Mnarani Beach Club, Kilifi, Kenya
9 to 16 August 2009
 

 
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Preparations.
Kenya has for a long time been on our list of “places to visit”. When we visited the QVC website (www.qvc.co.za) and saw that Mnarani was one of the resorts listed, our minds were made up.
The obvious first thing to do was to make reservations. A phone call to ACT Travel was all that was required and in a flash we got our confirmation, we were going to Kenya!
We believe in taking out travel insurance, and a visit to our local Flight Centre sorted that problem out.
We had in the meantime received documentation from ACT. One of the requirements to visiting Kenya is a yellow fever injection which will last you for 10 years! On recommendation from the doctor we got a tetanus and polio shot as well, so we were pretty well covered.
South African passport holders do not require a visa for Kenya.
Parking was our next problem. We could get to O R Tambo, no problem, but where to leave our car? A few phone calls later we ascertained that the airport had a long term parking facility at R25 per day. There was also a free shuttle service from the parking area to the airport, and we were sold.
One morning we took a quick trip out to make sure we could find the parking on the day of our departure, no point in driving around in circles looking for parking with a flight waiting for you!
We bought about 100 ballpoint pens to hand out to the children we might meet up with in Kenya, it was a great hit when we visited Vic Falls in Zimbabwe and we thought it might go down well in Kenya as well.
Then we started doing our Kenya “homework” finding as much as we could on the internet about the resort as well as interesting things to do and places to go to. The documentation received from ACT also included valuable information and we soon felt like experts on Kenya.
We also bought a 3 point plug which we could use in Kenya to enable us to charge and use our electronic equipment. The electrical sockets in Kenya are similar to those used in England (flat pin). We made sure our camera batteries were charged and that we had sufficient memory cards for the cameras as we intended to take lots of photos. The laptop was also going along to enable us to download and process our photos on a daily basis. If this is left to when we got home it would be a mammoth task, so we rather do this on a daily basis.
In the meantime ACT emailed our eTickets and made sure that our passports were in order with an expiry date longer than 6 months after our visit, and we were ready to go.

Getting there
Just after dark on the 8th August 2009, we parked our car at the ACSA long term parking facility and boarded the shuttle bus that runs every few
minutes between the parking and the airport. We were too early for checking, but after enjoying a snack at one of the fast food outlets, we checked in our luggage and went through passport control and customs. We were flying on Kenya Airlines and were surprised to hear that their check-in baggage weight limit was 30kg and not 20 kg as we were told. This meant that we could perhaps bring back a few extra souvenirs from Kenya.
At exactly 00h50 on Sunday morning the 9th August we left the lights of Johannesburg behind and we were on our way to our Kenya adventure. The flight to Nairobi airport only takes about three and a half hours, but taking into account that Kenya is one hour ahead of us the actual arrival time in Nairobi, Kenya was 05H30. We had a choice of a vegetarian dish or beef and noodles, Ichose the latter. Really not bad at all as in flight food goes.
We exchanged some Rand for Kenya shillings at the airport at a rate of KSH7.5 to the Rand. Later on at the hotel we got KSH8 for one Rand.
Once again passport control and immigration formalities were no problem and we headed for the Domestic terminal for our flight to Mombasa, again on Kenya Airlines. We were disappointed to hear that the flight was delayed, but an hour later we were in the air again on the next leg of our journey. This was a short 40 minute flight during which a continental breakfast was served. Being a domestic flight there were no formalities, we only had to collect our luggage and find the Mnarani Club representative who would take us to our final destination. He actually found us and in no time we, and other Mnarani guests who were on the same flight as us were in the Mnarani bus and heading towards the resort.
I must mention that this drive is about 65 kilometers is an experience in itself. It took us 90 minutes to complete the journey and at one stage I found myself humming the old Elvis song “All shook up!”
Apart from encountering two accidents, we experienced a very bumpy road, many trucks, that made it difficult to overtake, and also impatient taxi drivers as well as really bad roadhumps, probably put there to help reduce speeds on the road, not that they really worked. All praise to Omar, our fearless but very safe driver who got us to the resort in one piece.

