Nomad issue #23

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ISSUE 23| OCTOBER | FREE COPY

LAMU ON REPEAT

WHY WE’RE STILL ENCHANTED

WEEKEND AWAY

FROM DAR

BABY ON

BOARD

DISCOVERING

GABON


Find new tastes in a

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NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 1


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EDITOR’S NOTE

IT’S EASIER TO SPLURGE WHEN PAYING IN FOREIGN CURRENCY

I

remember my parents, my mom especially, always being avid collectors. She

had this large tin that was packed with coins brought back from her travels, the

fridge was always dotted with unique magnets and don’t even get me started on

her collection of Asian fabrics. As I go on more trips of my own, I am realizing

that I’m slowly plunging into this same sunken place, never mind that I’m actually

a bit of a minimalist especially with spaces like my apartment.

It’s not always the most practical souvenirs either. I never think, “I actually need a wine

cork, and this hand carved one from Ubud will be just perfect.” Oh no no no. I am drawn

to that heavy beaded dinosaur stuffed with ashes from an indigenous tree, blessed by

the ancestors of that land and said to cure things like overthinking, lactose intolerance

and gout. Never mind that it’s probably going to be way above my weight limit at the

airport, and the “ashes” might be flagged as some illegal substance that gets me locked up

abroad.

I have prized souvenirs, too, like an antique, bohemian, Morocan coffee set that I

snagged from the owner of some hole-in-the-wall restaurant that I convinced to sell to me.

My box of Ethiopian coffee beans was stolen from the table in my hotel room by a colobus

monkey who proceeded to jeer at me from the top of a baobab tree all afternoon. I recently

got flavour-bomb spiced tea from a Zanzibari spice farm, mixes like cardamom-mangolemongrass-and-tea.

I don’t even like tea or coffee.

Food can make for great souvenirs too, and some of my favourites to receive have been

Swiss chocolates, Turkish baklava and dates from Oman. Ever notice, though, how much

easier it is to splurge on overpriced goods when you’re paying in foreign currency?

Most recently, I got a miniature dhow in Lamu for Ksh 700. What a bargain! Our

souvenirs for you, however, come by way of all the exciting stories and photographs we

brought back from the trip, and I hope you will enjoy this issue from our all-time favourite

part of Kenya.

@WattaOnTheGo

Wendy Watta

NOMAD ISSUE 22 · OCT/NOV 2019 · PUBLISHED BY WEBSIMBA LIMITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

MANAGING DIRECTOR MIKUL SHAH EDITOR WENDY WATTA DESIGN BRIAN SIAMBI SALES VANESSA WANJIKU DIGITAL FAITH KANJA

CONTRIBUTORS SAMANTHA DU TOIT, JOE WAHOME, ANNA WUGHANGA, FAITH KANJA, MAURICE SCHUTGENS, KARANJA NZISA, OSSE GRECCA SINARE

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS BRIAN SIAMBI, SEBASTIAN WANZALLA, MEHLAM AKBARALI, PETER NDUNG’U

OPERATIONS DANIEL MUTHIANI SALES ENQUIRIES CALL NOMAD 0711 22 22 22 EMAIL EDITOR@NOMADMAGAZINE.CO

PRINTED BY RAMCO PRINTING PRESS

NomadMagazineAfrica @NomadMagAfrica @NomadMagazineAfrica

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ON THE COVER

PEPONI HOTEL

LAMU TOP

ROOM VIEW

PHOTOGRAPHED

BY BRIAN SIAMBI

CONTENTS

26

SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

Lamu has it all: stunning seafront

hotels, untouched beaches, palm

trees, traditional dhows, friendly

people, exotic birds and more. We

revisit this Kenyan favourite through

the iconic Peponi Hotel.

8 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


In this issue

46

10

19

10. TOP SHOTS

This month’s featured photographers

capture pelicans at Lake Elementaita and

gerenuks at Samburu National Reserve.

14. NEWS

Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence, Nairobi

Arboretum Opens, The world’s oldest

airline, KLM, turns 100, and more.

16. WHATS ON

From Lamu Cultural Festival and Rusinga

Festival to The Grand Nairobi Race, find a

round-up of must-attend events this season.

22. GLOBETROTTERS

We talk to Grace Mwari about riding in

South East Asia, Southern Africa, East

Africa, Morocco and parts of Europe.

50. WHAT I PACK FOR MY TRAVELS

Luxury PR consultant and award winning

fashion blogger Lucia Musau gives us a

peek inside her travel bag.

FEATURES

15. MAGICAL KENYA TRAVEL EXPO 2019

We were in attendance at the 9th edition

of MKTE. Here’s what went down.

19. SEGERA PASSING OUT PARADE

Segera Retreat unveils an all-female antipoaching

unit at a colourful parade.

28. IDYLLIC LAMU

We revisit this Kenyan island through the

iconic Peponi Hotel

36. OLD TOWN ROAD

Faced with a slowly evolving historic town,

Wendy Watta muses that some places

should perhaps just be left untouched.

42. WHERE TO STAY

We suggest some of our favourite

properties in Lamu to consider on your

next trip to the island.

46. WEEKEND AWAY FROM DAR

Tanzanian Photographer Osse shares

stunning photos from his favourite spots

and hotels ideal for a quick weekend

jaunt away from Dar es Salaam.

REGULARS

20. THE CONCEPT OF TIME

After a visit to Olorgesailie prehistoric

site, Samantha wonders how to break the

centuries down to young children who still

think waiting two ‘sleeps’ for a beloved

Auntie to visit seems an age.

22. BABY ON BOARD!

Anna Wughanga shares her no-holds

barred approach to travelling to Venice,

Italy, three months postpartum, with a

baby in tow.

44. GABON: LONG ROAD TO LOPÉ

NATIONAL PARK

Gabon is a country of impenetrable

rainforests, wild coastlines teeming with

marine life and home to some of the most

elusive species on the continent, writes

Maurice Schutgens.

48. COTTAR’S CELEBRATES 100 YEARS

IN KENYA

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp and bush

villa: as the family celebrates a milestone,

we look back at their history in Kenya.

52. LAST WORD: EXPENSIVE LESSONS

The trip to South East Europe that didn’t

quite go as planned.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 9


Sebastian Wanzalla

Instagram: @wanzalla

I took this shot of pelicans at Lake

Elementaita at around 6:00pm using a

Canon 5DMK IV camera with a focal

length of 200, and a Canon 70-200mm

F2.8 lens.

TIP: The typical sunset shot sometimes

just falls short. Try and look around for

interesting compositions and different

angles to create better imagery.

10 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


TOP SHOTS

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 11


TOP SHOTS

MELAM AKBARALI

Instagram: @mehlamakbarali10

A gerenuk can go its entire life without

water! I got this shot while on a game

drive at around 11:00am at Samburu

National Reserve, which is well known

for these long-necked antelopes. I used

a Nikon D3300 with the settings: ISO

200, 1/600 and F6.3, with a Tamron

18-200mm lens.


@cozypointhomes

Travel without feeling foreign

info@cozypointhomes.com || +25 472 6313101

www.cozypointhomes.com


NEWS

RADISSON BLU HOTEL & RESIDENCE, NAIROBI ARBORETUM OPENS

This is the third addition of hotels by the Radisson Hotel Group in Nairobi following Radisson Blu Hotel,

Nairobi Upperhill and Park Inn by Radisson Nairobi Westlands. Overlooking the Arboretum Park and

adjacent to the State House within the affluent Kilimani neighbourhood, the hotel boasts of an ideal

location that allows its guests to explore the city. Top notch facilities such as a signature heated infinity

pool and business lounges are a great attraction. The hotel’s 122 rooms and suites feature contemporary

interiors, private balconies, upscale amenities and exclusive services like free Wi-Fi, individual climate

control and 24-hour room service. The hotel rooms are 37 square meters in size. The one-bedroom

apartments are 67 square meters while the 2-bedroom apartments are over 100 square meters.

THE WORLD’S OLDEST

AIRLINE, KLM, TURNS 100

Dutch flag carrier, KLM, celebrated its 100th anniversary

having been founded on October 7th 1919, making it

one of the oldest airlines in the world still operating under

its original name. KLM has through the years grown

to become a major player in the international airline

landscape, connecting to about 165 destinations from its

hub at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. The airline is known

for being a pioneer. In 1966, it was the first to launch an

in-flight magazine, Holland Herald (still in print today), and

the first to even host an in-flight DJ. Now, a self-guiding

robot named Spencer assists travelers in KLM’s Amsterdam

hub, one of the first airport robots. As they look to the

next 100 years, they are keen to stay on the cutting edge

of aviation technology while experimenting with more

sustainable fuel sources.

