Jun 292013
 

The best part of our Diani weekend probably includes our best meal in Kenya so far–yes, I said it!  Best meal in Kenya so far.  We went to Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant on Saturday night, which is a famous restaurant in Diani literally set inside a coral cave.  We were tipped off by our diving buddies earlier in the day that we should make reservations (they were also going that night for the second night in a row) so we did that as soon as we got back from diving.  The restaurant will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel which is really nice.

We had no idea what to expect when we arrived, but it was even more beautiful than I imagined.  When you think coral cave, you think dark and maybe a little…damp?  Well they have decorated the place amazingly, and it was very warmly lit with a huge opening at the top so you can see the stars.  Very very romantic.

Beautiful Coral Cave

Beautiful Coral Cave

We started with a great wine from Simonsig, one of our favorite South Africa wineries.  We had visited Simonsig during our 3 month stint in Cape Town during business school and it’s still just as fantastic.  Sometimes it’s hard to get really good wine in Nairobi, even at the nice restaurants.  Mike had prawns in this to-die-for sauce and I got the grilled lobster.  So so good.  I was thinking to myself maybe the trip to Diani is worth it just for this meal!

Yum!

Yum!

 June 29, 2013  Posted by at 3:35 pm Diani, Food, Kenya Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
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 »
Jul 112012
 

One of the coolest things we did on our Sequoia trip was visit 2 different caves: Crystal Cave and Boyden’s Cavern.  After the cave I visited with Mike in Thailand (no lights and we had to shimmy through some small holes), I’m sure these two would be quite a different experience.  We signed up for the Crystal Cave Discovery Tour which is offered once a day at 4:30pm and is a flashlight tour instead of the usual lit tour—it’s also a longer tour.  Crystal Cave is a pretty large cave, around 3 miles of underground passage and there are lots of rooms.  The caves in this area are mostly marble caves (in Thailand, it was limestone).  The calcite crystals that formed “rock cascades” were my favorite since they were glittering all over.  Like frozen snow.  It got really cold inside and once we were deep into the cave, our guide had us turn out our flashlights so we could experience the total darkness.  Besides the bottom of the ocean, caves are the only other place you can experience complete darkness.  You can’t see your hand in front of your face, but since your brain knows it’s there, you can experience something called imaging.  That’s when you think you can see the shape of your hand, but it’s just your brain projecting the image on your mind since it’s not physically visible.  Pretty nuts.  Apparently if you’re in total darkness for long enough you will become blind.

Crystal Cave really is covered all over in “crystals” and there are lots of sparkling formations.  Simply beautiful.  It’s sad to see parts of the cave that have stopped “growing” since back in the day the path was dirt instead of concrete.  The dirt would get kicked up on tours and pretty soon it coats the formations with a gray layer and prevents new growth.  Apparently they have more in depth tours and that are closer to caving and you get to crawl into more rooms.  I will definitely be back for that one day!

Calcite Flow

Crystal Formations

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Ripples

Boyden’s Cavern is in Sequoia National Forest—slightly different than the National Park. National Forests are not as protected as National Parks and they are used for commercial purposes as well as conservation and tourist services.  We happened to arrive just as a tour was about to start, so we did a regular lit tour.  Boyden’s Cavern was slightly different.  Not as many crystal-type formations, but you could see more of the river bed that went through the cave.  It looked like a smooth marble water slide!  Afterwards, since it’s the dry season, we took an alternative exit and walked through the narrow river bed down the bottom of the cave.  Some parts were pretty narrow but it was really neat to see it in its more natural state.

Cave Formations

Drapery Formations

Walking the River Bed Inside the Cave

May 062012
 

Mike and I rented a motorbike again yesterday to explore some more of the island.  We’ve been wanting to check out Tham Mai Kaew cave inland, so we drove about 15 min south to get there along a dirt road.  It was 300 baht each to get into the cave plus a guide, which is pretty pricey for a tourist attraction.  Well, we were there, so why not?

We had two other German guys join us on the tour and began the 30 minute hike to get to the cave entrance.  The path was through the jungle and we passed a large rubber tree plantation along the way.  There were several parts of the hike that we had to use ropes to climb up some slippery, steep rocks.  Not great in flip flops!  It was a pretty intense hike so I was thinking, well if the cave sucks, at least this hike is pretty awesome.

Hike to Mai Kaew Cave

We get to the cave and our guide points to the entrance.

Cave Entrance - a Hole with a Bamboo Ladder Peeking Out

What, that??  We have to crawl down this tiny hole?  Ha!  So down we went into the hole and clambered down a bamboo ladder.  There are no lights hung up in this cave, as they’ve kept everything very natural, with only bamboo ladders and planks to get through some parts.

Mike Edging Along a Bamboo Plank

We had head lamps, but it was still incredibly dark!  We went through the cave passageways, some were great caverns with stalagmites and stalactites dripping and some were small spaces we had to crawl through.

Dripping Stalagmites

We went deep down into the cave and came across a lagoon that you can only swim in during the wet season.  So we climbed down another bamboo ladder and went for a dip in the cold water.  A couple of times our guide turned out all the lights, and that was super creepy!!  Pretty insane.  Down that deep in the cave, there’s not that much oxygen, so by the time we climbed out of the pool, all of us were out of breath.  That’s when I started feeling a little light-headed and couldn’t wait to get up higher to get more oxygen.

Cool Dip in the Cave Pool

On the way back, we went out through a separate entrance—our guide called it “the hard way.”  We had to crawl through a tiny hole to get out.  Mike had to army crawl on his stomach in order to fit, and I managed to make it through on my hands and knees.

Mike Had to Crawl on his Belly

Right before we got out of the cave, we came across a couple hundred bats sleeping in a passageway.  A couple of them were even flying around to add to the creep factor.  Needless to say, we were incredibly muddy after we got out.  Clothes totally demolished!  That, and while I was crawling through the tiny hole, my flip flop broke.  Saddest thing ever.  So for the hike back, Mike was sweet enough to give me one of his flip flops and he had one bare foot!

Wow, so what an experience, but totally worth it.  I doubt we’ll ever be in another cave that well preserved with such crazy passageways.  Mike’s left knee is swollen from being scraped in the tiny hole and I have another 10 mosquito bites from the hike back in the jungle (which brings the total count to over 30!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 May 6, 2012  Posted by at 4:43 am Attractions, Ko Lanta, Thailand Tagged with: , , , ,  1 Response »