Category Archives: Lifestyle

Dear Ramadan, Thanks for stopping by

Dear Ramadan,                                                                                  

We always love it when you come by.

For a many reasons the enhancement of spiritual nourishment, self discipline and piety. We acknowledge that our lives are transformed for the better on account of the seclusion, simplicity, self reflection and introspection provided for by the holy month.

There’s no denying though that you can be a difficult month. We always start off enthusiastic – that doesn’t last long to be honest. Refraining from essentials of daily living is hard enough.

So when enthusiasts um, pass on impending travels to islamic populated regions (Kenyan Coast) during the holy month,  it’s no offence to you.

You see, the experience is just not as it were outside of Ramadan.

The uber friendly, super generous hospitality that is the norm at the coast is not assured. You may on occasion, regrettably run-in with some grumpy locals who possibly will place blame for their wanting service and temper flaring on the rigours of saum. Understandably though, the searing temperatures at the coast can really do you in.

It is for this reason perhaps that some traders choose to close up shop the entirety of the holy month. City streets are pretty dull too. Did I mention that the savory Swahili delicacies that you’d be probably looking forward to indulge in don’t come by easy during the day? Basically if you choose to explore the coast during Ramadan, you are in essence committing to somewhat of a day travel fast yourself. That shouldn’t faze you though.

Come Iftar the meal after sunset to break the fast, everything comes to life.

Coastal people are very welcoming, giving you an opportunity to enjoy Iftar with different people for the duration of your stay.  Street food selling, large feasts in restaurants, huge family parties and gatherings, increased mall shopping (Many restaurants and shopping malls tend to extend their hours at night to accommodate those who had been fasting during the day); night life at the coast is a buzz at Ramadan.

Whilst travel at Ramadan can be a daunting idea, with the reduced daytime activity and tourist traffic, it’s not that bad if you are resilient. Plus you get to enjoy Eid with the locals. What could be more rewarding than experiencing a different cultural perspective?

Whatever your experience nonetheless, either spiritual or travel wise. Ramadan, you have been good to us this year. Come back soon. Till then,

Eid Mubarak!

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#MadarakaExpress: The all new rail travel revolution giving Kenyans a little more thrill and less frills

6.00 am – an hour to the designated pick up time, I heave a sigh of relief as I spot the very green, very modern shuttles while we approach the Mombasa Railway station. There had been stories of shuttles that would ferry passengers for free, week long after the train service launch. Pick up points would be the old Nairobi and Mombasa Railway stations. Scheduled pick up time – between 7.00 am to 8.00 am so as to allow passengers enough time to purchase their tickets at the Nairobi and Mombasa termini.

I decided to arrive an hour early just in case this shuttle business was just what it was – a story and I found myself having to organize for other means of transport to the Mombasa Terminus. Sure enough, the shuttles were there as promised, courtesy of the National Youth Service (NYS) although I highly doubt there were any shuttles left by 7.00am. I barely managed to catch the first shuttle out; it seems I wasn’t the only eager passenger.

zurukenya SGR
Image by Micheal Khateli

Train travel has always been very alluring. It’s no wonder Kenyans have turned up in their thousands to sample the #MadarakaExpress for themselves since its launching. Took me back to my childhood days when holidaying meant travelling in a train. Had me wondering whether it would still feel the same as it did during the #LunaticExpress days. Sadly the only faint memory I have of the good old days was the splendid yellow long buns served in the train by the pantry boys. Those were some yummy buns.

The commencement of the train service has nonetheless not been without its tiny hitches. Those should be aired out soon enough though as service picks pace. This post however highlights observations, appreciations and tips that should serve to make the experience of other train enthusiasts seamless.

zurukenya SGR
Image by Micheal Khateli

#1 The Madaraka Express Experience is a pretty sweet deal.

As if having cut down travel time by half doesn’t have you sold yet, the fare charges should have you travelling to and from coast over the weekend just coz you can afford to no?! *Although I can bet a mighty dollar that the fee is bound to go up soon enough.

Did I mention breakfast in Mombasa, lunch in Nairobi and vice versa? The train service is moreover going to provide a truly budget alternative to road transport once the sub-stations are fully functional and the trains operational.

#2 The pre-commute commute can be daunting.

Unless you live within the confines of Miritini or Syokimau, commuting to the respective terminus is inevitable.  Reduce the amount of time and money spent on your pre-commute by staying within city limits of the termini.

PS. Traffic bound to be experienced to and from departure and arrival points beats the whole “convenience” of train travel time.

