On Saturday afternoon I came back from an unexpected work trip to Moshi. I rushed home from the airport, had a quick shower and threw some clothes in a bag because it was time for the next trip: staying with the Maasai at Mount Suswa, my first trip with Charlie's Travels!
Together with Jack, Nyssa and TJ, we left Nairobi with driver George until Mara Gateway in Suswa. There we were picked up by Rueben - the Maasai we were staying with - and his boda buddies. Packed on the back of their motorbikes we started the off-road journey… And it was bumpy! And dusty! We were literally just driving over the rocks and my hands started to have blisters from holding on to the bike so tight and my black backpack and hair had become brown from all the dust. But since we were going uphill and the sun was about the set, it gave us the most amazing view over the valley and Lake Naivasha in the distance. But that also meant it was getting dark quickly, especially in combination with some big rain clouds hanging above the hills. We kept driving on fast because the forecast gave code red because of the expected heavy rains that could cause flash floods and landslides.
When the sun had set and it became dark, we at least managed to get passed the rocky part of the journey and we ended up on some sort of dirt road. The driver told us 'we were very close, only 20 minutes left'. But after a few minutes on the dirt road: lightening FILLED the sky. Because we were now on the open plains, it seemed like the whole sky from east to west was filled when lightning struck. And it didn’t take long or rain started pouring down. We hadn’t really prepared for this so we all tried to keep our bags dry, while holding on to the bikes because the roads became all muddy and slippery. My driver gave me a shuka (the red traditional wear from the Maasai) to try and cover myself and my backpack with, but it didn’t help much. There was no other option than to keep driving, since there were not even huts along the way and the indication of 'almost there' was definitely in a Kenyan time frame because I think it took at least another 45 minutes, haha T.I.A.!
We finally arrived at Rueben’s house, all soaking wet. But his lovely wife Hilda and super cute baby Victorine waited for us with warm tea, Maasai style made with lots of milk and lots of lots of sugar. We got a surprise bottle of whiskey from Charlie's Travels to make the Maasai tea even more special and that was exactly what we needed after a ride like that! Thanks guys!
After warming up from the heat of the jiko (traditional stove) and having some great chapo and ndengu (chapati and lentils) for dinner, Rueben and Hilda left us for the night. And that was when we actually needed that bottle of whiskey again after seeing a big ass spider in our bedroom (I actually slept in the living room with a torch in my hand after that, haha such a hero *not*. But honestly, it was really big... haha).
The next morning we were up early enough to see the sunrise and finally even see where exactly we were staying. We hadn't seen anything the night before arriving in the dark and in the pouring rain! So we woke up in our 'manyatta'; a Maasai settlement made up of huts and cattle kraals. This manyatta was Rueben's family, meaning the other houses were all his brothers and their families. The huts are made out wood of plastered with a mixture of water, mud, and cow dung. The Maasai live of their livestock, mostly goats and some cows that during the day graze and at night stay in a kraal made of sticks and wood. The hut we stayed in was relatively 'modern' because it had beds with mattresses and even a solar powered charger block. But for the rest it was back to basics! So... going to the bathroom meant walking somewhere behind a pile of rocks in the field and using wet wipes were our 'showers'.
So just in case you are planning on going on this trip, a short lists of items you should definitely bring:
After the hike we returned back to the village where we napped. We were all pretty tired after that hike, haha. The rest of the afternoon we hang out with the kids from the manyatta. They were all very sweet and interested in our camera's, bracelets and tattoos. We played football, volleyball and sang songs with them, which they really seemed to enjoy a lot! We had a dinner of ugali and played cards that night, and again slept early. The next morning we packed our stuff on the boda's again and drove back to Mara Gateway, and from there back to Nairobi.
This was my first trip with Charlie's Travels and I really loved it. Being in Kenya for a bit longer and having experience traveling alone and more 'local' I would never really use a travel agency, but this was actually great because it still had that adventurous part but Charlie has more experience with finding those cool spots and I got great advice in advance on what to bring etc. (And a bottle of whiskey, yayyy haha!) And I honestly loved staying with Rueben and his family, he was so welcoming to let us stay and eat with them. It's not that easy to find such a place to stay by yourself, especially if you like the less commercialized places, but it really made the experience extra special! In addition they also do motorbike and festival travels (which I both hope to do in the next few months yay!), so if you are in for new adventures, you should really check out their website/Facebook or send me a message and I will link you up!
