#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

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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.

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“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

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“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.

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“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

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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

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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

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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

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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
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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!

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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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“For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.” — Alex Garland, “The Beach”

ANGA AFRIKA: BRINGING THE BACK OF BEYOND TO NAIROBI

Whenever one is picking out camps and lodges for their next safari in Kenya, Nairobi as a destination barely comes to mind. Never mind the fact that Nairobi is the only city in the world to host a national park, many travelers hitherto only view the city safari  experience merely as a transit option to the real bush experience.

What if we told you though that the much sought out Hemingway bush and tent experience is right here at your doorstep? That you don’t have to go the extra mile, leave Nairobi, that what stands between you and your much desired safari is a mere 20 minutes or so?

Because many safari lovers only use Nairobi as transit, not much effort has been put into establishing accommodations that offer these enthusiasts a full safari experience right within the city. One family is however trying to re-write this script.  Launched early this year, Anga Afrika, a family owned and run establishment, seeks to ensure that you don’t have to leave for upcountry into the back of beyond in order to experience life under the sun and the stars, to experience the story of Africa in the wild that is much told.

Sidney Trompell, one of the owners of Anga Afrika introduces us to the whole idea behind the establishment and fills us in on why it would be such a shame if you missed out on the experience offered.

  1. How long have you been open and what was the inspiration behind owning Anga Afrika?

We opened in the beginning of the year, although it was already years in the planning. The special thing about Anga Afrika is that every little detail was very thought through. We took our time.

My family and I always liked Karen because we are generally people who prefer peace and nature over the noisy turmoil that is often Nairobi. After we had finished building our home we wanted to share our little ‘island’ with people who share our mindset and philosophy. That is how Anga Afrika came to be. We feel that luxurious tented camps embody the Kenyan holiday experience the best and we wanted to provide our guests with the most authentic “out of Africa” experience.

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  1. Why the name Anga Afrika and what should people expect when they get here?

Our place in Karen is 1850 m above sea level; therefore relatively close to the stars, hence the name Anga Afrika. Also, since our tented suites are made up of canvas, which really gives our guests the feeling that they are truly sleeping under African skies. The view of the stars on a clear night is breathtaking.

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  1. The sort of experience you offer is rarely found in Nairobi, why set up away from major safari destinations, why Nairobi? What is unique about Anga Afrika’s location?

The special thing about our location is that it feels like you’re 100’s of miles away from Nairobi, but really you can be in the city centre within 20 minutes. It’s ideal for people who want to be immersed in nature as well as for Kenya first timers who want to experience Kenya in the most authentic way before embarking on major safaris to Masai Mara, Amboseli etc. Also, since our home is literally next door we try to connect with our customers on a personal level, build relationships and make sure that if they need anything that there’s always someone they can talk to. We also enjoy meeting new people from all around the world and exchange experiences and stories with them.

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  1. What authentic local experiences will guests have access to here and what types of guests do you expect to attract?

First off, the experience of living in a tented camp as opposed to a hotel. This is a huge deal. I remember the first time I went glamping in the Masai Mara with the family and it was an unforgettable experience. Therefore we think that this type of accommodation will be very memorable for a lot of people. We also organize tours for our guests to local attractions such as the Giraffe Centre, Nairobi National Park, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Karen Blixen Museum.

To maintain a certain standard of exclusivity, we hope to attract people who have a strong appreciation of nature, peace, and the love for Kenya. Profit maximization isn’t our first priority, but maintaining a certain standard, living by our values and providing the best possible African experience is. We truly enjoy what we do here!

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  1. If you could describe your property or the glamping experience you offer in three words, what would they be?

Modern. Authentic. Africa.

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  1. What makes Anga Afrika a destination in itself?

Definitely the altitude…The cool temperatures in the morning, the fresh air, jogging in the morning fog, enjoying a cosy campfire in the evening…it literally gives you the feeling that you’re living in the African mountains such as Mount Kenya or Aberdares.

