I have just returned from a gorgeous holiday in Mombasa, Kenya staying at Whitesands beach hotel so as there isn't a specific category for this hotel I am putting it in the general Kenyan hotels category
Right before I go off on one and make you want to go on a holiday to Kenya I do have to warn you of some hidden costs, so I will do that before hand!
Before you can enter Kenya you need a visa. This costs £30 per person and can be gained at the airport or by printing off the form on the Kenyan Embassy website (www.kenyanembassy.co.uk) and sending it, along with payment and passport to Kenya High Commission, 45 Portland Place, London W1N 4AS. The visa will be printed in and posted back to you with in 5 days.
It is recommended before you go into Kenya you need Hepatitis A, Cholera, Typhoid, Tetanus and Polio vaccines. These are all available free from your doctor. You also need Yellow Fever vaccine which costs between £30 - £40 per person. This is a live vaccine that must be taken 10 days before arriving in the country and you will be given a vaccination certificate to prove it. Also you will need malaria tablets. These vary from about 25p per tablet to £2.50. Obviously the more you pay the more effective/ less side effects you should get. We went for malarone, which came in at £2.50 per tablet. You need to take it 2 days before arriving, every day you are there and 7 days afterwards. It is expensive but I had no side effects with it other than really mental dreams
The flight from Manchester to Mombasa took just under 9 hours.
Mombasa is 2 hours ahead of the UK
Kenyan Schilling. At present 100 schillings is worth about 75p.
Dec-Feb - Summer - About 40 degrees
March - June - Rainy season
July - Sep - Winter - About 25 degrees
October - December - Spring - About 30 degrees
Swahili, however everyone is taught English from the age of 4 and most hotel staff will also be fluent in French or German too.
Useful swahili phrases include:
Jambo - Hello
Anisi - Please
Asante - Thank you
Karibu - You're welcome
Hakunana Matata - No problem
Kwa Heri - Goodbye.
Kenya uses the same plugs as the UK, so you don't need to buy any adaptors.
Whitesands is the largest beach resort in Mombasa and can hold up to 1200 guests. It is 4* and is a 40 minute drive from Mombasa airport and is secluded away from the main road. It has quite a colonial feel to it as you pull up with a large white exterior and pillars. As soon as we pulled up the staff were there to unload our bags and we were welcomed with a fresh glass of orange juice as our rep checked us all in. As we were at the hotel by 9am we were too early to go to our rooms but we were provided with plenty of drinks and cool, menthol towels to be comfortable.
The reception area is air conditioned and has ponds flowing throughout it's open walls. There are also a lot of rooks flying around but if you don't feed them they will go away.
We were all inclusive, so whilst we were waiting we were taken upstairs to have this explained to us further. We were each given a wristband, so the staff knew not to charge us and went through what is included and not. Basically all your drinks are free between 10am and midnight (breakfast juices and tea and coffee are free too.) With the exception of some cocktails which are at most £3 and could strip paint from the walls they are so strong. All the meals except room service were also included, and the seafood restaurant wasn't included either (I will go into further detail below.) As part of the all inclusive package all activities and some water sports were free too.
The rooms were large and spacious with air conditioning to rival the arctic. Every night the cleaners would come round to make sure the beds wereready with the mosquito nets, and all the rooms had a balcony to go and sit on. I would probably advise against forking out for a sea view as there are only a few of these and they are right at the back of the hotel. If you go for a side room, you are closer to the pools and the sea and save a bit of money. They were generally clean although sometimes there was a bit of a whiff from the drains. Fresh water was provided to the room everyday and although I am sure the water was safe from the tap I always used bottled to brush my teeth.
The hotel has several places to eat and each one of them is excellent quality. On the first day the waitress apologised to us that we would have to wait 20 minutes for our meals as they were being made fresh, which I was more than happy with as I have waiting longer in England for something which has clearly been nuked in a microwave!
