Jun 232013

Last month, Mike and I decided to do a weekend getaway in Diani, a town on the Kenyan coast, just south of Mombasa.  We didn’t take any days off, just left on a Friday evening as it’s a 1 hr flight from Nairobi to Mombasa.  It was low season so we didn’t have any problems booking hotels or flights.

I think if we were to do it again, we would probably take at least a day off to make it a 3 day weekend.  Friday night – Sunday is just too short for the travel logistics that are involved.  Fridays are the worst for traffic in Nairobi and even though we left at 5pm for the airport, we didn’t get there until 7:30pm.  We almost missed our flight!  We got there 30 min before take off and they let us through.  Whew!  The flight is quick but then to get to Diani it’s an hour and a half taxi ride — mostly it takes this long because you have to wait for the ferry.  We don’t arrive at the hotel until around 11pm and we hadn’t eaten dinner.  Luckily, the hotel had dinner waiting for us.  We stayed at Southern Palms Resort.  It’s a huge complex and it must get really crowded during busy season, but it was a bit cavernous while we were there during low season.  The pools are huge and winding all around but the rooms probably need a bit of updating.

Swim Up Bar

Swim Up Bar

I was fascinated by these yellow weaver birds who had made their nests in the waterways in between the hotel lobby and restaurant.  They would loudly chirp all day and weave their little nests.  There were so many of them!  Mike and I watched one weaver for a long time as it took down an old nest and then started a brand new nest from one long blade of grass.  It’s pretty incredible that the birds know how to build those with just their beaks and feet.  In order to get to the bottom of the nest, they would hang upside down and beat their wings to keep themselves up while weaving the nest.  I feel like I notice the birds a lot more here–partially because there’s just so many more here (nature!) and also they’re usually brightly colored or unusually patterned.

Amazing Yellow Weaver

Amazing Yellow Weaver

The first morning we got up really early and went diving with Diani Marine.  The first dive was a wreck dive that was sunk for diving and the other one was a reef dive.  Diani Marine was a good shop but definitely expensive.  I think compared to the diving we experienced in Indonesia, we are really spoiled!  The diving was good, but not great.  Hindsight, it was probably not a good idea to wake up at the crack of dawn after getting in so late the night before!  But pretty much everything closes on Sundays in Kenya, so Saturday was our only option.  After we got back to the hotel, it started pouring…ahh, low season.  But we played a mean game of ping pong. =)  Mike always has very low expectations of my hand-eye coordination skills (rightly so), but I think I impressed him and surprised myself with the ping pong skills.

The next day was a beautiful sunny day and we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves at the beach and pool.  Diani is known for its beautiful white sands.  The sands were definitely super soft, powdery, and white but I think during low season there is more seaweed washed in from the rains.  It’s still beautiful, nevertheless.  The only reason we didn’t spend more time out on the beach is because you tend to get harassed by “beach boy” selling boat rides and crafts.

Soft Seaweed Drifting

Soft Seaweed Drifting

White Sands

White Sands

All weekend, we kept seeing this mysterious set of blonde twins, dressed exactly the same, walking around the resort.  They were very distinct, with blunt cut platinum blonde hair, super pale, and very tall and skinny.  It was so bizarre!  We felt like we were in the twilight zone and the other hotel guests seemed to think the same too, since everyone would stare at them.  Turns out they were German and were shooting some sort of TV program at the hotel.  Wild.

Strange Twins...

Strange Twins…

We didn’t want to leave when the time came–just needed one more day!  Next time, when our parents come visit us in August, we will check out Watamu which is 2 hours north of Mombasa.  It will be closer to high season then, so we will see how it is up there.

Hypercolor Lizard

Hypercolor Lizard

 June 23, 2013  Posted by at 2:49 pm Attractions, Diani, Kenya Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »
Dec 022012

4 days in Nairobi, our new city.  Still feels strange and not as real yet.  I start my first day at work tomorrow; I can’t believe I haven’t worked in 9 months!  Time flies when you’re having fun. =)  I remember when Mike and I first started on this crazy adventure/move in March.  Back then, it felt like it would be a long time if you didn’t work for 9 months.  Everyone says, “you’re so brave, I wouldn’t be able to do that.”  But really it’s much easier than you think to take that leap.  A leap of faith that everything will work out fine.  I’m sure I’ll look back and it will be a minor blip in my work history but such an amazing, fulfilling 9 months.

Anyhow, more on Nairobi later, but I wanted to post a reminiscing post about Dar and what I’ll miss most about it.  The beautiful beaches and the ocean!  There are two main islands off the coast of Dar that people can go to for the weekend, or you can head down to the southern beaches too.  The two islands are called Bongoyo and Mbudya.  A few weekends ago, Mike and I went to Mbudya Island with some friends.  Mbudya is further north than Bongoyo and smaller, but it has a larger beach area where you can hang out.  We took a bajaj up to White Sands Resort, which is about 20-30 minutes north of the Peninsula depending on traffic.  At the White Sands entrance, you pay for the 30 minute boat ride and the marine reserve fee ($25 USD each for reserve fee plus round trip boat ride).