Zurukenya SGR
Image by Micheal Khateli

#3 No Signage

There is no signage to steer traffic towards the stations along the highway. I hopped into a syokimau matatu trusting that the conductor would be familiar with the terminus only to find myself at the syokimau railway station. Luckily I had enough time to spare so I walked all the way back to the Nairobi Terminus. If you are for that reason not quite familiar with the area keep in mind to be on the lookout for the station from a distance.

#4 African Timing for who?

If there ever was an invention that would help keep Kenyans in toe when it came to time keeping, this would be it. 9 O’clock sharp the train is off. If you are therefore of the African timing philosophy, you will definitely be left behind. Time waits for no man.

#5 Weekends are a rush

If you plan on travelling over the weekends, be sure to book your ticket early enough. There seems to be a plethora of people journeying to and from coast for whatever reason. Ticketing starts at 7.00 am, incase you’d rather still chance it up and book the day of, make it that you arrive early on, ticket queues start budding as early as 5.45am.

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Image by @kenyarailways_

#6 Waiting rooms get crowded.
Given the number of passengers, the waiting lounge can get crowded pretty quick.  The pros to booking train travel is that you can show up to the station within minutes of your train’s departure time, avoiding any uncomfortable waiting once the  lounges are filled to capacity. Plus concern of being the first in line for a seat in the train is a non-issue.

#7 hit the dining car at the start of your adventure.

“The restaurant car is in coach 6. Kindly wait in your seat and someone will come and get your order shortly.”

Unless you can still sit tolerantly 3 hrs into the journey, the above announcement on rotation, with no food or person to get your order in site, darling find your way to coach 6 whilst the queue is still bearable and before all the café tables are taken. Hunger waits for no man. In my opinion, it seems the caterers are yet to adjust to the overwhelming number of mouths to feed in just one trip, so whilst others are still shuffling for their seats, sort yourself as early as possible. Food pricing is also not to everyone’s taste so if you can, carry your own snacks along.

zurukenya SGR
Image by EPA

#8 Game Drive, No park fees, Take in the sights.
Road transport robs you of the allure of long distance travel. More often than not, one would need to psyche themselves up for one tedious Nairobi – Mombasa journey.  Train travel, however, has this thrill to it. 4 and a ½ hours in but boy does it pack a punch! A perfect blend of town and countryside, travelling through lush lands and savannah landscapes, in between small, quaint towns, through new construction and forgotten dilapidation, experiencing both rural and urban at one go, simply magical.

Did I say magical, how about a journey through Tsavo East and West National parks, Elephants and numerous other wildlife put in impressive appearances on your train safari. There goes that word again, magical! Perhaps the highlight of the Madaraka Express experience would be at Mtito Andei when the two trains – from Mombasa and Nairobi respectively – intersect and you get to witness just exactly how fast your own train is traversing because honestly when inside the train you barely notice that the train is moving fast paced if at all.

zurukenya economy coach
Image by @kenyarailways_

#9 There is Room to Roam

The Madaraka Express train doesn’t cramp your style. You are more than free to walk around and explore other parts of the train as opposed to being confined to an uncomfortable seat your entire trip. Heck, you can even change seats if you want to (although as I came to realize not everyone can be as kind-hearted).

#10 Ready to mingle?
Is it that hard to spark conversations while travelling by bus or is there just something in the train’s air? Perhaps it’s the natural proclivity to converse provided for by the seating arrangement or maybe it’s the pure fascination of the rail travel revolution that has everyone talking. Either way, Madaraka Express not only offers you the comfort of a good face to face conversation, it also guarantees you a new friend or two at the end of the journey.

There’s no denying that  across stations, help desks, ticketing booths, uniforms, promotional material, security and overall train service, customers get a good feel of the value-focused attitude of the SGR brand. Unlike the Lunatic “Express“which travelled at a lazy-man’s jog with frequent breakdowns, the Madaraka train service gives a whole new meaning to express. SGR offers an irresistible sense of discovery,  of adventure and finer aspects of travel and thrill that long-distance buses and even budget airlines cannot afford you.

Your first #MadarakaExpress Experience is guaranteed to be a memorable one but generally the notion is that you’re responsible for your own experience.

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#Coupletravel: I Want to Travel the World with you

Alone.
Wandering the world, travelling, even just exploring the city.
It gets beautiful but it gets sad as well. You start to notice everything, you’re there to appreciate every little detail but you realized, who is there to appreciate you? I look around and you see happy eyes, sad eyes, blank eyes but none of them looking at me. And so I kept on walking.

Today, two kinds of  people sit on the opposite end of the spectrum; those who couldn’t care less for Valentine and those who, well…have been counting down days to this very moment.

In case you happen to sit on the latter end, then this post is right in your lane. Today we celebrate love. Featuring some of the most dreamy travel couples in the blogosphere and on Instagram.

