The sun doesn't break through cloud cover to announce its presence in the morning, it just appears in all its glory and heat. It’s interesting living in Abu Dhabi especially in the hot desert climate, when you’re used to more tropical temperatures. If you may have noticed, my travel blog has consisted of places I have visited with very warm, coastal or hot temperatures. It really does wonders for my sinuses, so I could consider making a permanent shift to places with such weather.
I digress, I managed to visit Abu Dhabi during the warmer months – since it does get cold, between November to March. The passport control at Abu Dhabi international airport is quite efficient – after navigating through the airport, which was larger than I expected, so there are times you can expect a bit of a walk.
I stayed at Traders Hotel, Abu Dhabi. It’s a very accommodating hotel for the business traveler. Checking in is quick, and the staff are very friendly. The rooms are clean, although I found the air conditioning a bit much, so would always turn it off when in my room.
I didn’t enjoy the food as much as I thought I might. The food selection at the buffet or from the menu was about 3 out of 5. I really did enjoy the cocktails though. The mojito was a personal favorite- it’s a classic cocktail they did right.
If you’re looking for more dining options nearby, there is the Shangri-La Hotel which has a wide food selection at Sofra restaurant. My craving for Chinese food was also satisfied at the hotel’s Shang Palace restaurant. We had a selection of prawns, sweet and sour chicken, vegetable rice in portions for 1 so we could share as a group of 3.
And of course, what would a review of Abu Dhabi be if I didn’t mention the shisha? I don’t smoke shisha, but I like the smell of it for some reason, and boy did their shisha smell good. From the fruity strawberry smells to passion or vanilla, there were several options. Plus, you get to sit and enjoy your shisha under the canopies on the beach looking across to The Ritz-Carlton hotel and The Grand Mosque – in all its majestic might.
To visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, women must wear a traditional robe (abaya) and headscarf (Shayla) before entering. You may wear your own so long as it is not transparent. For men, no shorts or transparent clothing is allowed. Shoes must be removed before entering. You may find out more information here.
Of course there is much more sightseeing to do if you travel to Abu Dhabi as a tourist, and some popular sights include the Formula One World - bringing the thrill of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, boat tours, the malls and much more you can read about here.
For a brief trip, it was quite lovely. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments section, or email me for more.
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The fresh air, ocean breeze, and an amazon shower – some of my favorite features about staying at Distant Relatives Eco-lodge and Backpackers. I have been to enough hotels and corporate entities that claim to be are eco-friendly, and the most they have are a couple of solar panels, and maybe are conscious about how they recycle their garbage. So when I heard about Distant Relatives Eco-lodge and Backpackers, I sort of let the “eco-lodge” phrase skip my mind. I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat amazed by how the DR team has incorporated environmental friendliness into the design of the lodge, and the entire experience of your stay.
The lodge is extremely environmentally conscious, and the compost toilets really fascinated me. They are uniquely designed to not use water to flush, but use sawdust to cover up your waste – and it works really well. Some dorms were built around tree’s to protect the plant life, and they incorporate the whole “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” philosophy really well, find out more about it here.
Getting to Kilifi
So how do you get to Kilifi? We took a flight down to Mombasa, there’s also the option of taking one to Malindi, but flights from Nairobi to Malindi are more expensive. From there, we were going to take an Uber from Moi International Airport (MIA) to Buxton where we could pick up a matatu to Kilifi, but we negotiated a flat rate with the Uber driver (Ksh3,000), and he took us all the way to Distant Relatives. On the way back, it was much easier because we knew where we were going, so we took a tuk tuk to Tusky’s in Kilifi (Ksh 200), then boarded a matutu into Mombasa (Ksh200), and picked an Uber to Moi International Airport (MIA).
It’s about 2 hours from MIA to Distant Relatives, without any traffic on the way, and the roads are great so the ride is really enjoyable. On arrival, the lodge is calm, and peaceful – as it should be. The staff is very warm and welcoming.
We were greeted with refreshing Dawa’s – after a long ride from the airport, it was a drink I really savored, plus the ginger leaves a tingling sensation on your tongue which fees great. We arrived at around 10.30am and so we indulged in a Full Brekkie (a lovely spread of scrambled eggs, bacon, lamb sausage, toast and beans) – the perfect meal for curing you of the Kilifi heat, which took us some time to adjust to. The service was prompt; we didn’t wait too long to get meals.
Soon after letting our food settle, we were shown to our room –DR has several options to cater for various budgets. You could choose from staying in a private Banda that allows you to share with a group of friends or family, or in a dorm with other backpackers. You may also decide to stay in a safari tent with either a single or double bed, or stay in your own tent on DR’s garden. Rates go as low as Ksh600 (low season) for one guest per night when camping.