After you arrive on Mbudya, there are two beaches on either side of the island to hang out on.  We didn’t get there until late in the afternoon and the whole first side was full, so we headed to the other side.  We got one of the last bandas on that side, thank goodness!  It costs 10,000 Tsh ($6 USD) to rent a thatched banda hut for the day.  We spent most of our time in the water since it was so hot and the water felt so nice.

Clear Turquoise Waters at Mbudya

Our Banda Hut

From the banda, you can order food and drinks, so we got our ocean delivery of warm beer (no refrigeration on the island sorry!).  No matter, it was fun anyway just to hang out on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Cheers to Warm Beer in the Ocean

Our Sunday Crew at Mbudya

After we came in from the water, our fried fish and chips (fries) were waiting for us.  I don’t know what it is about swimming in the ocean, but it always makes me hungry!  The fish was delicious and we devoured it in a heartbeat with our salty fingers.  We stayed on the island until it was close to sunset time and took the last boat back to White Sands.

Crispy Fried Fish with Lime

We had so much fun at Mbudya that Mike and I went to Bongoyo Island on our last Sunday in Dar.  We couldn’t leave Dar without checking Bongoyo out too.  We were staying at the Slipway serviced apartments and conveniently, the boat to Bongoyo leaves right from the Slipway dock.  It costs the same to get to Bongoyo as Mbudya.  We took the 1:30pm boat there with a Chinese group (there are a lot of people from China here in East Africa doing a lot of the construction of roads and buildings).

Boat to Bongoyo

Bongoyo has just one small sandy peninsula on the northern end where you can hang out.  Mike and I rented a banda with some wood and rope reclining seats.  Very relaxing.  I think there is a trail you can go hiking on through the middle of the island, but it was again SO HOT that day, that the few yards I went down the trail was literally steaming and also swarming with bugs.  Turn back to the water!  It was really cool to see some big baobab trees along the trail though and there are some right on the cliffs of the island.

View of Bongoyo from the Boat

It’s quite stunning to stand out on the edge of Bongoyo and have turquoise water on all 3 sides.  I think after being to both islands, Mike and I prefer Bongoyo.  It’s more convenient to get to, and the beach is just as nice.  It doesn’t feel crowded even though you are all in one area, there’s just not that many people there.

Looking Back onto Bongoyo, Water on all Sides

Off of Bongoyo Beach

There is one corner of the bay where there is a rocky tide pool.  I saw some people standing over there so I decided to check it out.  It gave me a little shock when I saw tons of slithering eels coming in and out of the shallow pool.  Ahh!  I’ve never seen eels this close to shore and in such shallow water, only when I’m diving.  Turns out the food hut there throws their crab scraps out there and the eels wait there to fight over the scraps.  While I was standing there, sure enough they threw a crab in and I swear there were at least 30 eels scrambling around in the water.  Creepy!

What would you do if Flotsam and Jetsam were swimming towards you?

Swarm of Eels! Can you count them?

And so we ended our last weekend in Dar together with a great Sunday on Bongoyo.  I will miss this so much, but I’m sure we will get to know and love Nairobi in time as well.  Wish me luck on my first day at work tomorrow!

Goodbye for now, Dar!

 December 2, 2012  Posted by at 10:29 pm Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 122012

After 4 intense days of trekking, we rewarded ourselves with 3 days on the small island of Gili Trawangan, known as Gili T.  It’s the largest of the Gili Islands off the northwestern shore of Lombok and just a 40 minute boat ride from the port Bangsal.  There’s no motorized vehicles on the Gili islands, which lends a nice calm feeling.  You can get around by cidomo, which are horse drawn carriages, but Mike and I never used them once since you can walk pretty easily everywhere you need to go.  It’s a nice contrast from Ko Tao and Ko Lanta.  Gili T definitely has beautiful white sand beaches, snorkeling right outside our hotel, and a good variety of restaurants within easy strolling distance.  So we would rank Gili T as our top pick if you wanted your all-in-one package.  We stayed north of the pier at Gili Divers which was in a perfect spot for snorkeling.  We avoided south of the pier since it’s more known for its nightlife.  But after walking down there at night, it’s nothing compared to Ko Tao!  Definitely wouldn’t be a problem if you stayed down there, but no snorkeling out front.

The Beach Outside Our Hotel, Gili Divers

Beach On the South Shore of Gili T

All the hotels and restaurants are on the east side of the island, but you can walk to the northwestern end of the island to catch the sunset.  The low tide is pretty extreme on this part of the island, so there are a ton of rocks and reef showing, but it makes for a great reflection of the sunset.

Sunset on the North Shore

At night, there is a bustling night market with street food stands.  We found a chicken satay lady who wins for best Indonesian food we’ve had so far!  You get a bunch of everything: glass noodles, rice, pickled vegetables, chicken skewers with peanut sauce, and chili sauce.  The chili here in Indonesia is so good, smoky and tomato based—I want to bring some home!  The peanut sauce was really tasty too, I’m usually not a fan since they’re always so sweet, but her sauce was nice and savory.  Definitely went back again another night.

Amazing Chicken Satay