Stay Eat Do in Kenya


TO DO:  Try kitesurfing, surfing and stand up paddle boarding with H2O Extreme the only reputable water sports centre in Diani. Operated from the Kenyaways Kite Village, the instructors are very knowledgeable and have you up and going before you know it! I was SUPing from the first go, was standing on the surf board and riding waves shortly after starting…

Spend a day snorkeling or diving the reef at Wasini with Pilli Pipa Dhow Safaris.  They lay on an incredible lunch at the end of the trip too!

TO STAY: Kenyaways Kite Village – a place that I have spent more hours than I can count.  It’s relaxed and the perfect place to come and stay if you’re visiting Diani.  It has its own piece of pristine beach front and the views are to die for.  There is a great water sports centre operating from here called H2O Extreme.

If you’re looking for a more expensive and luxurious stay, get hold of Valentina at Water Lovers, a lovely small boutique resort in the heart of Diani; or Ida Andersson at Kinondo Kwetu, a gorgeous and exclusive retreat 10kms south of Diani. Kinondo Kwetu also offer horse riding on the beach and yoga overlooking the sea.  All three of the above places won Trip Advisor Travellers Choice awards last year.

I also stayed at South Coast Backpackers when I arrived. If you’re on a budget, stay here. The pool is lovely and the bar is always open.  The owners are three young French guys, Kevin, Justin and Louis, who know how to show their guests a good time.  It’s full of backpackers, volunteers and other young travellers.  Head here if you want some company and a bit of a party.

TO EAT: Get hold of Bruce at Madafoos at the Kenyaways Kite Village – great vibe, relaxed atmosphere and always filled with Diani’s usual suspects. They have fish BBQs on Friday nights and curry buffets on Sundays – not to be missed! For a more special evening, head to Sails (at Alamanara) – the chef Luke is one of Kenya’s finest and you dine under the most beautiful sails right on the beach.  The food is under-priced for the quality of cuisine that is served up!


TO STAY:  I stayed at Mombasa Backpackers.  If you’re looking for a party and great way to get meet travellers – head over here.  Look out for Rasta Dave (came to the backpackers over a year ago to stay for a few days and never left) as well as Dan Sorrell, a crazy South African full of fun who spends most nights here too. Dave the owner is very helpful and will ensure that you have a good time…


TO STAY AND EAT:  You can’t go wrong with Camp Carnelley’s. Set on the water’s edge, this beautiful array of little cottages as well as sweeping lawns for camping is the perfect spot to explore the water, Hells Gate and Crater Lake game park nearby. The restaurant, complete with a wood burning pizza oven, serves some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had! The owners Lovat and Chrissy Carnelley are warm and hospitable.  Ask Lovat if you have car trouble – he’s a mechanic of sorts…


TO STAY: I tried a few places in Nairobi but nothing compares to Wildebeest Eco Camp between Karen and the city.  It’s secure, beautifully maintained and extremely reasonable (free wifi!).  They have a range of options from tented dorm rooms (crisp linen included, couldn’t believe it!) to luxury permanent tents overlooking a lush garden. They also have a small area for camping. Can’t recommend this place enough!  You can find out more about tours going out to the Masai Mara etc here too.

Sadly if you are planning on staying at Jungle Junction, just be aware that they had two armed robberies late 2013. You make the call…  Karen Camp too is an absolute dive so don’t bother with that either!


TO STAY: We had a magical few days at Che Shale, near Malindi on the North Coast of Kenya.  Owner run, this remote retreat is set in a coconut grove away from everything and everyone!  The food is absolutely first class and you couldn’t ask for a more hospitable stay!  The winds are good here, so kite surfing is popular. Che Shale has its own kite surfing centre.


