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Dion Van Aardt- The Travelpreneur who tells his travel stories with pictures.

This month on the traveler, I spoke to Dion Van Aardt. Dion is an avid traveler with stunning travel pictures that ignites the wanderlust bug in all of us. He shared his travel experiences, how it all started and his travel goals.

Who is Dion?

I am a thirty six year old Kenyan,but was born in Zimbabwe. My family fled from Europe in the 1700’s for Southern Africa in search of a better life and we are all still here!

 

What inspired you to start traveling?

My family has always been quite nomadic and in fact my great grandparents came to settle in Eldoret,Kenya during the great trek from South Africa.It took them 3 years to get here. So I think it is in my blood to always have an itchy foot!

Again,my parents used to take us on lots of camping trips and mountain hiking adventures in Zimbabwe and encouraged us to make life exciting.

Are you a solo traveler?

I prefer to travel with a few friends because it is more fun.Moreover, it helps with cost sharing making the trip cheaper!

Do you travel full time or part time?

I travel part time

Are you a photographer as well? You have nice travel photos in your social media pages!

I started taking photos the time Kenya suffered security issues both in Lamu and Nairobi – my intention was to shift focus from the problem at hand and just showcase Kenya as the stunning place it is.Then three years ago I decided to take up photography as a hobby.I have since practiced taking photos.As of last year I had already taken slightly more than 38,000 photos. From those, I always get a few nice ones that I use on my social media pages. I am getting better at it and I hope one day I will call myself a photographer. As at now, it is  a hobby because I still have so much to learn.

I love Instagram because I have learnt a lot from other people, while having a platform to showcase the photos of the different places I have been to.

How old were you when you went for your first solo international travel? 

I was nineteen. I went to the UK to work and become rich and famous. However,I ended up living in a tent in Henley on Thames waiting on tables for 6 months!I moved around UK working and living in all sorts of places from the lake district to Suffolk where I worked as a tractor driver.

How many countries have you been to

Twenty four.

What is the longest time you’ve been away from home during travel?

Three months – I had traveled to the USA.

How do you finance your travels?

When I was younger I did odd jobs in the UK to save money to go away over the weekends.Then I moved to Kenya where I ran Kizingo;a small lodge on Lamu island. When it closed because of the rains for 3 months, I spent all the money I had saved from the trade on the island to go abroad.Now I am older and I prefer traveling around Kenya and Zimbabwe because we have so much to see and do so close to home.

What is your favorite extreme sport?

I love Rock climbing!

What has been your lowest moment during travel?

I had driven from Harare to Johannesburg when my car got stolen with all my luggage and passport in it!

What do you like most about travel?

I love getting a tiny taste of what it feels to belong to another place that is not familiar to me. I also like tough hikes and adventures that takes one off the beaten track and from the comfort zone. Such experiences makes that glass of wine and hot shower feel so much better when you get home!

Which of the countries you have visited so far that in your opinion has the warmest people?

I am a biased man so I will say Kenya and Zimbabwe but other than these places,I have to say the other friendly place I have ever been to is the USA. It is  the best country as far as I am concerned for solo travelers. People invite you to stay in their homes after just meeting you.

Are you luxury or budget traveler? 

Budget! Always.

Would you consider yourself a tourist or a traveler?

I like to think of myself as a traveler but when I start taking pictures I probably look very much like an annoying tourist!

What is in your bucket list?

I really want to climb the Ruwenzoris, explore the Mathews mountains in Northern Kenya and see the Gorillas in Congo. I would also like to Visit and hike in Northern Greece.

Can you share with us some of your travelutions for this coming  year?

I plan to hike the Ruwenzori’s, do a walk from Mount Ololokwe to the Mathews mountains, then Cherang’any Hills and visit Eldoret where my granddad and my parents were all born. I am also keeping an open mind for other adventures. Any suggestions are always welcome!

Best travel moments in the past year?

I did a wonderful five day hike in the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe called the Turaco Trail. I enjoyed hiking to the top of the Mount Ololokwe recently well as.My latest Trip was a visit to Isaqbini in Garissa County to find the Hirola Antelope!

Best life lessons you’ve picked from travel? 

Try to always keep an open mind and everywhere has something to offer even if it is just to provoke you to think differently. Adventure is a mindset.

You don’t need to travel to the other end of the world to have a great adventure.

If you are not traveling what else do you do?

I have to sadly work!I run Kizingo lodge in Lamu part time and as a project manager in Ruiru.

Have you checked out Dion’s photos on Instagram? If not, check here.

Do you any questions you’d like Dion to answer about travel? Hit him up on the comment section below.

Who else do you want to talk about their travels, let me know on the comments section as well!

Happy reading!

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I received The Versatile Blogger Award!

I love travel.

I started this travel blog in February 2016 to document and share my travel experiences. Last month, I was honored to receive The Versatile Blogger Award nomination from Zoe of Zo Around the world.

Zoe a self confessed over-organised travel planner has been to over 20 countries and three continents so far.Her blog is a collection of her travel experiences that focus on providing budget travel advice together with off the beaten path locations and itineraries. Travel has become part of Zoe’s life and she hopes to show her readers how travel can be a part of their lives too.

The Versatile Blogger Award  is an award given to bloggers by bloggers as a fun way to discover new blogs.

As part of the rules of nomination, I am now sharing with you seven random facts about me.

  1. I started blogging seven years ago but brought down my creative writing blog to start this travel blog.
  2. I take an average of 15 photos a day.(Of everything else apart from Selfies)
  3. I have always wanted to be a lawyer.
  4. I enjoy being alone 90% of the time.
  5. I don’t like alcohol.
  6. I have never set an alarm to wake me up.
  7. I love electronics and I own a tool box.