14 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


EVENTS

MAGICAL TRAVEL

EXPO 2019

By Clara Orina

Photos courtesy MKTE

The 9th edition of the Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE)

came to a close after three days of a highly engaging event

which saw over 200 exhibitors showcase their products to

over 150 global buyers from Kenya’s 25 key source markets.

Speaking at the event, CS for tourism & wildlife, Najib

Balala, said that the presence of over 134 buyers is a positive

indication of their readiness to sell this destination to all the

visitors within their networks.

“To sustain our growth in the tourism sector, the

government has refocused its efforts on areas of safety

and security, infrastructure improvement, incentives as well

as sustained campaigns on source markets to increase

destination awareness,” he said.

This year’s event which took place from 3rd to 5th

October made for better engagement as well as innovative

ideas that will drive the sector. There were round table

discussions on the latest tourism trends as well as insights

on how the sector can capitalize on technology to drive

business.

For instance, one of the meetings was about the

significance of storytelling in driving business achievement.

Presently, local storytellers form an integral part of telling the

African story in a way that is meaningful and memorable.

However, this can only work when the main drivers of tourism

such as travel agencies, tourism boards as well as hotels

and other accommodation facilities recognize the value of

stories and the people who narrate them in defining the travel

experience.

The last day of the event tackled the role of big data in

informing the future of responsible and sustainable tourism.

Data drives a great percentage of decision making and is

vital to ensure proper planning, which consequently assists in

maintaining the delicate balance between profitability and

sustainability.

Through its matchmaking programme, the MKTE 2019

event targeted to deliver over 5,000 confirmed meetings. A

standby matchmaking team was at the hosted buyers lounge

to assist with this in case one needed assistance with their

appointments.

“MKTE affords our partners the opportunity to access a

gathering of Africa’s tourism leaders, policy makers, global

buyers, local and international media,” said KTB CEO Dr.

Betty Radier. “It is becoming a must-attend event for travel

trade regionally and beyond.”

Other tourism boards that also participated in the event

and sought to position themselves as major destinations in

the region were from South Africa, Rwanda, Seychelles and

Uganda.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 15


NEWS

LAMU CULTURAL FESTIVAL 2019

Held annually in November, The Lamu Cultural Festival

brings together both local and international tourists for

the three to four day event that culminates in a famous

dhow race. The festival is a celebration of both the past

and future, and the beliefs and traditions that are the

very heart and soul of the Lamu community. Several

competitions, races and activities are often showcased,

and these include traditional Swahili poetry, henna

painting, bao competitions, swimming races, donkey

races, traditional artisan craft making, traditional dancing

and music as well as a chance to sample local cuisine.

Most visitors to the island fall in love with its relaxed and

peaceful lifestyle, and visiting during the Lamu Cultural

Festival is a chance to experience Lamu life at its most

exuberant and joyous. Look out for this year’s dates on

www.lamu.go.ke

RUSINGA FESTIVAL 2019

The 8th edition of the Rusinga Festival will

be taking place on 19th and 20th December

on Rusinga Island, - one of the gems on Lake

Victoria. Expect two days of music, fashion,

film, food, artistry, literature, sports and

conversations that take you back in time into

the wealth of the Suba culture. The 2019

edition is tailored along the theme “The Island

Remembers” – which gives us a reason to

reminisce, celebrate, re-imagine and connect

Rusinga Island to the world through art, culture

and literature. It will be interesting to see how

the theme plays out in conversations on tourism,

culture, identity, art, theatre, film, fashion,

entrepreneurship, leadership, environment,

disability, technology, women and youth

empowerment, health, gender and so on

throughout the festival. Connect with their page

on Facebook.

THE GRAND NAIROBI RACE

The first ever cycling race within the streets

of Nairobi will take place on 1st December

2019. This event will bring together over 1,000

professional and recreational cyclists to raise

funds towards planting one million tree seedlings

in Mt Kenya and Ngong forests. The event

encourages participation from cyclists through

corporate teams while serving as an opportunity

for elite, professional, amateur and recreational

cyclists within the sport to compete and enjoy this

sport which has been increasing in popularity.

This event is poised to become a marquee event

for both spectators and athletes. Race categories

include: Elite race, Amateur & MTB Race, Family

Fun Ride and Corporate Team Race. Register on

grandnairobibikerace.co.ke

Image courtesy www.grandnairobirace.co.ke

16 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 17


December early bird

offer,15%

discount for bookings

confirmed before

November 15th 2019.

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EVENTS

SEGERA RETREAT

UNVEILS ALL-FEMALE

ANTI-POACHING UNIT

Joe Wahome

Pictures: Joe Wahome, Taran Gehlot

On 21st September 2019, Segera Retreat

witnessed a colourful passing-out parade of

12 ladies from the surrounding communities

who had been training for the past six

months to be East and Central Africa’s first

all-female anti-poaching and conservation

ranger unit. The women who are all mothers,

some with little education, form the first unit

of its kind in this region after the success

stories of the Black Mambas and Akashinga

Rangers in Southern Africa. The ceremony

was graced by, among others, Tourism and

Wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, the

founder of Segera and the Zeitz Foundation,

Jochen Zeitz, and the Segera community.

CS Balala thanked Jochen Zeitz and

the Zeitz Foundation for providing financial

support for the establishment of the unit and

said it was clear that women can protect the

environment just as well as men and all that

they need is support and opportunity.

“The training of the 12 female

rangers who we are about to see pass-out

today is a testament that women can also

thrive in this male dominated industry,” said

CS Balala at the occasion. “I challenge other

conservancies to emulate them so that more

women are recruited in such academies”

“Education, women empowerment,

community engagement and conservation

are some of the pillars of the Zeitz

Foundation and Segera. The Ranger

Initiative and Academy is just one example

of how we can create employment,

sustainable income as well as encourage

women empowerment,” said Mr Zeitz.

“In communities that have coexisted

with wildlife for generations, women

are natural custodians of the environment

and astute managers of resources due to

traditional responsibilities of providing for

their families,” he added.

The ladies underwent tough

training in different parts of the country and

demonstrated some of their acquired skills to

the audience. These included self-defense,

intelligence gathering, map reading,

tracking, communication, mission planning

and execution, first aid and community

outreach.

Virginia Senteiya, one of the

rangers, said that women should be given

equal opportunities with men and that the

unit has proven that conservation is no

longer a man’s world. She challenged the

head of security not to send the women

on joint patrols with their male colleagues

because both parties are equally well

trained.

Damaris Ngini, a mother of two

who dropped out of school in class two

thanked the Zeitz Foundation for giving

her the opportunity in spite of her modest

education background.

“I was doing menial jobs around

the Segera area and had no say in my

community because it is said that women are

only good at raising families and tending to

our livestock. I now have an opportunity to

give back to society and my kids will have a

chance at a better life,” Damaris said.

The confidence the ladies had

could not go unnoticed from the way they

presented themselves, spoke, did their drills

and handled the attention they were getting

from guests and family members.

“I saw the interview videos

way back in April and I can’t believe the

progression the ladies have made. They

were unsure, intimidated, some looked

outright scared but now they are confident,

can express themselves better and are ready

to mix it up with the male ranger team due

to the good training they got,” Jochen Zeitz

said.

Their trainer, Shane Sargeant, is

a former French Foreign Legion Paratrooper,

British Parachute Regiment, Special Forces

and 22 SAS member and has been training

rangers for 30 years. For this intense course

for the ladies, Shane was reliant on his

military background but also used yoga

and meditation which he has himself been

practising for 18 years. The selection process

lasted for 10 days and what he was looking

for was inner strength, self-discipline and an

ability to learn regardless of the educational

background.

A new chapter is slowly being

written in Laikipia’s conservation effort and

it is great to see that local women will be

playing a key and direct role unbridled by

cultural practices and traditions.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 19


NOTES FROM THE BUSH

THE CONCEPT

OF TIME

After a visit to Olorgesailie prehistoric site, Samantha du Toit wonders

how to break the centuries down to young children who still think

waiting for two ‘sleeps’ for a beloved Auntie to visit seems an age.

Time is a tricky concept to

grasp at any age. As an

adult, imagining hundreds

of years is hard enough.

For the children, I have

noticed that even hours and

days can be hard to grasp.

To our four-year-old, waiting for two ‘sleeps’

for a beloved Auntie to visit seems an age; to

our eight-year-old, Christmas seems too far

away to even bear thinking about and yet

‘ten more minutes’ in the pool is always too

short. Questions such as ‘how many days

is one hundred hours?’ and ‘did Grandpa

exist one hundred years ago?’ seem to be

a common line of enquiry at the breakfast

table. I suppose this is to be expected given

our recent visit to the Olorgesailie pre-historic

site. Having driven past so many times

over the past few years, we decided we

should take some time to visit the site once

again and link up with researchers from the

Smithsonian Institute, whose work we have

been following as a family for many years.

