For once we find ourselves in the right place at the wrong time. After the weekend we visited 2 travel agents to try and arrange a quick fly-in break to the very traditional and un-spoilt Lamu Island. This is widely touted as the most authentic experience available of the traditional way of life on the ex-slaving Swahili coast with its Arabic influence and moslem traditions. There are not even any motor vehicles on the island. Unfortunately approaching this area north of Mombasa and Malindi by road is deemed unsafe at present because of the activities of the Al Shabab moslem extremists from Somalia. We will have to satisfy ourselves with Zanzibar, far more commercialized and overrun by tourists.
The flights from Nairobi stop first at Malindi on the coast, before hopping over to Lamu Island and then back to Nairobi. With the festive season upon us it appears that half of Kenya is heading for the coast, taking advantage of the low numbers of overseas tourists after the moslem extremist activity up the Kenyan coast. A couple of weeks earlier or later and we would have easily arranged such a trip. The budget flights with Jambo Airlines are booked up for a number of weeks and Kenya Airlines and Safari Link are less so, but extraordinarily expensive. A return flight would cost us just short of US$400 each (R6,000) and there are no longer any discounts being offered at either the highly regarded Peponi Hotel (KSh 26,000 for a double room per day, US$ 250) on Shelah Island or at any of the traditional “houses” that many use for such a stay. Many of these establishments, because it is peak season, only want to accept bookings of a minimum of a week at a time. We did not think it worthwhile having to hang around in Nairobi for a few more days and then having to go for a whole week. Our time is for once a little limited and unfortunately we are having to abandon our previous attitude of no time restrictions. We will just have to be satisfied with a slightly longer and perhaps more upmarket stay on Zanzibar. This is a pity as by all accounts un-spoilt Lamu offers a more authentic Swahili Coast experience. Some other time!
Slow Donkey is being serviced today by Chris at JJs and tomorrow we will set off for Amboseli National Park, then Tsavo, before moving to the Kenyan coast. Then we plan to cross into Tanzania using the Lunga-Lunga/Horo-Horo border post on the coast, which has recently been upgraded. We do have enough time in hand to explore these areas fairly well. After this it will be a case of heading straight home. I have previously visited Malawi and in any case Malawi and Northern Mozambique will make for a great future trip. We really cannot complain as we will have explored each of our main targeted countries in great detail, especially considering some not unexpected time consuming delays along the way. The roads less explored are now a fraction less so and the extra time taken to do these has been most rewarding. I hope our experiences and the info provided in this blog will help others to follow suit.
JJs is far busier now than during our first stay 2 months ago and this is good to see. It is German central. I am astounded how many people plan to avoid the National Parks because of the expense involved and because their main interests are cultural, very different priorities to our’s. It has been raining on a daily basis in Nairobi, exposing some leaks in the casing of our roof top tent and I have been busy with silicone sealant. Nairobi has become like a second home to us and we have been shopping, eating out and generally relaxing in familiar surroundings and in a society that is familiar and not all that different to that in South Africa. The biggest risk is the temptation of tarrying too long, an easy trap after so many months of enjoying and coping with the extremely unfamiliar. No Lamu visit is a blow but we will make the most of the rest of the Swahili Coast. Interestingly enough, after visiting Amboseli, Tsavo and the coastal National Parks, the total tally of parks or reserves visited by us on the whole trip will be just over 50. This is an astounding figure and this alone indicates to me that our careful trip planning, all the help we received from mentors and the expense have been an almost unqualified success. It is going to be an interesting exercise at the end of the trip deciding which parts of the journey were the greatest highlights and also which disappointed.