Winter proper started here in East Yorkshire mid-November. Frost followed by snow followed by yet more snow and ever lower temepratures. Normally we try to get away for a holiday in January or February, before the season proper starts, this year I suggested, why not holiday before christmas?
Where shall we go at such short notice, where do we actually fancy going to? As many of you will know, we visited Kenya back in Februay 2010, stopping for once in what is termed a proper hotel. The ones that have piped musak absolutely everywhere, the ones that have buffets positively growning under the weight of vast amounts of frankly, booring food, you know the ones that have organised activities and have large perimiter walls & fences to keep the locals & wildlife out. So, after scrabbling around on Trip Advisor and researching flights out of Humberside our local airport, we decided to go to Kenya again, this time staying in tents and trying our hand at what can only be termed 'Glamping' at Gazi Beach Retreat.
We booked our flights independently with KLM from Humberside via Schiphol & then on direct to Mombasa the accommodation through africasky.com. All pretty straight forward really. We duly arrived at Moi International Airport, Mombasa obtained our visa, collected our bagage, cleared customs and then walked out in the bright sunlight and tropical heat, from -10C to 35C not much of a temperature shock really? You know when you fly somewhere and then walk out through the arrivals door you see people holding up cards with names on? Yes, well there was no one there with our names on. Yes, OK we were'nt so daft as not to book transfers. Fortunately, we had contact phone numbers and began dialing, assisted by a very helpful young taxi driver called Simon. The mobile phone signal kept cutting out. It was Jamhuri Day, a BIG public holiday, everyone was partying. Simon spoke to our contact who asked him to bring us to the resort. So, off we went in a bright yellow taxi, roaring through mombasa at great speed, through the arched elephant tusks, over the Likoni Ferry, past the street parties, southward heading to Ukunda and then turned off to Diani. Diani?
Turning south at the T junction at Diani, we drove past the high walls of the BIG hotels, where are we going? Simon indicated left, pulling into the driveway of Galu Beach Retreat, security guard opened the barrier and in we drove. Deadly silence. We were met by beaming staff clutching trays bearing fruit punch for the weary and, to put it mildly, somewhat suprised travellers. 'You will be staying here', we were informed by the jovial Whitecliff, 'Doris is on her way'. as we were shown our room, and given a guided tour of the retreat.
We sat, sipping ice cold Tusker, looking out across the white coral sands and turquoise blue of the Indian Ocean. We paid the Simon and moved in! One look at that view was all it took. Superb, awesome, fabulous. So this was where we ended up, not really sure why we were here, but we didn't mind at all, in fact Farmer said he prefered this site much to the relief of our new best friend Doris, was somewhat relieved to discover that we weren't bothered at all about the morning's potential disarster!
Galu Beach Retreat is owned run by Destination Adventures Kenya whose other resorts include, Gazi, The Cove and Sable Valley Tree Houses. All the resorts are pretty small, no more than 8 rooms each l think, hence us booking. The meal plan is all inclusive, OK l hear you groaning, but this was AI with waiter service, choice of menu and you could eat either in the treehouse banda or ourside your room, we chose the former. The place is so relaxing, no need to 'dress' for dinner or slap on the make up, this was my idea of heaven. I would have gone barefoot all week if the pathways wern't so hot!
The rooms themselves were of a good size & for life's little luxuries there was air conditioning. There was decent sized bathroom [though the original taps were a bit of a pain to use], proper fridge filled with soft drinks / Tusker plus the really nice touch of a water dispenser, nothing is worse than being somewhere hot and having to keep buying drinking water. The bed, traditional Lamu style, came complete with mozzie nets. The covered terrace with comfy day bed was a favourite lazing spot and wasn't it great to not have TV or internet access or crappy music wafting past the frangipani trees.
I tell you what, the staff were absolutely wonderful. Helpful, polite and happy, they even tried to teach us some Swahilli! Asanti sanna! Being a bit of a foodie, what is brought to you on a plate is of some importance. Here the choice of food was fresh, local and cooked to order, not wearing a timepiece for 10 days, the only way l knew what the approximate time was, was when Sieed brought the lunch or evening menu for us to choose from. Oh, and it was so nice to have cocktails before dinner. Cocktails whilst wearing flip flops how very funny!
There were other facilites there, it had been an Holistic retreat before being taken over by the current owners, so there was a jacuzzi, some sort of fancy wooden yoga floor, star baths, [apparently you lie in a buble bath and look at the stars], mud bath and spa treatments. I did let Phoebe have a go at my nails which she took one look at and then proceded to tell me off whiilst stressing the word 'nail file'!
Whilst stoping here at Galu, we did have one night up at Sable Valley inlcuded in our holiday. These are two treehouses out in the bush en route to Shimba National Park. The drive itself, once you left the tarmaced highway at Ukunda, are along red dirt tracks and are really interesting. Passing though small villages, seeing local people fetching and carrying large cans of water from bore holes or streams., the strength needed to do this must be immense? The houses were surrounded by vegetable gardens where they were growing maize, casava and other vegetables.
The tree house, well words fail me. Ours was called ndovu in Swahilli, was heavenly, even the no door bathroom wasn't a problem. We watched the sun sink behind the acacia trees, supped sparkling wine in the jacuzi, then tucked into our 3 course supper prepared by Sieed who came with us as chef. Then as the bushbabies started to tune up & the geckos emerged from the grass roof, the large mosquito covered bed was rolled out onto the veranda for us to sleep in under the stars. It was like being 6 again and camping out in the garden and this time there really were wild animals at the bottom of the garden!
The following day after breakfast, we set off to Shimba National Park and spent the morning spotting game with Moulai. Propabley the best bit was watching the pygmy elephant in the undergrowth. Yjere he was totally oblivious to the world, calmly stuffing his face full of greenery - and forgetting to chew, when all of a sudden a large agrigate lorry thundered past. Up went his tail and he began thrashing through the undergrowth trumpeting away. Poor beastie was terrifield!
Our last trip our was 45 minutes south to Gazi, where we took motorboat trip through the mangroves followed by a guided walk along the Women’s boardwalk which was really intersting especially as you could plant mangrove seeds!
The trip home back to Yorkshire went fine, we heard about the very low temperatures and airports being closed yet again so we were pretty lucky that our flights were unaffected. We did however land in a snow storm at Humberside, there was 2 inches of snow on the runway!
Would we go again? In a word yes. This is a place to relax and totally switch off, with a ‘no news, no shoes’ feel. Thank you Doris & your team for such a great holiday!!
The other thing is, my spell checker here on blogger does'nt seem to want to work, hence the mulitude of typos! Sorry.