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Sweet Watamu experience

 Matilda Nzioki

Many a holidaymaker are increasingly discovering that the ultimate coastal vacay experience is away from the main town, Mombasa, where it’s less crowded, polluted and is serene.

One such area is Watamu at the North Coast, with a list of hotels to choose from. I recently visited the Turtle Bay Beach Club for a week of unwinding, and indeed, it will take a lot of convincing for me to pick Mombasa the next time I’m thinking Coast.

We opted for a Tuktuk transfer upon landing at Malindi Airport, to feel the breeze for our 25-minute ride to the hotel. What with the sweltering temperatures.

It is a beachfront hotel, so the first thing one wants to do after a pleasant chilled-cocktail-crowned welcome is take a nice sandy walk. Five days lay ahead, and it was prudent to do a plan of activities.

The not-so-good news about a hotel that has been around for over two decades is that everything, though well maintained, may not be modern and shiny, but the good news is, they know what vacationers are after, and they offer an array of fun stuff.

There is actually a whole department for that, known as Fun Base Team. From pool tables, beach volleyball, beach soccer, pool aerobics and table tennis among others, as well as fun supervised activities for the little ones such as cooking lessons, arts and crafts including painting, field trips, kids fort by the pool and more.

The adult pool is near the rooms while the general pool is at the main dining area.
The adult pool is near the rooms while the general pool is at the main dining area.

After a day of travel, we just wanted to relax at the hotel, enjoy its facilities, and sunbathe.

There are two pools, an adult one near the rooms and a general one near the main dining area.

Nothing beats poolside and beach relaxation, not to mention, as an all-inclusive hotel, you get to eat and drink all day at no extra cost.

Be it ice cream, pizza, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, name it, provided it’s available, it will be brought to you at the sun bed or wherever.

Also, each night during dinner, there is some themed entertainment such as an evening with acrobats, traditional dancers, magician, or a pianist.

After this, comes a disco session, loud enough to enjoy, without distracting those who would rather retire to bed.

During one of the days spent away from the hotel, we visited the medieval Swahili settlement, Gedi Ruins, said to have been occupied between the 11th and 17th centuries.

Right adjacent is a snake park, where one can view a number of local species of snakes. A stone’s throw away, is Kipepeo Project, a butterfly sanctuary that helps support locals who do butterfly farming. Imagine all that butterfly beauty in one place, plus all the new stuff you get to learn.

Nearby also, is a honey plant, and one can buy rich honey harvested from the Arabuko Sokoke Forest. We wound down the day by sampling the Malindi nightlife, which is quite robust.

Another day away from the hotel was spent enjoying a Mida Creek boat trip for Sh4,000 per person, and we got to watch dolphins, snorkel at the marine park, explore the coral and enjoy fresh seafood at Waka Waka Island.

Here, locals, Giriama people, entertained us with some traditional song and dance. A fun stay it was, and I have all intentions to visit again.

Travel tips

•    Plan your activities in advance, that way, you know what to do when you wake up daily, and avoid wasting your vacation days away.
•    Planning also helps you know what to pack, as you will know what is required for which day.
•    It is best to book the hotel via a travel and tour company, as they get discounted rates. We spent about Sh28,000 for five days per person sharing. This means less than Sh7,000 a night per person, inclusive of all meals, drinks and snacks throughout the day, plus the hotel activities.
•    Pay attention to the seasons, as peak ones will obviously cost more.

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