The thing about travel that people don’t realize is that, its more than just about the money. It comes from the heart… that inner being always craving to explore new places… it’s a basic human need. I consistently have withdrawal symptoms when I don’t get to travel within a few months at a time, especially when I’m back home in Kenya. So why should it not happen in my own country? It would definitely be a cheaper expedition, right?
If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.
– Anthony Bourdain
This feature is particularly special because it takes me back to two years ago when I first discovered my love for wanderlusting. I was motivated by none other than Felix Laurens, whom I met through mutual friends, to go backpacking on the coast of Kenya.
I didn’t realize then, just how much I’d needed to do that, pack a bag and go on an incredible journey with KES20,000 ($200) in one hand, and sheer determination in the other. Watching individual travelers Naserian, theundefindeddreamer and Waithera Chrissy, and Soafricane showcasing our beautiful country, completely blew my mind. I just had to do it too, and thus the little explorer in me was born.
I’d obviously been to Mombasa multiple times, but never like this, not independently and definetly not on my own dime. In 2016 Felix and I took our hearts straight to Wasini Island, Diani and then Kilifi. I was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of it all, moreso how inexpensive it was.
Since I went backpacking again very recently, and because the experiences are somewhat different, I’ve divided this article into two parts (looks like this is becoming a thing), to give you a more detailed guide of North and South coast Kenya.
How to get there
We left Nairobi on a cold night, and the journey to Mombasa city was a very long one, about 9hrs by bus (Oxygen bus KES1200 ($12). Upon arrival, we had Mahamri for breakfast at a very small local cafe, then got on a very old matatu that took us straight to Shimoni. We were warmly welcomed by our host, Feisal at Shimoni, who helped us onto his boat “The Blue Whale”. It’s a 20 minute ride to Wasini island, where we planned to spend two nights.
Where to stay
Amina, Feisal’s wife, showed us to our lovely little cottage at Blue monkey cottages. It was KES2500 ($25) a night for the entire cottage (two big beds). It goes without saying that our accommodations were eco-friendly, so if you’re afraid of a cold shower and lots of friendly visitors (cats, monkeys and butterflies etc.) this isn’t for you. For more information and to make booking requests click here.
The property was by a cliff , and a vey tiny beach from where so we could view the incredible sunset and the crushing ocean waves. It was high tide so swimming in the ocean was definitely not an option, but they do have a tidal pool just for that exact purpose.
This dolphin watching tour was arranged by our hosts upon request, it cost us kshs 2600 each. We were up at the crack of dawn to go on our excursion. We first had to pay Kisite Mpunguti marine park fee 400kshs (for residents) at Shimoni before heading out into open sea.
We spotted a few dolphins along the way, which was very exciting! Unfortunately I didn’t capture any photos of the dolphins because I got too excited and completely forgot that cameras existed. It took us about an hour to get to a spectacular sandbank in the middle of the sea. I actually had no idea something like this existed in the coast of Kenya, and it was a good surprise.
Snorkeling goggles in hand, we set out to have some fun in the crystal clear blue waters. The sandbank and the shades of aqua looked like something plucked right out of a luxury travel magazine. It disappears at high tide (which usually comes in at about 12 am) so we had to head back to Wasini Island before the winds got too strong.
We had an amazing dinner at the cottage that Amina prepared for us, it cost about KES600 ($6) per person. We chose the octopus, green veges and coconut rice option. You can also order lobster for about KES800 ($8), affordable right?
Boardwalk and coral reefs.
Wasini island is known for having a beautiful boardwalk stretching across the vast exposed coral reefs. Its true beauty is revealed around 4pm, when the ocean water starts seeping back in. You can bet we stuck around to experience it, swam among the mangroves and then spent the evening chatting with a local fisherman. He explained to us that the boardwalk was constructed by the women of Wasini Island, and the small entrance fee is a donation that goes towards enhancing their welfare.
The local fisherman gave us a little tour of the other side of the island, explained to us that Wasini Island is inhabited by about 1000 people. More info about wasini island can be found here!
South Coast backpackers
Diani is North of Shimoni, about an hour long drive. First impression of Diani Backpackers is the gorgeous swimming pool and the poolside bandas equipped with really comfortable pillows and mattresses. The ambience was inviting to say the least. A bed in a dorm room costs upwards of KES1250 ($1.25) a night. They also have private rooms for a higher price but still quite affordable.
Diani beach was just across the property, about 5 mins walk. We were quick to make some friends and had a great time swimming in the ocean, drinking cold savanahs and dancing the night away at “Forty Thieves”.
The great thing I loved about Diani Backpackers was the sense of community created by fellow travelers and hosts, especially when we all went down to River Kongo to watch the sunset. Warm breeze, white sands, soft guitar music, laughter and cold beer was how we spent that wonderful evening.
Distant relatives – Kilifi’s ecolodge & backpackers.
When Felix told me we were heading to Kilifi, I hesitated a little bit. Reason being, I had never stepped foot in Kilifi, and I was really worried about finding budget friendly accomodation. He mentioned something about a hostel called “Distant Relatives”, at which point I shrugged my shoulders and got into the matatu. The moment we got there though, my mood changed for the better. The wonderful paintings on the wall, the eco-friendliness of the yard, even the bandas screamed “I love the environment!”
We checked in and got settled into a double bed safari tent (KES2500 ($25) a night). This was because the dorms were currently under renovation and the private banda was a bit above our price range (KES4000 ($40).
An eco-friendly hostel is great and really inspiring, but not for everyone. That being said, I will casually demonstrate why I love this place, and save the rest of the details for my next blog post!
If you ever want to experience swimming in warm calm water, glowing with planktons under a bright starry night, this is the place for you. Skinny dipping is not frowned upon.
Theres always something great around the corner to muse over, including the woman in the picture…
Enjoy this while sipping on dawa cocktails, thank me later.
Thats all for today guys! My next post will be about my most recent backpacking travel adventure to NorthCoast and a hidden paradise in Watamu, you don’t want to miss it!
Check out Waithera Chrissy’s brilliant blog post and advice on how to spend 24hrs in wasini island here.
Enjoy your week!