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Adventure #2: Diani and Mombasa

I know I started my last two posts with an apology so this makes it a hat trick…but I still want to apologise for the lack of updates. Sorry! I don’t even know where the time has gone. We’re in 2014 now, that’s just crazy. Oh, happy new year by the way! Essentially though, following my Masters dissertation submission I went on a short break to the Kenyan coast then I had two relatively busy weeks at work  and a guest to stay (sorry Jo, we had a lot of fun didn’t we?). I then travelled to Ghana just before Christmas and arrived back in Nairobi to deadlines and stress last Sunday. I actually just finished work, and it’s 10pm on a Saturday night. Far from ideal…

Anyhow, let me not talk about my work load, today I want write about my second “adventure”, a trip to the beautiful Kenyan coast. Wednesday morning, 2 days after my dissertation was submitted (hell yes I deserved a break), my friends and I flew to Mombasa. FYI, we decided to fly out of convenience since only had 5 days off and had we taken a bus, it would have taken 12 hours to get there and 12 hours to get back. In essence then, I forced myself to remember that I have a job with an actual salary now and I could afford to actually spend money when I was on holiday…thankfully for my bank balance though, this mindset didn’t last long (I’m still a penniless student at heart). The journey was relatively smooth despite the plane not being much more than a bus with wings(!) and we were picked up from the airport by a driver (booked in advance) who drove us straight to Diani. Stepping out that plane was incredible. We left a cold and miserable Nairobi (those bloody short rains) for blue skies, sunshine and temperatures of 30°C. BLISS. The lack of sleep (of course in typical fashion I was packing until 3am and our flight was at 6am) didn’t seem so bad. Mombasa also felt a lot less Westernised than Nairobi, it felt more like ‘real’ Africa. In fact, it almost felt like a different country to Nairobi. It was certainly a welcome change of scenery.

Our bus with wings...

Our bus with wings…

Diani 

Diani is a beach resort located about 20 miles South of Mombasa. To reach there, you have to take this crazy ferry that is essentially a floating platform filled with people and cars. Totally safe *ahem*.

The ferry. Yep, totally safe…

Diani was recommended to us by a number of people. As soon as we reached the beach, it was not difficult to see why. This place was PARADISE. Glorious white sand beaches, blue skies, clear and warm water (Indian Ocean), coral reefs, palm trees and (almost) no one around. I say ‘almost’ since there were lots of irritating men hassling you to buy things and trying to make friends with you. I found out later that many of them are actually male prostitutes. You got used to them though and they tended to leave you alone if you spoke a bit of Swahili, ie. Hapana, meaning ‘No’. Anyway, the environment was too beautiful to let one of them put you in a bad mood.

Take me back.

Take me back.

Good times.

Good times.

See how clear the water is...

See how clear the water is…

We didn’t do much on the first day, just chilled out on the beach. I stupidly burnt my back. Yes, I did put suncream on but obviously not enough considering it was around 35°C and Kenya is right on the equator. My bad. On the second day however, we went on a little boat trip and went snorkelling. Easily the highlight of the trip. We paid £10 each for almost a 4 hour trip which included the snorkelling gear. Even before we went snorkelling our guide had picked out sea urchins, star fish and a sea slug (disgusting) from the sea for us to look at. The snorkelling was enjoyable although I had completely forgotten how to breathe using a snorkel and only worked out how to do it towards the end of the session. This is why I should never go scuba diving. The coral reefs were quite impressive and I saw some interesting fish including one that looked like a huge brown rock (good detailed scientific description I know). I also saw a sea horse which was about the size of my thumb, I honestly didn’t realise how small they were in real life! It didn’t compare to the colourful reefs in Koh Phangan, Thailand but it was still definitely worth doing. We then sailed (is that even the right word?) to the sand bank which was incredibly picturesque. On the last day *sobs* we visited a monkey sanctuary called the Colobus Trust. They are doing some great work in Diani to protect endangered monkeys in the area (Colobus monkeys in particular). The tour wasn’t spectacular and we didn’t see as many monkeys as I hoped but it was extremely interesting. You can find out more about the work that they do here. On the last day, Jo and I also took a little camel ride on the beach  too.

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Peace out

Peace out

Sadly, we were only in Diani for 3 days and 2 nights (next time I will definitely go for longer) but we stayed in a lovely eco-lodge. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. It’s called Stilts and consists of large tree-houses in the forest, located less than a 10 minute walk from the beach. We had our own private room (£7 a night each) and a little veranda with monkeys and bush babies for neighbours. Not sure I’d ever seen a bush baby before but they are incredibly cute and like being fed bananas. There is also a bar/restaurant that serves tasty and very reasonably priced meals (£2 and up) and even hot showers. It was so relaxing there; I would go back tomorrow if I could!