These travel couples will not only arouse the wanderer in you but also inspire you to embark on the road less travelled with your loved ones too.

“I want a man that loves travelling so that we can travel together all the world.”

  1. Newlyweds Sana and Faisal @twosaparty_ – capture the essence of stylish travel! Read their travel blog to see more.

 

2. Murad Osmann and his partner Natalia Zakharova @muradosmann – the famous ‘follow me to’ couple are seen travelling the world With Natalia leading Murad by hand everywhere they go.

3. Bianca and Brett @KiwisOffCourse –  This couple from New Zealand sure paint a colourful picture. Their blog is also ridiculously helpful and inspiring if you’re an active traveler:

4. Nick and Karen @globetrotwithus –  have dark and DREAMY visuals with an inspiring blog to match. Just have a look:

5. @MrandMrsMonnet – This gorgeous Hong Kong couple show us how to travel like an absolute BOSS! so very chic!


6. Jen & Rudolph @themarriedwanderers “Because what is marriage if not an adventure?” Follow this couple on their adventurous union here: Blog

7. Ryan and Sam @ourtravelpassport –  provide us with the perfect dreamy page travel inspirations. check their experiences here: blog

Happy Valentine’s Day!

#CoupleTravel: In the spirit of Love

What adventure do you reckon is more greater; to travel or to be in love?

How about both? To travel the world, expand your cultural understanding, discover new destinations that too with someone you love  by your side, what could be more rewarding than that?!

We’ve also heard that couples who travel together stay together. How true that is, we will leave to your judgement…meanwhile in the spirit of celebrating Love, we share some inspirational couple travel quotes.

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“A couple who travel together, grow together.” ― Ahmad Fuadi

“A couple who travel together, grow together.” ― Ahmad Fuadi

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Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live? – Walt Whitman

Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live? – Walt Whitman

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“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, “I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.” – Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, “I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.” – Lisa St. Aubin de Teran

zuru kenya couple
Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back, and reasons to stay.

Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back, and reasons to stay.

zuru kenya couple
“Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone.” –The Dhammapada

“Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone.” –The Dhammapada

zuru kenya couple
“Travel brings power and love back into your life” – Rumi

“Travel brings power and love back into your life” – Rumi

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I wanna travel the world with you. Go to every country, every city, take pictures and be happy.

I wanna travel the world with you. Go to every country, every city, take pictures and be happy.

zuru kenya couples
“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer

“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer

zuru kenya couples
“In Life, It’s Not Where You Go, It’s Who You Travel With” – Charles Schulz

“In Life, It’s Not Where You Go, It’s Who You Travel With” – Charles Schulz

Couple zuru kenya
“Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” ― Roman Payne

“Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.” ― Roman Payne

10 Things to Know Before Moving to Kenya

Is moving to Kenya at the top of your things to do list this year? Fantastic! this is going to be one adventurous ride.

If this is going to be your first time in the country though, you need to fasten your seat belt because no thanks to the much sought entertainment value depicted in the Kenyan-based big hit films and documentaries, the Kenya you’ve familiarized yourself with on screen is nothing compared to the Kenya you are about to experience.

What then – if not sunsets and safaris?

1. It’s not always a sunny paradise

Image result for rainy kenya

Whilst the beautiful tropical climate might have drawn you here, don’t discard your cold weather outfits because some regions can be unforgivably cold.

2. Where you choose to live as an expat in Nairobi directly relates to your social circle

zuru kenya
Appleton Resort, a seductively and exclusive well designed town resort in the midst of the serene and leafy up market residential area of Westlands.

There are two obvious choices of living areas as an expat settling in Nairobi: Karen or Westlands. Karen is usually where you find the old-timers and the families who have been around for years, whereas Westlands boasts a more diverse community being the area of choice for the United Nations and other Embassies.

3. There’s no hurry in Africa

Image result for no hurry in africa

This is one phrase you’ll have to be accustomed to, so is the behavior that comes with it. Reality on the ground is that it shouldn’t come as a shock to you when an event you attend doesn’t start as scheduled. Don’t be frustrated if deadlines aren’t met either, Kenyans are always running late!

4. PaaPaa PeePeeeeeee… Traffic Jam In the city
Image result for traffic jam nairobi

 

Traffic congestion on our roads is horrendous! Nairobi being most notorious. One therefore needs to master the art of avoiding traffic so as not to get caught up in the madness. The rule of thumb is to leave for your destination before or after the rush hours; mornings between 7:00 a.m and 9:00 a.m and evenings between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.  nonetheless, you’ll want to allow extra time for your commute, even if it’s not “rush hour.”

