The Pressure of Getting it Right!

The Pressure of Getting it Right! An affordable multigenerational beach holiday in Kenya … As someone who’s lived in Kenya all her life, someone who’s worked in the African travel industry for 26 years, who’s company specialises in family travel it’s up to me to book all our holidays …. this time it’s somewhere for my extended family’s summer beach holiday, again … again The Pressure of Getting it Right … is On!

Daily, I see more and more people looking to travel on a teeny, tiny budget, but expecting perfection in return. Trust me, some of my family (you knwo who you are 😉 is absolutely no different, ‘Chania let’s all go somewhere gorgeous on the beach; we have USD1 per night … how lovely, we can’t wait for amazing food and a beautiful place, with a gorgeous swimming pool, on the beach’ ….. seriously😳!

So on a mission I went, again. One of the lovely little Hidden Gems we use for our clients on a tight budget came up trumps! They offered my rather extreme family a wonderful rate … Diani Blue here we come.

The adventure begun before we even reached the airport in Nairobi (to fly on the affordable Silverstone to Ukunda, Diani Beach). My parents reached the airport in good time; my sister, myself and the three kids didn’t. Traffic was in a gridlock and we were about to miss our flight. After calling the incredibly helpful and understanding Silverstone airline on numerous occasions, they informed us they couldn’t wait for us any longer, so we jumped out of the taxi; 2 adults, 3 kids, 100 suitcases, 200 beachbags, swimming noodles, hand boards, surf-boards, cuddly toys, beach hats, flippers and snorkles and we ran, along the main Nairobi road, we ran, we ran .. screaming kids, flipflips breaking, noodles flying away; what a sight it must have been, especially when the gridlock was released and all the traffic drove past us, including our taxi!

Anyhow, stiff from all the intense activity before our flight, we arrived to the caramel-warm air of Diani beach. Our rather characterful taxi met us and off we bumbled, a 5 minute drive to Diani Blue. 1st impression of the Blue is a beautiful forested and ponded area spotted with butterflies, sleeping monkeys, and beautiful tweeting birds skipping from branch to branch… pheow something for the bored and sweaty kids to do whilst we checked in! Then the view!!! The view through the Lamu doors on the most beautiful little swimming pool in the foreground and the aqua-seas in the background … yeay.

Diani Blue is indeed a charmingly small and exclusive (only 6 rooms) place lapped by the waters of the Indian Ocean; the love-child of a little boutique hotel and a relaxed barefoot beach-family who run it; the structure is elegance personified, the décor and atmosphere homey, relaxed and welcoming, located bang-on Diani Beach, which was recently voted the ‘Best Beach in Africa’ by the ‘Oscars’ of the travel industry: The 21st Annual Travel Awards.

We were shown our lovely little air-conditioned or fanned (the choice is yours) Swahili-style rooms, with lovely en-suite bathrooms (with showers) all overlooking the swimming pool; perfect, absolutely perfect! Kids leaping on the beds whilst you’re trying to find their swimming costumes, sun cream, hats etc. etc. and then we all leap in the pool…. That was it, we were at the beach, heaven!

Our 10 days at Diani Blue were filled properly bonding as a multi-generational family, my parents, my sister, her boy, our kids and me ….. time together, a true luxury.

  • We all sat chilling and chatting, bickering & winging 😉 by the pool whilst the kids screamed around it (sorry!);
  • We spent time walking along the gorgeous beach, making sandcastles, playing beach cricket … trying to provide enough entertainment to stop the youth from bickering;
  • Surfing the crazily huge waves on belly boards; my 78 year old father was in heaven … finally two grandsons to muck around with, not two sissy daughters! Mum got tumbled a few times too .. hilarious memories that will last forever;
  • We went on an Ngalawa, Diani Blue’s traditional dugout canoe, to the sand-reef to find shells and urchins, to snorkel, to play French cricket;
  • We had a little bumpy camel ride up the beach;
  • We went on a Glass Bottom boat with the legendary John, who loves having kids on board, and they love him .. he teaches them all about marine life, starfish, sea urchins etc. etc.;
  • We visited the Colobus Conservation Trust to show the kids what people do, the lengths they go to in order to conserve the wildlife around us; pretty impressive;
  • We went to a back-packer joint to see Bushbaby’s coming in for their evening meal of bananas.

We mainly ate delicious food at Diani Blue, the restaurant is called The Edge … delicious, simple and traditional crab, lobster, fish, fish & more fish, samosas, salads (I suggest the ginger crab, the feta samosas, the self-saucing chocolate pudding … oh and the fish fingers for the kids) .. the menu was amazing, we could eat when we wanted, overlooking the beach and lapping seas and it was so damn reasonable! The only advise I give, is to order an hour before you need to eat, to avoid tears from hungry tummies.  We also went out for some deliciousness:

  • We treated ourselves for my sisters birthday at the Sails Beach Bar & Restaurant – Our personal favourite for a special occasion. Located on the beach front within Almanara Boutique Hotel & Villas, the modernization of the sweeping sails and curving beams create an ambience unparalleled on the east coast of Africa. The waiting staff are professional, kind and friendly, the ambience is friendly. As well as delicious, delumptios and heavenly fresh seafood, a selection of meat, salads and scrumptious treats for those with a sweet tooth… as well as being child friendly!!
  • We went to The Sands at Nomad Beach Bar a few times,  a wonderful beach bar, on the white sands of Diani Beach which wonderful pizzas, great Japanese, other seafood and non-seafood choices and a great ice-cream bar. Super Child friendly with a lovely little natural play area for all ages .. huge Connect 4, huge Tumbledown etc. loved this.
  • We went to Piri Piries Bar & Restaurant – a really lovely little café, restaurant and bar, very popular with Diani expat residents. Their menu is wonderful, serving seafood specialities, delicious meat dishes, vegetarian options, I loved the ploughmans and the huge selection of salads! They also offer amazing coffees and cocktails. Plus they had a great little playground for littlies.
  • We even went to the Colobus Shade – is a proper local restaurant owned by some Diani fisherman… get brave!🐙 There is nothing fancy or chic, but a great experience. It is reasonable and the fish platter or the plain fish, calamari and crab is fresh & delicious!

