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!

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.