Time now takes on a new dimension.

How to explain to the children that this stone

tool, or this ancient Oryx-like jaw bone that

they can see in the excavation trench, is

around between 350,000 and 500,000

years old? How many of Grandpa’s lifetimes

is that? Can we as adults even imagine what

these very savannahs might have looked

like at that time, when our human ancestors

and large mammals roamed across the

very landscape we are walking on at this

moment? What would an elephant look like

that is one and a half times the size of the

ones we see near camp? How did people

use these basic stone tools to help them with

daily chores?

But then, to learn about the famous fossil

excavation sites of Laetoli and Olduvai,

which lie just over the border in Tanzania,

threw our time scales out the window

even further. In Laetoli in particular, is the

fascinating discovery of the first evidence of

ancient hominids walking on two feet. There

were three of them, walking Northwards

together across a muddy ash plain which

sealed their steps for, wait for it children,

3.6 million years. There are other footprints

there too, of over twenty different animals,

ranging from Guinea-fowl to elephant, pigs

to rhinoceros. Scientists say the landscape

of the Rift Valley today does not look so

different from that time, when ancient beasts

and the dawn of humanity crossed paths,

right in this same place we as a family now

call home.

As I watch the sun sink behind the Rift

Valley wall that evening, I can’t help but

be struck by the idea that the landscape

around me is not only really and truly the

cradle of mankind as they say, but a story

of coexistence between man and beast

over time. And time in this case I will simply

categorise as past and present. Our Maasai

neighbours today coexist with wildlife, many

of which look similar to species found in the

fossil records. What the future holds is what

of course I do not know, but I can only hope

that the coexistence that has been evident

for the last 3.6 million years ago will not

disappear in the next generation.

Samantha du Toit is a wildlife

conservationist, working with SORALO, a

Maasai land trust. She lives with her

husband, Johann, and their two children at

Shompole Wilderness, a tented camp in the

Shompole Conservancy.

20 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


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NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 21

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BABY ON

BOARD!

Anna Wughanga shares her no-holds barred

account of travelling to Venice, Italy, three

months postpartum, with a baby in tow

Despite our

love for

travel, a

high-risk

pregnancy

resulted

in my partner Alex and I

staying home for most of the

pregnancy, with the exception

of a weekend trip to Salzburg

for a friend's wedding.

Following the birth and trying

initial postpartum period, we

needed a break. My birthday,

coming up in a few months,

was the perfect excuse for a

short trip. Alex began planning

a surprise.

You Don't Know Baggage Until

You Have A Baby!

When packing, I use the ‘rollem-up’

method where you

simply roll up your clothes

in your bags as opposed

to folding them. This helps

maximise on space and has

served me wonderfully in the

past. I was however simply

not prepared for the amount

of equipment that comes with

babies. Prior to birth, I had

made the decision to avoid

any unnecessary baby-related

purchases, but still, the bottles,

diapers, wipes, breastfeeding

and changing equipment as

well as baby clothes were

overwhelming.

As I was exclusively

breastfeeding at the time,

I opted to leave all bottles

behind and feed my son on the

go. This saved a lot of space.

Additionally, I carried a few

diapers/wipes and bought

more in Venice. While I

was unaware of the final

destination, I asked Alex

about the accessibility there.

Following his response, I

decided against taking baby

chairs. Instead, we packed

two baby carriers, one for

each of us, and wore our son

for the duration of the trip.

After baby-related

luggage concerns, packing

was a breeze. Per our

minimalist lifestyle, we

packed a few neutral

bottoms and a change of

tops and accessories to

introduce variety. With

limited time, sleep and both

mental and luggage space,

minimalism is a top tip for

new parents.

Getting There

We could either take a twohour

flight or a seven-hour

train ride to get to Venice.

Both options cost a similar

amount. It may seem like

a no-brainer to choose the

flight, but oh baby!

Our son was barely three

months old at the time, which

meant incessant crying. The

prospect of being stuck in

the air with a wailing baby

and judgemental passengers

was highly unappealing.

Moreover, pressure changes

in the cabin can be very

distressing, even painful,

for babies. We therefore

22 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


KENYAN TRAVELER

decided on the OBB train. We booked

two first-class return tickets (babies travel

for free). At each border, passport control

will look at your documents. As a non-EU

individual (I am Kenyan), be prepared for

closer scrutiny when traveling in Europe

given the migrant crisis and right-wing

populist wave sweeping the continent. You

either need a Schengen Visa, depending

on your travel plans, or a residency card to

move freely within the continent.

We arrived at the Venice Santa Lucia

railway station, the Stazione di Venezia

Santa Lucia. We avoided the additional

commute from the airport to the island city,

emerging right into the heart of Venice, with

beautiful views of the Grand Canal as our

welcome!

Our Stay

We stayed at the Hotel Carlton Capri

Venice. It is a small boutique sister hotel

to the Grand Carlton. We decided on

it because it is cheaper than the Grand

Carlton with access to the same amenities.

Additionally, we find that smaller hotels are

more willing to accommodate any special

requests or considerations you may have

when traveling with a baby.

Lastly, the hotels’ location, next to the

Grand Canal but dwarfed by the larger

Grand Carlton, meant it was pretty quiet.

Since Venice can get pretty loud, this was a

priority. The room was relatively small but

this is in line with Venezian standards. It cost

$500 for a two-night stay in the superior

rooms, breakfast included.

Ciao Venezia!

Romantic, otherworldly and unique are

just a few words you can use to describe

Romantic,

otherworldly and

unique are just a

few words you can

use to describe the

sinking city on the

coast of Italy.

the sinking city on the coast of Italy. Our

first stop was the Rialto bridge. Tourists

and locals alike fill the streets, taking in the

stunning architecture while snacking on the

decadent gelato that Venice is famous for.

Afterwards we walked to Piazza San

Marco, which is the principal public space

on the island. Here, we took in the winged

lions atop the Basilica San Marco, transfixed

by the intricate architecture of the Torre dell’

Orologio (clock tower), the Campanile and

Doge's Palace. As with all things Venice,

human traffic is immense so be prepared for

crowds.

Walking to Rialto Bridge and St Marks

Square was exhausting. We had pizza for

dinner then got lost as we tried to find our

way back. Venice is a labyrinth with small

alleys, waterways and numerous campi.

To a couple of sleep-deprived parents

with a screaming baby, the streets might

as well have been interchangeable. The

language barrier meant asking for directions

was pretty much pointless and when we

desperately needed it, we had no internet

connection! We bought a physical map and

after enough bickering, nervous breakdowns

and seriously sore feet, we were finally in

our room.

The next day we went to see the historic

Jewish Ghetto which is filled with intriguing

culture. We had lunch at the boutique Hotel

Ai Mori D’Oriente which lies along a small

canal. Here, we had the quintessential

Venezian meal right next to the water;

creamy pasta, freshly baked bread, exquisite

cheese, crisp wine complete with fruits and

vegetables, under the Italian sun. Prices were

relatively steep but the meal was worth it.

Thereafter we walked to the end of the

Island where we could clearly see that it is

in fact sinking. We walked into the direction

of the main square, towards the famed Rialto

Fish Market which was on my must see-list.

Taking in the sights and sounds of the historic

city, we mentally prepared for our departure

the next morning.

Additional Tips

• Wear comfortable shoes.

• Where possible, breastfeed your child

on the go. I was babywearing, and

with the help of a breastfeeding cover,

I nursed as we walked.

• Wear your baby.

• If you are considering traveling to

Venice with a toddler, be aware

that there is open water virtually

everywhere.

• Buy a physical map.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 23


GLOBETROTTERS

BIKER

GIRL

Text by Faith Kanja

Grace Mwari is an off-road motorcycle tour guide at Offroad

Adventure East Africa. She takes riders for safaris in little known

places to experience wildlife, culture and the most spectacular

scenery. She is currently the only female enduro racer in Kenya and

has been riding for the last five years. Her first ride was the Leh

Ladakh region in the Himalayas. She has since ridden in South East

Asia, Southern Africa, East Africa, Morocco and parts of Europe.

What do you love most about travelling via

motorcycle?

I love the freedom that comes with it. Biking

offers me access to places less travelled and

is quite affordable and fun.

How did you get into motorcycles?

A friend encouraged me to try it out and

consequently embarked on training me.