What a time … what special, precious time. We loved our relaxing stay at Diani Blue, we had a perfect time. The food amazing, the service slow .. but once Coastitus sets in, you don’t notice. 

For value for money, you simply can’t beat it! Even if it may not have been as fun for them as it was us (Zia may have discovered some scissors … and a mosquito net and a bed-sheet and decided to see how they all worked together!!! The guilt to this day is unbearable, especially as they still haven’t sent me a bill! Sorry Diani Blue .. again!! I am waiting.

The guilt is still there, but I do believe Diani Blue & I pulled it off. It’s an awesome little place, a perfect place to bond with your family, it suits all generations and it doesnt empty your bank account. We had amazing food and a beautiful place, with a gorgeous swimming pool, on the beach ….. seriously!

Practicalities:
Diani Blue – Is a personal, relaxed little beach place …. rather more an AirBnB than a lodge, but with the luxury of a beach-side restaurant at your fingertips.
Diani Beach – Recently voted the ‘Best Beach in Africa’ by the ‘Oscars’ of the travel industry: The 21st Annual Travel Awards. A flawless, long stretch of white-sand beach hugged by lush forest and kissed by surfable waves, it’s no wonder Diani Beach is so popular. This town/stretch of beach scores points with a diverse crowd: party people, families, honeymooners, backpackers and water-sports enthusiasts. Only one warning here, beware of high, high season as the beach can become a little busy.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids, and grandparents – If you like to spend time with your kids, rather than palming them off onto a kids club; do it, it will be the best bonding experience, you can chill by the pool or do all the fun activities we did .. and they cater for kids perfectly here.
For those who live in East Africa – go as a family or get a couple of families together to fill up the place (6 rooms only) and GO!!! You’ll have an incredible time…. and their resident rates are appealing!
Weather – of course it depends on when you travel, but generally warm days and warm nights with a gorgeous sea-breeze … delicious.
What to Pack? – High SPF sun cream, hats, swimmers and light clothes to go for your excursions (respecting the coastal Arabic society)….. If you can why not squeeze in the odd body board?
Price – Between USD85 and USD115 per person per night, Bed & Breakfast. Contact us to book!
My advise – People go on holiday for very many different reasons, if you are looking to spend quality family time, relaxing but with something rather fun to do each day, please do come here!

Real Culture, Real Wilderness, Real Kenya … & kids love it!

Real Culture, Real Wilderness, Real Kenya … & kids love it! Lentorre is my new favourite cultural find…. shhhhh don’t tell anyone ;o)

I am constantly asked ‘where’s your favourite place in Kenya?’. Honestly I simply can’t choose one .. or two .. or even five; there are so many incredible places suited to every different dynamic of person or group … but my new favourite cultural experience for my little family, is indeed Lentorre.

Receiving an invitation to visit Lentorre, with my family, at the end of a long summer holiday all seemed a little hectic to me, we were shattered and we simply didn’t know what to expect; the website was not completed, they didn’t have professional photos yet and I just didn’t know what to expect … but not wanting to appear rude …. we jumped in the car and went on our merry way, covered with smilie faces.

My travel and tourism career started 25 years ago co-managing the incredible Rusinga Island Camp on Lake Victoria (another incredible experience full of happy memories), but my marketing-tourism career begun at Shompole, just next to Lentorre, so driving here welled up incredible emotions for me of happiness and pride … after 15 years or so, it’s great to be back!

What an incredible drive it is, from Nairobi through the Great Rift Valley, over flamingo-covered Lake Magadi and through the Maasai & cattle dotted lands to the incredible Olkirimatian Conservancy where our incredible experience begun.

We spent two incredible nights here and boy oh boy, what an awesome time we had.

The lodge itself is truly delicious in a hundred different ways. It is indeed attractive in a perfectly Kenyan way, each room enormously spacious, light in colour and a truly wonderful atmosphere. Our bedroom is the same size as my entire home (bigger actually) with our very own baths (yes baths with an s!!), a view of a highly popular watering hole in the foreground and Mt. Shompole in the distance and our very own swimming pool. We had landed in heaven.

The food is unique, healthy and delicious …. coconut and avocado soup, heavenly home-made chocolate ice-cream, yummy home-made juices …. mmmmm, really yummy.

Then it came to the activities … I am so, so excited to tell you about these!! Anyone interested in experiencing real, un-spoilt, un-ruined Maasai culture, this is it! Lentorre is a community lodge, each and every member of staff here comes from the local area, so you simply spend your time here doing what they have been doing all their life …. as well as some wonderful game drives of course; oh and an amazing swimming pool … plus one in each room; and an amazing sundowner (clinking and clanking glasses to celebrate the end of another wonderful day) and a bush breakfast (having a delicious picnic breakfast to celebrate the beginning of another wonderful day), so basically you do everything amazing that you have ever wanted to do on a cultural safari. Over our 36 hours we:

  • went for a glorious walk through the arid lands of Olkirimatian with incredible guides who are simply amazing with kids (another ‘best-ever’ experience!), who kept the kids interested throughout, even if they did have to carry them for much of the way.
  • went fishing for cat-fish in the neighbouring river.
  • cooked the fish we caught, traditionally, on the banks of the river.
  • bow & arrow lessons
  • herded the cattle into their boma for the night
  • milked the cows (or viewed it to be exact)
  • chatted to the wonderful Maasai family members and played with the kids
  • went on the best night drive I have even been on in my 40+ years in Kenya … where, as well as the usual fabulous Kenyan wildlife, roaming free, we also saw all these amazing nocturnal animals – 6 genet, 1 wild cat, 1 spotted hyena, 4 bat-eared foxes, a honey badger, … and a leopard drinking from out waterhole when we got back to our room!!!!!