Tailor-made safaris with a focus – photography, cultural, kitesurfing, fishing, birding – you name it, these guys can make it happen. Contact Kenyan born Boris Polo at Expeditions East Africa, he knows more about the bush and coast than anyone! Drop my name, he may cut you a deal…


I used Safaricom, it’s the most widespread provider and is the provider most people use.  Buy data bundles if you plan on using the 3G for browsing – you get about 10 times more out of it than using your regular top up money for data.

Route Mombasa to Nairobi, Kenya

Mombasa (blue) to Diani Beach (red) – 23 miles (1 hour due to Likoni Ferry) – see post here

Diani Beach to Tsavo East (green) – 144 miles (5 hours through the Shimba Hills) – see post here

Tsavo East to Tsavo West (yellow) – 83 miles (4 hours pole pole game drive) – see post here

Tsavo West to Amboseli (purple) – 82 miles (5 hours – horrendous road!) – see post here

Amboseli to Nairobi (blue) – 141 miles (5ish hours – horrible road to tar, dangerous road thereafter!) – see post here

Partying in Mombasa and Retreating to Diani, Kenya

[19 August] Things have a funny way of working out… and this whole journey so far has been about a collection of coincidences and events where I almost didn’t, but then did… and ended up meeting awesome people, getting to know their friends, and experiencing the unexpected kindness of strangers.

You’ll have to read the next few entries to see just how these little changes affected a potentially disastrous outcome. Follow the treasure trail of coincidences over the next few posts to see how lucky I ended up.

26th – 30th July 2013

So, with cash flying out my wallet at an insane rate (due to unexpected customs, parting with cash and port charges), I decide to move to a backpackers. Searching online I find a nice looking place nearby called Nirvana Backpackers (sounds tranquil enough) and enquired online. I also check the Lonely Planet which alternatively and rather cheerfully suggested Mombasa Backpackers

Mombasa Backpackers

“If you thought backpacker hostels had to be cramped and grimy places be prepared for a surprise. This is a huge white mansion surrounded by lush, coconut gardens (with camping areas). The spacious rooms and dorms are well maintained and there’s a decent swimming pool. Note that there have been some muggings in the vicinity of the hostel.”

[Lonely Planet East Africa July 2012]

Muggings in the area? Hey ho, that’s standard in Kenyan cities right? So I gave the owner David a call and he had space in a single room. Got back from the port office that afternoon and hadn’t heard from Nirvana so taxied over to Mombasa Backpackers and wandered into the reception area, laden with bags (still bearing my folding shovel, step stool, four large unnecessarily weighty padlocks). As always, when arriving at a new backpacking joint, I tend to do a quick recce and mentally assess the situation. Everyone always looks like they belong, morphed into the lounging chairs, sipping beers at the bar, wandering around barefoot, and you’re the spare kid who’s just arrived, with no friends, looking like you might need to be picked for one of the many gangs gathered in various hot spots… feeders at the dinner table, actives at the table tennis table, readers on the cushions, peace corps world changers in circles on the lawn, loungers lazing pool side or Chinese-eyes in stoner’s corner near the bottom of the garden.

Anyone for 90% DEET?

Liz showed me to my single room. She unlocked the door and as my eyes adjusted to the lack of light I saw a horde of disturbed mozzies rise up from the darkness. Liz made a swift exit back to her post behind the reception desk / bar, leaving me to wonder what the hell I had gotten myself into. David is going to kill me for this, but the room is below par on all standards. The mattress was stained, the painted walls bubbling and peeling, the hole in the wall with mesh (window?) had some heavy material nailed across it. Judging by the dust settled on the curtain creases, it hadn’t been cleaned or moved for months, the top section between the door and ceiling was missing, and the room itself was as big as a postage stamp. The bathroom next door was covered in muddy footprints, the shower curtain was missing and the plumping had seen better days decades ago. The mozzie net, patched up in places with material plasters, was insufficient and didn’t quite stretch over all corners of the bed and so hung low leaving very little space in the middle for a person.