I now nominate:

1. Elisabeth Bunch of Pages of my passport.

Libs as some people call her is originally from the Pacific Northwest.She began exploring the planet in the year 2012.Since then,she has been to 84 cities,18 countries and 4 continents.She speaks Spanish,Italian and some French. Her wish is to share her adventures and inspire someone to start their journey in travels.

2. Sarah Rbz of Wanderlust Vegans.

Sarah’s blog is about is traveling and all the wonderful vegan finds she  encounters on her  journeys.She currently lives  in South Korea and hopes to explore all vegan options around her.

3. Harsh of Wanderers Hub.

Wanderers Hub is a travel blog by Prerna & Harsh who are trying to make the most of their weekends and annual leaves to explore India and beyond. Their plan is to visit the less explored places, travel slow, get taste of the local life, and tick big adventures off their bucket-list.

4. Alana Mary of Family Bites Travel

Family Bites Travel blog by Mary was started to teach their kids to be socially-responsible, environmentally-protective and culturally-aware world citizens. Their aim is to broaden peoples minds with a slim wallet and open-heart!

5. Nathan of Foodie Flashpacker.

Nathan Aguilera is from Oklahama city. He has been away from home for nearly three years now and has since been to fifty countries, dove some of the best dive sites in the world, attended some unforgettable festivals, met some of the most incredible people from all over the globe and discovered his passion for food and wine.

6. Perrine Muller of Details of Perrine.

Perrine is a French girl who got bit by the wanderlust bug and fuses her travels with fashion!

7. Melissa Hamilton of Honeybadventures.

Melissa is the true reflection of everything and anything is possible if you put mind on it and trust God in all your doings. She has lived the expat life and her inspiration to travel comes from her past experiences,loss of her brother and the need to debunk the myth that travel is for the rich!

A big congratulations to my nominees and all the best as they share with us there random facts and nominate other bloggers.

 

 

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Emmanuel Jambo; The global traveler with a magic touch in photography

I got a chance to interview Emmanuel Jambo; a renowned  photographer whose work knows no borders.He has an extraordinary talent of  freezing moments and turning them into great memories.Emmanuel is also the official photographer of the current President of  the Republic of Kenya. To add to his impressive profile, he is well traveled and comfortably wears the crown of ‘citizen of the world.’

  • Best place you ever traveled to?
    Zanzibar.
    Why? Its beauty, captivating history and rich culture. It is one of my favorite Islands.
  • Do you always travel for work?
    Mostly. But I try as much as possible to travel for fun or in some cases I merge the two.
  • That means you love travel?
    So much… If I could, I would just travel for fun!
  • What is the first thing you do when you visit a new city?
    (Laughing) Look for the nearest brothel.
  • Three things you always carry during your travels?
    My music, camera and laptop. When I travel for fun I don’t carry my camera.
  • Worst country you’ve been to?
    Dubai. The racism, heat and ignorance puts me off! All roads in that country lead to a bad experience. It is the only city I have been to that makes one feel like an animal.
  • Which are your favorite African Countries?
    Kenya, Senegal, South Africa and Ivory Coast.

    Statue of Nelson Mandela in Jo'burg
    Statue of Nelson Mandela in Jo’burg

    Why? They have a balanced combination of landscape, deep cultural roots, beautiful music, nice weather.

    Perfect weather, beautiful beaches...
    Perfect weather, beautiful beaches…
  • You have a unique fashion style…What is the inspiration?
    I like unusual wear. It is better classified as Rebellion Mentality ;not following trends, a mix of vintage African and European wear.
  • Who is your favorite photographer?
    Richard Avedon.I admire how he revolutionized photography from a lifelessness and indifference with the camera during shoots, to capturing full emotions of models in a more relaxed outdoor setting!
    The other one is Annie Leibovitz. She is phenomenal woman who is adventurous and a risk taker. Most female photographers are very safe. They wouldn’t dare take risks compared to their male counterparts. Annie Stands out.
  • Biggest risk you’ve taken in life?
    Quitting my career in I.T to start photography about ten years ago. Also,relocating from the States to come to live in Kenya.
  • Did you go to school to study photography?
    Everything I know is self taught. School doesn’t teach you anything. It is all passion, hard work and talent. The closest I got to being taught was a week with my mentor.However, he had to go California for treatment.
  • Highlight of you career?
    I have a number but most notably;
    Shooting my first ever cover of Drum’s Adam Magazine.
    The day Francis Okomo-Okelo The then Chairman of Barclays Bank Kenya told me he was excited to have a black photographer take the Board of Directors photo for the first time in twenty five years.
    During Zambia’s Fredrick Chiluba’s funeral when the current president pulled me aside to introduce me to other African presidents in the presence of hundreds of presidents.
  • You are the official President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Photographer. How did this happen and how is it like working with him?I have previously worked with the president and his family on several occasions and covered his nephew’s and niece’s weddings.During the previous political campaigns I did shoot of him and the current deputy president and that is how it all started. It is very easy to work with him. He is a simple man.
Emmanuel with the President.
Emmanuel with the President.

With Mr. President

    With Mr. President
  • Is Jambo your real name?Yes. Haha. (Pulls a picture of his Great grandfather) I was named after my Great grand father.
  • What is your worst travel experience?The first one was during Fidel Odinga’s ( The former Prime Minister’s son)burial in Bondo. All my equipment was stolen from the hotel room. This included all the photos I took from the start of the ceremony at the Capital of Kenya in Nairobi. I lost everything.The other one was in Mogadishu! I was taking pictures as usual. Unfortunately we hadn’t noticed the presidential convoy that was ahead of us. In the blink of an eye, there was a huge confrontation and a fully loaded technical with countless AK47 rifles right where we were! A few slaps were exchanged as the aide-de-camp kept shouting…”Kill Picture!” “Kill picture!” “Why you take picture?” I was scared stiff! The whole time, another senior officer kept stroking his beard (When an Elder in Somali strokes your beard, they are simply trying to calm you down) but he couldn’t hear any of it. It was terrifying.
  • Best traveling experience?Watching my first NBA game in Africa. It was held in South Africa. I travelled through Addis Ababa, Senegal to South Africa. It was fun. Everything I like all combined in one experience. Basketball, travel and good friends.
NBA game in Africa
NBA game in Africa
  • What do you think about Photography in Kenya?