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  1. A stand out meal in your restaurant, what would you recommend?

We have a lot of outstanding dishes at our restaurant, but George, our chef makes sweet potato bread that is to die for. A lot of our guests go home with the recipe because it is simply that good!

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  1. Any other experiences you can recommend in the area for a combined trip when staying at Anga Afrika?

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a must. Seeing orphaned elephants taken care for and interacting with them gives you such a fulfilling experience. You can even adopt one if you are committed to support it for a long amount of time. Otherwise Karen Blixen Museum is a great place to learn about the history of Karen and how it came into existence, Giraffe Centre, where you can ‘kiss’ Giraffes on the mouth. Literally. There’s quite a lot you can do in our area and we are always more than happy to provide our guests with help and guidance to make this experience as memorable as possible.

Location: Karen Area

Establishment Type: Luxury Tented Camp

Contact for Bookings: http://www.angaafrika.com/

Attractions around: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Karen Blixen Museum, Giraffe Centre, Nairobi National Park, Nairobi Animal Orphanage.

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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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Let’s go Glamping!

Camping, this is one of those travel experiences with no in-betweens; you either simply love it or hate it.

If in incase you lean towards the latter because of the back-to-basics nature of camping, a new trend has emerged that might just be the reason you come around at least before ruling it out completely.

Glamping” or rather, glamorous camping resorts are sprouting up rapidly, with the makeup of extremely spacious luxury tents that come with a personal chef and butler to boot! Nothing basic about that!

Travelers keen to get off the beaten path are best suited for this new form of travel and Kenya has not been left behind in terms of serving you with some of the finest glamping destinations.

Kenya gives you a glamping experience with no barriers; wide, scenic views of the plains and colorful sunsets from your deck with a couple of wildlife looking to make a friend or two popping up at your doorstep to say hello. Here you are immersed in nature with high-end comfort.

Your accommodation tents are a far cry from the poles in the ground you might be picturing; they feature hardwood floors, private bathrooms, and four poster beds, in room Wi-Fi in camps situated in massive acres.

Say goodbye to pitching tents, unrolling sleeping bags, and building fire. There’s nothing like the allure of a luxury experience in the wild taking you back to Ernest Hemingway days.

So, if you really didn’t like your last back-to-basics camping experience, it might just be time for an upgrade. You might consider these destinations for instance;

Ashnil Samburu

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Ashnil Samburu Camp sits in Buffalo Springs Game Reserve which takes its name from an oasis of crystal clear water at the western end of the reserve. It is separated from Samburu National Reserve by Ewaso Nyiro River and is less hilly and dense yet equally very attractive.

Sanctuary Olonana

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This award-winning tented camp in the Masai Mara, is one of the best places in the world to see the annual wildebeest migration. This natural spectacle happens on the camp’s doorstep and you may catch glimpses of it from the private verandah of your tent!

Sasaab Lodge

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Sasaab is a stunning blend of Moroccan and Swahili style, located in the heart of the African bush. Each individual cottage is designed to offer majestic views of the landscape and offer a cooling retreat from the African heat.

Mahali Mzuri

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In Swahili, Mahali Mzuri means “beautiful place”, just one glance and you know it indeed is a beautiful place. It is also right in the path of the annual great migration. The stylish and luxurious tent suites are made to blend in with its surroundings and designed by borrowing elements of regions traditional architecture.

Lewa Safari Camp

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This tented camp in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, overlooks Mount Kenya and the reserve. The conservancy is a terrific place to view the endangered black rhino as it is home to about 10% of Kenya’s rhino population. The game viewing in Lewa is excellent.

Jambo Mutara Camp

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This elegant safari camp is located just west of Mount Kenya, North of Aberdares Forest. The camp is the only accommodation found in the Mutara Conservancy and it offers the best of safari accommodation in a luxury style.

