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Jambo! The Kenyan Experience.

July 31, 2012
KEnya

Just like the Vietnam trip, this Kenyan escapade was all sorts of things before we finally decided to go to Kenya. It was Bali, then Langkawi, then Zanzibar and the boyfriend even threw in Madagascar before I finally told him to focus on Bali and Kenya. The latter being only 5 hours away from Dubai and with Rwanadair having a direct flight to Mombasa, were the key selling points of this destination for us. It was magnificent! We couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate destination for a quality R&R. 🙂

Pre-departure formalities:

There is none, I was confused by a lot of misleading information about the visa procedures to Kenya. Some websites say that we need to have a visa prior departure while others say that we can get it upon arrival. I contacted a local tour operator in Nairobi though and asked them if they can provide a more concrete information about this and they have confirmed that yes, we (both Greeks and Filipinos) will get visa upon arrival with a USD50- fee. It actually applies to all nationalities except for the following:

Afghanistan
Jordan
Senegal
Azerbaijan
Kosovo
Somalia
Armenia
Lebanon
Syria
Cameroon
Libya
Palestine
Eritrea
Mali
Tajikistan
Iraq
Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (Formerly North Korea)

The above passport holders will need a visa prior departure and as I’ve heard, there is no expedited services for the visa processing.

Same goes for the vaccinations, we were told that we would need a yellow fever vaccination but later found out that it’s a recommended vaccination but not mandatory and this will not affect your entry to Kenya whatsoever. That is the case unless you are going to cross the border to Tanzania or some other African countries or you are coming from a country which has a reported yellow fever case. For us however, coming from Dubai and only staying in Kenya, we were not required to get a yellow fever vaccine. Well, in all the 6 days we stayed in Kenya, I was bitten by a mosquito only once and I am still alive with no yellow coloring on my skin. I was bitten by a mosquito more in Greece than in Kenya.

On the flight:

For AED1600- per person, we took a direct flight from Dubai to Mombasa with Rwandair. I did not use my free/discounted ticket since it’ll cost me almost the same and that would even require me to stop in Nairobi. With the limited days we have, I don’t really like the idea of having to stop for a connection in another city. Rwandair is actually nice, the only downside is – they have the most uncomfortable seats at the exit row. The flight from Dubai departs at 5 in the morning which requires us to be at the airport at around 3am. I was unable to sleep during the flight and what happens next is the inevitable: I became grumpier than the usual.

Upon arrival:

Moi International Airport is a relatively small one, with an almost non-existent Immigration line, I immediately fell in love with it. However, it’s the first ever airport that I’ve ever been in where the Customs officer actually asks people what’s in their bag. The guy who was carrying a box from the other line was even asked to open the box and he was not even Kenyan. I was told by my Kenyan colleague that if we were asked if we’ve got a cigarette or alcohol with us, just say no but the boyfriend was proudly holding a Duty Free bag with a bottle of vodka inside when we were asked the question. Luckily, the customs officer we had was having a great day and seemed to like the fact that he saw a Filipina visiting his country and I’m the closest person he can probably meet next to Manny Pacquiao. That Filipino boxing legend is a big shot in Kenya, I can only assume since the Immigration officer told me the same thing. Outside the airport, there are a lot of yellow taxis waiting and we were assisted by my colleague’s mother to get one with a good price. The regular price was KSH4300- and we got it for KSH4000-. Any discount is good enough.

The traffic:

The journey from Moi International Airport to our resort in Diani would’ve taken 45 minutes tops, if we were the only ones on the road that is. But good heavens, the traffic in Mombasa is ridiculously slow! I really thought we would at least spend the whole day dealing with traffic alone. Not to mention that long wait to get to the ferry boat to cross the river which only takes roughly 10minutes to cross it, the wait to get onboard is longer than the transfer itself. After crossing the river, everything moved perfectly fine though.

The hotel:

We stayed at Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa, which had a lot of mixed reactions from TripAdvisor users. We saw all of the complaints but we can’t possibly ruin our vacation for that specially if we see the staff exerting all extra efforts to make our holiday great for us. And with this kind of view from your room, how can you not take your mind off of it?

The hotel property is vast. They even have a casino inside the property where the boyfriend lost KSH3000- on a round of blackjack. The beachfront that they have is amazing and we were extremely lucky to have chosen this resort as some of the more expensive properties has got an unswimmable beach due to the seaweeds. I know because we walked about 4km from a beach bar back to our hotel and passed thru all of the resorts lining up the beach and ours, by far has got the best side of the Indian Ocean. See below as proof. 🙂

And see the other hotel’s beach below:

This isn’t even the worst seaweed-infested beach during our walk. Some even have a foot-deep of seaweed on their property.

Our resort offers all sorts of fun activities for both adult and children, I join their morning aqua-aerobics every 1030hrs and they also have beach volleyball, pool volleyball and water soccer I guess. Not really sure what it’s called but I’ll show you 🙂

It’s like football but you use your hand and you’re in a pool so I’d say it’s probably called: POOL HANDBALL? 🙂

Beach Volleyball

Aqua aerobics which happens every morning.

They have 2 main restaurants and some others that I didn’t get to see as I was busy being lazy althroughout the day. 🙂 Everything they serve though is superb! They have a wide range of choices, will always have chicken, beef and seafood and everything is just very tasty. Some nights I gorged on grilled lobsters and some nights I’d stuff my face with chilli crabs. Good that I brought my anti-histamines just in case my allergies act up. 🙂

This is my favorite drink, madafu. (coconut) 🙂

And of course this one too…. Margarita. 🙂

Every night, they also have some real good entertainers to serenade you while you’re having dinner. They are all pretty good too.

