Tuesday, January 15, 2013
There is much to see and do in Kenya. It is accessible to all—be it the free and adventurous, the leisure travellers, the silver-haired groups or the families. This culture rich and affordable destination has long been a favourite with the Europeans, Americans and Australians and now with Direct Air Arabia Airlines flights from Delhi and Mumbai ( a round trip fare to Kenya is between INR 20,000 to 25,000 only )the number of Indian tourists is on the rise. During my weeks stay each of the three must visit places provided a different experience and I not only made wonderful friends from across the world that I will keep for life, but memories that will also last a life time.
We did four game drives in total and having very little vegetation made it easier to spot animals. The star attraction here is the elephants. Everywhere we looked they could be seen, either solitary loners or massive herds scattered across the landscape. In addition to elephants, we saw hippos, buffalo, giraffes, wildebeests, antelopes, zebras, hyenas, and an amazing variety of bird life. On one of our game drives, we stopped by the huge swamp, anxiously scanning the breath of it, looking for all types of animals. This swamp is always full of fresh water and plant life due to the melting of the snow from the mountain. We had the opportunity to view elephants, Cape buffalos, and hippos, all chomping away, sometimes almost completely submerged as they filled their bellies with the lush green growth. On our last evening we enjoyed sun downer drinks atop Observation Hill with views of Mt Kilimanjaro….Bliss!
Best Way to Reach- Take a chartered flight from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport.
Best place to Stay- OlTukai lodge, an Eco-rated lodge with a unique collection of African art.
Reservations-Tel: 254-0456-22275 /Fax: 254-0456-22280
Just off the northern Kenyan coast, 40 miles from Somalia, is a little stretch of car-free paradise, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only two cars exist on the island, one for the hospital and the other for the police station, hence the herd of donkeys and narrow motor boats. Am not sure though that Lamu is not touristy - the number of smart hotels and restaurants on the sea front prove that it is but it’s managed to keep its charm and hasn’t yet lost its soul. Narrow winding alleys, exquisitely carved wooden doors lining coral pathways and the bustling Arabs, each sparkling in the fierce village lighting. The town is mesmerizing with scents of humanity harvesting, preparing and cooking spicy Swahili dishes. Mix the aromas with various loads of donkey dung, raw prawns and red snapper, into the perfume and voila—a rustic seaport ripe with tradition.
Best Way to Reach - From the mainland you have to jump in a ferry or a speedboat to get to the island itself.
Best place to Stay- With awe-inspiring seafront views over the Ras Kitau bay and Shela village, one can relax at “The Majlis” in the lap of Lamu Island’s unaffected charm.
Reservations- Deepa or Claire, Warwick Centre, Gigiri, Nairobi. Tel: +254 (0) 712 3300/1/2. Mobile: +254 (0) 773 777 066. Fax: +254 (0) 20 712 3303.
The next part of our travels took us across the border and north to the small town of Watamu on the Kenyan coast. Set in an idyllic location, the town has an upbeat but relaxed feel to it. It has got one main street and the beach and that’s about it. However, tourism thrives here there thanks to the Italians, who dominate the local area; especially the next main town which is much larger called Malindi. Watamu maintains the small town feel but has some of the luxuries like red wine and traditional wood fired pizza! And while the vendors and waiters assume that everyone is Italian, it is very much a soft sell and they are happy enough to take no for an answer, which is always good. While in Watamu we even got out for a dive on the local marine park and it was like diving in a tropical aquarium, with lots of tropical fish and pretty corals. It also helped diving in 28 degree water with huge visibility.
Best Way to Reach- It is an hour’s drive away from Malindi airport.
Best Place To stay- “Garoda” is a unique resort overlooking the stunning beach of Watamu Marine Park, 2o miles south of Malindi.
Reservations - Tel: + 254 (0) 20 2437871/Mobile: 0721242711 (Safaricom)
published in The Man