Not ideal when you’re tired and dirty…

Something I hadn’t considered was the lack of bedding… my sleeping bag (as you may recall from the customs strip search) was folded away in my roof tent in the container. So, out came the sarong placed over the sheets, and over me, two towels beneath which I curled. I read for a bit before trying to get some shut eye, but sleep came in fits and starts due to the missing section of wall above the door. I woke every time someone slip-slopped their way down the corridor or slammed the bathroom door, then at some ungodly hour the backpackers started playing beer pong on the table outside and I was subjected to a running commentary,  laughter and shrieks as the games came down to the wire. I later found out who to blame for this… Dan Sorrell.

I woke early and headed back to port for the day with Paul from Multiple Solutions. Being a Saturday, there wasn’t much to be done and so I was back by midday. Having decided there was no way I was spending another night at this backpackers, I sat outside and tried to get onto the elusive wifi (we had been given the password to hack into the wifi from a neighbouring resort and the only one bar ‘hot spot’ was on the driveway).

Whilst searching for alternative accommodation options for that night, and just about to tall a taxi, who should walk out of the backpackers front door but Boris frikkin Polo. He and Bruce Cattermole were up from Diani for the weekend for a friend’s party. I had met Boris and Bruce amongst other local wazungus (cue Dan “Swindian” Floren) at Forty Thieves (where else?) in Diani the week before.

After a few cold Tuskers at the in the bar it didn’t take much persuasion to stay at the backpackers, and as Boris and Bruce knew David the owner, it didn’t take much more to sort out a sweet upgraded room to myself outside the main house – mozi net intact, freshly painted walls and a shower with a shower curtain – amazing!

Bruce and Boris

Boris and Bruce invited me to join them and so off I went, to the birthday bash of people I didn’t know.  Now, partying with wazungu Kenyans is an event only attempted by the audacious. Thought I’d had plenty practise leading up to my London departure but these guys take things to a new level. The party was hosted by Mike K at his stunning home in Nyali. Complete with fairy lights along the drive, open entertainment area, free bar, poolside buffet and headgear theme, it rendered itself open to a bender of note. It wasn’t long before I was being introduced to high society Mombasa and up-country locals alike; the uncle of this one, second husband of so-and-so, and the cousin of that.  I did my best to keep up but the dawas (Swahili for muti/medicine – a lovely concoction of vodka, sugar and lime) were slowly working their way through my bloodstream and, like with all parties with free booze, things started getting a little hazy.

Mombasa Party – everyone ended up in the pool

Mikey Diesbecq hopped behind the bar to give the overworked barman a hand, and things started going off-piste something chronic. We had a great night, saw too many shenanigans and decided to leave at 4am once people started getting thrown into the pool. We got back to the backpackers to find Rasta Dave and a few other guys in a similar state on the foosball table.  Too much excitement for one night, I turned in. Two hours later I get a knock on my door, it’s Bruce looking to come cuddle. Too funny, we had a little chat and I gave him a high five through my mozi net before sending him packing.

Beer pong – a favourite past time at Mombasa Backpackers

I awoke just after 9am and hand on head, walked into the bar area to purchase some much needed H2O, only to find Bruce with a Tusker in hand and blood shot eyes… still awake, still drinking. Worst still was the shriek that came from the bar. On swift investigation I found a young brunette on the bar stool doubled over with laughter and a pretty blond girl, beer in one hand and needle in the next, piercing a bearded guy’s left ear.  I repeat, it’s 9am in the morning… Enter Emily, Izzie and Dan Sorrell. They hadn’t gone to bed either and were still hammered… Anyhow, long story short, Dan ended up sporting a new surfboard earring and we all went to the beach for the day where they continued to drink and soak up the sun. Sea urchins in feet and unsuccessful attempts at trying to persuade the local beach hotels to sell Dan bottles of rum saw us through to the afternoon. The young bloods continued their drinking marathon into the night with rounds of beer pong on the table tennis table. The following day I found Dan asleep on the concrete floor underneath the wicker sofa.