What You Can Do
There’s a bit of a walk down to the beach, but it’s so peaceful and calming. And the best part - no pesky beach boys; so you can actually enjoy and get lost in your own thoughts. At night, you can catch the bioluminescence (when the plankton in the water lights up in the water). We never managed to see it, because of our fear of wading into the water at night, but bet it is pretty cool.
Touring Kilifi is such an unforgettable experience! A 5 minute tuk-tuk ride from DR is Bofa Beach, and since we’re in the middle of the Kenyan summer, the water was super warm, and there was quite a bit of seaweed. But this did not distract from the soft white sand, and pristine blue waters Kenyan beaches are known for.
On our second day in Kilifi, we toured the Giriama village, to see the community and sipped a bit of Mnazi (coconut palm wine), which has a taste that takes getting used to. The climax of the tour was the Giriama Paradise, where you can watch the sunset over the Kilifi creek and soon after delight in ugali and BBQ chicken in coconut chicken sauce.
Snorkeling on our third day in Kilifi was absolutely the best culmination to a long weekend. It feels good drifting out at sea (especially if you don’t get sea sick). If you’re lucky, Captain Issa will entertain you with some Swahili songs as the boat carries you out into the sea. It was my first time snorkeling and I quite enjoyed looking at the massive sea urchins on the coral and watching the fish swim past me. It was the perfect experience.
Thanks to the Distant Relatives Eco-lodge and Backpackers team.
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By Njeri Kariuki
Destination weddings are becoming more and more popular in the 21st century, one of the best being beach weddings. Kenya boasts some of the best beaches in the world from Mombasa to Kilifi, to Malindi and Lamu.
One reason as to why you should consider a beach wedding is it’s an easy way to incorporate an adventure into such a special ceremony. It could most possibly involve travelling and other beach activities such as snorkelling, jet skiing, boating and most importantly, romantic relaxation on the beach. These types will help in bringing a group of friends and family closer together as you’ll get to spend more time together than the few hours you would have at a traditional wedding.
Beach destination weddings are also more relaxed than your traditional wedding. As a bride, they will offer you the chance to have a light, airy yet elegant dress rather than an embellished one. This would also be the chance for you to acceptably ditch that pair of high heels and opt for a comfortable pair of sandals. Amandadress.com.au offers a wide selection of Beach wedding dresses in Australia; this should give you an idea of what we mean.
Not to mention, beach weddings make it much easier to have your honeymoon. Think of it as a two-in-one vacation if you may. This is fantastic as you will already have your first week as a default ‘vacation’ and it would be much easier for you to just extend your time away, in order for you to have your honeymoon.
Kenya’s coastal locations such as Kilifi, Lamu, Watamu and Diani, offer you multiple activities that would be sure to keep you and your guests entertained if you opted for a beach wedding. There are exciting tourist destinations such as the ruins of Mnarani, the Vasco Da Gama Pillar, the beautiful untouched Swahili town of Lamu which offer timeless, breathtaking adventures for all.
Where would you like to have your destination wedding?
“To travel is to live,” said Hans Christian Andersen - Danish author. That’s how travelling should feel, and to live again, I stayed at the beautiful 7 Islands Resort, Watamu. I had never visited Malindi until then, and I quite enjoyed it. Even though I didn’t do too much sightseeing (because I wanted to be those “stay-in-the-hotel” tourists), there is so much you can do while in Malindi. You could step into history at the Gedi Ruins, see the diverse marine life at the Watamu Marine National Park or walk over to the nearby Bio-Ken Snake farm.
Check-in at the hotel was great, quick and the staff is super-friendly. The lobby is gorgeous, with the interiors exuding Arabic and Swahili roots. The rooms exude the same, and I couldn’t help but feel so calm and refreshed looking at the white and somewhat rustic design.
If you’re staying at the hotel, and not doing too much exploring, you will still be entertained. The hotel has a wide-range of activities from aqua aerobics to night quizzes and free cocktails. The only downside is that they cater more to the Italian audience than the local one, so maybe try learning a bit of Italiano. I heard sentiments that the hotel was racist for catering more to their Italian audience than the Kenyan one, but if you ask me, they were quite accommodating to the majority of the guests - who were Italian. Plus, I like to think of myself as pretty open-minded and adventurous, so I quite enjoyed feeling like I was in Italy (without having forked out the airfare).
The beach, like all Kenyan beaches, was quite lovely. And the mini-islands that surround the main beach serve as little romantic spots where you and your significant other can swim up to and even enjoy a barbecue of seafood if you wish. If you wake up really early, say 6AM, you may get to see dolphins swimming by the mini-islands.