What an experience for all of us. What surprised me most on this wonderful safari was how I found myself pondering in a Maasai Manyatta (homesteads made from mud) … that rather than feeling pity for this family being ‘less fortunate’ than I, I was wishing I lived their life. They’re happy, truly happy; they live an incredibly happy family-friendly lifestyle, all together, they chat a lot, cook together, milk the cows together, play together; they told me they don’t get stressed or worry about anything, except when there is a drought .. and even now they cant really change anything. I wondered what happened to us ‘educated’ folk. Why have we ruined our wonderful family units?  Why do we have to answer emails within 2 seconds of them being sent? Why do we have to keep up our social media posts? Why do we have to watch the news?  Why do we have to chose the right hue of Farrow & Ball paints for our kitchen? Why? Why? Why?

Practicalities:
Lentorre – Will forever remind me of a truly uplifting cultural experience, kids swimming for hours in our room … and I’m dreaming of their food right now!
Olkirimatian Conservancy – Deep in the heart of the Great Rift Valley, beyond the volcanic lunar landscape surrounding the soda lakes of Magadi and Natron, lies this oasis. Fed by crystal clear springs running off the South Loita and Nguruman escarpments, Lentorre provides the perfect spot to relax and soak in the wonders of a wild and untouched Africa.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – Do it, it will be the best cultural experience your kids will ever experience .. and they LOVE kids here, they cater for kids perfectly!
For those who live in East Africa – get a couple of families together and GO!!! You’ll have an incredible time…. and their resident rates are appealing!
Weather – warm days and warm nights … delicious … no need to wear jumpers even on night game drives.
What to Pack? – A good camera and binoculars, high SPF sun cream, hats… and clothes for a lovely warm environment (shorts and a t-shirt).
Price – USD860 per person per night which includes it all; all your meals, all your drinks (apart from champers), your game drives, walks, bush meals, amazing guiding etc. you will just need to pay extra for the boma visits … which all goes to the boma. Contact Lilian to book!
My advise – People go on holiday for very many different reasons, if you are looking to experience incredible culture, please do come here!

The Real Thing, A Safari at Offbeat Mara, Kenya

What are you looking for in a safari? I’m looking for The Real Thing! A safari, staying at Offbeat Mara; a real tented camp on an outstandingly beautiful, private conservancy bordering The Masai Mara Reserve, where kids … and adults can be kids. This ticks my boxes!

What do you mean by the ‘Real Thing’ you ask? and what boxes? Do let me explain:

  1. The Place – The Masai Mara reserve in the most incredible wildlife spectacle in the world, which sadly means at some times of the year it’s hotter than Oxford Circus/5th Avenue on a Saturday afternoon. Offbeat Mara is situated within the 74,000 acre Mara North Conservancy which borders the Masai Mara reserve; the scenery, the animals and the culture is all the same; the area is full of wildlife yet open to a few member camps only and has a strict policy on game viewing etiquette… loads of game, no lodges on every corner, no bustling within cars to see animals.  For these reasons you get a properly exclusive wildlife experience that is otherwise becoming impossible to find … for those looking to experience the migration in the heart of the reserve; crack on, you can dip in and out of the circus to your hearts desire.
  2. The Camp – a small, traditional safari camp, with only seven tented rooms, Offbeat Mara is a simple, cosy, private homely feel (in the good way that the English use, not the American version!) in the bush. Each tent is en suite with flush loos and traditional hot safari showers, privately scattered within the beautiful riverine forest encouraging privacy and offering a gorgeous view. The heart of the camp is a simple main ‘mess’ tent, on wooden decking, which has a sitting room , dining room and bar/library area.
  3. The People – well, in my opinion this is exactly what the Masai Mara is all about. The wildlife is here, there and everywhere, the scenery is mind boggling, it’s a great guide that make The Mara a trip of a lifetime or not … and Offbeat have good guides, of yes they do! Kind, caring, thoughtful, amusing and dam they know their stuff!
  4. The Experience – your 1st game drive in Africa makes tears come to your eyes, wild animals living in their natural habitat, happily roaming around the Savannah, the incredible views that await you around every corner, the beautiful Maasai people living at one with nature, striding across the African plains …. you don’t want 3 days of only game drives though, nope you don’t. By then the kids are screaming for their IPads and if you see another lion, you’re going to scream (us humans are weird) …. what you wanna do is:
    1. Walk, get out on that African soil with your own feet, see nature, real nature with your own eyes. Learn about the little stuff, the bugs and beetles, the grasses and what poo belongs to who .. why not?
    2. A surprise bush dinner party, under the stars.
    3. A sundowner. Not a lot beats a Kenyan sundowner; set up under a lone acacia tree, overlooking miles and miles of Bloody Africa with a G&T in hand.
    4. Go and see how the Maasai people live. It’s bright, cheerful, interesting … and quite shocking … it will stop you complaining about how your new Farrow & Ball paint which doesn’t quite match the Racing Car green on your chaise longues .. for a while.
    5. Hell, why not hop on a hot air balloon for the morning … this is how to see the Mara, the peace, quiet of floating above the best wildlife spactacle on earth.