Mombasa Backpackers Crowd

The Diani crowd departed taking Izzie and Emily with them, and leaving me to fend for myself fighting the customs officials in port.

30th – 31st July 2013

Kenyaways Kite Village, Diani Beach

Tuesday came around and once I got the Land Cruiser out of the container I headed back to Mombasa to get a few things (before heading off to the parks for a week). Once in Mombasa I realised that it would be foolish to put foot flat and race up to Tsavo and so I decided to drive back to Diani and sort some kit out. I arrived at Kenyaways Kite Village where Boris has his H2O Kitesurfing school and called him and Bruce to tell them I was there – Izzie and Emily were on the loungers and we all ended up having great chow at Bruce’s Madafoos Beach Bistro.

Pluto and Scooby, my new fury friends

I stayed with Boris over the next few days. He has the most incredible spot on the beach down the coast – a little slice of heaven. Although Boris won’t admit it, I do think his dogs, Pluto, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Scooby, a big-boned “shhh don’t hurt her feelings”, Jack Russell started to love me more than him, and so I had to go before it became to obvious that his pets had switched allegiance.

I got all the recovery gear onto a bag and taupe on the roof and cargo netted it all down. Final placing of goods in their rightful boxes and the raiding of Nakumatt for the stocking of fridge perishables and Captain Morgan was high on the list of priorities. Boris was a complete legend and kindly donated two pairs of Havaiana flip flops, the largest sticker ever displayed for the back window of my LC, and an awesome black 50l bucket which he ratcheted to the roof for showers after those hot and dusty days!

Boris’ home-made shower of the roof rack – lasted about an hour before coming off

I met a great friend and business partner of Boris’ at lunch called Alex, and raided Boris’ contacts for useful people, campsites and places for the journey ahead; including names and numbers for Lovat and Chrissy Carnelley, and Mikey Diesbecq (party barman) who both live in Naivasha; “These guys will take you in”, he assured me.

Another thing Boris gave me good advice on, was the flamingo situation.  I had planned on going to Lake Nakuru to see flamingos but with the rising water levels, the salinity in the water is diluted, resulting in a reduced availability of algae and so the birds have flown to other smaller lakes to source this. Due to the lack of flamingos, Boris persuaded me not to go to Nakuru but to go to Naivasha instead to see his friends and said I should try the small lake next to Naivasha for flamingos.

And so, on Thursday 1st August, headed for Tsavo, I waved goodbye to Boris and the dogs and headed off into the Shimba Hills and beyond.

My drive had begun!

Expedition is GO – Boris’ House, Diani

TTC 1:  How I know Boris and Bruce is by pure chance… My last night at South Coast Backpackers (Diani) I wasn’t going out at all and was in my pyjamas.  But as the taxis arrived to take my Irish friends down the road to 40 Thieves, I had a sudden surge of FOMO, changed quickly and went with them.  I met Boris & Bruce that night through Dan Floren who I’d met the night before.

TTC 2: Nirvana Backpackers didn’t get back to me so ended up at Mombasa Backpackers, my second choice.

TTC 3: Minutes away from leaving Mombasa Backpackers and booking another place to stay, Boris and Bruce appear at the backpackers I wasn’t supposed to be at in the first place.

TTC 4: Boris persuades me to go to make last minute changes to go to Naivasha instead of Nakuru.

The Waiting Game and Unleashing of the Beast – Mombasa, Kenya

[17th August] I must apologise for the lack of blogging, but life on the road is hard work. I didn’t quite realise just how much time driving, sightseeing and daily camping routines would consume. But I have time now, and so with diary open, my fingers should fly over the keyboard.

26th – 30th July 2013

The past few days have been frustrating, but this is Africa, and it has it’s own time. The ship docked in Mombasa Port on Tuesday and the container unloaded on Wednesday. My fixers are doing their thing, lodging this and submitting that, but haven’t been able to give me a firm date for collection, and so I wait. Saturday seems like something may happen. I just want to get into the bush!