An evolution has definitely happened. In the past, photography was controlled by expats.Nowadays, parents     are embracing photography and there is a growing number of photography schools. On the other hand, there is also a section of the population who view photography as a social trend. Most people buy cameras because they can afford it and call themselves professional photographers by Opening Instagram accounts and posting substandard photos just for the likes. Not for the passion or career.

  • If you are not shooting or traveling what do you do?Sleep.
  • What is your dream destination?Cuba!Why? Cuba is vintage, photogenic and has been isolated for fifty years, rich culture and nice music.
Cuba. Photo credit: Michael Petit.
Cuba. Photo credit: Michael Petit.

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  • Who will shoot your wedding?

(My clever question to find out whether he is taken!)I have a whole community of expert photographer friends who would be willing to cover my wedding.I just haven’t decided when or if I will get Married!

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Voyager Beach Resort-Nyali

Voyager Beach Resort-Nyali

‘Jolly Evenin’ ladies ‘n gentlemen.Me moniker be cap’n Ndeithi ‘n I gunna be th’ cap’n ‘o ye ship. Me shipmates ‘n I gunna be at ye service to ensure ye heartly enjoy ye cruise. In case ‘o any questions, queries or assistance, kindly come to th’ quayside ‘n get help from th’ foul blaggart on call…’

This was the opening speech of Captain Ndeithi to the passengers aboard the Good Ship Voyage!

Well…I guess this is the closest I have been to a cruise ship. Technically, it is a cruise ship the only difference is that it  is permanently stationed on land.

Voyager Beach Resort is an old fashioned ship themed luxury hotel at the Kenyan Coast,located ten kilometers from Mombasa town in Nyali. I spent a weekend in this unique resort and the only recommendation I have is; pack your bags already!

This Resort is a popular destination for Kenyans and foreigners alike, so bookings should be done in advance. On the weekend I was there, the resort was a buzz of activities. All rooms were fully booked. Roads and flights were all leading to Voyager.  I had accompanied Team Twende Mara; a team of bloggers and photographers that was selected by the Kenya Tourism Board to take over its entire social media channels. Apart from us, there was Capital FM (Kenya)  that turned twenty and flew all of its staff over for the weekend, the crew and fans of celebrated musicians; Nigeria’s Wizkid and America’s Chris Brown and then the other guests who were just either on holiday or business.

Arrival:

As earlier mentioned, everyone was headed to Voyager that weekend. All flights were fully booked and the only option left was to travel by bus which I grudgingly agreed to. We got to Mombasa late at night and found a driver from the resort waiting for us at the bus terminal. (To facilitate transfers, share your ETA and respective pick up point with the hotel early enough). On arrival, we received a cordial welcome from the captain of the ‘ship’, who quickly gave instructions to his shipmates and in no time we were well fed and already headed to our rooms.

The room.
The room.

The Resort and Stay.

One thing I like about the Kenyan coast is the spectacular sunrise and sunset. My room was situated right opposite the sea front overlooking an infinity pool. The sound of sea waves crushing against coral reefs,the gentle whistle of the wind as it blows kisses to the graceful palm trees, who then sashay shyly from side to side, to the golden streaks of the early morning sun rays usually make for my alarm when I’m down at the coast.

View from my room.
View from my room.
Waves crushing on reefs..
Waves crushing on reefs…
Waiting for the sun to rise
Waiting for the sun to rise on a cloudy morning.
Good things happen to those who wait... haha for the sunrise.Photo credit:Wathanga photos
Good things happen to those who wait… haha for the sunrise.                                                                   Photo credit:Wathanga photos 
Sea Front Rooms
Sea Front Rooms
Seafront Rooms
Seafront Rooms

Breakfast is served at the main restaurant from 0700 hrs to 1000 hrs. Room service is also available on request. Meals are served buffet style.

There are three accommodation packages one can choose from; bed and breakfast, half board and an all-inclusive package. With an all inclusive package, there is an advantage of complimentary services and discounts,I had an all inclusive package and would encourage anyone to go for it. It affords one a-drink-all-you-can selected local alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages, snacks served from 1000 hrs to 1800 hrs at the Kaskazi Bar, meals at Smugglers’ Cove (the seafood restaurant) at discounted rates and finally Italian cuisine at the Minestrone Restaurant.

There are four food outlets at Voyager; Mashua, Smugglers Cove, Minestrone and Kaskazi Snack Bar. Mashua is the main food outlet for all passengers on board.

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Breakfast at Mashua with team Twende Mara.

Smugglers Cove, the sea food restaurant.

 

Kaskazi Bar
Kaskazi Bar.

Voyager is one of the destinations I have been to that has almost everything under one roof. There really is no need of looking for amenities or ‘fun things to do’ on a lazy day.

There are three swimming pools to begin with…

The Sports pool is best for energetic swimmers or fitness lovers.

The sports pool. Best for energetic swimmers.
The sports pool.

The fun pool is the entertainment pool, perfect for water sports like volleyball,polo, amongst others. It also has water slides.

