Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kenya - An African Adventure

Long have I heard of the best safaris, beautiful coastline and the warm and welcoming people of Kenya. I was excited to finally attest for myself. A Kenyan summer adventure with my family. One week remote beach and coastline, one week off-road wilderness and safari.

Kenyan Coastline (Che Shale)
Large parts of the Kenyan coast have been snatched up for tourists resorts, large and small. North and south of Mombasa as well as Malindi offers you beautiful getaways but unfortunately, most of these getaways don't offer too much purity and tranquility. If you really want a piece of wild beach where you find nothing but a few scattered huts and palm trees, CheShale is THE choice.
Picture yourself driving off road (until last year a 4x4 was needed), through dense coconut plantations where you pass small collections of local African huts with beautiful, big eyed children playing amongst the trees. One senses it before reaching Che Shale, that paradise awaits you. Secluded from noise, roads and everyday life, Che Shale offers you stylish simplicity. Simple, stylish, secluded - three words that describe Che Shale perfectly.

A fresh coconut awaits every guest arriving at Che Shale as well as a warm welcome from your host Justin, who owns this piece of land and has lived there for 37 years. Some would call it a last bit of unspoilt paradise on the Kenyan coast. It is peaceful, pure, and still has a touch of wild. Justin and Isabelle run this small resort, which offers everything one may want for a sexy, beach getaway. Beach, sunshine, sport (kitesurfing, SUPing...), a friendly atmosphere and amazing fresh food.

Choose to stay in one of their beautiful Bandas with either the B&B, Half or Full Board option. Every meal of the day is prepared beautifully, with only fresh ingredients and lots of love. Justin's mother oversees the kitchen and allows guests to sample a range of her delicious recipes. Every dinner comes in a 4 course meal so needless to say, you are well looked after at Che Shale! A bonus...fresh tea and coffee is available throughout the day and every afternoon tea is accompanied by freshly baked goods. One can even ask Justin to have dinner set up next to a campfire on the beach for special occasions. Otherwise there is a campfire set up every night, next to which you can lie on cushions and star gaze. Without any civilization close by, you see an abundance of stars.

At Che Shale one feels connected with nature rather than removed, a feeling that is unfortunately lost in so many places in our world.

Baking Bread
Because of my love for kitchens, baking and everything food, I asked to poke my head in the kitchen and learn the secret of their soft and delicious bread buns, which are baked fresh everyday. A very cool discovery was that instead of an oven, they still use an old school metal safari trunk (looks like a big metal suitcase), which is placed on a bed of hot coals, which was used back in 1970 colonial safari days.

Kitesurf Kenya
Since Che Shale beach is protected by an outer reef, and receives abundant wind for most parts of the year, Che Shale is known as the first and the best spot for Kitesurfing in Kenya. Che Shale has its own kite school where experienced and friendly instructors are available for those wanting to learn the sport. Kite gear is available for hire as well. For all those who don't favor wind as much, do not shy away. The resort is located in such a way that even on the windiest of days, one only feels the wind if standing on the point of the bay or out in the ocean.

So whether you love to Kitesurf, the beach, good food, tranquility...there is something for all at Che Shale!

Kenyan Wilderness & Safari
Tall grass, yellow like hay, swaying gently. The lonesome impressive baobab tree. Proud, golden giraffe necks slowly gliding along the horizon in the distance. Herds of impala staring at you with their elegant, symmetrical heads. An abundance of wildlife, cluttered in parts but scattered across the endless and massive, rolling plains. This is the Masai Mara, Kenya's pride.

People come from far away to experience this animal kingdom and will not be let down when they set eyes on this beautiful scenery. Hippos and crocodiles find happiness in the Mara River, whilst leopards and cheetahs use the dense greenery around the Mara River as their perfect hideaway. Cheeky monkeys play games in and around the camps and lodges of the Masai Mara park, while the warthogs provide endless laughs. A trip to this part of the world will not be complete, however, without seeing the much sought after lion (‘Simba’ as you say in the Masai language). After all, the ‘Simba’ still rules this animal kingdom, in which Disney himself gained his inspiration for the all time favourite The Lion King. Before working on The Lion King, several of the film's creators actually spent two weeks on safari in Kenya, studying how real lions live. You will come across the other adventurous travellers, most of which arrive through organized tours, but by self-driving and venturing out deep into this vast grassland, you will find yourself alone in this world. And when coming from our densely populated worlds which so many of us know so well, this is a purity you appreciate and a memory that stays with you…forever.

(Note these tips are relevant to those interested in doing self-drive safari. A more affordable option but also a more adventurous and time-consuming option. It depends on your budget)

The Masai Mara:
- Driving from Nairobi to Sekenani Gate, the distance is only 300kms but will take you up to 5-6 hours (the last 100kms are dirt track).
- Stay overnight in the community campsite, if you want a cheaper sleeping option (15$ per person for a bed in a safari tent). The local kitchen can cook for.
- Note that any accommodation within The Masai Mara will cost you at least $200/night (some favourites
- Enter the park early, take a picnic, and be comfortable with paying 85$ per adult (45$ child) for entrance fees (small additional fee for your car).
- Note that The Masai Mara is massive natural reserve area, which is not fenced off. Therefore you can spend time outside the boundaries of The Masai Mara and still see abundant amounts of wildlife. The Masai Mara Conservancy is stunning as well (north of the boundaries of the Natural Reserve).
- The Masai People are warm and friendly. When staying at the community campsite, you will find the opportunity to speak to local Masai people and learn about their local traditions.
- You may be asked to view a Masai village. It is fine to kindly decline the offer if you are not interested. If you do wish to visit a village, it is fine to bargain for the right price.
- Hot Air Balloon rides would be an absolutely amazing experience but you would have to expect to pay up to 300$ per person for a 1 hour balloon ride!

Amboseli National Park:
- Elephants, elephants and more elephants. Never will you see such large herds of elephants together in one location. Add the unbeatable backdrop of the famous Kilimanjaro to this and you get Amboseli National Park!
- Drive from Nairobi to Amboseli in about 4 hours (230kms)
- Sleep at the community campsite outside the park for a more affordable sleeping option (5$ per person if you have your own tent and $15 per person for a bed in a safari tent). The local kitchen can cook for you or you can use their utensils to cook yourself.
- Enter the park early and be comfortable with paying 85$ per adult.

Until the next time Africa...

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