Pavillions - this is the main buffet area which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is 7.30 - 10, Lunch 12-2 and Dinner is 7-10. Breakfast consists of fresh fruit, juice, tea and coffee, pastries, vegetables, fry-ups and every kind of egg possible (and if there isn't they will make you one.) Lunch was usually a themed salad, cold meat and dessert. The dinners however were exceptional. Every night (on a 2 week rolling rota) was a different theme eg Mediterranean, Indian, Kenyan, BBQ, Chinese, Italian, Mexican to name a few. The staff serving drinks would dress up in that theme and there would be soup and salads, a variety of veg, a section where you could watch it being cooked and choose what you wanted then some other accompanments such as rice. The desserts here were fantastic too. You got a range of about 10 cold puddings and 2 hot ones and a fresh fruit platter too. Suprisingly I thought the best night was the traditional Kenyan one which was absolutely delicious - (you will see a lot of Ugali, which is the Kenyan staple dish. It is maize flour boiled up in water into a dough. It took me a few days to work out what it was - I though it was potato.)
Minazzi restaurant - An Italian style pizza restaurant. It is open 24 hours but the pizzas are only served from 12-12. There are also a variety of steaks, burgers, pasta dishes and salads. Though I have to go for the pizza as my out and out favourite.
Lido - Lido is the fish restaurant which also doubled as a pool bar by day. During the day you raise a little flag and the waitresses will get you a drink, sandwich, pasta, burger or chocolate torte - I will miss you most of all! The food here was more of a gastro pub style and was well presented and fantastic. However at night the restaurant is a completely different story. It is open air so only open when it isn't rainy and the service was terrible and food ridiculously expensive. If you are all inclusive you get a 500 shilling discount per person, but a 2 course meal for 4 people still came to £60 with this! My meal, which was basically 4 jumbo prawns and some rice was £18 on its own. Rip off, especially when there was a free meal 200 metres away.
Also at 4pm it was tea time at Cocos Bar - which was where the events took place at night. This included waffles, pancakes, tea and coffee, sandwiches, chilli corn and cakes. All I tested for the purpose of this review - all were good!
All drinks, even if free need to be signed for so the hotel knows how much tax to pay, or something like that which means people will be shoving bits of paper in front of you a lot.
From 10am to 10pm there was something going on so you can chill by the pool or be doing some activity. I actually ended up soing so much sport I came back having lost weight! The activities are run by a group called the "Fun A's" who are local lads, with the 2 girls running the kids club all day. The day would start with a stretching class - which to me looked like yoga for the insane. I'm not sure it had any beneficially effects other than to make me laugh. This was followed by water aerobics which again, was not really exercise but a form of disco dancing and splashing in the water (If you do this tie up your swim wear tightly as there is a lot of jumping about!) This is usually followed by a beach walk, a beach football match or a game such as arm wrestling or a board game competition. After lunch when they provide cool menthol towels to people who look like they might burn there is water polo followed by a tea-time competition and then beach volleyball.
At night there was some kind of activity run by these guys such as Masai dancers, karaoke, drinking games, dinner dances and gymnastic displays. All followed by a disco. These guys could sell snow to the eskimos so you are going to need a solid excuse to get out of doing things. They don't get tips but I found an hour with my ipod every day and they were perfectly happy.
I shall put this as carefully as I can. IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE - DO NOT DRIVE IN KENYA! It is insane - a licence is only necessary if you are a taxi driver and I have never been so scared in my life. There are taxis available from the hotel who will stay with you until you have finished (they are dirt cheap so if you need one for a whole day it won't be a problem.) DO NOT under any circumstances get in a mutatou (a little minibus with yellow stripes on the side.) They don't stop and you have to jump off when you get to your destination. Overtaking can be done at any point, on either side of you, and lights aren't required at night. It is crazy!
The team of staff at the hotel was amazing. There were the grounds men who went round cutting down coconuts that looked ready to drop and weaving hats from palm tree leaves, they also did some gardening too and weilded Crocodile Dundee style machetes. These are lovely guys who will quite happily shimmy 20ft up a tree to get you a drink of coconut milk.