The fun pool. This is the entertainment pool, perfect for water sports like volleyball,polo, it has water slides.
The fun pool.
Aerial View of the fun pool
Aerial View of the fun pool.

Then finally my favorite, the relax pool! This is specifically designed for peace and quite. If you have that book you have been reading for months…then this is the one place to finish it.

The infinity pool.
The infinity pool.                                                                                                                                                                       Photo credit:Wathanga photos

After a nice swim, a snack from Kaskazi bar then a lazy walk down to the beach is always a good idea.

Sea front of the hotel.
Sea front of the hotel.

 

An afternoon walk along the beach...
An afternoon walk along the beach…

When on vacation, relaxation should be top of the list on the to do things. At a roof top right opposite the Indian ocean and behind the sports swimming pool sits the cozy Swahili Lounge. It is ideal for an afternoon siesta. The Swahili seats, swinging beds and panoramic view of the ocean made it my favorite hangout area in the entire hotel. Nothing beats the chilled voyager’s cocktail in the afternoon and a backdrop of the ocean breeze.

Swahili Lounge
Swahili Lounge.

 

Swinging beds
Swinging beds at Swahili Lounge.
Cocktails at the Swahili Lounge
Cocktails at the Swahili Lounge.

Other drinks of choice can also be ordered from the Light House Sports Bar.

Light House Sports Bar
Light House Sports Bar.

Lunch is served from 1230 hrs to 1430 hrs. It is important to observe the preferred dress code at the restaurant during meals. It’s so tempting to go to the main restaurant with swimwear but it’s not allowed. All other forms of casual wear are however allowed during the day. Mashua serves a variety of cuisines in buffet style.Each day has it’s own theme and during my stay, I experienced the African theme. The various themes are taken quite seriously. From how the tables are set with African table mats and lessos, to African cuisines and entertainment by an African music band.

This Maasai-man sculptured from a water melon caught my eye.

African themed meals.

Information on entertainment and activities around the resort are always on notice boards. In case you miss the notice boards, the same info can be given at the reception…or better known as the quayside in Pirates English.

Notice board with Entertainment info.
Notice board with entertainment info.

It is almost impossible to get bored at Voyager, just spot someone in a bright yellow tee written A-Team, ask about the fun activity of the day. They are a friendly lot. I joined them for volleyball in the fun swimming pool and as expected it was simply fun-filled! There are many games to choose from…The choice is all yours.

Animation Deck
Animation Deck.

 

Checkers!
Checkers!
Pool!
Pool!

Kids are also well taken care of at Voyager. The adventurers’ Club located besides the animation deck has all it needs to keep the babies busy. This ranges from games like snakes and ladders, books, and toys all the way to the  to sleeping area.

Adventurers' & Young Rangers Club
Adventurers’ & Young Rangers Club

Toys for the kids.

Colourful painting to keep them busy...

Sleeping beds.
Sleeping beds.

If you are not an adrenaline junkie, then treat yourself to a deserved relaxing massage. The massage room has a beautiful view of the ocean which complements the relax mode.

There are five bars at the resort; Harbour Bar-open twenty four hours, Look Out Bar,Kaskazi Bar and the Light House Sports bar  which all close at midnight then Divers’ Bar that closes earliest, at 1800 hrs.

I liked the Look Out Bar a lot.I guess the name has a lot to do with its location. From the bar, there is a watchtower kind of view and you get to see most parts of the resort from a corner.

Breath taking view from the Look out bar.
Breath taking view from the Look Out Bar.

Don’t the cocktails taste way better with this view?…

Cocktail at the Look Out Bar
I think the cocktails tasted better from this side of the resort.

In the late afternoon, I recommend a good read. The Treasure-Trove Boutique houses one of the best bookstores I have been to. Magazines, fiction, non-fiction, biographies, self-help books, poetry, Africana and host of many other genres. In Neil Gaiman’s words, “What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”

Boutique
The boutique that houses the bookstore.
Entrance to the Bookstore
Entrance to the Bookstore.
One corner of books.
One corner of books.

As the sun crawls into its nest and ushers in a blissful night…the smooth baritone of the lead vocalist of the Jambo Africa Band singing to the famous ‘Hakuna matata’ song, sophisticated laughs and low toned conversations thickens the air, followed by civilized cheers and claps at the end of every electrifying performance. Some of the cabin crew members could be  spotted here and there picking orders as the dining area filled up with passengers on board. Everyone dresses up for dinner.

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Jambo Africa Band performing.                                                                                                                           Photo credit: Life in Mombasa

The band will then give a powerful performance with a maintained tempo leaving the passengers begging for more. I remember being so consumed in their music to a point of having a minor heartbreak when the said they were done for the night at 2300 hrs.

It was hard to believe I was checking out the next morning.

Well if you are like me and saying goodbye to a Fantastic Voyage becomes a problem, worry not. There is an option to request for a late check out and schedule your departure for later in the evening then get to spend a full day in the ‘ship’!

A big shout out to Uber Kenya for sponsoring Team Twende Mara to the Chris brown’s/Wizkid’s Concert and facilitation of our movement to and from Mombasa Golf Club.

I hope you get to visit Voyager Beach Resort and have a taste of relaxation in a ‘ship’!

 

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Romain Angelo Mari

Meet our travelpreneur of the month-Romain Angelo Mari

This month on Bonita on Safari the spotlight is on Romain Angelo Mari.

Romain is a French Travelpreneur and a globe trotter. He co-owns Distant Relatives Eco lodge and Back Packers Kilifi with Thomas Atkinson. You have probably read the post I wrote about this little paradise. If not, kindly check it out here.

Apart from being a businessman and traveler, Romain is a scientist and has Masters Degree in Marine Biology/Ecology and Natural Resource Management. His speciality is in ecotourism,responsible tourism,permaculture,Eco friendly building ,marine environmental consulting and community/conservation project management.(When you go to Distant Relatives, you will definitely see all of these in practice!)

