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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nairobi is one of the few cities with a national park right next to it. The national park is actually right across the street from my office, and I often stare out at it whenever I go up our glass elevators. It’s quite big–you can’t even really see where it ends from my office. Some of my coworkers who live in Karen drive through the park every day to get to and from work, and they post photos of a group of lions by the side of the road on their way home. Crazy right? It’s typically hard to see wildlife from the road though, and to get a good luck, you usually have to get up by 6am when the animals are out.
You can drive around yourself in the park as long as you stick to the roads. Mike and I haven’t really been though since a) we don’t feel like waking up at 6am on the weekend, and b) it’s a bit far from where we live and we usually stick close to our neighborhood due to traffic. But one weekend my coworker invited us to his house for lunch and he lives even further from us than the national park, so we decide to visit the park before we go visit him. Since we don’t wake up super early, we decide just to check out the Safari Walk, which is a sectioned off area of the park. We have friends who bring their kids on the weekend. You go through the entrance of Nairobi National Park off of Langata Rd (just past Wilson Airport), and the Safari Walk is on the right hand side of the parking lot.
But we get to the ticket gate and it’s more like a zoo. Mike and I aren’t big fans of zoos at all since it’s so sad to see the animals locked up. But we were there already, so…I guess if you were going to have a zoo, the Safari Walk is a better model. The animals have a larger space to walk around and it’s their native environment, so there’s not a lot of fake habitat. But what ends up happening is that since it’s natural brush, you can get to an exhibit and not see the animals at all since they are hiding in the bush or trees. We were lucky to get a few peeks of some of the animals, so I’m sharing those photos here.
When we got to the lion exhibit, we couldn’t see any lions since they were hiding. But after we left and were walking away, we heard these crazy loud roars! We saw a groundskeeper and he told us it was the lions. So we ran back and there they were, coming out of the bush. The sound was like nothing I’d ever heard. Much louder than you think.
Next time we are going to wake up early to drive around the park – no more Safari Walk for us!
It’s been a way long time since I last posted! Sorry, sorry. It’s been really busy at work lately so the last thing I want to do when I get home is sort through my photos and write. So these photos are quite old, but still worth the update!
Since we’ve been in Nairobi, Mike and I are always on the hunt for outdoor spaces to go on walks. We really miss walking around and while we have Karura Forest, we wanted to explore the Arboretum which is not far from us. I had heard mixed reviews; people said it was actually quite busy and not very peaceful at all because of singing church groups (huh?). But really how bad could it be?
You can get to the Arboretum off State House ride and then make a turn on Arboretum Drive. There’s a small parking lot where you pay a small fee. It’s free to walk in though. There’s a paved path when you enter, but pretty soon it’s just dirt paths. There are large fields scattered around and it’s less of an arboretum and more of a green public space. Wow, but we were unprepared for what we experienced!! It was actually super crowded, and sure enough, tons of church groups. Mostly, they were doing team building activities–lots of holding hands in circles. There was preaching, singing, jumping up and down, games, anything you could think of. And the groups were literally all next to each other so you almost felt like you were at a very crowded church camp. It was actually quite cool to see, but definitely not our idea of a peaceful garden walk. Pretty chaotic. Since there were so many groups, it was actually quite loud with all the singing and yelling in teams.
To escape the crowds, Mike and I tried to take the side paths around the park. When we came upon this little guy!
I had never seen a chameleon in real life before. It’s feet were the coolest. Of course Mike had to pick it up and take a look. It didn’t really flinch at all and just kind of settled on to his arm. We’re glad we went to check out the arboretum, but honestly, I’d probably stick to Karura Forest if I’m looking a nice quiet place to walk around. =)