There are also the pool boys who clean out the pool and set up the loungers every day. If you are friendly to them they will reserve you the best ones! The hotel provides towels to your room but encourages you to use lounger towels which are available from the centre of the hotel for use in one of the 5 pools!
Waiters/ waitresses are the people you will probably deal with most. They work long weeks so will probably serve you most nights and will be quick to learn what you are drinking. It takes a while to get used to the fact that as soon as you have finished the plate is gone but otherwise the service is amazing. Sometimes you will wonder why they put a coaster out for the bottle of coke and the glass only to pour the bottle into the glass and take it away, but who am I to question a system that works? The standard tip is 100 shillings which is about 75p
There is a business centre where you can but 2 or 3 day old newspapers from Britain, and can use the internet. It cost 10schillings a minute. There is also a mini library facility here and 2 gift shops.
At reception they will cash travellers cheques, and about 100 metres out of the hotel is a Barclays bank with ATM.
There is also a spa which I never got round to using, but people said the massages were incredible.
This is a really lovely hotel and the staff would bend over backwards to help you. The food is amazing and despite it being their winter the weather was just right (in July.) The best piece of advice I got whils at the hotel was that the beer in the hotel scares of the mosquitos, so I drank beer every night and only got 1 bite - over 2 weeks!
If you want to go out of the hotel do not go at night as it isn't safe. There are loads of security guards on site though so if you want one to escort you to the ATM they will. You will also be pestered if you go along the beach by young lads trying to sell you keyrings. They will not take no for an answer, but have great local knowledge so if you want to walk into the sea at low tide they will explain all the sea life to you. There are massive sea urchins in pools along the beach so please be careful if you don't have shoes on.
I was told to take pens with me for the children as they can't go to school if they don't have a pen, however if you aren't planning on going out of the hotel there really isn't any point as you won't see any!
I would suggest if you know you definitely want to do safari then you should book it at home because they will only book the hotel for the nights you are in it. If you book it whilst you are there you will be paying for a hotel room you aren't using. You will need to check out of the room when on safari but they will look after your suitcases for you. This does mean you won't necessarily get the same room when you come back.
The hotel does hold a lot of weddings and is marketed as a honeymoon resort, but it caters for families, and young people too. Do remember to pack something smart for dinner though as they do have a dress code - no shorts or sports wear.
Culturally Mombasa is mainly Christian, however there is a large Muslim population. There is no concept of homosexuality over there, although it is common for men to hold other mens hands so don't be alarmed if this happens to you.
Beware of monkeys as they are around in the hotel and they are incredibly opportunist.
Also Kenya is the second highest country for Aids cases so if you are planning on having sex with someone you don't know take some condoms (I know that sounds patronising but as a young English woman you will be chatted up a lot by local boys - most of who are incredibly charming and handsome, and the women are stunning!)
Cost per night:
Around £140 for a standard double room
TURTLE BAY BEACH CLUB
It is situated next to Watamu National Marine Park. The hotel is set in 10 acres of tropically landscaped gardens with 145 rooms, three restaurants, three bars, a large entertainment lounge, large swimming pool plus a childs paddling pool & Jacuzzi.
We were there all inclusive, as there are not many places to go outside this beach resort. Being the first All Inclusive we had been on, I was curious as to how I would feel about it, having liked getting out and about during my previous trips abroad.
Scattered round these tropical gardens, there the hotel buildings, a mixture of Cottage Style rooms/Units, Villa type units, Suites and main rooms situated in the larger building. There are tennis courts for your use should you want to run around like an idiot in the soaring heat! Monkeys swing amongst the trees, though not so friendly . there are signs around the place telling you not to feed them as they bite! Well warned, as I thought they looked so sweet, I would have quite happily let them nibble a treat from my hand! There are also hundreds of canaries and budgies flying amongst these trees too! Very tropical, but very noisy when the birds all decide to screech at the same time!