I spoke to Romain about his business, travels,goals and so much more…Enjoy the interview.

1.Out of the 196 countries in the world why Kenya?

Hmm you know what, the more people ask, the less I know what to reply! When travelling down from Ethiopia to Cape Town with friends, we loved the people in Kilifi. We loved the emerald waters, the traditional boats, the beach life, the great fishing and fishermen’s love for reggae! I also felt very free there and everyday was a new and awesome adventure. It just felt like a healthy place to be and Kilifi really needed a place for travelers to stopover. To be honest, also, I wanted some kind of headquarters in the world. And I am not very proud of France, the growing racist conservative right wing, I don’t really feel at home there. I am increasingly ashamed in fact of how many shallow-minded people come from these “developed” countries. So Kenya ticked a lot of boxes basically!

Kilifi
Kilifi
  1. How did you settle on the name Distant Relatives, any meaning behind the name?

Haha! Well Distant Relatives is of course a nod to Nas & Damien Marley. The words “Distant Relatives” struck us with Tom (the other half of Distant Relatives) one night in Cape Town as the most appropriate definition of how a traveler wants to feel when he heads off into the world. You don’t want to feel like a foreign tourist, you want to feel welcome, you want to be part of the family – whatever your age, colour, religion, nationality – we’re all distant relatives! I love the name more than ever!

Distant Relatives
Distant Relatives.
  1. Kenya has been hit hard with major security concerns. How has that affected your business?

True… 2012 was an unfortunate time to launch a new tourism business. It’s been sad for Kenya and for Kenyans. So many have lost their jobs on the coast, so many hotels have shut down and this all had further giant ripple effects on the rest of the economy. We were not spared. But to be honest, we can’t complain, we struggled a lot for sure, but not as much as others. We managed to keep all our employees and we are still in operation so could have been much worse.

Most security problems in Kenya seem to be a straight symptom of corruption, a much bigger problem. I am quite sure that reducing corruption would be most central to tackling security problems. I cannot even start to imagine a solution though seeing the scale of the monster in Kenya though… it’s very scary… but I find it a most interesting topic.

  1. You have practically traveled the whole world, Tell us a bit about that.

I have actually nearly not visited Asia, South America, Middle East, West Africa … there is still so much to see! I was born in the Alps in France and grew up in Paris mainly. Then I lived in the US with my family near Philadelphia for 3 years and moved back to France. Then I moved to Townsville in Australia as an aquarium diver and finished my Bachelor in Brisbane for 2 years after which I did a Masters in Tasmania. I then moved to Galway in Ireland and with Tom, my partner at Distant Relatives in Kilifi, and few other friends, we traveled from Ethiopia to Cape Town for a year overland. Then I lived and worked in Cape Town for while before coming to Kilifi.

Otherwise, I have travelled in Spain, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Belize, UK, Canada, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Mauritius, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Germany, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Réunion, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, most islands of Caribbean, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and just came back from Norway and Portugal.

The highlights? Uganda, Kenya, Corsica (French Island in the Mediterranean), New Zealand and Norway I would say!

Travel and adventures
Travel and adventures
  1. Tell us about the most bizarre travel incident you’ve ever experienced.

Hmmm… There’s a few… Perhaps this time when we were sleeping on the floor with friends on a street by the sea in Croatia waiting for a morning bus, when I woke up with my girlfriend to the sound of a waterfall right by my head. Turned out to be one of my best friends sleep walking who’d decided to urinate on our pile of backpacks! He went back to sleep as if nothing had happened. Haha, just couldn’t believe it really! We woke him up and he wouldn’t believe us either! Haha it was indeed … bizarre!

  1. Does your frequent travels help improve your business? If yes…tell us how.

Oh for sure… I need the perspective. It’s like oxygen to me, I die slowly otherwise. I need this fresh inspiration and this magical feeling of culture clash. I feel alive and thinking finally again, comparing two different worlds, meeting these radically different people, they fascinate me! Sometimes it’s a bit scary when you realize how many options and lifestyles there are out there in the world. But it allows me to better understand people. I come back full of fresh energy, lucidity and new ideas. Lucidity is very important to me, it makes life so much easier and pleasant for everyone.

 

  1. Does running Distant Relatives as an Eco lodge minimize your operational costs?

Hmm… I have wondered this. To some extent I am sure that yes it does, as we spend less water and hopefully less power than an equivalent hotel our size. We also up cycle and recycle everything we can. But we mainly have the same costs (salaries, taxes, purchases, maintenance, etc). To some extent also, as much as we can, everything is either home-made, eco-friendly and/or on a budget – and such things often require a lot of maintenance and that becomes expensive over time. But I am happy that we never gave up to less Eco-friendly solutions!

Eco friendly bathroom.
Eco friendly bathroom.
Rooms build from locally available materials.
Rooms built from locally available materials.

 

  1. Do you have plans to go for adventures in other counties within the country?

Sure! I am very keen to head back to the Mt Kenya region – hiking along the mountain rivers, lakes, and forests. Otherwise also very keen to go back further explore Kiwayu Archipelago and further up North towards Somalia. I have never been to Lake Turkana otherwise and hope to go there soon with Iolaus (http://www.iolaus.biz/), some awesome Kenyan fishing guides I can only most highly recommend!

  1. What is your favourite local meal?

Beef fry, chapati & mchicha? Or mandazi with mnazi maharagwe? Oh no! Grilled “Giriama Kwesa” (octopus) rolled around a stick above the fire! Kabisa!