Upon arrival we were greeted by Hein, the resort manager and his wife, Babsie who made us feel more than welcome. After checking in, we were given a short introductory talk over fruit juice on some basics of the resort. Realising that we were all tired after the long journey, we were escorted to our rooms where we enjoyed a well earned rest and shower!




The resort

Although tired from the journey there was no way that I was going to waste precious daylight hours by sleeping, I took my camera and set off to explore the resort. The resort is built on the cliffs just outside Kalifi and has sweeping views of the Indian Ocean as well as the Kalifi creek. Our room had lovely creek and ocean views and we could sit on our balcony and just enjoy the lovely view.
A short walk through tropical gardens brought me to the main buildings. The crystal clear water in the beautiful swimming pool beckoned. Some guests were relaxing on loungers while others were enjoying the cool water. I could not help but think that back home they were still shivering from a cold winter.
I made a mental note that this was the ideal getaway from the cold South African winter or from any winter, for the matter.
Like most of the buildings, the main complex is beautifully thatched projecting a tropical atmosphere. The open plan dining and lounge area looks out over the pool. The lounge has a creek and pool view. There is a large buffet area and I looked forward to dinner. Friendly staff hovered around ready to look after guests needs. There is a television room should one want to watch some sport or news.
A walk to the main gate took me past the squash court, putt-putt course and the Conference Centre. Our holiday package included breakfast and dinner. We were not usually hungry by lunchtime after the huge breakfast, but the restaurant offers a really nice lunch menu. One afternoon we actually had a boerewors roll!
That brings me to the food. After the first day I foresaw big problems. The food was so good that unless I also did some serious exercise I would be gaining a lot of weight. Breakfast and dinner are served buffet style and has to be enjoyed “pole pole” which is Swahili for slowly slowly. The first evening we had a really sumptuous dinner and I was surprised to find my favourite dessert, bread and butter pudding on the menu. No doubt, Nanette’s South African influence.
I saw a sign saying “This way to the beach” and of course I just had to follow it. At the top of a flight of stairs was another sign advising me that I was about to descend “Cardiac Hill” which I duly did. At the bottom of the steps I came across a most pleasant private beach. It had the whitest sand that I had ever seen on a beach. Thatch umbrellas and beach loungers rounded off the picture. I noticed that that there was also a dive centre and a beach bar.
The package we were on included free non-motorised water sports so we could canoe, sail and snorkel for free. If you are into snorkeling, this is the place to be, you snorkel right off the private beach, fellow guests took some really nice photos of the fish they encountered. Use of mountain bikes was also free.
The climb back up Cardiac Hill was not really all that strenuous but when I got to the top I headed for the bar and enjoyed a large soft drink with lots of ice.
When my head hit the pillow that night I was gone until just before sunrise the next morning.
After a great breakfast we realized that we had to work off some calories and took a brisk walk to Kilifi, a nearby town. The two kilometer walk took us about 20 minutes and we bought water and some postcards. It is recommended that you not drink the water in Kenya, each day a free bottle of water is provided per room for drinking or brushing teeth.
As we had to be back at the hotel for a briefing by Samira, the Events Co-ordinator or Animator , we took a Tuk-Tuk, a motorized threewheeled scooter instead of walking back.
Samira then gave us a rundown of all the activities and excursions that were available to us. We immediately booked for the afternoon walk to the local reptile park and also for the excursion to Malindi the next day.
Apart from a variety of excursions they have a full entertainment package every day. This includes water aerobics, water polo, squash, putt-putt, fishing from the pier, tattooing, hair braiding, soduko and more. There is no pressure to partake, if you want to you can just relax by the pool.
You can also book on some interesting excursions for instance full day tours to either Mombasa or Malindi, also Ngomongo village half day tour, also to Sokoke arabuko forest and Mida creek, also a sundowner pontoon ride with snacks. The Captain Issa dhow excursion also proved to be very popular.
Faced with all these “things to do” we soon realized that a week was way too short and that we would have to choose only some of them.
There is quite a difference between the water level of the creek at high and low tide. During low tide you can walk on the beach along the creek all the way to where it mouths into the ocean. That managed to burn more calories and I was already looking forward to dinner that night.
The walk to the reptile park, or rather rehabilitation centre, went through the poorer part of Kalifi. It was sad to see that poverty is worldwide.
We were shown ruins of a mosque that was built in the 13th century. We then went to the reptile rehabilitation centre. There they have a variety of snakes, tortoises and chameleons. Once rehabilitated, those that can fend for themselves are released into the wild again.
That evening, after another fabulous supper, we hit the hay early and slept like babies.


