In between Juliet leaving Nairobi and Daniel arriving in Nairobi, I had about a week to spend in Kenya, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. On the recommendation of Juliet, her friends, and a kind-of-obnoxious-but-seemingly-very-knowledgeable-about-Kenya woman I met on a plane, I decided to head for the coast.
Only-in-Africa Beach-Vacation-Planning Challenge No. 1: My intended destination, Lamu, had recently become a site of kidnappings by Somali pirates. The State Department was recommending against all non-essential travel to coastal areas within 150 kilometres of the Somali border (but fyi, in case you happen to be planning your own trip to the Kenyan Coast, I think the travel restriction has since been lifted).
Solution: Reroute further south to Diani Beach, well outside of the 150km danger zone. See how responsible I am about travel safety?
Only-in-Africa Beach-Vacation-Planning Challenge No. 2: I went online to book a flight from Nairobi to Diani. Kenya Airways’ website was down. I called to book over the phone. Kenya Airways doesn’t accept credit card bookings over the phone. I tried to book the old-fashioned way, in person at the airline’s airport office. They weren’t able to make any bookings that day due to power outages.
Solution: Bus to Mombasa (6-7 hours); taxi to Diani (1 hour).
The bus ride turned out to be the best option anyway: cheaper and better views than a plane, and it gave me the chance to spend a day exploring Mombasa. Well, technically just a morning to explore Mombasa — by mid-afternoon the humidity had driven me back to my hotel room, where I spent the rest of the daylight hours standing in front of the air conditioner.
The main sight to see in Mombasa is Fort Jesus, which was built by the Portuguese to protect the port during the sixteenth century. Mombasa ping-ponged between Arab and Portuguese rule for a few hundred years until it became part of British East Africa in the 1800’s.
After seeing the Fort, I took a walk along the water and then wandered around the city for a while. You can see a lot of Arab and Indian influence in Mombasa (as is true of much of the Swahili Coast), which gives it a very different look and feel than other African cities that I’ve visited. Notable stops on my walk: a snack stand for fresh fruit and dried mango with chili powder (yum), a beautiful Hindu temple, and a salon advertising “extreme makeovers” (I went in to ask for more information, but they were out to lunch).
After a day and two nights in Mombasa, I moved to Diani Beach, where I spent three days recovering from a cold (I blame the air conditioner in Mombasa) in the most pleasant way possible — lazing around on the beach with the camels and monkeys and drinking coconut water straight from the source.
Oh, and a good sunrise never hurts.
After my three days at the beach, I opted to fly back to Nairobi since I had another long bus ride coming up a few days later and the one-way plane ticket was only $80. Plus, even though I can understand why Jomo Kenyatta is one of the world’s most-hated airports, I had been spending a lot of time there and was kind of starting to miss it.
Up Next: Daniel in Africa!!!!!