  1. Does your business give you a feeling that you are constantly on holiday?

Hah! That’s what people think! Those who know me well know it’s really quite the opposite. I find it hard to feel on holiday at work… It’s a bit annoying but I imagine it’s every caring business owner’s problem!

  1. What projects are you currently working on?

All kinds really, an endless list! Right now we are planning all the details of our big event Kilifi New Year (https://www.facebook.com/events/504864269719570/). I am also working closely with Barefoot Solutions (http://www.barefootsoulutions.com/) on our soon upcoming Permaculture Design Course from 17th to 29th October (https://www.facebook.com/events/293687144314591/). Otherwise nothing very exciting – searching for a new silent generator, hiring new staff, learning how to use InDesign, trying to get through mountains of emails, plenty of marketing and new partnerships, accounting… It really feels like there is no end!

Permaculture Design Course
Permaculture Design Course.
  1. Are you a bathroom singer?

Haha! I am bathroom beatboxer! Honestly, the world’s much better off without me singing!

  1. What do you do when you are not running your business?

Often it’s sailing, but ideally? I try to go into the wild. To find the deep pure wild… with whom harmony feels like the ultimate fulfillment. I have only found it once, in northern Finland, 300km above the arctic circle, on a hike for a week with a friend… pure magic!

Sailing...
Sailing…
  1. How many pages does your passport have? How many times have you renewed it?

Not as many as you think! I had one page left on my last one before it expired. Recently I have actually become really good at losing passports which keeps them nice and stamp-free!

  1. Toughest business decision you’ve ever made.

I can’t remember any decision tougher than another… Maybe they’re all a bit tough? Signing the sales agreement for the property in 2012 was like signing-up for a monumental debt as well as being officially anchored and tied to Kilifi – that was scary. Thanks to George Gasston for the daily bear hugs I needed to be reassured!

  1. What are you reading now?

Haha – I am reading an awesome book “Mes Bateaux et Moi”… Actually quite sad to be finishing it tonight. It’s the autobiography of Eric Tabarly, a French sailor whom I have always admired, I have known his boats since I was a kid – he revolutionized the world of sailing between 1960 and 1998 when he sadly fell overboard in the Irish Sea and drowned. That guy never gave up, always pushed his limits beyond the imaginable, he had so much hope in the boats he designed, built and sailed, in his team and the new sailing techniques he was developing. He never had any money because his decisions and inventions were too radical, too revolutionary. But he beat every sailor of every nation at all the competitions he joined – solo around the world, transatlantics, you name it. He beat the best and the richest passing the finish line once 10 days before the second boat in the race. What he invented/ developed singlehandedly were some of the most central elements of modern sailing. He even built a trimaran that would lift itself above the water on foils, the “Hydroptere”, the world’s fastest sailing boat – it can sail faster than 100km/h… imagine! I love these stories of people that remind you to always believe in your dreams, never give up, and give it 200% of your energy! Don’t let anything discourage you. Forward!

'Mes Bateaux et Moi'
‘Mes Bateaux et Moi’     (Image courtesy:Internet)
  1. What is the worst client experience you’ve ever had?

Racist people? And violent people? But violent people are usually drunk and dumb. Racist people are just disgusting… I have a deep hatred for racism. Luckily we have only had two incidents in 5 years but that’s the worst for me.

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Good question… I’m not too sure exactly yet. I’d love to show people a bit of light on how backwards everything is in our world. From environmental issues to social acceptance. It feels like people are going blinder everyday. They’re all such basic simple things and they do have very simple solutions. I’d love to do something that goes far beyond running a business. Distant Relatives does go beyond that but I would love to be part of something a bit more meaningful, let’s see! I definitely want to live somewhere wild, with awesome people, and believe in our craziest dreams, however naïve or impossible!

 

19
Awesome people

 

lamu2-063bw
Awesome people.
  1. Favourite part of your current job?

Sitting in the garden after work, after the first rains, watch the plants take off, breathe and grow! Otherwise, in the lounge or garden, I love seeing the magic happen, when everyone mixes, gets along, people who didn’t know each other one hour ago – like distant relatives meeting for the first time! That’s always a real pleasure!

Distant Relatives
Distant Relatives.

 

Distant Relatives.
Distant Relatives.

 

  1. Who is the best in the world at what you do?

Woohoo! This is a great question! It’s a very easy one too. Her name is Kim Whitaker. She initially founded 33 South Backpackers (http://33southbackpackers.com/) and recently very successfully founded a mighty new project: a series of “All-Star Hotels” across Southern and Eastern Africa with 4 other clever and creative young entrepreneurs. Once in Cape Town (http://onceincapetown.co.za/) opened in 2013 and Once in Johannesburg (http://onceinjoburg.co.za) is opening November 15th this year. She won the Entrepreneur of the Year in South Africa in 2015! But beyond the awards and successes, she has this rare and rather unique blend of lucidity, creativity, boundless energy and simple logic that never quite ceases to amaze me! She’s a queen!

 

 

Well…There you have it! Don’t you feel like stopping over at Distant Relatives to say hi to this great guy!

Here are some beautiful pictures of Distant relatives and Romain…

Distant Relatives by the night.
Distant Relatives by night.

 

The inside of one of the bandas.
The inside of one of the bandas.

 

Gift shop.
Gift shop.

 

Oh you should taste the food from Distant Relatives!
Oh you should taste the every chef’s delight from Distant Relatives!

 

We are all Distant Relatives.
We are all Distant Relatives …aren’t we?

 

Romain the minister!
Romain the Minister!

 

I know who will officiate my wedding :-)
I know who will officiate my wedding 🙂

 

Check out Distant Relatives facebook for the biggest New year celebrations! you can't possibly miss out on that.
Check out Distant Relatives Facebook page for more details on  the biggest New year celebrations! You can’t possibly miss out on that.
Creek love!
Creek love!

