Continuing on my Kenya Coast Tour from Mombasa to Malindi, I headed north to the small town of Kilifi.
Mombasa to Malindi
I took a matatu and lucked out by getting the front passenger seat on the way from Mombasa to Malindi. It’s large enough to stow my bag comfortably across my lap as opposed to wedged straight up and down sitting tall against the front of my body, preventing me from seeing little beyond the intricate sewings of my bag. Some travellers recommend not sitting in the front as it’s a death wish should the matatu get in an accident, but I prefer the risk given the sites you otherwise would miss seeing squished in one of the back rows of this 14 passenger van often carrying as many as 25 people. Motorbike taxis (piki pikis) weaving in and out of traffic, women carrying impressive loads atop their heads, and men pushing carts overflowing with various crops or goods to sell at market, potentially many kilometres up the road.
Two hours later, the matatu drops me off on the side of the road from Mombasa to Malindi, next to a very modern-looking Tuskers supermarket, the first sign of development since leaving Mombasa beyond wooden structures held together with corrugated aluminium roofs. Tucked away about two km off the bumpy dirt road is Kilifi Eco-Lodge, a little oasis in comparison to the hustle and bustle of Mombasa.
Kilifi Eco-lodge was started in 2010 by two travellers, Tom and Romain’s who fell in love with the beauty of Kilifi and the friendliness of its people while on a trip exploring from Ethiopia to Cape Town, South Africa. After numerous visits back, they decided to create a place of gathering in this special place. First stepping on the grounds, one can see they’ve succeeded. The first room you’re introduced to is the open-air communal lobby hang out area, complete with a well-stocked bar, dining table, bean bag chairs and large comfortable couches. Gaze upon the immaculately clean fresh water pool or decide to go for a swim as it’s just steps outside the doors of this main lobby. Meander down the tree-lined path, past the clean, environmentally conscious composting outdoor toilets and sustainably built outdoor bamboo showers to the gate that ultimately leads you to a serene and private strip of beach along the Indian Ocean. Don’t be surprised if the two resident dogs decide to join you on your trip to the beach as you depart through the gate door, or mysteriously greet you on the beach, clearly having their own hidden route through the property’s fence.
Overall, Kilifi Eco-lodge offers a serene break from the high commotion that is often found when traveling in Kenya. Foreigners and Kenyans alike were soaking up this resort-like destination when I visited and I’m not surprised. With their recent construction of private bandas which weren’t yet built when I visited in April, 2013, Kilifi eco-lodge offers a wide variety of sleeping options, from camping for 500kSH to communal open-air banda dorms (built so sustainably there is a huge tree growing right through the middle of one) to numerous private room options which are at most 5000kSH during the high season. There is something for every type of traveler in every budget range. Personally, I stayed in the communal bandas during low season. For only about $10/night per person, I was safe and sound under a new bed net while feeling the benefits of being close to the outdoors, sleeping in the open-air banda with a huge tree growing through it. To date, this is possibly the most unique place I’ve ever slept in but feel free to explore the area for other accommodation options.
Beyond the diverse sleeping arrangements one could choose at Kilifi, excursions could be signed up for through the lodge as well. Activities like deep sea fishing or lessons for fly fishing, dhow sailing along the creek and reef, water-sports, village walks, a day on one of Kilifi’s endless white sand beaches, or a hike along the wild cliffs of Vuma, kayaking the Emerald Creek, diving with Kilifi’s dive club Buccaneers, or doing a traditional herbal medicine tours, are just a few opportunities visitors can sign up for.
When I visited Kilifi Eco-lodge, I was at least two weeks out on my month-long East Africa backpacking adventure. I was tired, recovering from the flu and took full advantage of the peaceful, serene setting complete with friendly resident dogs, hammocks hung between trees and the private beach. I didn’t take advantage of the excursions offered through the Lodge. The fact that they offer them, however, only make Kilifi Eco-Lodge more impressive.
The owners, Zimbabwean-born Tom and French-born Romain, have Msc’s in Community Development and Marine Biology and Natural Resource Management respectively. Together, they’ve created a serene coastal paradise you can feel good about staying at as a result of the positive impact the lodge has on the local community and environment through job creation and unique, conscientious construction and infrastructure that has minimal impact on the surrounding environment. They’ve done this so well, they’ve recently been awarded a Bronze eco-rating by EcoTourism Kenya. It’s a fine case of responsible tourism and one I hope locals and tourists combined will continue to keep discovering and enjoying.
Next stop from Kilifi, Malindi; a quiet shore town known as Little Italy, where Kenyan children jovially greet visitors with a Ciao just as much as Jambo.