When we first arrived, the staff made it very welcoming, giving us a Welcome drink of some sort of cocktail, which was lovely (but still never found out the name of it)! Well, good start I thought! Initially looking around the reception area, while waiting for our room keys, it looked very relaxing with couches littered everywhere. I thought right from that moment, I was going to like this place!
The rooms are a mixture of Cottage Style rooms/Units, Villa type units, Suites and main rooms situated in the larger building, as described previously.
Our room, which was not luxurious, but nice and clean, with mosquito proof plug ins, which was an extra bonus to me, having been a victim to the most horrendous mosquito bites in the past! The bathroom was nice too, having a shower over the bath tub, and all your usual bits and pieces. Nice balcony overlooking the tropical grounds, which we found very relaxing after the bars in the resort had closed (1 or 2 am).
The pool area is nice through the day, but a bit overcrowded for my liking! I tended to stay on the beach (where the waiters still serve you anything you want). This is a very family orientated Hotel, so it can be noisy through the day. What was nice though, was that there was often shows put on through the day when you were sunbathing, and again we had African dancers and instrument players. After the shows, you had the opportunity to buy some of their wares, being jewellery, ornaments etc Nice lively colourful stuff!
As usual, you do have the beach sellers on the sand, but they are not allowed onto the actual private beach area that belonged to the Hotel, so they stand outside of this imaginary line .selling their carvings & various materials, under little wooden shacks. On first going down there, I thought Oh no another place where you get pestered all day! No, not the case ..they do not venture at all into the private beach area, and you can sunbathe in peace without being badgered! If you want to buy something, then you just walk along and do so at your leisure. We did stroll along a few times during our holiday there, and got to know these people and they are so friendly and warm, with a terrific sense of humour, and they love to barter with you, especially over your trainers, jeans etc .in return for one or two of their wares! They actually made me want to go along and chat with them most days!
These include Boogie boards, Paddle skis, catamaran, pedaloes, canoes, Windsurfing and Kiting, There is tuition for windsurfing and scuba diving here too. We decided to take a little trip on a sailing boat which lasted an hour and cost round about £4.00, and this took us through Turtle Lagoon which was very relaxing and we were able to see some of the exotic fish in these waters. Over 100 species of hard coral have been found here too, and the water is so clear here, you are able to see some lovely sights!
INCLUDED IN THE RATES
Full breakfast is included in the main restaurant which seats around 300, and you can eat as much as you like, as it is buffet style, with the chefs cooking your eggs as you want them. There is a large selection and tastes to suit everyone, from European to African choices.
This same restaurant is where you have your Dinner meal, again, serving buffet style meats, salads etc Now, here is where you can try Impala & Water Hog, to name a few, but after seeing these beautiful Impalas running about, when on Safari, I am afraid, I couldnt stomach the thought of eating it! My other half informed me it was quite yummy though! YUK!
Some of the nights we spent in there, over dinner, African singers, entertain you while you eat, so there was something going on all the time in this resort! This restaurant looks over the grounds and sea, so it has a nice ambience.
Full lunch is offered at the Snack Bar at the poolside in buffet style again, and you can have any snacks from 12.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. (If you still need to eat after the large breakfast and lunch!) This is a large area, but through the day, it is more like a soup kitchen, if you happen to go up the same time as everyone else in the complex! They serve a lot of European style dishes, with chips etc .
In the evening, if you get tired of eating at the main restaurant, you can go up market to the Blue Turtle Restaurant, where you will get an a la carte menu. This is not in your fully inclusive deal, but it serves a nice meal and a change from the soup kitchen queues! You have to pre- book this one, but certainly worth it for a change! Think we paid about £10 for a steak dish.
Pizzeria is another one where you can eat at, though some meals you can pay an extra charge for. This restaurant overlooks the water ponds, so is another nice relaxing place to eat. It offers lovely oven fresh pizzas for lunch and evening meal.