My little family are so very lucky. We stayed at Offbeat Mara, with 3 other families, all with small kids, for a long weekend. I simply cannot express what an incredible time we had. We stayed in an amazing little double tent, a family tent; the camp is indestructible so you’re not on the edge, terrified that your mini-terrorist is about to break the family crystal; the food was absolutely delicious, the G&T’s better; there was always something amazing to do, something amazing for the kids and adults .. walks, sundowners, picnics, nature walks, game drives … we literally couldnt fit in everything; the Offbeat team are out of this world with the adults, and kids .. and the best part is once the kids go to bed, a friendly Maasai guard sits on your tent verandah watching over sleeping beauty … whilst you can have a scream with your friends not far away.

Practicalities:
Offbeat Mara – Will forever remind me of a natural, happy, homely time, spent with family, and friends. A simple tented camp, with everything you should want.
Mara North Conservancy, The Maasai Mara – as I mentioned above, this is literally the best place to stay when visiting the Masai Mara, especially over the annual wildebeest migration, it gets you away from the crowds, but in the action.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – Do it, stay at Offbeat Mara. It’s simple, comfortable and offers them a ‘real’ safari experience, but with all the comforts you need.
For those who live in East Africa – get a couple of families together and GO!!! You’ll have a scream.
Weather – warm days and a little bit chilly nights.
What to Pack? – A good camera and binoculars. Layers … jeans and a warm jumper / jacket for the evening and early mornings and shorts and a t-shirt for the day. High SPF sun cream, hats.
Price – From USD460 per person per night which includes it all; all your meals, all your drinks (apart from champers), your game drives, walks, bush meals, amazing guiding etc. etc. BUT they have a tonne of amazing special offers for honeymooners, families, groups, early bird bookings etc. you can get this price down by 25%!! Contact Lilian to make the most of these!
My advise – People go on holiday for very many different reasons, if you are looking to experience safari how it always was, but with all the luxuries you need, Offbeat Mara will suit you perfectly.

A Proper Kenyan Safari, with Old Friends, and their families

Need a little pick-me-up? An adventure? A change of pace? Raucous laughter? Easy, rally together your oldest friends and COME … come on a proper Kenyan safari, with old friends, and their families. 

I have just been lucky enough to go on a Proper Kenyan Safari, with my Old University Housemates … and their families. Did we LAUGH? That’s an understatement. Did the 7 kids love it? Oh yes!

In 1997, three cocky youths left some ‘sort-of’ an university in Cardiff, Wales to tackle the world as it was; 21 years later, one in Australia, one in the UK and one in Kenya; we, for some reason, decided the time was right for a New Year safari … together … with our families (age 3 to 13). Apart from a couple of weddings, we had not been together for all this time, why, and how, on earth would it work?

We started our adventure at Muthaiga Country Club for a celebratory evening ;o) in Nairobi, before heading north on a rather  … hmmmm, how would you say it … adventurous journey …. in our 4×4’s to El Karama Lodge, Laikipia.

A gorgeously rustic little family-owned, family-run six-bedroom eco-lodge on a 4,800 hectare private wildlife ranch just north of Mt. Kenya, the characterful El Karama is steeped in family history and truly supports the community and the environment, thoroughly. Our time at El Karama was incredible, indeed it is an incredible place to stay. Richard said he felt like he was ‘on safari at a ski-chalet’ , I rather like that explanation .. super-fun-filled days with food and drinks produced at all the most important times.  We spent our time on game drives seeing an incredible amount of wildlife (hippos wallowing, lion on a kill, a tiny baby giraffe, a family of hyena, jackals on the hunt,  the rare Gerenuk, the endangered Grevy’s zebra … the list continues), line fishing for the young boys, putting the world to right by the swimming pool, swimming in the gorgeous swimming pool, visiting the dairy and the humongous organic fruit and veggie garden, enjoying Tusker-time (and kids picnic supper) under an acacia tree overlooking miles and miles of Laikipia …. and of course snuggled up by the roaring fire at night telling the same old stories, hell we hadn’t heard them for 20 years, a lot of catching up was to be done!

Onwards & upwards, it was time to explore elsewhere, on with another character-building journey and this time it was on to one of the Great Rift Valley lakes, Lake Baringo. Yes, we made the decision to stay at Island Camp on Lake Baringo for our New Years Eve celebrations … and what a change of pace that was. A lovely little tented lodge on an island in the middle of this incredibly peaceful lake (no jet skiis, no power boats …. just hippos and crocodiles!!). Time here was spent by the pool, on the boat looking at the hippos, crocodiles, the incredible bird life and the interesting culture around the lake; Hmmmmm …. and quite strangely deciding to waterski, wake board, biscuit and donut in amongst it all … the kids were in heaven, the adults thought they were kids again …. and 2018 was introduced, in style.

Our final destination of this adventure was the Maasai Mara, of course. The best place in the world to see The BIG 5.  After the most adventurous journey of all (yup a little bit of getting stuck!) … we arrived at none other than the truly gorgeous House in the Wild. One of our group had a tear dropping down her cheek as we walked in, she said it was ‘just so incredible and beautiful and we are all so lucky to stay here’, well this was just the beginning; the people, the food, the experiences, it literally knocked our socks off! House in the Wild is a private home on the banks of the Mara river, tucked away on a 1000 acre private estate, Naretoi, on the edge of the Maasai Mara.  A little 6-room lodge with a casual and laid back atmosphere, away from the crowds, we settled into another four days of incredible safari entertainment with the best food I’ve ever experienced on safari. We danced with Maasai,  we swam in the pool, watched a pod of hippo in the river, saw squillions of incredible wildlife (lion, cheetah, rhino, elephant, hippo, crocs, buffalo, so many gazelles, antelopes, wildebeest etc.), had a ‘sundowner under an acacia tree’, played hilarious card games into the night ….. and we walked with the rhino, oh we did!!!!!! Did we see the Big 5 … of course we didn’t, we had far too many noisy children, but we saw four out of five and had the time of our lives.