The next day we had booked for the Malindi excursion and after breakfast we boarded the bus and headed North. Malindi is a coastal town about 60 km from Kalifi. The main activity was to be snorkeling. Mnarani provided goggles and flippers at no charge and we were all eager to get into the water and try them out. We were to snorkel at the Malindi Marine and Nature Reserve, a protected area.
We boarded a glass bottomed boat and headed out to a reef about a kilometer out to sea where we had a great time snorkeling or watching the different types of fish through the glass bottom of the boat. Guests who had snorkeled all over the world mentioned that this was the best snorkeling that they had ever done, the water was crystal clear and the fish was plentiful.
Later we lunched at a local hotel and then we headed back to Kilifi. On the way back we visited a factory where they made curious that are sold all over the world.
Further along the road we also visited a mangrove swamp and walked on the long boardwalk which reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie. We arrived back at the hotel just in time to clean up for supper. It was a long and tiring day, but enjoyed by all! Every night after dinner they have some kind of entertainment for the guests, but we were so dog tired after the busy days that we rather went to our room and hit the hay.


The following day we had no specific excursion planned, so a group of us decided to walk the two kilometer to Kilifi, the neighbouring village. Some of us needed to draw some cash at the ATM’s there.
The local ATM’s did not want to dispense cash to those with credit cards, but debit cards were no problem. I made a mental note to get myself a debit card as soon as I got home, even if it was just for backup.
We also mailed some postcards (this can also be done at the hotel) and bought some drinking water, it being a bit cheaper than at the hotel.
On our way back to the hotel a sudden tropical shower caught us leaving us drenched. As it is in the tropics, these showers come and go again in a matter of minutes, lasting just long enough to give us a thorough soaking. Luckily we always take plastic bags along to keep cameras and other valuables dry in case of sudden rain.
We had lunch at the hotel (they have an A la Carte menu as well as a buffet) and then spent the afternoon at leisure.
For supper the staff arranged the tables around the pool and we enjoyed a romantic supper by candlelight. Two local entertainers walked between the tables serenading the guests, a very nice touch!


Mnarani has three highlights that make it very special for us for us, the food, the large, clear, pool and the private beach.
The next day we decided to spend at leisure and headed for the beach. We made ourselves comfortable under one of the thatched umbrellas getting a deck lounger and mattress for each of us.
We decided toe get a bit more active and started paddling up and down the creek in canoes. Then we did some snorkeling and were pleasantly surprised at the number and variety of fish just off the Mnarani beach. Some guests fished from the pier, others sailed on the catamaran and others tried to master windsurfing. All non-motorized activities like the above are free of charge to guests.
After lunch we crossed the road just outside the Mnarani main gate and bought some souvenirs at very reasonable prices.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool.
That evening before supper we had a variety of entertainment laid on. First we had traditional tribal dancing and singing, then a wine tasting of some Kenyan wines followed by a dance demonstration by a local dance school. The demonstration covered dance forms ranging from ballet to Crump. Supper consisted of s selection of Indian dishes.


Our holiday was now drawing to a close and for the Friday afternoon we booked for the mangrove trip on the resort pontoon.
The morning was spent lazing on the beach, rowing and snorkeling.
The mangrove cruise was most enjoyable. We slowly cruised up the Kilifi creek, then across a lake and up the Kalifi river past mangrove swamps, enjoying snacks and chatting with other guests. The sunset over the river was something special. We also saw a variety of birds getting ready to roost for the night.