NB: All photos used belong to Romain Mari.

 

With love…

Bonnita-logo-revised-350px

 

Open post
Golini Resort-Diani

Golini Resort-Diani

Diani in south coast Kenya is one of my favorite coastal destinations in East Africa. The long strip of white sandy beaches, clear blue sky, chilled weather, turquoise waters with small patches of sea weed here and there, the sound of sea waves crushing against the shore, not forgetting the humidity that gives a sauna feel makes the haven irresistible.

In Diani, everything is  stylish and elegant. Five star hotels, perfect infrastructure, stylish villas, international cuisines prepared by renowned chefs and world class water sports only to mention a few.

Standing majestically in the midst of all this magic is the chilled Swahili styled Golini Resort comprising of two cottages sitting on a two acre piece of land. The compound boasts of pedicured lawns, trimmed hedges, scented flowers, mature trees and a swimming pool. The resort is nothing short of beautiful.

Checking In:

Just as a home should be,warm clean and welcoming, the resort is all that and more. Graveled driveway, chlorophyllated grass, colourful flowers and an aura of comfort and calm.

The cottage.

compound2

The general plan has the master en suite, living room, well fitted kitchen, and a guest washroom  on the ground floor.

Master bedroom
Master bedroom.

 

 

kitchen 3
The Kitchen.

A personal chef is available on request. This makes for a perfect opportunity to sample coastal dishes and to maximize on that vacation feel when away from home.

 

sitting area
Living room.

Located between the Master bedroom and the living room is a stylish spiral staircase that leads to the other rooms upstairs.

Spiral staircase
Spiral staircase.

The rooms upstairs are nothing short of amazing, discreet and spacious. The snow white walls, huge bathroom and walk-in closet, large windows and a panoramic view of the compound  make the rooms upstairs standout.  This kind of set up is ideal for families with kids or  a small group of friends touring South Coast.

Bedroom one with two single beds.
Bedroom one with two single beds.

The other bedroom that has a single bed.

Upper bedrooms
Bedroom two with one single bed.

Bathroom and Closet…

bathroom 2
Bathroom with an excellent view of the compound and pool.

 

Clean tiles...
Clean tiled floors…

The other fabulous feature of this house that is impossible to ignore are the windows. Wide louvered windows  run from wall to wall ensuring natural light and fresh air in the house effortlessly.

Large windows
Large windows..

The front porch of the house opens up to a beautiful garden of flowers, trees and a pavement that leads to the swimming pool. Hanging delicately from the ceiling in the veranda is a unique hand crafted African lampshades that emphasizes the existing  sense of panache.

beauty
Front porch.

 

compound
Barbecue grill in the garden

 

butterfly
Colourful butterfly in the garden.

 

Peace and tranquility
Of shade and shadows.

 

The best part of Golini Resort is the fact that it located exactly two minutes from the sea front of Galu beach.What more could one be looking for in a coastal  holiday destination?

Diani
Galu Beach!

Golini Resort is available for both long and short stays. The property is also on sale.(If interested drop me an email at bonnita@aluochbonnita.com for more details ).

General info:

  • Golini Resort is approximately thirty kilometers from Mombasa island via Likoni Ferry.
  • It is adjacent to Ukunda town.
  • A small airstrip called Ukunda Airport connects travelers and tourist to Mombasa, JKIA-Nairobi and Wilson airport(Nairobi). The drive from the airport to Golini Resort is approximately twenty minutes.

Places to See:

Things to do:

  • Enjoy a fresh platter of seafood at Mvureni Fisherman restaurant right at the beach front of Galu Kinondo beach.
  • Go for a dhow safari, snorkel and  scuba dive. This can be arranged by operators who are easily available at the beach.
  • Kite surf, Windsurf, SUP, kayak and try many other water sports  at H2O extreme, Kenya’s biggest water sports center.
  • Go for sky diving at Skydive Diani. Best way to overcome acrophobia.

Recommendation: Pack your bags already!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open post

Meet Laura Lazzarino,The Argentinian Globe Trotter.

During my recent trip to the coast for my birthday, I had a unique opportunity to meet Laura. How we started off was simple, we were cooking up a storm with our new friends J and Ferdinand. Ferdinand was so curious about the octopus meal that everyone was so excited about. Ugali was also in the menu.Across the swimming pool at Distant Relatives rumours quickly spread that we were preparing octopus meal and ugali. Soon after our guest list swelled. Part of the guests was one Laura. As we got to know each other and shared our travel experiences, one of my friends called out my name to ask what amount of water was enough for our Ugali…Quickly Laura picked the name and asked with a lot of excitation, “Is this Bonita? Bonita on Safari?” She went ahead to say how she found the blog useful especially a blog post I wrote about Kilifi and Distant Relatives, as they say, the rest is history…

We caught up again during her stop over in Nairobi with her boyfriend Juan as they headed to Nyahururu and here is how our interview went  as she got to tell me more about herself and her travel experiences across the globe.

Me: Who is Laura?

Laura Lazzarino (31) is an Argentinian travel writer and the free spirit behind www.losviajesdenena.com; a personal travel blog which has been active online since the year 2008. My adventures across 50 countries has inspired a new generation of independent travelers. I am also  a National Geographic Viajes Magazine contributor and author of two travel books, including the best-selling Caminos Invisibles. Right now I am crossing Africa overland, from Cairo to Cape Town, looking for new stories to be featured in my next book.

Is this your first time in Kenya?

Yes!

Me:How does Kenya compare to your country? What are some of the similarities, and obvious differences?