ABecause the long weekend in Zanzibar wasn't enough, the next week I went for another dose of vitamin Beach but this time in Kenya. I haven't seen that much of the Kenyan coast for the time I have been in the country, so I was super excited to go to a new place. With six other friends, we booked flights to Malindi on Friday afternoon and my Airbnb-buddy Nyssa and I found this amazing villa on the beach between Malindi and Watamu called Nyumba Ya Madau.
After a bumpy ride through the villages where the kids would wave and shout 'caramello' (this part of the Kenyan coast has a lot of Italian residents and influences) to the taxi full of wazungu, we arrived at the villa. It was a-ma-zing! First of all we had the whole house for ourselves, 5 bedrooms that sleep up till 10 people and the house itself was stunning. It was made in that Swahili style that I absolutely love, with white walls, a little seat with a library and art on the walls, wood crafted mirrors and furniture, amazing bathroom and I can keep on going. It was just perfect just, look at the photos below :). Luckily, I stayed in what I think was the best room: the first room on the right when you enter, it has doors that open with a view of the sea! So you could actually wake up seeing the sunrise! Thinking back of that room while being back in Nairobi where it's 'winter', I really wanna go back now!
The other great thing about going to this place with a group is that it has lots of seating space. There was the little library corner, a big dining table outside, some more chairs and couches with pillows on the patio as well and two big stone seats outside. Upstairs there was another area which was perfect for playing card games in the evening and than a bit further from the house but still inside the fence, there were sunbeds which were perfect for tanning in privacy during the day and star gazing at night.
The first day I went looking for starfish with one of the local 'beach boys' and found the cutest little starfish that you could hold on your hand. From the sandbank almost right in front of the villa, there was a perfect view of the sun setting over the palms. The sky was all sorts of pink, orange and yellow and purple and the sea was super clear. We walked back to the house where the chef of the villa had prepared us some nice fresh red snapper and meatballs. It's important to bring your own groceries in advance when you arrive at the place later on the day, since it is a bit further from Malindi town and the supermarkets. You can ask the staff of the house to buy the fresh seafood and fish for dinner but also make sure it's well in advance before dinner! After dinner we played cards and salad bowl upstairs and had a few drinks. Another nice thing is that there is a swimming pool next to the house, its right outside the fence and shared with some other apartments but since it was low season, we were the only people there anyway when we went for a midnight swim.
The next day was pretty much the ideal beach-day, consisting of lots of relaxing, reading, working on our tan/sunburn, swimming off the sandbank in incredible warm and clear blue water and a great lunch at one of the local beach restaurants that had amazing fresh seafood platters. Luckily we did, because the food from the chef at the house in the evening was not very special. However, the chocolate mousse he made was pretty good! We had a nice relaxed night where we stargazed on the sunbeds outside, with an iPad app to try find the star signs before we went to bed.
The next day we relaxed in the morning, tried to get that tan really on point before going back to cold Nairobi and packed our bags. I think this house was the second best for a group stay after the one in Shela, Lamu. And I liked the beach/ocean a lot, especially because of the sand bank but my friends said Diani was better (I still haven't been so can't judge, haha). Can really recommend this place for a chill getaway with friends, its a bit far from Malindi so not ideal if you are looking for a party weekend. But if you are with a group you can bring your own booze and stay at the house, or walk 5 minutes down the beach to one of the beach bars and you can sure have some fun!
Yayyy! It had more than a year, but I finally booked a ticket to Zanzibar! My paradise happy place! I was in Zanzibar for 4,5 days 'only', so this post will be a simple overview of the few great places I went this time.
On first night we went to Kae Funk, in Michamvi. It is on the East-Coast of Zanzibar and on arrival we were greated by Bella, a 4 month old baby dikdik that became an orphan after people killed her mom and now lives at Kae Funk. She was the cutest ever!
We stayed in a beach room with a view on the palms and the bay. The rooms were lovely, I always love the Swahili style decoration and it was very clean too.
From the reception/bar and rooms to the beach is a 5 minute walk, on low-tide over the beach. With high-tide there is ankle height water.
On the beach is a perfect Zanzibarian beach-bar: cold drinks and fresh fruit cocktails (or juice) available, reggae music playing and hanging beds which were the best ever. But most important, the beach at Michamvi is amazing: pearly white sand, crystal blue water and palm trees everywhere. Besides, even though it being on the East-Coast, Michamvi is on Chwaka Bay which means it still has a sunset! Actually, the sunset is that good that people come to the beach bar just to see the sunset.
