Straight off two flights from the UAE nothing quite prepares for the Mombasa ferry on a Friday evening. Two flat ferries work the short crossing but they’re not sufficient to the task of thousands upon thousands of passengers rushing the boats such that there is no space for cars. It took two hours of waiting for us to cross and be on our way to the beach town of Diani.
This was my first time in non-Arab Africa and the first thing I noticed were signs in Chinese out by the airport – apparently the Chinese are building all across the country. Another was the Muslim nature of the coast, although apparently plenty drink and aren’t so religious the hijab and burka were common enough sights.
I was staying with friends in Kenyaways resort, a small boutique hotel right on the beach. The beach itself is from casting central – fine white sand with palm trees and azure waters out to a reef while fishermen and their dhows tack back and forth on the prevailing winds.
It was the wind we were here for and kitesurfing in particular. It was the end of the season but we still managed to get good wind for a few days and head out on the water.
When there was no wind for kitesurfing there was still enough to head out with a few cold beers on a dhow under sail and when inside the reef to throw a rope out and drift behind the boat. Doing this outside the reef wasn’t recommended as it would be a prime target for sharks! We took this advice.
Back on land the days passed easily with drinks on our balcony, camel rides, and the only stress was protecting breakfast from the cheeky monkeys who had a taste for fresh fruit.
After a week by the beach it was time to head to see Nik who had moved back home to Nairobi. First introduction to Nairobi is traffic, lot of it, and plenty of cars milling about with UN or diplomatic plates. Nairobi hosts one of the UN headquarters and opposite this is the US embassy which was attacked back in 1998 when virtually no-one had heard of Osama Bin Laden.
It’s not all expats and fancy compounds as I brought Aisling via what I thought was a ‘shortcut’ back to Nik’s place.
The main tourist sights in Nairobi are out west in the suburb of Karen – where Karen Blixen, from ‘Out of Africa’ fame, lived. In the mornings for an hour a day the elephant orphanage allows visitors to watch the feeding of baby elephants rescued from across the country.
Quite a few were rescued after falling down wells with some losing parents to poachers but all were adorable and very playfully ignoring the barriers and coming out into the crowd. A keeper was explaining that it can take 5 years before a baby elephant is ready to release back into the wild.
Around the corner is the giraffe manor where we could get up close and feed some very insistent leggy specimens.
It was important not to tease them as a few are known to headbutt if they don’t get their reward. Nik showed us the local Nairobi trick of how how to get a sloppy kiss from a long black tongue!