L:Well…some landscapes remind me a lot of Argentina, but only for a moment. When a colorful bird or a giraffe appears in the picture, then I know I’m not home! Nature is overwhelming here, people and their traditions are different too. But I think we have something in common; we are friendly and we love visitors.

Me:How do you decide on the places you visit when you go to foreign countries?

L:We read a lot. We investigate, surf the web for hidden spots, plan an itinerary. But we are flexible too and always open to last-minute changes, or recommendations on the spot.

Me:How many countries have you visited so far?

L:Fifty, including Antarctica.

Me:How long have you been travelling for?

L:I started travelling eight years ago, but it was not full time. In 2010, I decided to make my passion my lifestyle. I’ve been traveling and writing ever since.

Me:How do you afford your travels?

L:Mostly, by selling my books online. In 2013, I self-published “Caminos Invisibles” a book about our 36,000Km  hitch-hiking trip through South America. After that, I published a Hitch-Hiking Guide to a Spanish publishing house and other projects. Also through collaborations with travel magazines like Revista Viajes de National Geographic.

Me:What inspires your travels?

L:Cultural differences,their challenges and new scenarios, I like how every travel changes me and the lessons I pick on the road.

Me:Did you plan to travel the world and write about it or it just happened by chance?

L:I never really planned it, but I would be lying if I  said I have never dreamt about it. I just did not think it was possible, at least for me…a simple girl from the countryside, with no contacts, no influences and no experience. It was not easy at first. I had to knock on so many doors, to learn a lot and work for free. But it was totally worthy it! I would have missed a lot if I never gave it (and myself) a chance!

Me:What are some of the highlights in your travels?

L:Before visiting Africa, sailing to Antarctica was one of the most intense experiences I have ever had. Now I have to say that watching free wildlife in Kenya and Tanzania is also something I will never forget. Hitchhiking in Iceland, getting lost in small Colombian villages in the Coffee Axis and looking for my great grandfather’s town in southern Italy would complete the list.

Me:Do you have any life lessons picked along the way?

L:One of the first times I hitch-hiked in Argentina, I met a truck driver who, after carefully listening to my story (I had just given up my job to start traveling and was so full of doubts) told me: “Never regret what you have chosen for your life”.

Me:Do you ever get homesick?

L:Who doesn’t? But tech has shortened distances, right?

Me:What is the longest you have stayed without going home to your family?

L:Fifteen (15) months. It was too much. Not only because of my family, but also for myself. I learnt that after one year of traveling, I lose interest. I get tired and I get to appreciate more a good kitchen and a hot home shower than a new adventure, landscape or story. This is when I go home to get the travel excitement back.

Me:Have you ever been in a situation abroad when you feel like your life is in danger? If yes, how did you overcome?

L:Not really, but I got robbed in Venezuela and was harassed in Egypt. It was not nice, of course, but I always keep in mind that those are random situations which can  even occur back home and that if I leave, then I will always have a bitter memory that might be unfair judgement to the people of that country. So I taught myself to get over it by taking time off,chilling out, not thinking about it and then go for that adventure again.

Me:What are some of the challenges you’ve gone through as a foreigner abroad?

L:I think that interacting with cultures where women take up most responsibilities in the society is always a shock. I can’t help but wonder why I, on the other side have so many opportunities and choices yet they don’t…if we were to be the same.The other Challenge is learning how not to judge,especially when you are confident with your principles.However, I think it is good practice.What we consider “normal” is just a convention. I have learnt to appreciate what I have more and also to question some statements that I have always considered to be true.

Me:What is in your bucket list?

L:I have a bucket list of over 50 items! Just to name some: Fly in a hot air balloon, participate in a flash move dance, camp in Lake Turkana, visit Christmas Island and  live in Colombia for a season.

Me:What are some of the things you’ve checked out of your bucket list?

L:Cutting my hair drastically (I even wrote a post about it, it was so empowering) and paragliding (so exciting)!

Me:Do you miss normal life?

L:Not at all. This is the best I could do with my life, the best decision I have ever made. I don’t regret it, not even in the bad moments of traveling, not even for a single minute.

Me:Airbnb or couch surfing?

L:Both. I like balance. Please add  camping to the list too!

Me:How do you balance life and travel?

Laura!

L:Traveling is my life…

Open post

Bofa Beach-The Most Underrated Beach at the Kenya Coast.

Last week was my birthday.

I took two weeks off my busy schedule to relax and rejuvenate. It was a tough choice to make between going to the Masai Mara for the great wildebeest migration and going down to the coast to enjoy a dose of vitamin sea.

Tough as it was, the thought of turquoise water, serenading sea song, sashaying palm trees, powder white sand, jewel blue sky and a silver nickel foamy horizon gave me all the valid reasons to book my next flight to the coast.

Allow me to introduce you to Bofa Beach in Kilifi.

I have never seen so much white sand in my life before. Strips of immaculate green palm trees doing their charismatic dance, coral reefs standing majestically at the beach front, jewel blue cloudless skies…I mean I could go on and on and on.

This is the first beach I have seen with no beach shacks, beach boys or crowds! I mean what more would you be looking for in a beach?

Sand...
Sand…
More sand...
More sand…
IMG_20160723_151535[1]
I see blue everywhere…
White,blue and more blue.
White,blue and more blue.
Bike at the beach too...
Bike at the beach too…
More reefs...
More reefs…
Immaculate palms trees...
Immaculate palms trees…
Peaceful beach walks with no interruptions.
Peaceful beach walks with no interruptions.
Sanddd!!
Sanddd!!

This is Bofa beach for you!

Have you heard of  Bofa beach before?

Have you been to Bofa beach?

Do you know of a beach that people haven’t heard of and is worth a mention?

Tell me about it.  Hit me up in the comment section! Let’s get talking!

 

 

 

 

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