5. You will start to refer to yourself as Kenyan, regardless of what it says on your passport

you'll call yourself kenyan zurukenya
Image: osbke.com

It is very easy to connect in Kenya simply because the locals are very friendly and welcoming. It also helps that most cities are a hub of social activities; festivals, concerts, art exhibits alongside having meetup groups that organize outdoorsy events. Don’t be a loner!

6. You are either a Land Rover or a Land Cruiser person

Image result for offroad safari kenya rhino charge
Hitting the road in the BRCK Land Rover Image: brck.com

The reason for this is simple: safaris. There is an ongoing debate as to which car is better to take bundu bashing (off-road driving).

Another thing, from the moment you land on Kenyan soil, you will realize  that driving here is not for the faint at heart…there aren’t any rules really. The bigger the car you drive, the better your chances of winning any on-road battle. So get yourself a four-wheel drive to be on the safe side.

7. Our reputation as an insecure country is undeserved

Image result for travel ban

Sure we’ve had our hiccup with terrorism but Kenya isn’t as dangerous as portrayed. You will however need to be cautious of security concerns common to all major cities such as petty crime.

It helps to avoid crowded areas, do not expose your most valued possessions in public and in case you use public transportation, stay alert the entire duration of the journey. Moreover,  be cautious of strangers who approach you in need of help; this may sometimes be a tactic to lure you into a dangerous situation.

8. Real Estate is Growing

Image result for real estate westlands and karen kenya
Have nowhere to stay yet? no worries, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The real estate market has grown significantly in Kenya  with both furnished and unfurnished apartments and houses being readily available. Rental listings are easy to find online and you could as well deal directly with a reputable real estate company, such as Hass ConsultKnight Frank, or Lamudi Kenya.  There are also expat community sites and groups online that could assist with suggestions. As always, exercise caution whenever you make contact online.

 

9. You will be kept in the dark. Literally!

Image result for candle light no power kenya

If patience is an area you need work on, then heads up, you’ll need lots of it. Be prepared for constant power outages, more so during the rainy season. In case you do not want to waste money on stocking perishables or better yet value constant internet connection, then you’d better stock up on a generator.

10. You don’t really need to carry cash. Ever!

Image result for mobile money mpesa

Well except for chump change in case you need to negotiate price. Thank God for ‘M-Pesa’ (mobile money service). The whole country uses M-Pesa. Using the mobile money service, Kenyans keep cash on their mobile phones and can then pay bills or send money just by sending a text. When they need the physical cash, they can then withdraw it at any  M-Pesa agent across the country in less than a minute. How about that?!

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Wild soap bar: Wildlife works’ “Green” soap production

As with previous series’ on wildlife works, the people of Kasigau Corridor have highly benefitted from provision of jobs in different sectors of the company with training and development of varied skillsets;  If you are not cutting or sewing in the eco-factory, maybe you are protecting the diversity as a ranger, or perhaps putting your knowlege of plants to good use in the greenhouse and if you are more adept at mechanics,  then you can spend your work days at the workshop.

In order to maximise job creation, Wildlife Works is constantly venturing into new sectors, soap making being one of them. The soap-making factory, albeit still a small operation, works on producing high quality soaps with a touch of individuality – some of which you love to pocket home from your eco-lodge getaway.

MEET BETTY KITIRO

The principal employee of wildlife works’ soap factory, Betty Kitiro who hails from a village in the  Kasigau corridor started volunteering at wildlife works in 2007 where she was trained in soap-making. In less than year, she became a full time employee and now shows great initiative in experimenting with different ingredients to create fun and fragrant soaps for Kenyans and international tourists alike.

Zuru Kenya - Wildlife Works Soap

Betty is currently producing five core varieties of soap, with the key ingredients coming from local sources.  The soap-making factory aside from producing  for consumers, it is able to provide a boost in income for small-scale producers of aloe, limes, jojoba seeds, myrrh, loofah pods, honey and oranges. To add extra essence of the region, the soaps are generally simply packaged in elephant dung paper made at Rukinga or sisal baskets made by local women.  At the moment the soaps are primarily sold to hotels in Kenya, providing their guests with a little something from Tsavo.

Zuru Kenya-Wildlife Works Soap

Zuru Kenya - Wildlife Works Soap

Zuru Kenya - Wildlife Works Soap

Zuru Kenya - Wildlife Works Soap

Zuru Kenya - Wildlife Works Soap

Note: Wildlife works uses only pure essential oils to scent their products.  Each original recipe also includes wild native plants, organic botanicals, natural colorants, and healing earth clays therein remaining purely “Green”.

