anything but easy. High unemployment, a lack of a social system, catastrophic health care …, life is often not the focus here, but pure survival.
But like everywhere else in the world, people try to make the best of their situation. And above all the children have learned to be happy about every little thing. Offered sweets are put directly into the mouth with the packaging in order to have the hands free again for the next portion and ballpoint pens become coveted exchange objects so that the next teaching content in school can also be put on paper.
Nothing seems to be taken for granted here, and certainly not the school. It’s not mandatory, as Carol told us. If you want to give your children a school education, you have to raise about 70€ per month, which for many Kenyans is far more than they can spare.
Kisite Marine National Park, in the extreme south of Kenya, is known for being a frequent spot for encountering humpback whales and dolphins. However, we were unlucky as we danced our little dhow across the quite impressive waves of the Indian Ocean. Tanja had wished so much to experience these wonderful animals up close and to romp through the water side by side with them.
But even without dolphins and co. there was a lot to enjoy on this day trip, e.g. the beautiful emerald green sea, the walk on one of the many deserted sand islands, the snorkeling stop and the delicious fish at Wasini Island.
The only thing we could easily have done without was the final capsizing of our dinghy on the way back from Wasini Island. But since no one was seriously injured, we will certainly remember it as an amusing experience for a long time to come.
The reptile farm
Carol gave us the tip about the reptile farm and also organized the tuc tuc for us to get us there safely. It was a quite small place with some crocodiles, iguanas, cameleons… but mostly snakes. We were very reluctant to take photos and instead preferred to listen to the rather interesting explanation of the “Snake Master” and his assistants. Both were very friendly, entertaining and told us about their reptiles and everything else that sneaks through the Kenyan undergrowth day and night.
The tasks of the farm are quite diverse. Among other things, it is a contact point for school classes and thus makes an important contribution to the education of the children. The “Snake-Master” is often called by the surrounding hotels and private people when a puff adder, cobra or mamba emerge in one of their gardens.
During our travel time it was “mango season” in Kenya and the fruits were not only incredibly delicious, but also incredibly cheap to get at the local market in Ukunda. Whereby only very few tourists probably get lost here. There are many interesting things to discover, such as colorful traditional clothing, shoes made from old car tires, or bizarre-looking solid wooden furniture.
But you don’t necessarily have to go to the next village if you’re looking for individual souvenirs. On the beach or a few meters beyond the hotel complex, you very quickly meet one or the other trader who advertises his goods (sometimes very obtrusively). But mostly these dealers can be brushed off with a friendly “asante sana” or a more urgent “hapana”.
On our wanderings through the shops, huts and market stalls, we got lost in the workshops of the wood carver Dennis Kaloki and the painter Benson Gitari. Both very nice guys with whom we chatted a lot about their craft and we learned details about their motifs, the types of wood used, preferred oil paints and much more.
We met Idi on our first visit to the beach. He spoke excellent German and offered us his company during our walks. Since you don’t have peace for 2 minutes outside of the guarded hotel beach, due to the many pushy traders, we gladly accepted Idi’s offer. He was incredibly nice and tries to make our time as relaxed and informative as possible. He told a lot about the various hotel complexes and private villas that we passed and showed us various crabs, sea cucumbers and other beach creatures that we would probably have passed carelessly without him. Often, however, conversations with him also revolved around his private situation: the job in the hotel that he lost after the tourists started staying away a few years ago and his efforts to get a driver’s license because he hoped to get a permanent job this way.
Swahili Beach Resort
We were really lucky with the hotel. The spacious complex with its extraordinary architecture is reminiscent of an Arabian fairy tale, where there is always something to explore and admire – a palace in the middle of paradise surrounded by green palm trees, playing monkeys, white sand and warm sea.
The first week the hotel seemed to be almost empty, which gave us the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful pool and really relax. Especially in the evening hours, the guarded hotel beach proved to be the perfect place to enjoy the clear starry sky, listen to the live music and the crashing waves and watch the beach crabs on their nocturnal forays.
The twelve days in the Kenyan paradise flew by and it wasn’t easy for us to say goodbye. But as so often, there is still hope of seeing you again 🙂