Our last day was spent at the beach, swimming, rowing and snorkeling and just lazing about. We finished packing during the afternoon as the bus to Mombasa was due to leave very early the next morning.

We got our wake-up call at 02h30 and the bus departed for Mombasa airport at 03h30. And this is where the proverbial paw-paw hit the fan! Kenya Airlines staff was on strike and all flights were cancelled. Five hours later they managed to get a plane ready and we departed for Nairobi. At Nairobi conditions were even worse. Literally hundreds of locals and tourists were trying to get flights and needless to say it was total chaos. People had been waiting at the airport for three days to try and get a flight. Luckily we got a bright idea and asked if we could transfer to a SAA flight. This was arranged in no time at all and after a 12 hour delay we were on our way to Johannesburg. A big YAYYY for South African Airlines!
This was really a very special holiday. For the price it was a real bargain. Next time we come to Kenya we want to take the package that includes the Serengeti or perhaps even the annual wildebeest migration, depending on what time of year we come.
So, next time you want to get away from a really cold and miserable winter, be sure to make Kenya and Mnarani your destination.
Oh yes, and next time I want to learn to sail the catamaran!

Bits and pieces.

We took our credit/debit cards and SA Rand in cash. You can exchange Rand at the Nairobi and at the hotel. All expenses at the hotel are charged to your room and you settle the bill before you leave.
Remember to take a flat pin plug if you want to charge batteries, use your hairdryer etc.
Take the minimum of clothes, the climate is mild to hot, you will not need warm weather clothes.
Take earplugs if the air conditioner will keep you awake.
Get your yellow fever injections more than 10 days before you leave for Kenya.
Take malaria precautions.
Our total spending money for the holiday was less than R1500 per person. Taking into account the cost of the package, this was a very reasonable vacation money wise.

Speak like the locals:

Jambo = hello
Karibu = welcome
Asante = thank you
Asante sana = thank you very much
Pole pole = slowly slowly
Harake harake = fast
Habari = how are you
Mzuri = I am fine
Hakuna Matata = No problem


Mnarani Club Social Responsibility

1) Mnarani Club supports the local school for the deaf. (Kibarani School for the deaf) is a primary school and busy building there secondary school. Donations are pooled and items that are needed are bought and the supplied. Mnarani also buys all their eggs from Kibarani which is a project they started to urn some much needed money for the Hostel children. Mnarani Club in co operation of ACT and various individuals also sponsor children school fees at 6000/- a year.
2) Mnarani has a local is “lekker” policy and buys as much as possible from the local vendors, suppliers and fisherman. The flag at the Jetty informs the returning seaman that we need fish and ensures a quick and fresh supply.
3) Mnarani also supplies free conference facilities to the local Kilifi Rotary organizations on a weekly basis.
4) Local entertainers are show cased at Mnarani club several evening a week. The entertainers also get a opportunity to impress the guests with their skills and raise more funds by tips and selling of their goods.
5) Once a week the local community of Mnarani , exhibits their craft and goods at Mnarani Club, also the shop does not sell any items that may be considered craft specifically to support the local communities.
6) We give various donations to groups and individuals that approach us. Donations range from Drinkable water to Bread flour etc.
7) Our wellness center are staffed exclusively from community ladies doing various tasks such as manicures and pedicures, massaging hair braiding and Henna tattoo’s for their own gain.
8) Mnarani club offers in house training to young people wanting to learn the trade. They are offered medical, food and accommodation and work in various departments for 3 -6 months. They are graded and used as preferred employees should positions become available.
9) Several charities sell their products in the shop.
10) Mnarani club allowed the government to place a Tsunami early warning weather station on the old jetty; we provide security and maintenance to this area.
11) Captain Issa and his band of merry men was encouraged to moor at Mnarani Club and provide a local experience to our guests. He does not pay any fee to Mnarani club and pockets all he makes.