Around that same time, I had housemates

who were riders and they thought I was

capable of doing it. I was living and working

in India and when they invited me on a trip

to the Himalayas, I did not think twice about

it. I got hooked after that trip and have been

riding ever since.

What have been some of your most

memorable expeditions so far?

I did a four month expedition through India,

Nepal and most of South-East Asia. This

trip was part of my maiden ride to the

Himalayas, and it started north of Delhi in a

place called Manali. We rented our Royal

Enfields and started the journey riding on

some of the world’s highest motorable roads

and mountain passes such as the Khardung

Later pass. We rode through Leh Ladakh,

ending the trip on a houseboat in Dal Lake.

It was physically and mentally demanding. I

had an accident on the third day when I hit

a rock and literary flew off the bike, landing

in a pool of freezing water. A nice Tibetan

family took care of me. Their Tibetan butter

tea definitely kept us from freezing.

My “bike packing” all over South-East

Asia was also amazing. For most countries,

I had to enter by air and rent out a bike.

Food in Laos and Myanmar reminded me

of home. I also visited Cambodia, Vietnam,

Thailand, the Philippines and more. I had

some challenges traveling solo as an African

woman but I’m glad to have seen beautiful

places, made new friends and experienced

different cultures. My Morocco trip marked

my first ride on desert sand. Jordi Arcarons,

a Dakar legend, taught us what it takes to

ride in the biggest dunes of the Sahara.

While in Europe I enjoyed riding through the

mountains near Madrid in Miraflores De La

Sierra.

What’s it like taking on solo adventures?

Having company is good but solitude is also

valuable. In addition to the convenience of

riding at my own pace, I also get to learn

how to do motorcycle fixes on my own. Most

people are genuinely happy and excited

when they see a woman riding but there

are also a few occasions during my cross

country rides when I have met really hostile

men who felt I shouldn’t be riding.

Any interesting encounters you’ve had on

the road?

I broke my chain when riding at 130km/

hr south of Tanzania... It was raining and

there was no town within a 200km radius.

Luckily a friend came to my rescue! When I

took on a solo ride to the northern frontier

on the Matthews Range, I had an encounter

with bandits between Wamba and Maralal.

They took all the cash and water I had then

let me go. I have also ridden unknowingly

into a war zone between the Myanmar army

militias 20km from the Chinese border in the

Kachin State.

You are currently the only female enduro

racer in Kenya...how did you get into it and

what's that like?

When I returned home from India, I met Yuri

and Yuki of Dirt Masters who invited me

for their weekend off-road rides. I bought

my first dirt bike and tried out one of their

enduro race events. Aside from being fun, I

got to improve my skills during the races. It

usually feels great when I get ahead of some

male participants because there is no special

treatment .

What are some of your top tips on travelling

via a motorcycle?

Carry a map and have a tentative plan for

checking distances between gas stations.

Pack light but bring appropriate clothing for

riding and when you’re off the bike. For offthe-beaten

path adventures, ride responsibly;

mind the people and animals that are using

the same tracks. Bring enough water and

energy snacks. Be prepared for unexpected

weather and pack some tools and spare

parts.

How has travelling impacted you?

Travelling has helped me grow mentally, built

my confidence, helped me make memories

and appreciate my home country of Kenya

even more. I have also

met the nicest and most humble people who

give meaning to the sense of humanity. I

have learnt so much from them.

24 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 25


26 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


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NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 27


LAMU

28 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


SOMETHING

OLD

SOMETHING

NEW

Lamu has it all: stunning seafront hotels,

untouched beaches, palm trees, traditional

dhows, friendly people, exotic birds and

more. We revisit this Kenyan favourite

through the iconic Peponi Hotel.

TEXT: WENDY WATTA

PHOTOGRAPHS: BRIAN SIAMBI


LAMU

Back home to roost

Ever since I first set foot on the pristine shores of Lamu in 2016, it has

become my favourite place in Kenya. So much so, in fact, that I have

returned at least twice every year since then. For someone who grew

up in Kenya, and a keen traveler at that, one might wonder why it

took so long to visit. While this storied archipelago has long been a

playground for royals and Hollywood’s elite, particularly in the 80s,

it hadn’t been marketed much to domestic travelers until recently.

Most of us didn’t think there was much to see beyond Malindi. Add

in the steep cost of flights to the island coupled with the rough and

unsafe roads, and you can see why the average Kenyan traveler

would never have ventured out.

Iactually first learned about Lamu via Instagram, which is as

millennial as it gets. It was a place of many firsts. I went on

my first ever dhow cruise here, an activity that has become

a must-do on every subsequent trip. It was here that I first

dabbled in yoga which I became really good at before

quitting altogether.

In lamu I made a lot of friends, which speaks to the kind

of community here; from store keepers and yoga teachers

to fishermen and homeowners, and more. Lamu to me is the

kind of place that you can arrive in as a solo traveler, stay a week

and leave knowing pretty much everyone in town.

Another year, I decided to stay for a month at the remote Mike’s

Camp in Kiwayu, at first to help with digital marketing but soon,

because there was not much to do, learning how to cook with the

chef, whipping up cocktails behind the bar and going deep sea

fishing with some long-staying Swedish guests. I wasn’t very good

at this gig towards the end and started to crave some semblance

of civilisation. When I met Isabelle, the French owner of the famed

Forodhani House, who popped around the camp for lunch and

invited me to spend a couple of days with her, her husband Anwar

and some friends at their house in Shella, I happily obliged. That

very night they threw an epic party complete with traditional

drummers and a flame thrower, attended by locals and tourists alike.

I continued to mingle with all sorts of people at the vibrant Peponi

Hotel, the only place in town which served cocktails at the time;

excellent ones at that. My annual trips to Lamu have taken me all

over, from Majlis Hotel to Kizingoni Beach, but while I’ve had many

a merry social outing at Peponi Hotel, possibly the most iconic place

to stay in Shella, I had never ventured beyond its bar and restaurant.

Don’t judge me...if you visit, you would understand why.

A hotel called Peponi

The three of us, Brian (Nomad’s photographer), Peter (videographer)

and myself arrive at Manda Airport and find the boat captain

from Peponi Hotel waiting. He helps us carry our luggage to his

boat, we hop on and immediately set off for the hotel. A sense of

nostalgia washes over me, and this quickly gives way to exhilaration.

I cannot articulate the kind of joy that being on this island always

brings me. As we advance upon the Swahili-meets-southern-Europe

whitewashed seafront buildings of Shella, I spot some all-too-familiar

places. We get off at a jetty, navigate some narrow alleyways above

which bright red bougainvillea flowers bloom, and before I know it, I

am having a complementary old pal cocktail served to me at Peponi.

As far as check in counters go, this is pretty darn sweet; we’re taken

through the usual stuff while sitting on a balcony looking out onto a

sea dotted with boats and dhows, a stark contrast from the gloomy

traffic of Nairobi only some two hours earlier.

The boys get a two-bedroom apartment next to the

pool. I am shown up to my own room, accessed via

a staircase next to the kitchen area, a well-positioned

casual-chic rooftop pad which sits right above the

restaurant and comes with an impressive spacious

balcony outfitted with two sunbathers, a swinging

daybed and a pair of comfortable Swahili ‘proud

chairs’, all looking out onto the sea. Every morning I

wake up to catch the sunrise from this balcony. The

views here could help a journo get through writer’s

block, a singer compose their best work, and the

works, and I’m not just being dramatic. Windows

directly in front of the double bed also open out onto

the sea, and through this opening, trade winds do

the cooling. On another side, the window opens out

to the garden, a rainbow of colours with white, red

and orange flowers, towering green palm trees, boats

bobbing on the water with the dance of the waves,

the bird or two that flutter past every so often, and

different shades of blue from the sky and the sea. In

the evenings, this place comes alive as people from

around Shella gather to mingle and drink, and I always find myself

torn between being a silent merry observer or going downstairs

to join in the fun. When I do join, I meet an Ethiopian couple, a

Ghanaian writer, a local dhow captain, a Google Exec...all sorts, I

tell you. I get a door key for my room, which I don’t even use for the

duration of our stay.

I meet Carol Korschen who currently runs the hotel at breakfast

the next morning. I am tucking into a cheese omelette with toast

and fresh passion juice while checking something on my phone

when she appears, takes the phone from my hand and instructs me

to take a moment to enjoy the meal and the view. Neither is lost on

me. She is very hands on, and I often see her bustling through the

restaurant, chatting up guests, exchanging a smile here and giving

a recommendation there. After breakfast I ask her about the black

canon facing the water out in the garden, one of several along the

main wall of this hotel, the kind you’re likely to see at Fort Jesus. She

tells me that the main house was built in the 30s as a fort to protect

Lamu town. Shella village itself was actually in the present-day

Takwa Ruins. There were a lot of territorial battles in the coast.