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HUSSEIN GUIDA TURISTICA: THE ‘BEACH OPERATOR’ WITH A DREAM

You may have noticed that majority of beach hotels have erected fences along the shoreline, leaving only a narrow opening leading to the beach. Perhaps you have come across some Samburu and Maasai men roaming the stretch of the shoreline as well?  In as much as they are an attraction to tourists, these young men serve as barricades, hired by some hotels to serve the same purpose as the erected fences.

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Maasai man hired to kep unwanted guests away.

watamu

Knowing very well that hotel guests come here looking for some relaxation time by the white sandy shores, why then would these establishments go to such lengths to keep them fenced in? Well… have you heard this before, “when you head down to the beach, pay no mind to the beach boys!”

Ah, yes, beach boys! The mere mention of the words has tourists and locals alike, running for the hills.

These people will ruin your day. They do not take no for an answer. They will adamantly try to sell you whatever favors are on offer for that day. And if you think those fences are good enough to keep them away, guess again, they will cling on for dear life, calling out for you until you heed their call.

Beach boys have a keen eye too. They will spot you the moment you set foot on the white sands. Instantly working out tactics in which to reel you in. Like fresh prey, you are just another meal ticket for the day’s survival walking through these “vultures’” door.

“Jambo!

Would you be interested in a boat excursion to the Watamu Marine Park?” a somewhat young guy approached us. He introduced himself though I forget his name.

“It’s not costly” he said.

“No thanks! We are just walking” we responded.

“How about snorkeling? Promise you’ll have loads of fun”

“We weren’t prepared for that today…Asante, pengine Kesho! (Thanks, perhaps tomorrow!)”

Now, whenever you tell Kenyan hawkers “no thanks, perhaps another day” – accompanied with a polite smile, they generally tend to leave you in peace, of course, after few attempts of trying to convince you to check your pockets again, but they do move on without a hassle in search for the next potential client (Lessons learned from years of having to negotiate buys at the market).

So when we said perhaps tomorrow, he said okay and left.

Only to come back with a booklet filled with photos showcasing the excursions they offer…haha *facepalm emoji* sigh!

This guy just wouldn’t let up.

“Tomorrow we can go see the dolphins, yeah?!”

Knowing we weren’t even going to be there tomorrow we just said we’d think about it.

“Okay, if you don’t want to go on the boat trip, maybe you can check out the sourvenirs we have at our hang-out joint?

Man, this guy’s marketing skills were up there with the rest of them. Although, I now get how the dogged persistence can be wearing and a tad-bit annoying. He and his crew spend their days at a small makuti restaurant (their hang-out joint) by the beach from where they chill and wait to spot potential clients. The restaurant is owned by one of them; it’s apparent that “beach boys” spread themselves thinly over a wide range of deals rather than specializing in one so as to cushion them from uncertainty.

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some of the items sold infront of the restaurant “hang-out joint”
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some of the items sold infront of the restaurant “hang-out joint”

We had nothing to lose so we obliged. On approaching the “hang-out joint” a number of other beach boys came over to say hi asking us where we were from and so on. One of them on noticing I had a camera requested for a photo with one of us. That is how I met Hussein Guida Turistica (I learnt his name later on).

beach boys zuru kenya
Hussein’s photo request obliged to…

“Come upstairs” the rest of them said. The restaurant had a balcony lounge with a real nice view. “C’mon we won’t bite, come hang out with us.”

beach boys zuru kenya
I believe his name was peperone…up at the restaurants balcony

Once upstairs, they all introduced themselves and offered us seats. Our conversations involved their experiences at the beach, selling several services and what excursions they could take us on; at some point they would shift from Swahili to Italian to keep us from understanding what they were talking about. “Have you eaten, we have food you can buy” one said. “Or perhaps something more relaxing,” the guy who had initially approached us added. He explained how he had taken some alcohol earlier that day to relax. Apparently he worked better that way. Before we knew it he was singing a tune holding a make-shift microphone, explaining the benefits of alcohol…hilarious!

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Our “marketer” singing of the benefits of alcohol…great entertainer he was!

Amidst our conversation I enquired on whether they could take me across the shore to the little lagoons. I wanted to take a nice shot of the beach line from the other side. Hussein offered to take me…said he’d do it for free even. There was no need for a boat ride as one of them could be accessed on foot which provided for a good opportunity to have a real conversation on the “beach boy” life and his experiences.

Until the recent security threats, Hussein used to go by his real name. But during this period, he went by the alias ‘Brian’ for obvious reasons. Asked why he is in this business, to fend for his family the only way he knew how. He wasn’t fortunate enough to proceed with his education. His family didn’t have the funds.

beach boys zuru kenya

zuru kenya beach boys

Many of the beach boys along the Kenyan coast are in the profession because it’s what they know. Their fathers were also in the same business so it’s only natural.

