The date is Monday 7th Dec, 2015. There I was with Jeff in the car discussing about heading to Naivasha that coming Sunday. But, as we discussed, we thought about heading to Coast instead and grabbing a few friends while at it.
As we got home, we passed by Juelz’ place to sell the idea only to find out she, together with Oteri, had the same plan in mind. So we set a temporary date for the next week on Monday 14th Dec to 18th Dec, 2015.
Nothing can be as hectic as planning such a major trip in about a week with such a low budget, but at the same time ensuring to get the maximum gains from it. Also, being around Christmas, we had to juggle the dates among very many family activities.
A final date was agreed upon: we leave on Wednesday 16th Dec, with the night bus and arrive in Coast on Thursday morning; then, we check out on Sunday 20th Dec with the morning bus. This was to give us 3 days and 3 nights in total.
Now, what remained was the hotel and the areas we would visit. Choosing the hotel took a lot of research as we tried to get the best deals. Finally, we found Kilifi Maghreb (in Kilifi) and some condos in Diani. No one had the psyche of crossing to South Coast (considering the ferry issues at that time), plus there was not much to sight see in South Coast, so we went with Kilifi Maghreb (best decision by the way).
Immediately we settled on Kilifi Maghreb, I called the manager, Brenda Majanja, on Saturday (12th Dec) night and made the booking plus paid the deposit. Now, we could relax a bit as we knew accommodation was sorted. What remained was transport.
Booking transport was a bit less hectic as not many buses went to Kilifi. We only had 3 options Buscar, Mash and Modern Coast. We settled with Buscar (another epic decision I shall explain later) and by Tuesday 15th Dec, our tickets had been purchased and the booking slips had been collected.
We spent the remaining part of Tuesday night buying snacks and other supplies for the trip. Personally, I spent the day doing laundry for clothes that I had earlier bought specifically for the trip and also packing (I try to avoid last minute packing).
The travel day finally arrived, we almost missed the bus due to traffic heading to South C at 8pm. Most of us were still in shock that this plan was actually going down. It’s hard to successfully plan things as a group and in the end execute it with everyone who was in the plan from the very beginning.
Saying the bus ride from Nairobi to Kilifi was amazing would be an understatement. For starters, the bus was brand new and this was its third trip, so inside was really great, and everything worked. The drivers were also really friendly and took time getting to talk with the passengers.
Then, the entertainment system worked (rare for buses these days). The best part of it all, the sockets in the bus were working, each and every single one of them. The only thing not working, well it was connecting, just had no internet; was Wi-Fi, which can be forgiven as it had just been installed a few hours before the trip.
I had done a night journey before this experience. Three of them actually: Lodwar – Kitale (2007), Nairobi – Kampala (2009), and Kampala – Nairobi (2009). But, this experience was definitely the crown of them (it would have tied with Nairobi – Kampala (Modern Coast Bus), but the sockets give Buscar an upper hand.
The bus travelled at a good pace. We left Nairobi (South C) at 9.30pm, arrived at Mtito at 1.30am, Voi at 3.20am, Mombasa at 6am, and finally, Kilifi at 7.45am (Total travel time was 10hrs and 15 mins). By 8am, we were at Kilifi Maghreb as the Buscar station is not so far from the place.
The town is actually pretty small. You should also be warned that shops close really early and things generally cost much more than when you’re in Nairobi (unless you shop at Tuskys). Other than that, it is a calm town, with a good beach along the Kilifi Creek with numerous water activities. Tuktuks and bodabodas are the main modes of transportation in the area. We even had our own tuktuk drivers on speed dial.
Located along Seahorse Road, the hotel we stayed in was also quite good, we had an issue with a leak on one of the hostel rooms, but the manager quickly exchanged that hostel room with an apartment, another luck on our side as we were now able to get a private shower and a kitchenette so we could prepare small meals. Accommodation was bed and breakfast, so that we didn’t have to worry about breakfast. Although Kilifi Maghreb has no direct access to the beach at the moment, one could access the beach through the neighbouring property, Seahorse Hotel (it was closed down a while back) or through the main road.
Day 1 (Thursday): Kilifi/Mnarani area
After freshening up, dressing into lighter clothes and sandals, we headed to the beach next to Kilifi Maghreb. The view was stunning and we saw boats being made. We also met the local community there who run the beach and they took us through about 10 activities they offered including snorkeling, village tours, and creek tours, among many others.
Lunch time found us in town, where we bought food from Tuskys before heading to Mnarani Beach for a picnic. Every new beach we saw was better than the previous one, and yes, Mnarani was way much cooler than Kilifi Creek. Plus, you could see the main ocean from there. The whole afternoon was spent at Mnarani (we also visited Juelz aunt’s place), before we headed back to the town at around 5pm to look for dinner.