I’ve been staying in a nice hotel in the Bamburi area just North of Mombasa, with all the food and drink I could ask for. It was my treat for finally getting here after two years of planning and prep! Without sounding like a spoiled child, the days have all become a blur as the daily cycle of living in an all-inclusive resort repeats itself; eat breakfast, laze by the pool, read, eat lunch, play some volleyball or water polo with the hotel activity hosts, check emails, eat cake, drink coffee, laze some more, eat dinner. Three square meals a day (plus afternoon cake). Another week and I might have rolled out of the hotel lobby.

Neptune Beach Resort

Neptune Beach Resort, Mombasa

The hotel is so quiet and the staff have been super friendly, always a handshake, greetings and pleasantries before asking me if there’s anything I need. After just 5 days, I feel like a part of the furniture. I even got chatted up by the chef who wanted to take me up to Malindi for a good time and please could he have my email address.  I told him that the snapper was terrific but that I wouldn’t be taking him up on the kind offer. After lengthy discussions with a few of the other staff, I am a little more clued up on Kenyan tribes (there are around 42 of them), and have mastered a basic greeting conversation in Swahili (no prizes for this piece of linguist genius). The outlandish decadence could not continue any longer, it’s wasted on me, I feel awful when the staff trip over themselves to help me carry my bags or pull back my chair at dinner, and so I will move to a Backpackers today until the Beast has muscled it’s way out of customs.

I’m sitting in an office downtown Mombasa, opposite the Railway Station. After being driven here by my enthusiastic driver Peter, I am relieved to be here with life and limb intact. The roads are crazy and it almost feels like the drivers are playing a computer game, foot flat on the pedal.

No space to overtake? Sawa, no worries, we’ll overtake anyway, blind rises, solid lines, AND make the car on the opposite side veer off-road for good measure. No one gives and inch, no tapering of speed to let someone in, no slowing down when you see a taxi careering towards you on your side of the road – a game of chance (or chicken), except if it’s “Game Over” there is no option to “Start Again” – shucks man, is it really worth it?

Getting my car out of customs was a process I hope never to repeat. Tedious bureaucracy and manual paperwork makes for long hours in the shipping yard office. Multiple Solutions were handling everything for me. Reasons behind why my presence was needed (at times) still elude me. Not once did I sign anything, not once was I asked any questions. Finally, on day 6, a breakthrough! I followed my fixer Paul out in amongst all the stacked containers and found mine unloaded and on the ground.

Customs Port, Mombasa

We opened it up and were told to unpack everything and sprawl my neatly arranged contents onto the ground for inspection. A chap arrived after about an hour of my sitting in the sun. Frowning he snatched the list of declared goods from my hand. I will admit that, in my frayed state days before leaving London, I hadn’t taken too much time to consider the repercussions of not carefully considering the importance of this itemised account and I now stood wishing the list was a little less threadbare. To me, my entry called ‘personal effects’ covered clothing, toiletries and a host of other non-descript items which were clearly meant to be marked separately.  This did not please customs.

As the very official acting man called out each item on the list, I politely pointed out the seemingly obvious bits and pieces. Not satisfied that my sleeping bag was indeed inside the roof top tent, I was ordered to unfold the tent to prove this to him. If you have ever owned a roof top tent, you will be fully aware of the hassle required folding it away again. After half an hour, now ignoring me and seemingly satisfied with the contents, he thrust my list of declared goods back at Paul and walked off. Great, can we go now? Not so quick. Turns out this guy was just flexing his bureaucratic muscles and had nothing whatsoever to do with the signing off of my vehicle…