It is also well known that aside from boat safaris, beach boys also trade drugs as well as sexual favors. He however told me that there are two types of groups clumped into the definition “beach boys” saying that the latter, gives them bad repute. “They have nothing to lose hence why they engage in sex for profit; constantly seeking foreign women (and even men) to upgrade their lives perhaps fly them out of the country even.”

He prefers to go by the title ‘beach operator’ doing honest work as an improvised tourist guide and translator. Some Italian hotels hire them as full time tour-guides assigned to groups of tourists because well, beach operators have proven to be a huge tourism attraction despite the negative connotation linked to their profession. Hussein is up to date with all the fun up-coming events in Watamu; a good guide has to be after all. He tells me that in the evening they will be having a beach party by the restaurant which is open to all and extended an invite. Unfortunately though, we weren’t sticking around till evening.

watamu (9) zuru kenya beach boys

He furthermore, informed me that he only works here to fend for his family; his mother and siblings. When he’s not at the beach, he is performing as a street dancer, something he says his mom discourages him from. “She’s just afraid I’ll hurt myself,” he says as he shows me the scar he got on his face from a fall the previous night during his performance. “But it’s my dream and passion,” he adds.

As we continued along the beach stretch, I noticed that he was really popular with the locals here, everyone from children to his peers and even older stopped us just to say hello. Perhaps it was his kindheartedness and soft nature that captivated and enticed him to people.

watamu (11) zuru kenya beach boys

Hussein went on to tell me of his challenges and future aspirations. “You see that building there,” pointing to a hotel construction at the beach stretch that is in its final touches. “I hope to one day earn enough money to afford me just one night’s stay at that place and get the royal treatment that all these tourists get.”

watamu (10) zuru kenya beach boys

For now, nothing is standing in his way to achieve his passion and dreams; he has plenty of time to earn that night’s stay.

After all, he is only 24!

Beach Boy Facts:

  • Beach boys are known to mostly sport dreadlocks. (None of the ones we interacted with in Watamu had dreadlocks)
  • They offer a range of services from boat trips, safaris, curios selling, drugs and even sexual favors.
  • Majority are illiterate and are in the beach boy profession as a result of unemployment.
  • Not every young male at the beach is a  “beach boy”, some are fishermen and Maasai ‘guards’.

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THE PRIDE OF AFRICA | FLYING HIGH IN 2016

“The Pride of Africa”

Our national flag carrier is on a lane of its own; seamlessly living up to its name if the World Travel Awards 2016 is anything to go by. Going by the title “Africa’s Leading airline” this year, Kenya Airways not only affirms its dominance in the African skies but also confirms that it is indeed, the Pride of Africa.

Moreover, Its commitment to modern conviniences and overall customer experience, also saw it scoop the “Africa’s Leading Airline – Business Class” award for the fourth consecutive year.

In light of this remarkable achievement, we reached out to Kenya Airways’ Marketing Director Chris Diaz, to get his sentiments on the awards and future progress of the carrier.

KQ Marketing Director Chris Diaz. Photo/Hannington zurukenya
Kenya Airways’ (KQ) Marketing Director Chris Diaz. Photo/Hannington

For the past 22 years consecutively, South African Airways has been the best airline to fly with as far as winning the Africa’s Leading Airline Award at the World Travel Awards is concerned. This year however, Kenya Airways broke that cycle, taking the Africa’s Leading Airline Award home. How big a deal is winning this title and what does it mean for the airline and your consumers going forth?

The award was a tremendous honour and great reward for the monumental efforts all of us at Kenya Airways have put into making the airline a leader in the region. Going forward, we are working to ensure Kenya Airways remains at the forefront of international aviation with a commitment to continue offering our guests warm African hospitality . We continue to connect Africa to the world and the world to Africa.

Aside from Bagging Africa’s Leading Airline Award this year, you also scooped Africa’s Leading Airline – Business Class Award. This is the fourth consecutive year you are taking this award home; you clearly must be doing something right in this department.  Today, Business-Class travel experience is highly valued by flyers and a lot of factors come into play when deciding what airline offers seamless travel for this group. What sort of developments or services offered by your airline do you think sets you apart from the rest in the game, hence getting you this accolade for the fourth consecutive year?

Over the years we have invested heavily to get where we are. We have one of the newest fleet in the region. We have invested in ensuring our guests experience superior flying experiences in the Business-Class cabin. We are now operating from a fairly new hub at JKIA with a state of the art terminal, we have introduced new menus on board, and we have fully-flat bed in our aircraft. We also have world class inflight services and award winning lounges at JKIA. These are just some of our strengths but our greatest one is our people who work tirelessly despite difficult circumstances to keep our guests coming again and again.