“My parents-in-law had their farm in Rumuruti compulsorypurchased

from them in 1966 and had gone to Malindi to have a

last holiday before leaving the country,” she says. “There they learnt

about this amazing house in Lamu that would make an amazing

hotel. They flew here for a day, and three days later, they owned it.”

Peponi opened on 20th March 1967 with four rooms, one of

which now serves as the hotel shop. When her father-in-law later

passed away, Carol’s husband Lars took over the management of

the hotel and gradually started purchasing surrounding property to

expand, and when he later married Carol, they would organically

continue to expand to 28 rooms, all with sea views and unique

layouts, as well as a pool which is only open to hotel guests.

With Lars passing away in 2014, Carol has continued to run this

fashionable hotel. Her two daughters can sometimes be seen doing

the rounds whenever they are in Lamu. She credits a particular safari

company for putting Lamu on the international map in the 70s and

80s, and while it is whispered that several renowned celebrities have

stayed at Peponi through the years, she is tight lipped about their

names.

30 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


The views here

could help a

journo get through

writer’s block, a

singer compose

their best work,

and the works, and

I’m not just being

dramatic.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 31


32 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


LAMU

Personalised service is one of the key attractions at Peponi with

some guests having been returning for years, and this is evident in

the restaurant which serves up an eclectic mix of seafood, pasta,

meat and Swahili dishes. Even vegans are considered. Our dinners

are often three or four courses of delicious concoctions in handsome

portions. My favourite is the Swahili dinner, an experience in itself.

We’re served at a private section of the restaurant with traditional

Swahili-style seating in form of big red pillows on the floor, with a

large sinia (tray) on the table as the centerpiece. Dining in this culture

is often very communal. Then, out flows an array of food; pojo

(green grams in coconut milk), mbaazi (pigeon peas in coconut milk),

chapati, chicken and fish curries and kachumbari, and by the time

we are done, we would have all moved to Lamu in an instant had

someone asked.

The next day we decide to explore. “People always say there isn’t

much to do in Lamu, but I can keep you very busy,” says Carol, as

she takes out a pen and draws us an itinerary based on our interests.

By the time she’s done, I have no doubt. (www.peponihotel.com)

Turtle hatching

We take a speedboat through the mangroves and dock at the base

of a gigantic sand dune. A ten minute walk leads us through a glade

of shrubs past an old well where cattle still come to graze, and a

simple Oromo homestead where some kids are playing a game of

sticks and stones in the evening shade. Our group then walks out

to a completely deserted golden stretch of beach begging for a

barefoot excursion, with water too angry for even the most daring of

swimmers. Another time, perhaps, as we’re here to see endangered

green turtles hatching. This initiative to improve their chances of

survival is by the Lamu Marine Conservation Trust, supported by the

Tusk Trust.

Sea turtles are such fascinating creatures as they will leave the

water and come to the beach to lay eggs in the same spot where

they were hatched. Wearing gloves, the guide begins to dig out the

sand covering the nest, and shortly after, black, tiny turtles scurry out

of the hole and start to flap their little flippers in the direction of the

sea, as though they can instinctively smell the water. After surviving

natural predators like crabs, this is often a race to outrun birds

and other hunters. After about three decades, the females of this

generation will return to this very beach in Lamu to lay their eggs.

The birds that look like flowers in a tree

On our way back from watching the turtles, we hear the call of

carmine bee-eaters and follow the sound to a mangrove with the old

town in the background. When these little birds perch on the stems of

the mangrove’s leaves, they look like bright flame-red flowers in full

bloom, and might even pass for fruits. Their song is interrupted only

by the nearby Floating Bar which is playing a familiar hip hop tune.

The birds, said to “go to work during the day” and return to roost in

the evening much like humans, however seem unperturbed by Jay Z.

With the sun now setting behind the old town like an orange stroke

of paint added to an already perfect painting, even those not often

won over by birds and sunsets would admit that this is indeed a

beautiful sight.

Fun fact: When hunting bees, these birds will return to their perch

and smash the insects into the branch, rubbing the abdomen to

remove the venomous stinger before eating it. Just like the wildebeest

migration in the Mara, they also follow the same annual migration

route and keen birders often go to Botswana and other parts of

southern Africa just to see them.

Sunset dhow cruise

This will simply never get old. A fleet of about seven boats gently

gliding along. Breeze brushing against your skin. An old white

sailing canvas unravelled somewhere mid-water to show the dhowowner’s

art. Ours shows a young boy kicking along a football,

and Peter, a passionate fan of the sport, is visibly pleased. The

canvas on the dhow across from us simply asks, “Will you marry

me?” You cruise along the sea, sipping a glass of merlot and being

momentarily lulled out of your worries by soothing Taarab music, or

whatever you can master on your Bluetooth speaker. You lie back on

the pillows and look up at the sky as it changes from the most vibrant

of orange to a pitch black, and suddenly it is time to get off the boat

at the Shella jetty.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 33


LAMU

WHERE WE ATE

Diamond Beach Village

This castaway-chic property has affordable to mid-range

accommodation, with plenty of lounging areas and hammocks.

The prices are a big draw for backpacker types, and they are

known for their variety of delicious pizzas from a wood-fired

oven, movie nights every Friday and the occasional full moon

party. They are moving away from frying food so expect dishes

like the very healthy baked vegetables with fresh red snapper fillet

and blanched spinach. www.diamondbeachvillage.com

Kijani Hotel Lamu

Kijani, meaning 'green' in Swahili is as a tropical oasis of

indigenous plants and trees, nestled among swaying palms and

makuti roofs. Family-owned, it came highly recommended for

lunch, and Trisala who currently runs it with her boyfriend has

done a fantastic job of revamping the menu with the chef. The

spacious open-air restaurant overlooks the beach and on hot

afternoons, the breeze here provides relief. The menu is very

eclectic and covers various types of cuisine, with the seafood and

pastas being a must-have. For dessert, you must try the moltenlava

chocolate cake which takes a while but is absolutely worth

the wait. www.kijani-lamu.com

Get to know: Maskani Youth Initiative

We head off on a walking tour of Shela, teaming up with Maskani

Youth Initiative on the invitation of their passionate and animated

founder, Hakim. If you’d like to get a glimpse of Lamu beyond

the incredible seafront houses and the golden beach, this is

recommended. Maskani translates to a shared hang-out space.

The company has a Dada Swahili Cafe where people come in

to eat but often end up staying to chat about the projects the

company is involved in. I have come to find that the difference in

the price of a piece of art in Shella sometimes just lies in the shop

in which it is sold and not necessarily the talent, and Maskani is

keen to give more local artists a chance to fetch fair prices for

their work. There is an office space, a library that welcomes book

donations, and more. They are involved in so many projects,

including an anti-jigger campaign that has already done tangible

work in the past year alone, and a beach clean up initiative that’s

keen to keep Lamu kempt.

34 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


M B H . C O . K E

info@mbh.co.ke

+

NOMAD MAGAZINE

2 5 4 7 2 9 4 0 3 6 9 7

2019 35

CALL/TEXT/WHATSAPP


OLD

TOWN

ROAD

While staying at Subira House in Lamu Old

Town, Wendy Watta delves into traditional

Swahili architecture and, faced with a

slowly evolving island, muses that some

places should perhaps be left untouched.

PHOTOGRAPHS BRIAN SIAMBI


LAMU

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 37


LAMU

AUNESCO World Heritage

Site and the oldest

continually inhabited

town along the Kenyan

coast, Lamu Old Town

has retained its authentic

Arabic architectural fabric

as well as its social and

cultural mores, making

for a rich and authentic

getaway. Women whisper by along the

narrow alleyways in bui bui while men in

simple kofia usher along donkeys (aka the

local Ferrari) laden with everything from

heaps of maize flour packets to construction

bricks, as stray cats slink nonchalantly

through the labyrinthine maze of streets.

Following the stories I heard about the black

cats in Mombasa as a child, how people

in Lamu don’t recoil in terror when they see

these cats is beyond me.

This time we’re staying at Subira House

which stands right behind Lamu Fort and

is a key examples of Omani architecture

of eras past. There are a few key structural

differences with surrounding Swahili houses,

including higher ceilings for self ventilation,

the absence of zidaka niches and a more

grandiose air about the space. The house

is owned by Paul and Christina Aarts, a

Dutch and Swede respectively who first met

and fell in love in this very town. They then

bought, renovated and ran an abandoned

hotel in rural Sweden for almost 10 years,

before later returning to Lamu to show their

two children where they met. They had no

plans to stay. An architect showed them

Subira House whose owner was living in

Oman at the time but was slated to visit

soon. A meeting was set and in two weeks,

they had an agreement, initially intending

for the house to be a vacation home. In fact,

they went back and continued running their

hotel in Sweden for years after that.