What incredible men those two cocky youths have turned into; amusing, kind, generous, successful and adventurous. What truly exceptional wives they managed to find themselves (pheow) … and truly impressive children who, completely out of their comfort zones, couldn’t have been more fun, interested or better company, maybe Cardiff ‘not-quite-good-enough-to-be-a-university’ wasn’t so bad after all!!!

Cheers to friendship; cheers to 2018.
(To book a proper Kenyan safari, with old friends, and their families, contact The SAFARI Company )

Family Summer in the English Countryside

I know this is a ‘safari’ blog, but anyone who rates a safari as a perfect holiday, I’m sure will appreciate some tips on a lovely outdoorsy Family Summer in the English Countryside.

Living in Kenya, my sister & I decided to take the three ankle-biters to the UK for a Family Summer in the English Countryside. Slightly dreading the prospect, it turned out to be a roaring success and here is why … Nope we didn’t go the Legoland and Peppapig World route, we rather went the more natural route and we had a blast. Go on, do it, next summer … It’s not extortionate and just so much fun!

We based ourselves for much of the time at the most delicious Duck Cottage – Oxenwood, A perfect little ‘rustic meets luxury’ little guest cottage with two delicious bedrooms, ideal for those of us stupid enough to travel with over-energetic young children. Nestled in the midst of the delumptious Wiltshire hills so very close to Heathrow as well as the market town of Marlborough, the quaint Hungerford, Highclere Castle and the child-heaven Cobbs Farm … in my opinion, a little day trip to Birdworld is also worth it.

We never went to Bowood House & Gardens, Tractor Ted or Winchester Science centre .. oh we will next summer though.

On the days you need to chill, you can feast on the fresh eggs for breakfast, the kids can charge around the wee farm playing with Pixie the pony, Nelly & Nora the piggies or the waddling ducks or you can all stride out for glorious walks and rural adventures in the surrounding countryside .. gosh Tors, the gorgeous owner even brought out a water-slide one day! At the end of the day, there’s a lovely little kitchen where you can cook your supper, a little fire outside to sit by before you climb into the finest French bedlinen at night.

Pssst. In London, we loved the Aquarium, the London Eye (well one person did!), Gifford Circus was an incredibly enjoyable outing, feeding the swans on the Serpentine, the duckbus, a picnic next to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, all good, wholesome wildlife, wilderness, outdoorsy stuff.

Practicalities:

Duck Cottage – Oxenwood – The very best little 2-bedroom, 1 bathroom cottage for a family to stay in, if you’re looking for countryside. It is owned by the gorgeous and super-fun Tors who is the hostess with the mostess. Tors lives in the main house on the same land, with her husband Tom and 3 kids (about 6,9,11). We will be back.
The Marlborough area – As long as you have a car, the world is your oyster, lovely little villages nearby ideal for shopping trips, great activities for kids, lovely outdoor pubs .. or larger cities like Reading for some serious retail therapy!
For those travelling with kids – If you’re looking for somewhere cozy and lovely to stay with space, this is ideal.
For those who live in East Africa – this is a perfect summer holiday.
Weather – This is England .. who knows?
What to Pack? – As little as possible to allow for some serious retail therapy.
Price – One bedroom £90.00 per night including continental breakfast. Two bedrooms £140.00 per night including continental breakfast. Rates for longer stays are indeed greatly reduced – please contact us directly to discuss your requirements.
My advise – As long as you have a car, this is a lovely little place to stay on your summer holiday …. or in the winter for that matter!

 

De-stress, Unwind & Reconnect at Almanara … and breathe!

De-stress • Unwind • Re-connect • Breathe … with your family, without breaking the bank?! It does exist. Yup, a glorious week, or two ;o) at #Almanara Luxury Villas on #DianiBeach in #Kenya is the ideal place to chill, play & laugh. Your own private villa with your very own chef, butler and maid, the most delicious food in the world, a kiddy-friendly swimming pool and the worlds most beautiful beach  ... and breathe. 

Why do we do it to ourselves? We get into such a pickle … over life … high expectations and over-commitment at work, looking after our homes (& building a new one in our case), organizing special occasions for loved ones, doing a blog (!!),  grocery shopping, school runs, trying to spend time with a couple of little people … oh did I mention trying to put on matching shoes?

OK so, our wonderful travel company The SAFARI Company has taken off into orbit this year. Along with being completely thankful for this miracle, my levels of stress were floating dangerously around orbit too … until the sweetest email was ever received ‘would I like to stay at Almanara Luxury Villas with my family?’. Somebody stop me!

A short hop from Nairobi on the lovely Safarilink airline …. Driving up to the the entrance to our very own villa (about a millisecond from the nearest airport, Ukunda), set among the most beautiful, tropical trees and shrubs and being greeted with the ‘smiliest’ faces you did ever see, a delicious swimming pool winking at us and a beach so white, a sea so turquoise … I wanted to cry with joy.

As soon as we were introduced to our most delicious, spacious & cool villa, our delightful team and once we placed our order (yup, whatever we wanted … in the world!!!) for supper, we couldn’t have reached that beach fast enough. I forgot beaches & seas of this colour actually existed outside the world of photoshop. As soon as we hunkered down for some serious sandcastle building, the Almanara beach attendant brought us a box of beach toys for the kids and some freshly squeezed juice; hell he even offered to play with them if I wanted to relax on a beach bed … I had landed in heaven.