Having won the “Africa’s Leading Airline” title, do you perhaps think that all eyes will be on you now to set the industry’s standards in terms of service and comfort?

Definitely. As a result, our focus is to remain committed to transforming air travel by continuously investing in the best people, products and technology and, in doing so, developing a highly acclaimed airline brand.

While we are still on that topic, are there any developments that Kenya airways may have achieved that perhaps are a first in the industry thereby setting yourself apart as a trend setter?

As mentioned above, our product and people speak for themselves. The fact that we also know Africa better than anyone else is a great advantage. We go to 42 destinations in the continent and if anyone knows Africa, it is Kenya Airways. In this case we continue to contribute to the sustainable development of Africa.

Of course, even with a successful a company as yours, one cannot fail to encounter a few shortcomings here and there, in a few reviews that we’ve taken a look at, we’ve come across several critiques in terms of “cost-cutting measures in regards to meals, delays without notice and/or apologies and sometimes a not so customer friendly staff and so on” thus while the airline might be good, the overall experience for some is not so good. Have you encountered any such concerns, and what are you doing to curb them?

We receive complaints and we know we are not perfect but are continuously investing to ensure we offer our guests the best in service and the quality of our product.  Yes, there is an opportunity to improve. We strive to bring consistency and quality by focusing on delivering consistently high levels of customer service that extend beyond in-flight service.

Last year, financial reports indicated a 25.7 billion after tax loss incurred by Kenya airways during the last fiscal year. One of the reasons given for this was the major challenge faced by the tourism Industry as a whole i.e. insecurity following terror attacks and the issuance of travel advisories by most countries. However, things are looking up now. Are there any measures or incentives that Kenya Airways has taken to try and draw more tourists to Kenya?

Yes. We currently executing a turnround strategy dubbed, Operation Pride in a bid to change the fortunes of the airline and we are already seeing some positive traction. We have stepped our efforts to ensure seamless connectivity through our hub, at competitive prices. We are working on improving our profitability by instituting several measures in the strategy. In the next 18 to 24 months, we should be breaking even.  In addition, the move by the Government of Kenya to reduce the visa restriction of for children under 16 years has impacted positively on growing tourist numbers especially for Kenya.

Lastly,  if you could recommend one place to tourists looking to visit Kenya, where would this place be and why?

As you know, Kenya is a world-class destination offering some of the best rated tourist activities and products including the Masai Mara and Diani Beach which were voted leading destinations at the Awards. I would recommend visiting these sites among the many others Kenya has to offer.

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Travel Smart with Google App

“I don’t appreciate a hassle-free travel experience”, said no one ever!  The  modern day traveller prefers to have everything under control before embarking on their trip. Long gone are the days of  having awkward conversations with strangers trying to get some words translated or having to test your geography skills, burying your face in a map to help you negotiate your way around the streets of Nairobi.

Travellers today appreciate that being digital-savvy goes along way to giving you convinience, ease and saves you plenty of time whilst on your globe-trotting adventures whether travelling for business or leisure. Google is aware of this too; They are aware that you like to prebook your  hotel room, counter check your travel details, and prepare your itinerary before you even leave home. It is by this virtue that they are constantly at work to provide you with a ‘personal assistant’ designed to make your travels smoother, cheaper and plenty fun.

Having google app in your pocket guarantees that you stay organized, on time, up-do-date with events and on budget wherever you go.


Prepare for Takeoff – Google Flights

There’s a good chance you’re going to fly and if you need an assistant to do the heavy lifting for you, Google Flights is at your service. Google Flights lets you quickly find and compare flights between airports on certain days.  Not sure where you want to go? worry not, google flights has you covered…with the popular destinations feature, you will definitely have an idea or two of new destinations to exlore.

Or maybe you’re interested in visiting a certain region or country, but aren’t sure what airport to fly into or cities to visit. Google Flights has an answer for that as well.

Instead of entering a specific airport as a destination, selecting a  country or region shows you a map highlighting the major airports in the specific regions and how much it costs to fly there. If you zoom in, you can also see small regional airports. You could even narrow down the suggestions based on your interests like culture, safari, restaurants, etc.

You can see prices for your trip on every day of the month, with the cheapest days highlighted in green. A bar graph at the bottom lets you know how prices will likely drop or rise over time.

Come rain or shine?!

It’s definitely wise to check on how the weather looks like at your destination lest you pack and prepare for activities that are not catered for by the current climatic conditions.

Google provides you with an intuitive app offering weather reports for well over two million geographical locations, feeding in everything from cloud formations and atmospheric pressure to wind speed and humidity. It’s also accurate to the point of clairvoyance, so if  it predicts rain, pack your umbrella please.