The house has been a passion project

for this now elderly couple. They started

restoring it, buying a lot of antiques and

second hand items from local shops, finally

deciding to make the move to the island

in 2008. They have since extended the

building which now has seven rooms spread

across three spacious floors. It is a peaceful

green heaven with plenty of potted plants

in the open courtyard next to the ground

floor dining area where we share all our

meals with the owners as they regale us with

stories of their time traveling in India. The

food here is incredible and the restaurant

has been known to draw people staying

in other parts of the town, made even

more so by the fact that the pair are into

permaculture and have an organic farm

where they grow a lot of the food whipped

up by the chef.

They say that the house was initially built

as a palace of sorts for an Omani Liwali

who was posted to the island by the Sultan

of Zanzibar. He actually wanted to marry

a girl from a rich family but wasn’t allowed

to initially because his nobility wasn’t good

enough for them. He eventually got the girl.

At the entrance of the house is a dome.

To the right sits a 12m long room called a

sebule, with six windows to the street and

with six arches. This is where he would

receive people coming to see him about

their issues. There is a long baraza outside

which is where they would sit as they waited

their turn. Being eco-certified, the house

itself doesn’t use any water closets and the

loos at therefore dry/recyclable. All toilets in

lamu have no drainage given the age of the

houses. I am curious to find out more about

architecture in this town, so Paul hires one of

his go-to guides to show us around.

Being a muslim town, the best time to go

on a walking tour is in the morning as the

town generally comes to a close at 12:30pm.

We kick off at the waterfront mosque, Msikiti

wa Pwani, said to be almost 900 years old.

It gets its name from a high wall which would

keep away the water during high tide. The

shoreline has since receded. The alleyways

are narrow because when they houses were

constructed, no one fathomed that there

would one day be cars. In between the art

galleries and stores like Natural Lamu (where

I buy natural soaps and spices), it is the

architecture of the houses and set up of the

town that I find most fascinating.

Stone houses made in the 18th and 17th

century are still intact. Some are made from

dead coral and plastered with limestone.

Most houses have wells for fresh water.

Neighbours would join their higher balconies

so they could visit each other without having

to go downstairs, and for us, these “roofs”

provide respite from the heat.

Each house has a front porch raised a

little above the street level and lined with

barazas where people could hang out

with the house owner before going about

their day. An intricately carved wooden

door (there’s a woodwork section in town,

in case you’re keen to see how they are

made) opens to an inner porch overlooking

a courtyard, if the family has space. For

ventilation, parallel galleries regulate the

breeze. There is no modern-day drainage

system so bath water runs through narrow

channels constructed into the side of each

house, depositing into the sea. Some houses

have a birika, a bath which is filled with

water and looks like a little pond, complete

with tiny fish said to ward off mosquitoes

and keep the bath clean. Zidaka niches are

outfitted with decorative porcelain plates

and metallic incense holders. It is such a

stark difference from Nairobi.

Our guide gets us some labaneer, a

really sweet candy made with milk, sugar

and cardamom, and as I tear off a piece

out on the street, I can’t help but think about

how much Lamu is changing (or how this

sweet could give me diabetes). This thought

continues to run through my mind when,

back on the balcony of my room at Subira

House, a delightful chorus of evening birds

is interrupted by rap music blaring from a

boda boda in the alleyway below. These

motorbikes that whizz past on the narrow

streets, jostling for space with pedestrians, so

out of place in this ancient backdrop.

In a fast changing world where

everything is moving towards modern

technology and big hotels, perhaps we

should leave Lamu untouched. It is a pearl

to be polished and looked after, as it is

its innocence that still continues to attract

visitors in a shoreline with so many other

splendid beaches.

I want to enjoy its present state while I

still can. And so I sit on the rooftop of Subira

House tucking into freshly baked bread with

a delicious homemade jam whose recipe I’ve

already slipped into my pocket, taking in the

surrounding sea of houses and listening to

the innocent song of nursery-age kids singing

their ABC’s in a nearby class.

38 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


IN A FAST CHANGING WORLD WHERE

EVERYTHING IS MOVING TOWARDS

MODERN TECHNOLOGY AND BIG

HOTELS, PERHAPS WE SHOULD LEAVE

LAMU UNTOUCHED. IT IS A PEARL TO BE

POLISHED AND LOOKED AFTER, AS IT IS ITS

INNOCENCE THAT STILL CONTINUES TO

ATTRACT VISITORS IN A SHORELINE WITH

SO MANY OTHER SPLENDID BEACHES.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 39


PLACES TO STAY

WHERE

TO STAY

LAMU

Photography: Brian Siambi and Respective Properties

KILIMAWINGU HOUSE

A Parisian couple fell in love with Lamu in

the late 90s and bought this exceptionally

charming house which was then converted

into a private holiday home. The almosttriangular

pool is set in a lush green garden

dotted with vibrant bougainvillea flowers.

Renovations have since been made to make

the house very child-friendly with guarded

staircases, balconies and a wood-fenced

pool. It can accommodate up to 16 guests in

eight characterful double/ twin rooms spread

across several floors, with numerous stylish

lounging areas. Their kitchen makes the best

shortbread cake in the area. Book via

www.eastafricanretreats.com

MNARANI HOUSE, SHELA

‘Mnarani’ means ‘near the minaret’ in

Swahili and this house stands next to Shela’s

historic Friday Mosque, around 75 metres

from the beach. It was renovated in 2014,

one of the new additions being a lovely

courtyard pool. Expect walls of intricate

zidaka niches, decorative plaster friezes and

traditional painted hardwood roof beams.

On the ground floor is the kitchen and bar

area while the first and second floors have

the four ensuite double bedrooms. Rooms

are beautifully decorated and furnished in

traditional style, including original antique

Swahili doors and windows brought from

Pate Island. www.lamuislandproperty.com

MAMA DAKTARI HOUSE

This is where the ‘Flying Doctor’ Anne

Spoerry resided from the late 1960s in

between her medical expeditions.The house

has two suites and is connected to Betty’s

Suite (double room, set on the rooftop, with

an impressive private infinity pool) and

Garden House (recently renovated, has two

ensuite double rooms and has front row sea

views). It’s master bedroom is the highest

point of the property with an outstanding

view of the channel. The property also hosts

Kiwandani House which has a pool that

guests to Mama Daktari may have access to.

www.themoonhouses.com

40 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


THE BEACH HOUSE

This magnificent private home sits in a commanding position

above Shela beach and offers wonderful ocean views making

for the perfect retreat for 12-14 guests. On the first floor, raised

up above beach level, is a stunning infinity pool – it has a bar

area and low comfortable baraza seating and sunbeds. Up the

first flight of stairs is a large dining and living room. Another

door leads onto the wooden deck above the pool – a perfect

dining area – and to two double bedrooms with their own

private sea-view terraces. www.eastafricanretreats.com

MSAFINI HOTEL

Built in 2007, Msafini is owned and run by a

local family who have been living in Lamu for

several generations. The limestone, five-storey

structure combines modern architecture and

traditional Swahili design for an authentic yet

comfortable stay. Mango Rooftop Restaurant

boasts views of the entire village, the sand

dunes, Manda Island and the sea. Enjoy

made-to-order breakfasts, lunch or dinner on

top of possibly the tallest building in Shela.

The rooftop is breezy and serene, and the

food is delicious. The hotel can easily take

groups and conferences.

www.msafinihotel.co.ke

LAMU HOUSE

On the edge of Lamu town, this stylish hotel

offers quiet seclusion away from the fray.

The entrance opens up into a charming

open courtyard, several swimming pools

and petal-bedecked seating. Some rooms

overlook the seafront, giving a quite different

perspective on a Lamu sunrise. All the rooms

are different, each with its own character and

a private terrace.The restaurant overlooks

the sea and serves international cuisine. The

apartment building is minutes away through

the narrow streets of town. There are nine

apartments with magnificent views, suited

with all the comforts of a modern facility.

www.lamuhouse.com

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 41


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Season Guide




NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 43


GABON: LONG ROAD

TO LOPÉ NATIONAL

PARK

Gabon is a country of impenetrable rainforests, wild

coastlines teeming with marine life and home to some

of the most elusive species on the continent. It is Africa’s

Eden. Maurice Schutgens heads out in search of elephants

in one of Gabon’s most spectacular wildernesses.

44 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


DISPATCH

For reasons I

still do not know,

Patrice decided

this was the perfect

moment to practice

his elephant

trumpeting skills.