Mombasa Port Customs

A while later, flies buzzing around my beading forehead, a well-fed lady appears from behind a stack of crates. Approaching with well manicured toe nails in her smart black shoes, she wouldn’t look at me.  Her face resembling one which might have just sucked on a lemon, I got the distinct feeling that I may have interrupted her day by with my customs requirements, forcing her leave her air conditioned unit to join us out in the sun in the yard. We repeated the entire process all over again. By this time, I had been standing in the sun for well over 2 hours, all my traveling possessions splayed out on the concrete, I was quickly losing my sense of humour. Eventually it transpires that my spares, amongst other things, require ‘extra duty’ and the process will take a further week and a completely new application. Paul pulls me aside, “If you want this car out, you may have to part with some cash”. This is Africa. It took a small fortune of ‘parted cash’, additional taxes and fees for 2 extra days in port, and another full day of waiting in the CFS before customs they were satisfied.

Over the 6 days, spending hours in the waiting room in the CFS offices, I noticed a particular port official wait until I looked up and over towards his corner, before waving at me enthusiastically from behind the counter window at the port office.  Late on my final day, just as everyone was packing up to leave (I was still waiting for my truck with my container to depart), he finally emerges from behind the office area and comes to talk to me in the waiting room.  After a long discussion about my make-believe boyfriend and our plans for a great future together, he asks me if I want to live with him in Mombasa, or at least, please can we be Facebook friends so that he can poke me all the time.  I had to laugh.

Mombasa Port Chaos

My container was finally loaded onto a Multiple Solutions truck that afternoon and was to be moved to their handling yard 20kms outside of Mombasa at Miritini. At 5:30pm, just as we’re watching the trucks leave the CFS, one breaks down and another runs out of fuel right near the exit gate. Twenty local guys standing around, each one of them giving the trucks and cars different instructions.  Taxis pushing in and around trying to get through just made the situation even worse and eventually everything was in gridlock, with my truck still inside the yard. After half an hour of standstill, the truck hanging out the gate gets backed up.  They close the massive black gates to the CFS.  Paul is inside, I am outside, it’s getting dark, we’re at the port and there is nowhere to go.  At this point, the traffic clears and 5 minutes later the road is clear.  I look through the keyhole of the iron gates to let the port people know it’s ok to bring the trucks out again, but through the gap I can see the area beyond is empty and devoid of life.  Another half an hour passes, when suddenly the entrance gates, 200m down the road in the other direction open up and trucks start to exit via the entrance.  What a drama.  Finally my truck is out, my container is on it’s way to Miritini where we’d unload it the next day. I say again, this is Africa.

Handling Yard outside Mombasa

The following day I went with Paul to Miritini – the 20km journey takes around 45 minutes. The handling yard is in the middle of nowhere, and this is where the containers are stored and transported to their final destination by Multiple Solutions. After hanging about for almost an hour, they finally bring my container down off it’s truck and open it up. We drive it out and the guys very kindly start helping me get the roof tent onto the roof rack clamped down and spannered tight. We’re just about done when Paul says “I need to go back to the office to get your foreign permit for the car”. “Cool, I’ll follow you back into town”, I say. Not so fast, Paul informs me that I can’t drive on the roads without it. So I sit, for a further hour and a half whilst he goes back into town to collect this small piece of paper for my windscreen, leaving me to make small talk with the workers in the yard. Following this little hiccup, we say our goodbyes and he heads off back to Mombasa before I realise he still has my bags and my GPS in the boot of his car. I head back into Mombasa, GPS blind. Lucky I love maps and had a pretty good idea of where things were in Mombasa so found the office fairly easily and got my stuff off him.

I popped in to get a sim card, my Safaricard (necessary for topping up with cash before you go to the KWS parks) and petrol before deciding that it was a little bit late to rush through to Tsavo. Instead, I decided to go back to the coast, that little spot I had enjoyed so much the week before.  Back to the little haven of Diani, back to friends and their splendid spots where I was to spend the next two days sorting the car and myself out before hitting the road.

Leaving Mombasa by the Likoni Ferry was interesting…

Likoni Ferry, Mombasa – the ONLY route from Mombasa to Diani