Three days of wave diving in the warm seas, sandcastle building, crab racing, walks on the snow-white beach, shell spotting, swimming in the pool, chilling in the sun, eating, eating and a little more eating, I thought life couldn’t get better … when the in-house reflexologist popped over to our house and offered for the services of the maid to look after the kids whilst I had a head massage and some reflexology. Back in heaven.

I feel it is only right to expand on the food as this is such a crucial part of ones enjoyment at Almanara. Honestly some of the best food I have ever had .. ginger crab, delicious salads, grilled lobster, vongole, oysters, crispy seaweed, freshly caught fish, fish & chips followed by mouth watering home made coconut ice cream … either in our villa or the glorious Sails restaurant overlooking the beach … ah yes and were you wondering what the kids ordered when offered anything in the world .. pizza … and pasta! Definitely messed up on their upbringing.

Practicalities:


Almanara Luxury Villas – Will forever remind me of being able to unwind and recoup, even in the possession of two toddlers. The location is out of this world; the concept is excellent so a family can enjoy their time without feeling guilty when disturbing others. The owners and management are absolutely charming; the staff are kind, professional and excellent… and you can actually 100% relax. We will be back.
NB. There is also Almanara Boutique Hotel … which is a beautiful boutique hotel in between the villas and the beach, this is for those who would like to have a perfect beach holiday without kids … magnificent and highly recommended.
Diani beach – Diani beach just cant help itself when it comes to winning ‘best beach in the world’ awards, it is a beautiful, wide, long white beach with beautiful shells and turquoise seas … this little part of it is even better than that.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – Do it, stay at Almanara Luxury Villas at the end of your safari, so that you can get back home refreshed and ready to tackle the world.
For those who live in East Africa – get a couple of families together and GO!!! You’ll have a scream.
Weather – It’s beautifully warm just about all of the time.
What to Pack? – High SPF sun cream, hats, swimming costumes, sarong/Kikoy and light clothes for the day. Mossi repellent, long trousers, skirts and shirts for the evenings… and light pijamas.
Price – From USD310 per person per night!!! Complete bargain. This includes just about everything!! Full board accommodation, yes, your gorgeous private villa, all your delicious food; soft drinks, beer, house wine; your personal staff. It even includes luxury airport transfers and chauffeur services in the Diani area.
My advise – People go on holiday for very many different reasons, if you are looking to spend some valuable family time on a beautiful beach, with yummy food, these villas will suit you perfectly.
Or if you would like to stay in a calm boutique hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean, with no screaming kids, stay at the hotel.

 

A Family Safari to A Little Known Gem in the Masai Mara, Entumoto Safari Camp.

A Family Safari to a Little Known Gem in the Masai Mara, Entumoto Safari Camp – Excellent location √, on a conservation area √, beautifully spacious tents √, comfiest beds √, magnificent view √, swimming pool √, great sundowners / kids suppers √, incredible gamedrives √, homegrown veggie garden √ … catch my drift?

In all honesty I was hesitant about going back to Entumoto after falling in love with it 6 years previously; in all honesty it was looking a little tired initially … but no longer, Entumoto Safari Camp has had a facelift, oh yes it has. It’s looking as handsome as it was the last time I visited 6 years ago.

The drive to Entumoto is an easy one, if a tiny bit bumpy. It’s located near enough to Sekenani gate, so it’s very easy to find. The location … Location, location, location, is marvelous … it’s elevated in the hills of a private and secluded escarpment just on the border of the legendary Masai Mara reserve with breathtaking views over the Mara plains. It’s far enough away to get away from the sights & sounds of the rather unruly reserve gate environment as well as the rather hustly bustly migration-season in July and August, but close enough to get to all the incredible action in only 1/2 an hours drive, more or less.

Entumoto Safari Camp is a partnership between a charming Maasai and an equally charming Swedish family (with new Spanish partners coming on board I understand). It has only 10 tented rooms. 4 truly beautiful family tents, each consist of two en-suite bedrooms, either side of a central sitting room with a roaring fireplace…. perfect for families! They also have 5  en-suite double/ twin tents, perfect for couples. All of these rooms have an elevated verandah overlooking ‘The Mara!’.

With regards to our activities, the game drives really are exceptional, hence super-fun for kids. Just five minutes drive from the camp there is a swamp that is full of animals and birds at all times, plus the reserve a further 15 minutes away. Of course being on a conservancy, night drives are also possible … truly thrilling for little ones. We went on a wonderful and interesting bush walk, a great time to learn about animal spoor and droppings .. mmm. Their breakfasts under an acacia tree are lovely and their sundowner / kids supper was exceptional!!! That view will stay with me for as long as I live! We didn’t do the cultural visits but they are available as are a scenic flight in a Cessna aircraft, a day trip to Lake Victoria and hot air balloon trips.

In brief, after it’s facelift, Entumoto is a great place to visit with kids as its so very close to the wildlife action, it has a swimming pool and the family rooms are perfect!

