Africa, Extreme Sports, Kenya, Travel

Celebrating in Watamu

Like I said in the Galdessa post, the main reason why my family and I had gone to Kenya, was for our family friend’s birthday. Her husband organized a massive party inviting all their close friends to the week event, held in the beautiful area of Watamu.

Watamu is a 100 kilometres from Mombassa and 15 kilometres from Malindi, a village situated on the coastal beach front with pristine sandy white beaches and azure aquamarine seas. Turtle bay is the nicest section of the beach and with Watamu voted third best beaches in Africa, one is quite surprised to see no tourists jostling for towel space on the sand. With Malindi’s nature reserve being a small swim away from Watamu, diving and snorkelling activities are in abundance and offer fantastic views. It is known by many as an eco friendly area, where hotels hold sustainability as a priority in their services, and with such a magnificent view, one would easily agree to do the same thing. Fishing is also immensely popular because of the enormous Blue Marlin that flock and thrive in the crystal waters, thus many tourists try their hand at catching one of these silver tailed beasts.

Our family friends organised a number of fun things and entertaining evenings for us (and many others). Touch rugby on the beach was a highlight, as well as “snake catching”. This latter activity involved going into the bush with some locals to hunt snakes. Definitely not the safest option, but the most thrilling activity I found. I remember separating from the group, getting bored about how strict the guides were, until I looked up and something caught my eye in the tree. Sliding along a branch was not one, but two Green Mamba snakes! The very snakes I had been warned about previously being incredibly venomous and dangerous. Being an already adrenaline junkie… I shook with excitement. As I went to call for one of the guides attention, I turned around and it seemed the whole village was behind me. 20 other people stood there, mouths open and paralysed with fear whilst looking at the tree. In no time at all, the guides rushed ahead, urging us to stand back. They smoothly used tridents in sharp and quick movements, managing to lift the slimy snakes that had attached themselves onto the branches with ease, and shoved them into a sack. We had found what we had been looking for and were immediately told that the tour “was over”.

My family and I stayed in Hemingways Resort. It was a luxurious establishment that had kind helpful staff and had a lovely swimming pool right along the sea front. This hotel, is a little out of a backpacker’s budget- to say the least.

Africa, Extreme Sports, Kenya, Travel

Safari in Galdessa Camp, Tsavo East National Park

I had never been on safari before. Neither had my parents. So when my Dad turned to my brother and I and said, “Fancy going on safari in Kenya?”, we all jumped at the chance. But this is no ordinary safari in Kenya, where you stay miles away from the heart of the park, popping there for a day trip and rushed to spot wildlife as if in an amusement park- hurrying to cut queues but barely enjoying the rides themselves, no. This was Galdessa.

Galdessa 1

Galdessa Safari Camp is situated on the southern bank of the Galana river in Tsavo National Park. The camp holds 12 spacious thatched bungalows, all with an en suite bathroom and even a private shower (in the middle of the savannah?!). The camp oozes with sophistication and opulence, the beds are soft foam mattresses with crystal white sheets and matching mosquito nets- that protect you from any critters in the night. The interior is styled exquisitely with wooden chairs carved out of craggy branches as if picked up from the sandy plains itself, whilst rooms hold stretched animal prints (fake of course) to blend the visitor in with their surroundings. Having sheer material as walls means that you really are in fancy tent, where animals can be heard grazing at night next to you (we had a rhino one night munch very loudly on grass which made me feel protected rather than anxious). Although there is nothing to worry about, members of the Massi Mara tribe come and act as security guards against any creatures of the night, walking visitors to their resting places (definitely the best sort of security guard you can find in Kenya!)

In the middle of the camp there is the restaurant area, where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. The dining area is furnished in a similar style to those in your bedrooms, which makes the entire camp a whirlwind of elegance and luxury. Being situated along the river means that visitors don’t even need to leave their comfy seats of the river terraces at camp. In fact, they have a friendly elephant whom visits every morning to be fed, and his entire head fits through the doorway, (I obviously was so excited, it was my first time seeing an elephant that wasn’t brutally tortured like those in Thailand- see Phuket post). Families of elephants wander across the river daily, all slowly swaying in unison, the baby clutching his mothers tail in sheer terror whilst he plods deep into the river. It is a breathtaking and moving sight, seeing animals in their natural habitat that take no notice of you as they go on their daily routine, leaving you speechless to watch these magical beasts that are so wise and wondrous. Exotic birds swoop low and sip at the river, crying out for attention and flurrying their colourful and attractive wings in seduction.

Galdessa 2

A visit to Galdessa must be teamed with a four by four drive around the Savannah, it would be a sin not to! The ride is suitable for everyone, (my mother is disabled so we needed to make sure she was comfortable with it), and as you grab hold of the railings of the bouncing Jeep, you are whisked deep into the Savannah. The guides are incredibly talented, their eyes are trained like a hawks and can spot any movement in any direction from miles away, whilst they move like trained and dangerous assassins, braking the Jeep suddenly to smell a waft of fresh animal dung and track which direction the animal went. It truly is a remarkable sight and one to give Simon Cowell a run for his money, (X Factor joke- I apologise). As our tracker/guide/driver/magician drove us further along the dusty track, calmly resting a shotgun across his lap, we wandered past aged elephants, stealthy lions and gigantic giraffes. The experience is one that a zoo will never be able to replace.

My brother and I were also taken on a “Walking Tour” to Mudanda Rock, where a dam is based. Suddenly, we heard a rustling in the bushes and a flash of detailed spots on yellow skin came out from the undergrowth and scampered in the opposite direction. His body ran like a dog but swaying manically as if suffering from rabies, our guide turned and looked at us with concern on his face and said, “We are very lucky. It is a hyena. If he came around our way, we would have been torn apart to pieces. I think we should go back to camp.” Although the walking tour had ended, that rush of adrenaline and my love for extreme had just begun (little did I know I would be skydiving, swimming with sharks and bungee jumping in just a few years- and loving it).

My Dad also decided to organise a “bush breakfast“, which is when the camp organises a package of food, a table and chairs, as well as a waiter to come with you, out into the savannah and watch the sun come up over the plains, as you are completely surrounded by nature dining on breakfast. It definitely was a surreal moment and is the best breakfast experience I have ever had.

Going on safari is a majestical experience, and it does differ depending on what country you do it in and what style of safari you go for. We had timed this trip with our family friends birthday celebrations in Watamu, so that is the main reason behind us going to Kenya, although Kenya has the reputation for being one of the most safest and friendliest countries in Africa. Before you do any safari trip, make sure you research wisely, and prepare yourself and your family, for what’s in store. Also please do keep in mind, to be ethical to the environment, it is nature and not a theme park, treat the animals and their home with respect by letting them be.

Oh and Dad, if your reading this: Thanks a billion.