We were loving it.

We were loving it.

Paradise.

Paradise.

Starfish!

Starfish!

Hakuna matata.

Hakuna matata.

Wahey

Wahey

Mombasa

Our next and final stop (too short a trip I know) was Mombasa itself. Our driver got completely lost on the way (he thought we were staying at a different hostel) so it took us around 2 hours to get there since it was also rush hour on a Friday. We got there eventually though. We stayed at a hostel called Backpackers Nirvana, this place definitely wasn’t made for the sort of people that fly when they can get a bus for the fraction of the price (see second paragraph). There were 10 of us in one room, all sharing one bathroom. Needless to say, it was cosy. This would have been fine had there been air conditioning.  That night I was definitely regretting going budget, I could barely sleep. The people were friendly though, the staff were extremely helpful and it cost £8 a night (including breakfast) so you couldn’t really complain. It was just a bit err….sweaty.

Fabrics galore on Biashara Street

Fabrics galore on Biashara Street

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Inside the spice market

We only had one full day in Mombasa but I would say it was enough for a holiday – the city is far from relaxing. The words busy, bustling and crazy provide a much more apt description. We first decided to explore Biashara street which was recommended to me by a colleague for the best place to buy fabric. I probably went a bit overboard as I had already bought some fabric on the beach in Diani but I can’t get enough of it (I bought even more in Ghana), it’s just sooo pretty! Next we went to the spice market as the temple we planned to visit (recommended in the guide) is no longer open to the public. I bought some curry powder but we were being hassled left right and centre and the heat was sweltering so we decided to make a move. We went for lunch at a little local joint and I had

Masala chips

Masala chips

masala chips (no other vegetarian dishes had been cooked yet), essentially chips covered in curry sauce, yummy! Once we had eaten and taken a moment to rest (not used to that kind of heat at all), we headed for Fort Jesus. Built in 1591 Fort Jesus is a Portuguese for King Philip I of Portugal, then ruler of the joint Portuguese and Spanish Kingdoms. It was intended to guard the Old Port of Mombasa. You have the chance to look around the fort, visit the torture rooms, etc, and there’s also a museum. It’s definitely worth a visit and you have a nice view from the top of the fort. We then had a walk around the old town which was really nice and very different from the town itself. We took a tuk tuk (yes they have tuk tuks at the coast) then a matatu back to the hostel. I honestly wish they had tuk tuks here in Nairobi, they are so much fun! It reminded me of being in Bangkok, Thailand. Ah, memories. Since we were leaving the next morning, we also decided to visit Nyali beach which was a short walk from our hostel. The beach had a completely different feel to Diani and it was absolutely PACKED in comparison (I suppose it was a Saturday afternoon). Most people were swimming but the water wasn’t as clear as it was in Diani, it was a nice atmosphere though and a nice way to relax after sightseeing. We spent our last evening in a restaurant in a mall, with a view of the car park. Hmmm, hardly the beach view we had enjoyed in Diani. Very odd recommendation from our hostel considering we had eaten by candlelight in a romantic rooftop restaurant the night before. Still, at least the food was good. In fact, better than good – it was probably the best food I’ve eaten in Nairobi since I arrived!

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The spice market

Fort Jesus

Fort Jesus

The old town

The old town

Sweaty tuk tuk ride

Sweaty tuk tuk ride

Nyali beach

Nyali beach

Jo, Holly and I at the beach

Jo, Holly and I at the beach

Right, I had better sign off (I have to work tomorrow and my eyes are getting tired) but just to update you on a few things:

  1. Some of you may have already seen photos but I got braids. This time around I got Senegalese twists. Check out my Instagram (on the right hand side of the page) and let me know what you think!
  2. For all my Ghanaians reading, please keep an eye out on TV, probably Viasat 1, I’ve made it onto your TV screens again. I performed at an event at Bojo Beach on Christmas day and was interviewed by three different TV channels. Kw33rrr!
  3. I’m off to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia next week with work for an event I’ve planned. I’ll be spending the weekend before the event there to explore so expect a future blog post on that.
  4. For all my UK people, I’ll be back in the UK for 2 weeks for some training as of 25th January. Hope to catch up with some of you face to face!

Until next time,

Abbie x

PS. Do you think I got enough fabric?

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PPS. Almost forgot to leave you with a song. This is my other favourite Kenyan song. It’s called ‘Kipepeo’, which means ‘Butterfly in Swahili. It’s about a guy who loves a girl so much he feels like flying. Cute huh? It’s sung by an artist called Jaguar. It’s infectious! Hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I do.

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