Practicalities

Entumoto Safari Camp – A handsome, though not extravagant tented camp in a super location .. so close, yet far enough from the Mara Reserve.
Masai Mara, Kenya – The Masai Mara is the premier game viewing reserve in the world. Quite simply nowhere else compares for wildlife viewing!
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – This is a great place to visit on a Kenyan safari or for a weekend if you live in Kenya with kids, though I would not suggest travelling here with crawlers as there are long distances to walk between rooms and there are large drops! You will see tonnes of wildlife and birds … and the scenery is beautiful.
Weather – The weather in the Mara is generally ‘cool nights and clear, warm days’.  The hottest month is usually December, January. The wettest month is usually April, May.
What to Pack? – Shorts for the day with a shirt & a jumper for when you’re driving along. A jumper and jacket, trousers and jumpers for the evening …. and swimming costumes for the brave (the pool is quite chilly!) and lots of suncream.
Price – Between USD320 – 540 per person per night sharing (pppns) for all inclusive or USD260 to 470 pppns for full board, this camp is actually reasonable for a private camp in such an incredible spot. For Kenyan residents, the rate is about Kshs12,000pppns!!! For rates or to book, please contact me.
My advise – Stay here, with your kids. It is not top-end luxurious but it is terribly comfortable, beautiful, you are supporting a successful conservation area, you’ll see endless wildlife and you will spend proper valuable family-time….. a rarity in this day and age.

Making Memories … at Ragati Log Cabins on Mt. Kenya

Making memories, special memories made from the REAL stuff; adventure, mud fights, swimming in mountain streams, fits & giggles, forest walks, crabbing, fly fishing, roasting marshmallows on the campfire … get my jist? All at Ragati Log Cabins on the slopes of Mt. Kenya.

Filled with excitement we departed for Mt. Kenya. What a beautiful drive through the Mweiga and Nyeri farmlands, past The Aberdare Country Club before winding your way up the mountain through its ever changing flora…. until you get to the most beautiful forest that is Ragati.

On their website, they state ‘You will not find anywhere wilder!’, I tend to agree. Ragati is an uncut gem; a find that will make you proud you found it first and trust me you’ll never want to get it ‘cut’!

Ragati Conservancy lies on the Southern slopes of Mt. Kenya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and consists entirely of Afro-montane forest and Afro-alpine heath. It’s ecosystem includes the Ragati river and its tributaries, and is home to an abundance of wildlife; elephant, buffalo, leopard as well as the rare mountain bongo, crowned eagle and African clawless otter. Home also to some amazing birdlife.

This  handsome wooden log cabin has a cozy sitting & dining room with a roaring fire, a large open verandah overlooking the stream trickling past, a little kitchen, four double rooms, a room with a bunk bed and a couple of bathrooms with delicious baths. There is no power and no fridge, but flickering safari lamps, solar lights and hot water… oh and a freezing river to keep your wine cool. It is truly self-catering, so I would suggest you take everything pre-prepared, but the wonderful Patrick is at hand to help with chopping, heating up and washing up, should you require.

The kids (6 of them, 3 to 10) were in adventure-heaven from beginning to end. This is mostly down to Ragati’s exceptional gillies; never did I meet 5 men so capable, so knowledgeable and so effortlessly excellent with a gaggle of such unruly children. They make Ragati proud. The kids & gillies day consisted of crabbing, fishing, exploring, adventure, swimming, mud-fights, water-fights, game-walks. All whilst the adults, 6 of us, relaxed, put the world to right, went on the odd beautiful forest meander, helped occasionally with some fly fishing, crabbing whilst overlooking a roaring waterfall, roasted marshmallows … heaven.

Ragati is truly an incredible weekend away or an incredible part of a safari.

Practicalities

Ragati Log Cabins  – Very special times. Having your own personal home, with no other guests, no wifi … where you get to spend valuable time together, as a family and with your friends …. whilst benefiting a community, the environment and the conservation area. We loved it, it is absolutely ideal for a family looking to travel alone or wuith another family or two (though you may need to add some beds and bedding)

Ragati Conservancy on the slopes of Mt. Kenya, Kenya – This is the ultimate if you are looking to experience unspoilt wilderness, whilst staying in a gorgeous log cabin, this is up there.
For those travelling to Kenya without kids Anyone looking to experience an area completely unspoiled and uninhabited, anyone looking for privacy, beautiful walks, birdlife and fishing … whilst being comfy, this is the perfect place to break up a wildlife-heavy Kenyan safari.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – For parents who would like their kids to experience grass-root nature, for those kids interested in the outdoors, this is heaven.
Weather – The weather was beautiful, brisk clear mornings, warm days and cool nights.  The hottest month is usually December, January. The wettest month is usually April.
What to Pack? – Lots of layers asmd lots of changes of clothes for kids!! Shorts & shirts for the day, jumpers, jacket, trousers and jumpers for the evening & early morning …. swimming costumes for the brave … and lots of suncream.
Price From Kshs8,000 / USD80 per person per night, self catering rate. Children under 7 are free. This includes conservancy fees, gillies, guilded walks, camp staff, fishing fees and firewood. If you would like food to be provided, Soames (deliciously yum, yum) can supply the following:

  • Prepared meals to be collected from Soames on route for Kshs 800 / USD80 per person, per meal. Examples are Steak & Guinness pie, Spag Bog, Shepherds pie, Lasagne, Mousakka, Fish pie, Chilli, Beef Bourguignon.
  • A Chef and food preparation at the cabin – Dinner & Breakfast & Lunch from Kshs 10,575 pp if there are 10 people, Kshs 11,200 pp if there are 8 people, Kshs 11,200 pp if there are 6 people, Kshs 13,700 pp if there are 4 people. They will also sell you bottles of alcoholic drinks, cases of beer etc.

My advise – Stay here, with your kids. Not only is it amazingly beautiful, you are supporting a positive community project, a successful conservation project and you will spend proper valuable family-time….. a rarity in this day and age.

Magical Multi-Generational Safari in Amboseli, Kenya

There is no better fun to be had, in the world, than a multi-generational safari, in my opinion. Proper bonding time with grand children & grandparents in Amboseli in Kenya is a magical thing.