Mara Bushtops Luxury Tented Camp

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Set amid the 60,000 hectares of the Mara Siana Wildlife Conservancy, directly bordering the Masai Mara itself, Mara Bushtops boasts a sensational location. Set in its own private conservancy, the camp has been designed to blend in with the natural habitat to ensure minimal impact of the environment. No expense has been spared on the fittings provided in the 12 spacious and fabulously appointed luxury tents, open on three sides to the great outdoors and each with its own special view. Featuring beautiful interiors solely designed for ultimate comfort and convenience, the camp’s private accommodation has everything you need for a luxurious stay.

Sand River Maasai Mara

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This classy tented camp perched on the banks of the Sand river in the Mara is a winner. Located in a quieter area of the Mara the camp has outstanding resident wildlife and is brilliantly located for the migration before it re-enters the Serengeti. The layout of the camp lends a sense of privacy & the decor is relaxed yet luxurious.

‘Shetani’ Lava Flow

‘Shetani ’ means ‘devil’ in Kiswahili: The Lava flows are said to have been formed about 500 years ago. When the locals first saw ‘fire’ erupting and ‘flowing’ on the ground they believed that it was the devil himself emerging from the earth – hence the name “Shetani” Lava Flow.

Want to envisage how the world was like when it was “formless, dark, and void” before God said “let there be light” (Genesis 1:1-3)?? ‘Shetani’ Lava Flow in Tsavo West is the place to visit. God’s wonders are all around us take sometime to appreciate them.

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“Formless Earth” with Chyulu Hills – the youngest volcanic range of hills in the World. Estimated to have been formed about 500 years ago

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Shetani Lava against the background of the scenic Chyulu Hills

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Klipspringer – an inhabitant of the Shetani Lava’s rocky terrain

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Chaimu Crater

Wish you all a Great Weekend.
Location: Tsavo West

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Traverse Africa in Four minutes with Yemi Alade and Sauti Sol

So I have just come across the “Africa” official Video by Yemi Alade ft Sauti Sol and now its on constant replay. Of course I had heard it a while back, but I really paid no mind to it because a song is never really a song until the video is out then you can put two and two together; Music Visuals in relation to the lyrics.

Just yesterday, some colleagues and I were discussing how Yemi Alade showcases so much culture and colour in her music videos – perhaps a depiction of the African Continent, based on her Mama Africa Album birthed in journeys around the continent – then I come across this today (To the African Gods who were listening, Thank you!). Yemi Alade has won millions over with this Album and so has Sauti Sol with Live and Die in Afrika. It is only right therefore, that they had a collaboration on this big hit “Africa”.

These two talents did not disappoint as usual, but the reason why this music video is on replay is not the polished blend of guitar and dancehall, no. It is merely the fact that  I remain fixeted on the beautiful people, landscapes, and wildlife. Basically the spirit that is our motherland. The video not only showcases our history, through the pics of the people responsible for our freedom today, It also shows the world the vibrancy that is our cultures, destinations and love for each other. Thanks to Yemi Alade and Sauti Sol, you get to traverse Africa in just four minutes.

If you’re still not exactly sure how Africa looks like, take a look at this Music Video. I’m sure you’ll be booking your next ticket here whilst getting down to the very danceable tune. Don’t get it twisted though, Africa is still not a country…so come to kenya first *wink*.

“Anywhere you go, nowhere be like Africa, no where be like home”

Fun Facts: 

  • ‘Africa’ video was shot in different locations – Nigeria, Kenya, UK and USA, celebrating the incomparable beauty and richness of Africa
  • The amazing backdrop of  landscapes and wildlife is yours truly, Kenya.

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.

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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).

