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Backpackers’ paradise

Located within easy reach of several shopping centres such as Chandarana and Diani town, the hostel is a green sanctuary, providing a cool atmosphere in which to relax

As I made my way into the compound, Emmanuel, one of the staff members at Stilts Treehouses, stepped in to help with my bags. I checked in, which involved going through house rules and paying a deposit of Sh1,000 for my Mara tent and safety box keys. As I was escorted to my tent, I caught a glimpse of camping tents under makuti shades, cottages and towering treehouses.

I loved what I was seeing. When we got to my crib, a sykes monkey dove from the thatched shed above the tent into the nearby trees. I had earlier learnt that Stilts is a wildlife sanctuary that hosts sykes monkeys and bush babies.

Stilts Treehouses has maintained its natural habitat. The hostel is a green sanctuary, providing a cool atmosphere in which to relax. The numbered, labyrinth-like concrete pathways leading to the tents are flanked with trees on either side.

Mara tent was spacious, with a big bed that can hold three or even four people guarded by a mosquito net. Stilts is not as hot as other places in Diani Beach because of a surrounding forest groove. But that did not stop Wayne Douglas, who bought the facility on its eighth year, from making sure his guests enjoy great air conditioning.

My tent had two ACs buzzing on, non-stop. Being self-contained, the tent had a bathroom with a hot shower and toilet. I doubt anybody needs hot showers at the Coast. A large mirror was mounted on the wall that separated the toilet and the sink.

If you don’t want to operate from your bags, there are a couple of shelves and a wooden trunk right by the bed. The trunk also acts as a table with a night lamp. I fell in love the space, but I’m yet to stay in a treehouse or cottage. The camping tents were roomy, placed on a wooden foundation and a makuti shade above that keep them from heating up. I once crashed in one that can fit five to six people.

Treehouses go for Sh2,200, Mara tents Sh4,500, cottages Sh3,600 and just camping at Sh1,500 per night for singles. The secret is to come in groups to take advantage of the good price packages offered for large groups.

I remember losing my way a couple of times only to realise later that the numbers on the webbed pathways are meant to guide you. Lol. At one point, I found myself at the foot of a treehouse, then another time outside a cottage or some strange tent.

The first time I ate here, lunch to be specific, I was blown away. I think it was grilled fish fillet with rice and vegetables. I wouldn’t do it justice if I describe it; it’s just something one has to experience.

One thing I can assure you is that Stilts Backpackers has chefs who understand the culinary arts. I also dug up the ‘money saver’ — chapati or rice served with beans or lentils (ndengu) that cost Sh300. I particularly enjoyed chapati/ndengu on this offer.

From breakfast, starters to main dishes, your bill could read anything between Sh150 and Sh800, and if you are having more, then do the math. Incredibly, tea and coffee are free but you can only get either before noon, which I thought was a pretty amazing deal.

Food is not allowed in the sleeping quarters because the sykes monkeys can sniff it from miles away. However, since it is a backpackers’ facility, you can bring your own food and store it in a safety box or give it to the staff to keep for you in the fridge if it’s perishable.

The reception, which is the common area, doubles up as the lounge, dining area and bar. Stilts gets busy every evening as people come back from their expeditions or outsiders come over to dine, drink and feed bush babies.

The latter only come out in the evening, when they wake up to feed. These nocturnal babies have delicate eyesight and therefore sleep throughout the day and only come out to eat (only bananas) when called out by Douglas. He has been doing this for a long while, and they know and trust him.

So every night at 7pm, guests from different hotels and within come over to feed them. Afterwards people would go back to their food or drinks. Oh and the drinks are also fairly priced. Beer lovers spend Sh260 a bottle, an extra 10 bob on the price of house wine with an exception of Zebra wines, which cost Sh300 a glass, and about Sh1,300 a bottle. Juice is sold at Sh150, sodas Sh120 and tots at Sh200 to Sh250.

Outsiders are restricted to the bar/lounge/ reception area and have to leave by 11pm when everything closes down and the staff go home. Food orders are accepted only up to 9pm. Nearby are several shopping centres such as Chandarana and Diani town.

It’s located right opposite Forty Thieves, close to Ali Barbour, Bidi Badu restaurant and bar and Diani backpackers. Stilts is located 400 metres from the beach, with a swimming pool at its sister boutique hotel, Flamboyant. Indeed, the beachfront upscale property is accessible to all guests staying at Stilts.

Laundry, which costs as low as Sh50 per piece, is done by the staff, who also get to keep the cash. The zen atmosphere, tight security, friendly and trustworthy staff and the welcoming and engaging owner made me want to stay here forever. It is a backpackers’ dream.

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