The last time I drove away from Amboseli, my words were ‘the way this park is now, it probably won’t be around in 10 years’, that was 10 years ago. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Amboseli (a Maasai word meaning “salty dust”) National Park is currently the most impressive national park in Kenya, in my opinion. First and foremost the heart of the park is a swamp, a magnet for a mass of wildlife varieties; the backdrop is the snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa; the wildlife here is a mixture of the huge amount of wildlife you see in the Maasai Mara as well as some northern species like gerenuk, such a treat to see both together; to me the most impressive element of Amboseli though is how much it is cared for, the infrastructure is beautifully attended to, the park staff are welcoming, proud and helpful and the grazing rules appear to be stuck to. It blew me away actually.

If you drive to Amboseli from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, it’s a pretty four hour drive, mainly on tarmac road, with the entry into the park as the climax, the cracked salt flats are eerily beautiful with mirages to the distance all around you…. an exceptional place to stop for a leg-stretch after your long drive. As you drive further into the park, you are presented with photographic opportunities at every corner, and every straight actually; the wildlife grazing under an acacia tree or in the swamp with Mt. Kilimanjaro as the backdrop turns you into an avid photographer in an instant.

We stayed in the gold eco-rated Tawi Lodge, a charming little tented lodge in the Tawi conservancy, just ten minutes out of  Amboseli National Park.

Hidden in the middle of indigenous trees, this 13-cottage handsome lodge is really all you can ask for if you’re travelling with your kids. The lodge itself is little and truly lovely, its not indulgent but its lovely; your en-suite cottages/bedrooms are huge and tasteful (with an awesome little netted camp-bed for the extra child), each with an incredible view of the mountain; you are hosted by a super South African management couple who take pride in providing truly delicious meals.  The main dining room / chilling area overlooks a mown-grass lawn (great for toddlers), then a refreshing swimming pool, then a waterhole which always has something drinking away … and then the mountain in the background. Who needs game drives?

With regards to activities, the swimming pool provided hours of shivering amusement for the children and their ‘game’ grandparents; we went on a tonne of incredible game drives and ticked off pages and pages of amazing animal and bird species including lion, elephant, zebra, hippo, buffalo, an assortment of gazelle including gerenuk, hyena, giraffe, flamingoes, endless birds of prey … and even a Lesser Kudu, lucky us! We went on a wonderful little walk from the lodge for a sundowner, how lovely it is to have some exercise whilst seeing the landscape up close, we even saw the skeleton of a giraffe which a month later is still fascinating the kids. At the sundowner, Tawi’s leading guide joined us and I was very impressed with him, his knowledge and his wise opinions. This place is great.

It’s an indulgence to spend quality time with my parents and my children at the same time. This along with Tawi and Amboseli have restored my faith in Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service. I have left this experience a happier woman.

Practicalities

Tawi Lodge – A special place to experience special times. A handsome, though not extravagant lodge where you get to spend valuable time together, as a family, whilst benefiting a community and the environment. Loved it.
Amboseli, Kenya – Shall I bang on more? I guess I can, they deserve credit. Amboseli is an impressive park for its location and wildlife, for its scenery and to see Mt. Kilimanjaro, but to me it was how well managed it is that astounded me.
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – This is an incredible place to visit on a Kenyan safari or for a weekend if you live in Kenya. You will see tonnes of wildlife, birds, the scenery is majestic …..  I highly recommend you spend some time here.
Weather – The weather was beautiful with cool nights and clear, warm days.  The hottest month is usually December, January. The wettest month is usually April.
What to Pack? – Shorts for the day with a shirt, a jumper and jacket, trousers and jumpers for the evening …. and swimming costumes for the brave (the pool is quite chilly!) and lots of suncream.
Price – In high season it costs USD545 per person per night, sharing, including all your amazing activities. Very reasonable I say! For Kenyan residents, the rate is Kshs12,000 per person sharing per night, full board!!! For rates or to book, please contact me.
Awards – Tawi lodge is proud of its Eco-tourism Gold rating and so it should be! This means they are solar powered, water conscious, they guarantee Maasai landowners revenue through the lease of their land which in turn preserves an essential natural corridor for the abundant wildlife to roam as they please, as they need. The whole community also benefits with schooling and other projects.
My advise – Stay here, with your kids. It is not top-end luxurious but it is terribly comfortable, it’s amazingly beautiful, you are supporting a positive community project, a successful conservation project, you’ll see endless wildlife and you will spend proper valuable family-time….. a rarity in this day and age.

Soames Hotel – A Charming Family Spot, at the gates to Kenya’s Rugged & Magnificent North

Truly, the place to travel in order to satisfy an entire family is Kenya’s north, Laikipia. Why? The lodges are beautiful and the array of activities are endless. Soames Hotel is 7km outside of Nanyuki town, the gates to this beautiful, diverse, rugged and magnificent north.

For Kenyans, Soames does not have to be a ‘stop-‘off’ on the way to Laikipia though, it is most definitely good enough, ideal in fact, to be a family mini-break in itself. For those travelling here from overseas, it is indeed a wonderful part of a Kenyan safari. Soames is about the little hotel itself, is not on a private conservancy or wildlife-strewn ranch, so it is important to plan your daily activities before you travel.

Soames Hotel and Jacks Bar is a newly constructed out-of-town boutique hotel, overlooking Mt Kenya. The sitting room, dining room and bar area is ‘ranch-house’ in shape and style with six separate cottages (with two bedrooms in each) as the 12 bedrooms.  The entire place is classic contemporary style with a clean cut modern look, simply and tastefully furnished … and yummy food!!  Honestly, the food is delicious; my breakfast of poached egg, smoked salmon & hollondaise sauce on a crusty brown bread is still heavily on my mind!