Writing from 1.292° S, 36.822° E
Have you ever had one of those trips where everything was so perfect that your face hurt from smiling by the time you left? For me, the week I recently spent in Kenya was exactly like that — but on steroids. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tanzania beyond words; however, after 2 months here with no exploring of nearby countries, I was getting very restless. So, at 6am on a Monday, I hopped on a $9 bus with my two German friends Lena and Melina.
14 hours later, after a 3-hour delay at the border, off-roading to get around a tipped over semi truck, and glimpsing some elephant herds as we sped through a national park, we finally arrived at our destination.
Our first stop in Kenya was Mombasa, a city on the coast that is so humid I thought I might not survive. However, as soon as we arrived at our Airbnb on Bamburi Beach, I had one of my happiest moments in Africa so far: WE HAD AIR CONDITIONING. Unfortunately, my German friends apparently do not rely as heavily on AC as I do back home in the States, so they made me turn it off after a few minutes. (I do admit to sneakily turning it back on once they had fallen asleep. Oops.)
We spent our first day relaxing on what seemed to be almost a private beach just for us, aside from a few old European sugar daddies hanging out in their Speedos. The water was warm and the weather was perfect, so we decided to go explore the North side of the beach. After finding an old staircase, we climbed to the top of a cliff and found a beautiful spot called Sea Haven Restaurant. We sat down for a beer and soon met the owners, Roy and Tina, who invited us to come back and eat dinner with them that night.
As if the unbelievable view wasn’t enough to make us love it, the food at Sea Haven was incredible. The seafood was so fresh that my friend Melina — who doesn’t like seafood (usually) — was devouring lobster and prawns by the end of the night. On top of all that, the company was one of the highlights of our trip.
Roy and Tina have been married for 25 years, and are quite possibly the sweetest couple I’ve ever met. Roy is from Kenya and spouts enough wisdom that we actually made him repeat a few sayings so we could take notes. Tina is from Austria/Germany and is remarkably kind and clearly a great mother to her three adult kids. We spent 5 hours at the restaurant talking with them and will definitely be returning someday.
2. Diani Beach
After Mombasa, we took a 3-hour taxi south to Diani Beach and entered heaven on earth. Villa Madinina is a 5-room rental near the beach and is by far the most beautiful home I’ve ever stayed in. The owners, Lillian and Cherif, were kind enough to share the house with us even though they had just gotten married 10 days before, and we ended up spending the next 3 days together.
Do you ever get knocked down a notch and realize just how unimpressive you are? I have! Lillian and Cherif both speak a million languages, are surgeons in Germany, have friends all around the world, and are just ridiculously nice people. They come to Kenya about once a year to stay in their villa, which they rent out the rest of the time at a purposefully low price to ensure that young Kenyans can afford to vacation there. As if we hadn’t met enough nice people already, the staff at the villa (Eva, Iddi, and Abdul) took great care of us as well. There are no words that could describe just how relaxing this place is, but we thankfully took lots of pictures!
Highlights of Diani:
- Visiting the Congo River, which flows directly into the Indian Ocean and fills up a small lake at high tide
- Spending a night at the beach bars sipping dawas
- Enjoying all the Kenyan food made by Iddi, the chef
- Drinking from fresh coconuts that looked way prettier than we ever could
Thank you Lillian and Cherif for having us at the villa! We will most definitely be back.
The trail of nice people in Kenya continues… After telling Lillian that we were unsure about going to Nairobi due to the recent political drama, she called up her brother who offered to host us at his home. So, we booked a night bus from Mombasa and arrived at the downtown bus station early Saturday morning.
Kennie and his wife Gloria got married one year ago and live just outside of Nairobi with their 4-month old daughter named Annabelle (look at those cheeks!). They were kind enough to give us a place to stay, cook for us, call our Ubers, and drive us around Nairobi searching for US Dollars to buy our new visas.
Honestly, I’m still not sure how we got lucky enough to meet such hospitable people in Kenya. The country was beautiful, but it was everyone we met that made our trip unforgettable — a great reminder that the best way to understand a place is to understand those who live there.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to our Kenyan friends. We can’t wait to see you again!