This was the day we had massive luck with the Tuskys promotion on winner a voucher for shopping. We got three lucks in a row! Each voucher was worth Ksh. 500/-. That’s Ksh. 1,500/-, free of charge. Meaning, we now had enough cash to buy many ingredients for a decent meal.
The evening was spent swimming until around 9pm (the water was warm from the high temperatures in the area). The lowest temperature experienced was 26 degrees Celsius (at night).
Day 2 (Friday): Malindi/Gede
Most of our trips were not planned. We usually only decided on the area, but not specific places. So for this day we decided Malindi. We hired a tuktuk for Ksh. 2,700/- to take us to Malindi and back and also take us around while we were there. That journey was long (we kept dozing off), but it was worth the experience.
On the way to Malindi, we passed by Gede Ruins. These ruins date back over 700 years ago and the stories about them were quite fascinating. We also got acquainted with a family of monkeys called Catherina.
After that we went to see Juelz’ home in Malindi and spent some time with the family. Lastly, we did a small tour of the town before visiting a restaurant owned by a friend in Old Town, called Glaris. The artwork and interior of the place is really amazing, you should all make a point of visiting it (it is located opposite the old tourist’s market).
Since it was getting late, we did shopping for dinner at Nakumatt Malindi then embarked on the long journey back to Kilifi.
Our evening plot was always the same each day, swimming until late at night and chilling by the pool. This time, however, we also did a movie.
Day 3 (Saturday): Mtwapa/Kikambala
We woke up tired from all the movement from the previous 2 days, so Saturday started off a bit of a lazy day. Needless to say, we were out by 11am and headed for the bus station to pick a matatu to Mtwapa. The ride took about 45 mins and we dropped off at Club Lambada where we met our host for the day, Hassan, a good friend of mine. Hassan was to take us round Mtwapa through some historical places and really fascinating beaches. Mode of transportation for the day were bodabodas, it was fun. It was the first time sitting more than one passenger on one.
First stop, Jumba La Mtwana Ruins. These ruins look a lot like Gede and sit on about 20 acres. They belong to an Arab community hundreds of years ago that was involved in slave trade. The main palace belonged to their ruler called Mtwana, who was pretty much a broker for slaves. The city was abandoned due to diseases such a plague. The fascinating part of it is that the city, being like a port city, seats on the beach. A really scenic beach (better than Mnarani, actually). It is on this beach that we had lunch that was prepared by Hassan. A really good lunch.
Next, we travelled to Kikambala, still by bodaboda, where we were taken to African Barn Own Cave. These caves were at one point used by the locals to hide from the slave traders during the slave trade era. They successfully hid there for very many years. The caves are now a haven for birds and bats. They like there because of the calmness of the place. Words alone cannot describe the massive size of the caves, which are now a sanctuary.
Finally, we went to a nearby beach in Kikambala. This beach officially goes down as the best one we had seen out of all three. It was during low tide, so we were able to get to almost the reef, Jeff did get to the reef though. The views from 1.5km into the water as you looked back at the shore were stunning, especially with the sunset.
After that, Hassan escorted us back to the stage where we boarded a matatu back to Kilifi (it was already 7pm). That matatu ride was the most awkward and hilarious ride ever. There was always a passenger causing drama. 1st one, spent 15 mins shouting at a lady sited at the front (he was sited at the back) for ruining his trip in another matatu, then we had another one who came in demanding to have 20/- slashed off his fare (even threating to report the matatu), and then just when you thought it was over, another loud guy enters and decides to make maximum noise to everyone in the matatu.
When we got to Kilifi, it was our usual evening routine. But, we were so exhausted there was no way we could make it for the morning bus, so we booked for a night bus instead. So that gave us an extra full day.
Day 4 (Sunday): Last day
We did not go anywhere on this day. We basically spent the day at the hotel packing, swimming and eating. Lunch was on the house for this final day and the hotel was very friendly in assisting with things too. If we stayed a bit longer, we would have been able to attend a party organized by the hotel that night which had a lot of mnazi and meat.
Journey Back To Nairobi
Heading back, we were not so lucky this time. The bus we got (still Buscar) was old, the windows were too high, freezing, too unstable on the road, and the staff were not friendly at all, they even did not allow us to disembark at South C. This is despite the fact that it came late. We were to depart at 8am.
Good thing is that it took a massive short cut that shed off so many hours from the uncomfortable trip (it took a shortcut from Mnarani that came out from Mariakani).
We left Kilifi at 9pm, arrived at Mtito at 1.30am, South C at 5.30am (but the bus refused to wait for us to alight, so we were forced to go to town), finally arrived at the town terminus at 5.45am. By 6.15am, everyone was at their homes.
All in all, it was an epic trip thanks to Jeff, Juelz and Oteri. Definitely looking forward to the next long distance one come next year! Maybe this time we can do Zanzibar, then we progress to Dubai, and after that just keep going farther and farther.