They also have a game room with pool tables, ping pong table and I think, if I’m not mistaken a playstation? Not really sure though. Anyway, what surprised me most about Kenya or Africa in general is how cold it really is. I’m not really sure if it’s just because we came from the 50-degree-celsius temperature of Dubai but I was literally shivering whenever I’m inside their beachside restaurant, at 2 in the afternoon. That’s why I was able to sunbathe the most here than in any beach that we’ve ever been to. I don’t ever feel the ray the of the sun because of the cool breeze.

Sun bathing by the pool.

Sun bathing by the beach.

My feet worshiping the sun.

And finally, the finished product. The Kenyanized me.

Aaaaaaaand now I’m a roasted pig. Bacon anyone?

I love everything about the resort, I just despise these monkeys. They’re everywhere!

My first encounter, he was trying to get inside my room and was eyeing the mangoes and bananas on the table.

They are only afraid of the hotel staff, for us the vacationers, they don’t really care no matter what we do to scare them away. They’re very cheeky too, they’ll look at you straight in the eye while their arms stretch to your bag and get whatever they can hold inside it. I found them funny in the end though.

It was hard for me to bid goodbye to the resort as I literally fell in love with it and I like saying Jambo to just about anyone I cross paths with. 🙂


Forty Thieves Beach Bar

There’s a beach bar which was highly recommended on TripAdvisor called Forty Thieves and of course, we went there. I looked it up on the GPS on my iphone and found out that it’s about 4km away from the resort, 5-10 minutes by car and around 45minutes to walk. We chose the car. 🙂

It’s actually a nice place although we didn’t eat anything, just had a few drinks while I tried to sun-bathe more.

Tourist traps!

The breeze is cooler in this part of the beach and the boyfriend was unable to take it. He was freezing, in Africa, at 3pm, during summer. Wtf right? So we stupidly decided to walk back to our resort as it didn’t seem to be so far away when we took the car. Wrong decision. Very wrong decision. Although it was a nice, leisurely walk with the cool breeze making it easier for us there were just some parts of the beach which were unwalkable due to the seaweeds. Also, there are a lot of beach boys roaming around selling you all sorts of things that you don’t really need. Comparing to Asia, they are more persistent in Africa and oftentimes feistier. At some point, one became angry at us for refusing everything he offered and blamed us for everything that has ever happened in his life. At some point, we had to ask permission from one of the resorts if we can pass thru their hotel to get to the main road as the beach became more remote and we’re the only tourists walking along it and the view of the beach boys coming towards us. The security guard agreed after much discussion. In the end, we walked a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes from Forty Thieves back to our resort.

Tsavo East National Park

When you’re in Africa, you have got to do at least one safari to one of their reserves. We purchased it from Private Safaris for AED1750- for 2 passengers and we were picked up from our hotel at 5 in the morning and arrived at the park at around 9am. It’s a very tiring journey specially on the way back. The journey back was actually the reason why I have decided that this will be my first and last African trip and I am never coming back, the traffic was just unbearable and with a lack of sleep, it just makes it worst. The safari however was fantastic, nothing beats seeing these animals in their natural habitat. But of course it’s not like a zoo where you’ll be able to see all the animals all at once, you’ll have to search for it and you must have a good driver along with you. Luckily we did and we were able to see a pride of lions being lazy beneath a tree. I was told by someone who has been in a safari for 4 days that she was not able to see any lions at all in those 4 days, so we were lucky. 🙂

Zebra crossing, they do walk funny. 🙂

Here kitty kitty kitty kitty… 🙂

Say cheese!

A gazelle.

Giraffes are my favorite, they’re very graceful.

Elephants! 🙂

After the morning drive, we went to Voi Lodge to have lunch which was surprisingly good and very tasty. We also had a view of a watering hole from the restaurant where most of the animals go to refresh themselves. 🙂

After the elephants, the buffalos came next all lined up as well. 🙂

And of course, the obligatory narcissistic shot of myself doing yoga. 🙂

It’s a great experience, I wouldn’t do it for more than a day though that’s just crazy!

Goodbye Kenya!

It was a fantastic 6-day vacation in an unexplored territory, well at least for me as I’ve never really been to the real Africa yet. Did I have a good time? Most definitely. Will I do it again? I don’t think so. I’ll probably go back exploring Asia for good beaches. 🙂

Departing Kenya is a big hassle though, first off the banks close from around 1pm until 7pm, well at least that’s what the security guard told us. So there was no way for us to change our Kenyan Shillings back to US dollar at the airport. Second, since the airport is very small, the lines to get to the check-in counters will last for about an hour or two so you have to be there at least 3 hours prior departure. Third, the immigration counter at the departure area is also quite a mess at Moi International Airport with only one counter working, it sure will take some of your time still. I read repeatedly that there is a departure fee of USD20- which will be collected at the Immigration counter, but there was no such thing so that’s another tip for you. 🙂 Lastly, the departure area at Moi International Airport is probably the saddest airport I’ve ever been to. The shops were closed when we arrived (between 2-4pm) so we were unable to buy some souvenirs and even if everything was open, there were very limited options as well.

All in all, it was a great holiday. Short but sweet. I leave you now with an aerial shot of what I think is the Tsavo National Park, of course I’m just making it up. 🙂

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2 Comments

  • Reply housewivesquest February 17, 2014 at 17:21

    I love Kenya. We have visited Diani amazing Indian Ocean Beach! You don’t find white sand like that everywhere! Much love and I hope you go back next time to Watamu!

    • Reply Pinay Flying High February 17, 2014 at 22:31

      I also loved Diani! The beach and the resort that we stayed in were absolutely amazing! I’ll check that Watamu out. 🙂

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