The elephants

didn’t hesitate and

charged.

I

have dreamt of visiting Gabon

for decades, but somehow it has

always been just out of reach. No

longer. As the plane started its

descent into Léon-Mba International

Airport the vast Congo Basin came

into view. Broccoli as far as the eye

could see. Simply mesmerising.

Libreville, French for “Freetown”, is

Gabon’s unassuming capital city of about a

million souls. Situated directly on the shores of

the Atlantic Ocean in the protected Estuaire

of Gabon, it exudes a supremely relaxed

vibe. One that just happens to be extremely

appropriate for the stifling equatorial

humidity. We headed straight for the refuge of

La Tropicana, a simple hotel with dark wood

paneled rooms situated on a picturesque

stretch of beach in the middle of Libreville

that has become a favourite amongst expats

visiting the country.

With only a day in the city, we were

excited to be immersed into what Libreville

had to offer. We navigated our way through

the manic traffic on the oceanfront boulevard,

swinging past the extravagant yet imposing

golden glass Palais Presidentiel, built by the

late President Bongo in the 1970s. Sadly,

visitors are not allowed inside and any

attempts at photography would also be

considered a major faux pas. We quickly

moved on to marvel at the architectural

wonders of the Ministry of Mines and Petrol

building which is positively futuristic. As

evening fell we strolled along the beach

to La Voile Rouge, one of the most popular

restaurants serving mouth-watering dishes with

a French flair best consumed in the warm sea

breeze.

Next morning, after a Parisian breakfast of

Pain au Chocolates, croissants and excellent

French coffee at Chez Paul situated on

Boulevard Quaben, we departed Libreville

heading for one of Gabon’s premier national

parks: La Lopé, a Unesco World Heritage

Site. While a six hour stint aboard the famous

Trans Gabon Railway is the easiest way to

make it to Lopé, the night-time departures

from Libreville’s Owendo Station mean that

you miss the opportunity to appreciate the

stunning scenery through which you travel.

Instead we opted for a sturdy landcruiser.

As a result we quickly became intimately

acquainted with the affectionately known

Gabonese massage.

The road out of Libreville deteriorated with

an insatiable appetite as massive potholes

erupted all around us. Despite slowing to a

crawl, our bodies were still regularly flung

through the cabin. It didn't matter, however,

as I stared out of the window at the tunnel of

vivid and vibrant greens.

After about four hours we pulled into the

town of Ndjolé, situated on the banks of the

Ogooué river, the fourth largest in Africa.

Ndjolé was never going to win any aesthetic

awards but there was still a special reason for

interrupting our journey east: lunch. Down by

the river there was an open-air kitchen of sorts

with individual stoves, each presided over by

a chef. It was a hectic affair. The moment we

arrived we were pounced upon with offers

from deliciously slow cooked meats to oily

potato chips and deep fried bananas, each

served with a smile.

As our journey continued eastwards,

somewhere along the way we passed the

village of Junkville (pronounced Chengué-ville).

An up and coming metropolis it was not - take

my word for it. We plunged ever deeper on

worsening roads, the rain making a muddy

mess ahead of us. Yet, somehow the lowhanging

fog made it a hauntingly beautiful

experience.

By mid-afternoon we were settled into

some simple cottages situated just outside of

Lopé village. Suddenly Patrice, the caretaker,

came to fetch us. He had spotted a couple of

forest elephants tucked away just beyond the

clearing. This was too good an opportunity

to miss! We followed enthusiastically, albeit

cautiously. He beckoned us closer until we

were no more than 15m from them. There they

stood, three of them - completely unaware of

our presence, feeding peacefully.

For reasons I still do not know, Patrice

decided this was the perfect moment to

practice his elephant trumpeting skills. The

elephants didn’t hesitate and charged. We

turned and ran, slipping and sliding through

the mud, the animals hot on our heels. From

the safety of the cottages we watched the

elephant signalling its displeasure one final

time at the edge of the clearing before slinking

away into the darkness. Patrice was in stitches

of laughter on the ground.

Come sunset we headed into Lopé

National Park with the conservateur, in search

of elephants, gorillas and whatever else this

magical place had to offer. It was the golden

hour. The undulating savannahs, framed by

the Ogooué River, turned a vibrant shade of

yellow. The gravel crunched happily under our

tyres. It was one of those Ernest Hemmingway

moments. We headed deeper into the park,

dropping down into dense forested patches in

the valleys. We stopped the car and listened

and looked with bated breath but the elusive

gorillas were nowhere to be seen. All I wanted

was a fleeting glimpse of one of the estimated

25,000 gorillas, but it was not to be. As we

emerged out onto another patch of savannah,

the sky was turning a deep shade of purple,

tall trees of an ancient primary forest creating

silhouettes on the horizon.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a sound erupted

from the tall grass to our left. It was two forest

elephants. They had been spooked by our

sudden appearance. The elephants and I

stared at each other, one of them lazily lifting

its trunk to taste the air. Then just as quickly as

they had appeared they disappeared into the

undergrowth. As the night closed in around us,

I promised myself I would return to see what

else Gabon had to offer.

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 45


Weekend away

FROM

DAR

Kilwa

Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in

1981, Kilwa was one of the most important trading

sites on the Indian Ocean during the 11th to 16th

centuries. Located on the southeastern coast of

Tanzania, it may not be a widely popular spot with

tourists but it is its history that is one of the most

interesting things about it. The town is divided into

Kilwa Kivinje, Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kisiwani.

Kilwa Masoko is the most developed town and the

regional hub whilst Kilwa Kivinje and Kilwa Kisiwani

have spectacular historical attractions. Kilwa Kisiwani

is reached by dhow and has an amazingly well

preserved collection of ruins. The most striking sight is

the old Omani Fort, which is built on the foundations

of an old Portuguese fort. The Big Mosque dates from

the 12th Century and was once the largest mosque

in East Africa. Stay at Slow Leopard Hostels which is

perfect for bigger groups and backpackers.

Chemka Maji Moto

Also known as Kikuletwa Hot Springs,

This little oasis is deservedly famous

and a must-visit spot off the main road

between Moshi and Arusha. The place is

a relaxing paradise with clear turquoise

water and lush green surroundings. It’s a

bit of a rough journey to get there from

Moshi, but it’s definitely a memorable

experience that’s well worth the trip.

Entry fee is about Ksh 1,000 for non-

Tanzanians.

Tanzanian Photographer Osse

Grecca Sinare shares stunning

photos from his favourite spots and

hotels ideal for a quick weekend

jaunt away from Dar es Salaam.

Gran Melia Arusha

Peace, balance and tranquility are some of the words

you can use to describe the feeling you get while

visiting Gran Melia. I found this place so special

because the property’s main source of water is the

river which flows through it, and the view from the

hotel is also unmatched as it overlooks the second

tallest mountain in Tanzania, Mount Meru. There is

so much more to this place than meets the eye. An

oasis within Arusha set out on 18 acres of beautiful

landscaped coffee and tea plantations, the attention

to detail in this stunning hotel is impressive.

46 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


WEEKEND AWAY

Matema Lake Shore Resort

If you love chocolate, Matema in southwest

Tanzania is the place to visit. Surrounded by

cocoa plantations, it is located in the Mbeya

region in a striking area right by Lake Nyasa

(Lake Malawi). The road leading to the

resort reminded me of Hawaii because of

its lush green mountains, and the property

is set right on the edge of the lake making

for the utmost tranquility. Boating and other

activities out on the water are also available.

Firefly Bagamoyo

While Bagamoyo is a well known destination for

travellers, one of its most visited places would have

to be Firefly. This spot, a camp and lodge set in a

beautifully restored historic building, is both unique

and serene. If a fun weekend filled with food,

drinks, the occasional live music events, swimming

and lounging in the sun sounds like an appealing

getaway for you then this is the place to be. There

are rooms and tents for those keen on a camping

experience, while the staff will impress upon you

their passion for the environment. Bagamoyo is an

hour away from Dar es Salaam and is therefore an

ideal location to drive out to for a relaxing weekend

away from the city and be back at your desk on

Monday morning.

Kilimanjaro Golf and Wildlife Estate

The avid golfers will be more than pleased. The golf

course here, which faces Mt Meru and Kilimanjaro, is the

first 18-hole championship golf course in Tanzania and is

up to par with the most demanding international guidelines.