Totally worth it! To make it even better: it is possible to get food from Kae Funk served to the beach bar, but because it's a short walk this sometimes means it will be cooled down a bit. However, you should definitely give the Zanzibarian Pizza a try!
Even though it is not super close, if you have a car or a ride, you can go to the beach parties in Paje (I'd suggest Thursday:Jambiani, Friday:Jambo / Muzu's Place).
Upendo is located directly opposite the famous The Rock on the east coast of Zanzibar. I had already been to The Rock before and the restaurant is good, but a little overpriced maybe. So this time we went to Upendo, which is on the beach right in front of it.
Upendo actually has some amazing beach-view villas (where I really wanna stay next time!), but also a great lounge area with seats and an amazing black infinity pool that overlooks the beach. If you know me, I am not a big fan of swimming pools, especially not when I'm at the beach. But I have a thing for infinity pools with views and pools that don't look the typical sterile chlorine blue, so I actually loved this one!
But I think the best thing about Upendo is that they have sushi! Not a sushi-lover myself, but I know many people are and I can imagine eating sushi on a beautiful beach on Zanzibar would be enjoyable. I tried a coconut curry with prawns that was also not bad.
ZANZIBAR BANDAS, Matemwe
On Saturday we went to Matemwe, which is a bit more towards the North-East of the island. After crossing the cute village of Matemwe, you reach the boutique hotel that is next to the beach. This is another place where I would definitely stay next time since the bandas are actually right on the beach and it seemed to be a very quiet beach as well. There is a small but cosy area that has a restaurant, a view point and some sunbeds and hammocks around a small pool. It had a super relaxed atmosphere and I really liked how small it was kept. Even though I didn't swim, also this pool was not bad (for Nadi's pool standards, haha).
We had fresh juice and an AMAZING coconut prawn curry. This was truly one of the best I had, so good I actually ate the last sauce of the plate with my finger haha!
After that we had a small walk on the beach, where we met a fisherman that was literally slamming and beating up an octopus in the sand. Apparently, this will make the meat better and less chewy. It was weird and fascinating at the same time and we kept watching how he took the eggs out and cut it up for it to be dinner later that evening.
Another thing that I really enjoyed was the road back to the West coast, you cross the middle of the island seeing rice fields, monkeys, forest and lively villages. Especially with some stunning sunset colors filling the sky, I really enjoyed the drive.
FORODHANI GARDENS, Stone Town
Something that you can't miss out on when in Zanzibar is Forodhani Gardens in Stonetown. This night market close to the old time comes to live when the sun sets and offers some amazing local street food. You will probably read about this in every travel guide / blog / tourism centre, so I won't write a long post about this, but really try the Zanzibarian Pizza (folded pita pocket with all kinds of fillings available, I had the chicken one, loved it!), the seafood on a skewer and sugar cane juice.
It's a bit crowded, but the food is affordable and it's right next to the water so you can have a view of the sunset while the local boys dive off the dock so it's a whole experience on it's own you shouldn't miss out on!
6 DEGREES SOUTH/TATU, Stone Town
On my last night I really wanted to go out for a drink and we ended up going to 6 Degrees South, which is on walking distance from Forodhani Gardens. Its a bit of a fancy place, especially the restaurant but all the way on the top floor is an amazing rooftop bar. Again, I really like how the places in Zanzibar are not too crowded, especially now it was low season. Its also having an ocean view, but because it was dark I didn't see much of it that evening. But the outdoors breeze is all you need on the humid island nights. That night there was a DJ playing some real good afrobeats and the Moscow Mules were amazing too. However, 6Degrees doesn't stay open until very long. It's not really meant for clubbing I guess, or maybe because it was low season. So we went to the next place: Tatu, which is so nearby you can actually see it from the rooftop bar at 6Degrees.
Tatu (means 3 in Swahili), is the third floor of a building on which each floor is named a number (Moja = first floor and Mbili = second floor) its own kind of bar. However the most top bar Tatu seemed to be the most fun and has that same open idea like 6Degrees. Again, it was low season so it wasn't that packed but we had a really good time, making lots of new friends to have beers and shots with and enjoy the last night on this beautiful island.
And just a big thank you to my friend Vanessa that hosted me and showed me all the cool places to go and Miriam for being my party buddy! Asante!
A d v e n t u r e s o f
a D u t c h g i r l
i n E a s t - A f r i c a.