Kilifi has always been my destination of choice every time I visit the Kenyan coast. This is because of its balanced feel of forest, beach,hidden treasures and rich cultural blend that all yearn to be explored.
Characterized by palatial beach houses that stand majestically on cliff tops overlooking the sea,powder white beaches, anchored yachts that sway lazily side by side to the tune of tides,super tall palm trees that line the beach line and dot the mainland,the Kilifi Creek to cheap street delicacies,affordable eateries,aggressive tuk tuk drivers to the most dramatic sunset in the East African coast!
Having been to Kilifi many times before and doing the same stuff, this time round I decided to try out a different host and see how my visit would turn out.
I set out for Kilifi from Mombasa at around 5:30pm. Despite a small snarl up at Nyali Bridge all the way to a place called VoK, the rest of the journey went as planned as I made my way through Mtwapa,Vipingo and finally Kilifi. By around 7:00pm, I arrived at Kilifi Maghreb; my host.
I was taken to my room by a pleasant lady who was keen to know how my trip was. When they opened the door, I was pleasantly surprised! From the balcony with potted exotic plants, to the interior of my self contained one-bed roomed apartment with modern finishing and expensive furniture. It was so refreshing.The smile on my face slowly came back despite the strong resistance from the day’s fatigue. It had been a long day. The lady left after showing me around. All I wanted to do then was settle in,have a long hot shower and get a good rest.
Shortly after, the door bell rang temporarily interrupting my train of thoughts and mental notes of how I was going to get the best of my stay in Kilifi.It was room service.Freshly blended mango juice and a warm smile, as I placed my order for dinner.
Sleep quickly kicked soon after I had dinner and a hot shower! The fatigue was real.
I had the most peaceful night and did not even notice it was morning already. My plan for the day was to take a walk to Kilifi creek, then later on spend the afternoon at Bofa beach, little did I know my host had other plans for me! An organized day trip to Kilifi and its environs. Well, that came in as a nice surprise. As always, I was more than ready to hit the road.
But first I had to to take quick shots of the hotel because I knew by the time we were to come back, it was going to be late in the evening.
Before long,I was ready to start my trip, found Shadrack;the cool guy from the hotel waiting for me in the van. The aroma of freshly prepared packed lunch got be salivating even before the delicious breakfast settled in my stomach.
We took off at around 9:30am towards Malindi and our first stop was Mida Creek Marine Reserve.
I have always wanted to go Mida Creek because apart from lovely photos of a boardwalk above a mangrove forest, I have never really known what goes on in there.
Just 6km south of the Gede junction on the Malindi-Mombasa road, lies this almost landlocked expanse of tidal water opening to the sea through a 500m wide channel. It covers an area of 32km2 consisting of muddy sand flats and deep water channels. UNESCO terms it as one of the most important mangrove system in the world.The number of organisms supported in the creek is unbelievable.
The famous boardwalk is run by an organization called ASSETS( Arabuko Sokoke School and Eco-Tourism Scheme) a community based organization, where all the proceeds go towards supporting bright students in the community access secondary education.
The cost of the boardwalk trip is Ksh 500 for a guide(they are very knowledgeable) and Kshs. 100 per adult. (Please note you can not go without the guide).
Apart from the boardwalk, there are many other fun things to do at the creek like enjoying a canoe ride,eat fresh sea food at the Mida creek restaurant, sip on Madafu, photography and finally buy handmade jewelry from the Giriama youth of the ASSET program.
Stop 2: Malindi Marine park
It is located about an hour away from Mida Creek is Malindi Marine park.It is said to be Africa’s oldest Marine parks and boasts of sea grass beds, mudflats, coral gardens in the lagoons, fringing reefs that houses marine mammals, turtles, colorful fishes and dolphins.
Top things to be done here is enjoying a glass bottomed boat ride that goes from Ksh 4,000 per boat. I am not sure how many people the boats can accommodate but I know I have rode in a similar boats with seven other friends before in Watamu Marine Park. It is during these boat rides that snorkeling fits in perfectly. Uniquely,this park is also ideal for camping.
There is no entrance fee, but other services within the park are charged.
Stop 3: Malindi town.
Being a lazy Sunday afternoon, nothing much was happening in this touristy town. A few motorbikes here and a handful of people coming from church. Shadrack was kind enough to show me the main streets all the way to the Malindi-Lamu road.
As he made a turn to start our trip back to Kilifi, Something else caught my eye.
I have always wanted one of those,but the price tags have been very discouraging. Anyway, I met Dimbalu, he is a Mozambican wood carver and from the Makonde tribe that was recently gazetted as the 43rd tribe of the people of Kenya.He told me he inherited the skill from his grandfather and father. I bought a wooden key holder and requested him to engrave my name…I wasn’t sure how it would go but lets just say, I placed an order for more than five items after seeing what he was capable of.
Our trip back to Kilifi was estimated to be around an hour.
The trip back was a quiet one. I absent mindedly asked Shadrack where the Ruins of Gedi were and whether they open on Sunday. Before I knew, it made our fourth stop.
Ruins of Gedi was what remained of a Swahili town located in Gedi. The mysterious thing about the town of Gedi is that unlike most Swahili old towns, there were almost no historical records that was made of this town. The ruins were discovered by British settlers who were clearing the forest where the town of Gedi was located at the beginning of the 20th century.
I had a special and interesting experience during the evening trip around the ruins. Maybe it was the curator’s extra ordinary ability to take me decades back or just my deep imagination of the place and how I imagined it to be. A vibrant Islamic town, with defined administrative structures. Streets,mosques, a palace, a court of law, deep wells of water, an inner wall that protected the rich and revered, as the poor and slaves lived in the peripheries of the outer wall.
There is no concrete evidence on what might have caused the collapse of Gedi but theories have it that it might be because of a plague that wiped out the entire population or the falling water table in the wells outside the great mosque or finally the Wazimba raid of the East African Coast in 1958.
Excavations by British explorer and a resident of Zanzibar; Sir John Kirk uncovered numerous artifacts, including beads,ceramics amongst others, which have been used to identify the type of economic activities that took place and also to try back date the towns occupation. The stone houses found in the ruins of Gedi were named after the different objects found during excavation. Many of the names given to the stone houses refer to the objects found within or in association with them including two Chinese coins, a porcelain bowl, scissors, a Venetian Bead, cowrie shells, an iron lamp, and an iron box.
The items have been preserved in a museum a few meter from the ruins.
There is a butterfly farm and a snake park in the same compound.However, I did not find them as intriguing as the Ruins of Gedi.
Shadrack promised that there was so much to Kilifi and we were not even half way done. Unfortunately darkness was creeping in fast and I had to rush back to Mombasa the same evening. I really wanted to stay back and enjoy Kilifi Maghreb for one more night…
I cant wait to head back to Kilifi Maghreb and compile Part two of Kilifi and its environs. If you happen to go to Kilifi before I do, Call Kilifi Maghreb on +254710791394,they have accommodation options that can fit into anyone’s budget(You can also carry your own tent at the fairest price in the area.)
Till the next post, enjoy your travels.
NB: I did not harm or kill any animal at Mida Creek for photography.