I’d give staying at 7 Islands a 4 out 5 stars; I didn’t enjoy their variety of food, nor the fish – which I especially go for when I’m down at the coast. All in all, you can still enjoy your stay when you’re there.
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Sitting on 16 acres of prime land is the wonderful PrideInn Paradise Beach Resort, in Shanzu beach Mombasa. I had the pleasure of staying there for two nights and sampled what the hotel had to offer – such as exquisite food, a large aqua park and really comfy beds (I kid you not). This is just to name a few of their amenities.
Stepping into the lobby of the hotel, I could already smell the salty ocean air of the Indian Ocean. I love the way the breeze caresses you, making you feel like you are being hugged by a fuzzy bear. If you ever read more of my posts where I am in a Coastal town, this is literally what I always say about the ocean breezes.
Anyway, I digress. My hotel room had a view of the ocean, even though a bit distant, I could still see it. For someone like me who always has back issues, the bed was comfy and soft…so soft. The TV in the room had actual good channels – it wasn’t just one of those TV’s you switch on in vain, knowing the hotel won’t have anything good showing.
Now, the food. I want to get to this part because of how much I enjoyed it. The hotel had a wide option for starters, salads, main dishes, dessert pastries and more. The Dau Restaurant is large, and where the hotel serves buffet meals, plus considering that the hotel has the largest convention centre in Mombasa, it makes sense to have a large eating area.
My favorite was the pancakes and syrup, so sweet, light and tasty. I also really enjoyed the fish, because who visits Mombasa and doesn’t delight in seafood? From their barbecued Kingfisher to their prawns – they really know how to touch a foodie’s belly.
I realise now that I should have taken a picture of my pancakes...but oh well, I inhaled them, before I thought of anything else to be honest.
One other stunning feature you have to check out is their Aqua water park. It’s hard not to notice since it is so prominent once you enter the hotel. It was created to be family-friendly, so everyone can enjoy the park - and yes I did! The slides are particularly enjoyable, so go wild and tap into that inner child (no pedophile pun intended).
Imagine the humidity cuddling you like the teddy bear you used to sleep with. The cool breeze carries with it smells of barbecued fish by the sea, and the white sandy beache stretches out for days - that is the image that constantly fills my mind when I think back at the time I spent in Mozambique.
I also think about the time I spent with my best friend, Nelza who was preparing for her wedding at the time. She was such a gracious host, so if you're thinking about touring the country you know who to talk to (via me of course).
Maputo is a gorgeous city along the coast of the Indian Ocean. The people, who are super-friendly, mainly speak Portugues, as the country was a former colony of Portugal. However, that doesn't stop them from making friends with English-speakers - I think they really love it too. Plus, since it is largely inhabited by Bantu people, there are some who even speak Swahili, or you can hear some words that were borrowed from Swahili.
The food, as you can imagine, is made up of a lot of seafood. I quite enjoyed it. From grilled lobster to fried fish, my mouth is literally drooling right now thinking about it all. A common local dish consists of fried fish, rice and coconut kale as the greens. I couldn't get enough of the creamy kale together with the crunch of the fried fish.
I had such a lovely time in Maputo, and if you're thinking of going (which you must), you can ask me all the questions you wish in the comments.
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By Lizbeth Kariuki
There are certain journey's one must take in life to discover that they are only a very small part of this universe. I have always wished and imagined that I could travel to the United States again. I planned that I would see various states such as New York or California (again). But these thoughts were always pushed to the back of my mind because I never imagined they would happen.
Through a lot of prayer and a really deep desire, my wishes finally came true. My gracious aunt and cousin hosted me, and I was able to travel to the US for my cousin's wedding. I find it hard to describe to people amazing the trip was, because I don't have words to describe it. Instead, here are images I took from my trip around New York. (More to follow from Maryland, Washington DC).
By Lizbeth Kariuki
You may be in the city, but as soon as you step into the Heron Portico hotel it feels just like the coast. The lobby speaks volumes as to the entire theme of the hotel; with its Swahili and Arabic influences.
The hotel, formerly known as the Heron Court, is located on Milimani road only a few minutes away from the CBD. If you ever need to know how to revamp your image, the hotel has a few lessons for you. The perception of it before was not the best, but I won’t go into that since our generation probably doesn’t know about that, and will only ever know the new hotel.
Apart from the stunning image of the hotel, the staff is extremely friendly. From the smiles of the concierge to the head Chef Ali, the smiles never miss a beat. Speaking of Chef Ali, the hotel food is absolutely delish! I’m a sucker for sweet things, and indulging in the desserts was pleasing for my mind, body and soul.
Take a look at some of the sights from the hotel. I recommend heading over to the hotel anytime you need a break from the city buzz, besides you won’t be going far away from town.
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Photo's by James Kamau, check out his blog: jamohframes.blogspot.com