What’s so cool is that you don’t have to feed the app your location…It automatically detects your new location, providing you with the areas weather conditions.

Road Trippers, this especially comes in handy for you. Google app helps you track the weather along your road trip. You are now able to know what the weather will look like in the counties you’ll be going through and at what time, and more so where you can stop if the conditions get too bad.

Know what to wear with daily weather forecasts for your current location, work location, and travel destinations.

Translate s’il vous plait

Google Translate

This translator can be a useful tool to support your own, more serious language learning, but realistically, it’s most useful on a practical level quickly translating day-to-day words you come across on your travels. Particularly intriguing is the Word Lens tool, whereby you point your camera at a text– such as a sign, or a menu – and Google will translate it for you instantly. It’s an essential app for any traveller.

Have you Reserved?

Get one-touch navigation to your hotel when you arrive in a new city.  Google App also provides updates to restaurant and hotel reservations received in Gmail.

Currency Exchange

Don’t bother paying up for one of the many currency conversion apps out there – this freebie is slick, easy to use, and – best of all, since it uses live currency rates – completely accurate.

Let’s take a walk…

Google App has added a pedometer to its website that tell you how much you have walked, cycled or travelled in a month. You can also swipe cards away when you no more need them.

Could you direct me to…

I can’t even imagine driving without Google Maps. Its a real time-saver detecting delays up ahead, such as traffic, accidents, or construction. The app automatically offers a quicker route. It’s a great in-car GPS navigation system, right from your phone.

Other cool features:

  • Set reminders: Get reminded of your scheduled meetings. Just set reminders for any meetings and events on your calendar and Google App will remind you before it’s late.
  • Voice instructions: How cool is it that you don’t have to type instructions anymore, Google app takes instructions from you: ask it to call someone, what time is your meeting, ask for voice directions and so on and it’s done! you get an answer in natural language. Simply say ‘Ok Google’ or tap the microphone icon to begin.
  • Sports: If you are a sports fan and cannot watch the match, Google App is here to help. Add the team you wish to follow under customise option of the Google App and it will constantly update you on match dates, scores and so on.
  • Stories to read: Are there any stories you need to catch up on?
  • Get to work on time: Once you enter your office address in its settings, it will automatically suggest you the shortest route to the destination. The App keeps tabs on the time when you usually leave for the office and after a while automatically starts reminding you, based on the traffic conditions, when the right time to leave for the office is. So cool right?
  • Stay up to date on movies, books, and TV shows: When you search for a movie, book, TV show, music artist, or video game on Google, it’ll remember—and give you information about it in Google App. You can even tell Google to remind you about upcoming episodes, so you know when your favorite shows start. how about that?
  • Keep up with the trends: This card shows you the most trending topics on Google for the day. The topics are figured out on the basis of what interests you, which in turn is figured out on the basis of what you search more on Google.

How to get started: If you let the Google App learn about you and your habits, then it can throw up information that it thinks you might be interested in. News, sports scores, weather, and traffic information is served up in real time based on your previous movements and searches. Information is served up in the form of cards, which you can tap for more detail or swipe away to ignore. What’s even more interesting, Google App can give you what you want before you even know you want it.

With such cool features, I’d be amazed if you still complain of travel inconviniences. Planning your vacation just got plenty easier with your own google “personal assistant”… you can thank me later!

Free, iOS and Android

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#Destinationweddings: Walk down the isle the Kenyan Way

Its a Saturday. Saturdays come with weddings…and what better place to host that dreamy, unforgettable event than amidst the beautiful landscapes that is our motherland?!

Destination wedding zurukenya 1 destination kenya zuru kenya 2

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  1. Some colourful Maasai flavor at your wedding – Porini Lion Camp 📷: Ali “Millzero” Nishan

2. Let’s go to the beach 📷: @distantrelativeskilifi

3. It gets so magical at the Mara – Maasai Mara 📷: Jonas Peterson

4. Look at that backdrop… so dreeeaamy – Maasai Mara 📷: Jonas Peterson

5. A runaway bride?….Not! – 📷: Mukima House Laikipia

6. How scenic is this Laikipian backdrop? wedding album should be out of this world 😲 📷: Mukima House Laikipia

7.  This wedding guest though…he/she really wanted to get in on the action 😂 – Giraffe Centre 📷: Cheetah Platt

8. Walk down the isle the Maasai way – Fairmont Safari Club Maasai Mara 📷: ChristopheViseux

9. The bride comes down the dhow steps – Turtle Bay Beach Club Watamu 📷: ChristopheViseux

10. And then there was the dhow wedding – Turtle Bay Beach Club Watamu 📷: ChristopheViseux

Kenya's ultimate travel and lifestyle magazine

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