It was designed by former Irish National Coach and Kenya

Open Champion David Jones. Surrounded by astonishing

natural beauty and spectacular views, it is a one of its kind

experience with dramatic backdrops, challenging holes,

fairways meandering through ponds and streams and all

the comfort and service imaginable on offer. Step outside

of your villa, meet up with your personal caddy and tee off

to start an unforgettable experience

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 47


COTTAR’S

CELEBRATES 100

YEARS IN KENYA

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS WENDY WATTA

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp and

bush villa: as the family celebrates

a milestone, we look back at their

history in Kenya.

48 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


SPOTLIGHT

F

rom the moment I picked

up a book offered for

entertainment in one of

the tents at Cottar’s 1920s

Safari Camp, I get through

the entire thing in one

sitting as it makes for quite

the captivating read. The

beginning chapters chronicle the life of

Charles Cottar, the writer’s (Calvin Cottar)

great grandfather, described as a rebel

often in search of the unregulated freedom

afforded by wide open spaces, who, bored

by the already won Wild West, was inspired

to come to Kenya after reading Theodore

Roosevelt’s book on his safari across Africa.

Kenya turned out to be exactly what his

restless soul yearned for. The early 1900s

were a different time with a different set of

regulations that would probably make a

modern day conservationist recoil, but back

then, wildlife hunting was legal, socially

accepted and big business. Hunting, just

like he did back in Oklahoma, Charles

would set up Cottar Safari Services in 1919,

specialising in filming, big game hunting and

animal capture for circuses overseas.

Chatting about filming safaris with Calvin

Cottar, Charles’ great grandson who set

up Cottar’s 1920 Safari Camp in the mid

90s with his wife Louise, he explains that

the earliest filming safaris were nothing

like today. Animals were known to hide

in the bushes. A photographer would

therefore set up his equipment a little far

off from the bush, and when he was ready,

his counterparts would scare the animals

and they would go charging towards the

photographer who would get his pictures,

fingers-crossed that he didn’t get trampled

in the process. I see an old black and white

advert; Big Game Hunting in Africa and

Asia with Cottar Service. In it, a man on

a horse, a pack of dogs charging in front

of him, pursuing a leopard leaping over a

bush close to the camera. Pictures of Charles

show a man mauled by a leopard, later

being killed by a charging rhino that he was

trying to film in 1940.

With the onset of wildlife conservation

and management laws, the landscape

has drastically changed. Calvin explains

that when they set up in the mid-90s, there

was a lot of poaching and insecurity in the

Maasai Mara, and it was hard to ascertain

that the money that was flowing in through

tourism was actually doing good. At the

time, he was a guide working with KWS

(Kenya Wildlife Service) which resulted in a

lot of thinking about Kenya, its people and

its lands. One of his tasks was to develop

forums where landowners and communities

had a voice in wildlife conservation policy.

We have an interesting chat about the place

of big game hunting in securing lands today,

a story I am keen to follow up on.

Set in Ol Derkesi Community

Conservancy, Maasai Mara, the classically

elegant ambiance in the tents draws

inspiration from ‘old Africa’, with the tents

being outfitted with colonial antiques, pops

of colour coming from the bedding or cotton

dhurries. The staff, most coming from the

local community, have been with the family

for decades. We stay at the five bedroom

bush villa which has plenty of comfortable

lounging areas and terraces, boasting

unobstructed views of the surrounding

savannah, best taken in from a hammock set

on a ground floor lounging area.

Perks include a staff of eight at your

disposal, a private chef, a 25-metre private

swimming pool, a dedicated game vehicle

and guide (some of the best guides I have

ever encountered on the numerous game

drives I have been on) and WiFi. As I was

there for the first-time unveiling and tasting

of the Louis XIII Cognac in Kenya, we

had a round of befitting sundowners and

magical dinners out in the bush. I am also

quite certain that I got married to a Maasai

warrior during a dance I got swept up in at

around 10:00pm around a bonfire. If all else

fails, I will be returning to Cottar’s to find

him.

www.cottars.com

NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 49


WHAT I PACK

Lucia Musau is a luxury PR consultant and an award winning fashion

and lifestyle blogger. She shares some of her travel essentials.

A BOOK

I carry a different book on each trip and like having hard copies,

although I’m currently reading an e-book called ‘Contagious: Why Things

Catch On” by Jonah Berger.

CANON G7X MARK II

I use this to take videos and photos of my family whenever we travel,

not necessarily to share on social media but to for instance share those

memories with my son when he’s older.

IPHONE X AND A TECNO PHONE

These are great for capturing content I would like to share instantly to my

social media pages. I carry a second phone for backup.

LIP GLOSSES

Lately, I’ve really been loving the Fenty Gloss Bomb and Clarins’ lip oil.

DOLCE & GABBANA SUNGLASSES

I’m always wearing sunglasses whenever I travel. This pair is big, wide

and super stylish.

PERFUME

I carry at least two on a trip. I’m currently loving the Tom Ford Rive

d’Ambre. If it was a drink, it would be a limited edition. There’s also

Chanel No. 5 which is an all-time classic.

SUNSCREEN

Protecting the skin is essential, and the Clinique SPF 50 sunscreen works

well with my skin.

WATCH

I wear one, always, even if I happen to be in a different time zone. I have

a classic Daniel Wellington watch and the more fancy Cartier which I

really love.

KENYAN FLAG BRACELET

This is always such an ice breaker whenever I’m traveling in a different

country. A fellow Kenyan might spot it and we can always strike up a

conversation about home.

50 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


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NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 51


LAST WORD

E

arlier this year, my partner

and I were scheduled to

vacation in a tiny resort

town on South East

Europe’s Adriatic coast,

so with just 14 days to my

intended departure date,

I gathered my duly filled visa application,

supporting documents and frequent traveller

bravado and went to the supporting

embassy for submission.

The office, a lean operation that felt

more like visiting a family friend than an

outpost for a foreign power was warm

and welcoming. While there, I was lucky

to meet the highest-ranking officials of the

mission whose affability put me immediately

at ease. After some light banter, rubberstamping

and promises of “there shouldn’t

be a problem” my file was accepted. That

evening, I went straight home and confirmed

with full payment, all the provisional

bookings I had made. These included

return tickets and my contribution for the

accommodation costs. Such sweet folk these

South East Europeans, they’d even agreed

to retain a scan of my passport rather than

the physical document itself as I was due for

work travel that same week. There shouldn’t

be a problem they said.

With anticipation for my trip building

up, I started to make frequent calls to the

EXPENSIVE

LESSONS

By Karanja Nzisa

Embassy to track my application and when

the responses from the lovely phone operator

didn’t suffice, I used the personal numbers

of my senior official friends which I had

been able to source through my very reliable

networks. Introducing myself to them, all

protocols observed and whatnot, it became

clear that what I always thought was a

memorable presence I possessed wasn’t

quite so as neither of them could remember

me from our encounter less than two weeks

before. There’s no telling you what a thing

like that does to a man’s ego. Confident

trooper that I am, I replayed conversations

we had had in verbatim which jolted their

memories in the same exact moment they

remembered pressing matters that they had

to attend to. In an almost rehearsed fashion, I

was very diplomatically told to wait until they

got back to me, goodbye. And so I waited.

It went on like this for a few days until finally

on my day of travel my anxiousness grew

into desperation. When after my umpteenth

attempt, one of my rafikis from the embassy

answered the phone; it was to tell me that

I must never call her again. Period. End of

story.

There’s a common phrase in the English

language that’s used to denote that moment

when it becomes clear that the universe is

playing a sick joke on you, something about

dawns and realisation. Well I can tell you

that it is nonsense because the realisation

that there would be exactly zero visas for me

that day pounded rather than dawned on

me. After a small breathing exercise to regain

control of my bearings, I swung into disaster

management mode. My options were few

and extreme but my enduring and noticeably

irritated lover got on the phone with me from

the U.A.E for a process of elimination. It

was agreed that to cancel the holiday with

no knowledge of when next my leave from

work would be approved and with air tickets

already paid for would be foolhardy which

left me with only one course of action. We

had to find a new destination for our holiday

in a matter of hours.

Naturally, we had booked accommodation

on a cheaper, non-refundable policy so

we didn’t get a single dime back for the

cancellation. Then came the impossible task

of finding a spot on the globe where the

carrier servicing the second sector of my trip

flew to that was visa exempt for me or could

issue a visa on arrival. Because my partner is

an employee of the airline, we could secure

generous discounts, saving us from impending

financial ruin ergo other airlines were out of

the question. When we finally decided on

Nepal and tickets were booked, I tore out of

the office like a mad man, went home to finish

packing and was on my way to JKIA. Still, I

went on to have a most romantic emergency

holiday and at the end of the day, it was I that

had the last laugh.

52 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE


NOMAD MAGAZINE 2019 53


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& Bush

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54 DISCOVER EXPLORE EXPERIENCE

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