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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LITTLE TRAVELERS CHAPEL ON THE HILL

Just as it is with any historical site that has stood the test of time, the four walls of the “Travelers’ Chapel” are shrouded in a lot of mystery and myth. Word goes round of a ticking clock that can be heard but is never seen. It has even been said that those who erected the structure hid their jewels and wills in the church concrete columns setting enthusiasts on a hunt for the ‘hidden treasure’. Perhaps it is these great tales – amongst others, that make this landmark of sorts intriguing. Or maybe the fascination is purely based on its miniature build.

travelers chapel zuru kenya

Listed as the smallest church in Kenya (and possibly Africa), the “Travelers’ Chapel” which is commonly referred to by its alias ‘Msikiti – mosque’ by the locals sits pretty along the Mai Mahiu-Naivasha highway. Its story dates back to the Second World War where we are told that British and imperial forces captured more than half a million Italian soldiers, sailors and airmen. Whilst having these prisoners of war (POWs) around as a symbol of military success was all good, The British soon realized that in as much as their ‘symbols of victory’ brought high standing for their ranking in the war, they also posed a few complications as they came with needs as well; one of them being having a place to worship. Seeing that the Italians were Catholics and the British Anglicans, the two parties could not worship together and so they were allocated land to build their own place of prayer.

Under the strict supervision of British colonialists, the construction of The Mai Mahiu Catholic Church popularly referred to as the “Travelers’ Chapel” came to be in 1942. The Italian Prisoners Of War (POWs) would take turns to erect the structure during breaks from the construction of the road. The building of the church was however not without any setbacks. For instance, a number of Italians succumbed to diseases and attacks from wild animals, which included poisonous snakes that allegedly live in the area to date. Several graves lie outside the church compound where the deceased were laid to rest. Thanks to well wishers, a mausoleum has since been erected in form of a cemented cross in honor of the fallen Italians.

italian-chapel- travelers chapel zuru kenya

The Design

The pentagon-shaped church interior has four small wooden pews and an altar with a pulpit. Measuring 15 by 8 feet, it has a capacity to sit 12 people during mass. Just like its bigger counterparts, the church has three normal doors for access.

travelers chapel zuru kenya
Source: mywalkabout.net

The inside walls are decorated with inscriptions in Latin. Above the stained glass windows and the entrance doors are painted the words, Venite Ad Memone (Come to me my people), Haec Est Victoria Quae Vincit Mundum Fides Mustra (This is the victory that has won the world by our faith), Benedicite Coeli Domino Benedicite (Blessed be the sky and blessed again) and finally Universa Germinatia In Terra Domino, which translates to, everything will germinate in the sky and also on the earth.

travelers chapel zuru kenya
Source: mywalkabout.net

Behind the altar is an old mural of the nativity scene (baby Jesus and his parents Mary and Joseph) surrounded by angels thought to have been created in early 1943. It is not very clear who painted the mural but it is nonetheless credited to Navitatis NDJC. The reason behind this lack of clarity is that “Navitatis” does not seem to have done any works of art before or after the mural at the Mai Mahiu Catholic Church. There is, however, a name inscribed on the mural that refers to Pittore R. and the date 25.02.1943. All that this confirms is the date the mural was painted – 1943. It could as well be that Pittore did the mural – this is still subject to confirmation.

The church has three steps at the entrance that according to Ann Nyakio, a caretaker, symbolizes the Holy Trinity; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There are also two crosses on the roof and a compass that symbolizes that the church will stay as long as the world will turn around it.

Travelerschapel zuru kenya
Source: geocaching.com

Today, the Mai Mahiu Catholic Church is management by the Italian Embassy, the Kenyan government and well wishers who pump in their resources to conserve this religious historical site. The “Travelers’ Chapel” is open to all members of the public free of charge. Interestingly though, Christians and Hindus are allowed to worship, whereas Muslims can only visit.

Fun Facts:

  • The Travelers’ Chapel is commonly referred to as msikiti – mosque by the locals because it resembles one. Furthermore, prior to the four pews, worshipers used to pray on their knees.
  • Different communities and dominions conduct their prayers here.
  • The chapel is a popular venue for weddings and photo shoots because it gives off an antique feel.
  • Mai Mahiu Catholic Church is a favorite among truck drivers on transit from Mombasa to the landlocked central African countries.

Getting There:

The Mai Mahiu Catholic Church is located on the busy Mai Mahiu – Rironi road.

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