18 – Pirates and Honeymooning

18 – Pirates and Honeymooning

After chilling at Lake Naivasha for a week, the “honeymoon part” of our trip began: direction the East coast of Kenya and its dreamy beaches. To get there we headed back to Nairobi where we took a…train! Yep, that is right, for the first time in a month and a half our journey would not be by bus!

The Madaraka Express was built two years ago by the Chinese. Thanks to this new railway, it takes just five hours to get from the capital to Mombasa (the country’s main port). Before leaving we had to pass thorough security checks: the bags were scanned twice by X-ray machines and sniffed by a rather unenthusiastic sniffer dog. After spending ages convincing the security men not to confiscate our swiss army knife, we were off. Let’s see if we manage to keep it until the end of our world trip!

Boarding the Madaraka Express to Mombasa
We went through Nairobi National Park and Tsavo National Park

As we got off the train, the heat hit us. The air was humid and several degrees hotter. Mosquito heaven! The mosquitoes here are so tiny you cannot see them, but they still manage to bite you everywhere!

We headed straight for Kilifi where we pitched our tent at “Distant Relatives”, an eco-friendly hostel filled with backpackers. For the first time we felt like we were in a super touristy place. Kenya seems to have a lot more tourists than Ethiopia and the coast seems to be THE place where they all go. Despite the mosquitoes, we found what we were looking for: sunshine, miles of white-sandy beaches, palm trees, funny crabs, a lush swimming pool and even fluorescent plankton! The plankton glows when it feels threatened. At night we would go down to the sea, splash about, and see the water light up around us. It was super cool!

In the hostel bar we met pirates. Yep, real life pirates! Lucas and Alexandra, a young Franco-Italian couple invited us to their pirate ship (The Musafir) to meet the rest of the crew. The Musafir (meaning “a traveller” in Farsi, Hindu, Urdu, Arabic and Ki-Swahili) is currently anchored right by The Distant Relatives Hostel. She is East Africa’s largest engineless dhow – needing thirty-five people to lift the anchor and set sail! Built a few years ago by an Italian who fell in love with dhows (traditional Swahili sailing boats), she travels the seas spreading the message of peace, freedom and unity. The crew (The Musafari) work with local people to promote saving the planet by doing things like projecting films, organising events and beach cleans. AMAZING, hey? The Musafir has only ever been up and down the East coast of Africa (Tanzania, Kenya & Mozambique) but the Musafari are busy preparing for their next big trip: sailing to Singapore via the Seychelles and the Maldives! They are looking for new crew members to join them. If we did not already have a plan for the coming months, we would definitely have been tempted to join their crew. If you are interested, go check out their website or Insta. We spent a fun evening with them on the boat, chatting and laughing away over dinner (yummy vegetables and ugali). They were all so lovely! What a life!

The Musafir (photo from website)
Watching the sunset from Musafir’s deck

After a few relaxing days by the poolside, we took a tuktuk, matatu & boda to Watamu (a little further up the coast). This was another tourist haven. There were also lots of Europeans with a second home here (including lots of Italians). We were often greeted in Italian in the street! We stayed in a good hotel in Watamu. The price was reasonable compared to the crazy high prices elsewhere (lots of tourists = more expensive hotels!) When we arrived, one of the staff climbed a palm tree in the garden and sent two coconuts tumbling to the ground. Not a bad welcome drink!

Mmmm coconut juice

The swimming pool here was the BEST swimming pool ever. It was filled with cleaned sea water – it was so fun to bob up and down!

Here we found the same white sand that was in Kilifi. We spent an afternoon in Watamu’s Marine Reserve, snorkelling amongst multicoloured fish in the corals. Dory even came to say hello!

6 Replies to “18 – Pirates and Honeymooning”

  1. Oh my goodness this looks amazing! The colour of the sea and sky is idyllic. No wonder there is so much fine jumping going on! What are the main languages used by locals and tourists you are meeting? Not as much mention of locals in this blog, are the Kenyans in this area mostly dependent on tourism or are they unaffected by it? Are locals using the tea in to commute or is it linking Nairobi with the coast, mainly for tourists? Are the Musafari Kenyan in origin? I wonder who they are reaching with their message? Sounds like a brilliant way to spread the necessary word about cherishing our magnificent natural environment. Xxx

    1. Postcard landscape indeed! Tourists are mostly westerners. Locals speak swahili and good english. We have had less interaction with locals in Kenya. There seems to be a greater divide between locals and tourists here. The tourist industry here attracts lots of wealthy tourists which immediately puts a barrier between locals and tourists.
      Tourism is the main source of income for Kenya. The coastal area especially depends on tourism. It obviously comes with a lot of job and money opportunities, but some people don’t seem very happy to see crowds who are unaware of their cultural habits. Especially in terms of clothing in this muslim region of Kenya! The train is used a lot by locals, as it is not much more expensive than the bus and it is faster. But there are only two trains per day, so it is often fully booked. We only met one kenyan musafari, though there are other locals among the crew. Their message is very positive, yes. We hope it reaches as many people as possible! They seem to target principally local populations.
      Arnaud.

      1. Thank you. I remember when we travelled in Malawi years ago, it was clearly stated in travel documentation prior to arriving in the country, and at the airport, that there were minimum standards of dress that visitors were expected to adhere to. Men were not permitted past customs at the airport if their hair was long enough to touch their collar (there was a barber conveniently located in the airport for men with too long hair who really wanted to visit Malawi!) And women were not allowed to wear trousers in public (so I cycled in cycling shorts and a wrap around skirt – tres elegant!) Interestingly, as tourists, nobody grumbled, they just accepted that as a mark of respect for the local culture these were the expectations and if we were not prepared to live by these standards, we could not visit. There were no such limitations in the private resorts, which is where the majority of tourists went and remained. I’m not sure this works so well anymore in our individualistic ‘entitled’ world where there is no longer an appreciation of the fact that with ‘my rights’ comes a responsibility to respect others’ rights. Or perhaps somebody else’s idea of modesty should not impinge on my freedom to dress according to my sensibilities not theirs? Phew. A veritable mine field. Still, it is interesting for us to read about your experiences of different attitudes of locals and tourists as you visit various places. Thank you for sharing so much of your journey with us. Xxx

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