One night we ate at the side of the pool, enjoying the show for that particular night, which happened to be the famous Masai Warriors! This was a very interesting show, as they are really quite scary, with their red traditional dress on, and the height of the average one cant be much less than 7 feet! Their act consisted of Masai warrior cries and some sort of sinister chanting. Their dancing, well, is not really dancing, but jumping up and down a lot, quite threateningly! Still, I felt safe, knowing they had came into our safe haven of the Hotel, so it must be ok!! I would hate to meet them outside though and upset any of them!
The bars offer you local drinks, but we found it offers you most of your normal drinks and we didnt find anything too awful to drink! It serves you beer, whiskey, gin, vodka, Brandy and even wine!
Kasaramba Bar Next to the pizzeria in a quieter location. (Opens from 11 am 2 pm and 6 m 11 pm) This is where we would go to for a quiet pre dinner drink, and then perhaps a coffee after our meal, as you can sit outside and watch the many tropical birds flying amongst the trees.
We would then stroll through the gardens to the Pool Bar Opens at 10 am and closes at 1 am. A popular area during day and evening time, and this is the place where a lot of entertainment takes place.
If you really do need your branded drinks, there is the Dunes Bar right on the beach and very romantic! (opens from 10 am 1 am).
NIGHT TIME ENJOYMENT
Each night the hotel put some sort of entertainment on, either down at the pool, or in the lounge, ranging from singer, dancers, Warriors and one which was interesting, was a married couple who kept reptiles, and was a regular at the complex. They showed off these snakes, and even produced a huge python which he let about 8 people handle (all sharing the weight at once as it was so big)! I turned down the offer! He had a cobra spitting at the sole of his shoe, which he had put two pins in, to make it looked like eyes, then managed to capture the venom in a plastic cup, to show the audience how much venom actually comes out of a cobra! All interesting stuff, watched from quite a distance by me!
OUTSIDE THE GATES
Go outside the gates to this resort, and you go into another world! There are little run down shacks with M&S homemade signs nailed to them! Tesco, Safeway etc .. and I found this amusing! The people who have these little shacks are trying to sell their crafts, have planted themselves outside of these big hotels to hopefully get some business from us rich tourists! Just barter and banter with them and you will enjoy the experience!
On the dirt track road outside the Hotel, you will see the Kenyan women going about their normal everyday business, and many carrying large baskets of their daily supplies on their heads!
We strolled along to the Post Office, maybe about half a mile away from the hotel, and found it so quaint! I had tried to phone home, and they have phones in there that are quite antiquated, but I tried to get through to home. The locals there were so helpful, and helped me to eventually to work this phone! It ended up, about 8 people around me, trying to help, and all arguing with each other about the best way to get through to the UK! Ha ha found this experience to be funny, though I felt really silly at the time!
From the Hotel, you can book your Safari which we did from here (but that is another story), you can book many excursions fro there, so this hotel is a great family place to base yourself for fun in between your Safari and whatever else you should book! Malindi is a short ride away by taxi, which you can get outside the hotel gates for a cost of next to nothing ( bearing in mind the taxis are really like a hundred year old bangers), but if you book the 'posher' taxis from the hotel, you will pay more!
This Beach club was good family fun, and the staff were excellent! On our departure, we gave our waiter, George, a £30 tip, and it almost equalled 6 months wages to him! We are still in touch and I send him pics of our house and family, and we have invited him over, which he hopes to come soon, so heres hoping!
Down side? Well, lots of security walking about day and night which made you wonder why they were needed there? Fun packed holiday for kids too, so, if you dont have kids, you may find it noisy at the pool area through the day.
Oh, another point, we booked through the internet with a company that escapes me right now, maybe SUNTEXT? Well, people on the same package tour who had booked through Kuoni had paid a whopping £300 more pp for the exact same package!
Great place for all round eating and drinking, so dont go if on a diet! Great excursions too .all that can be booked from hotel!
The Travellers Tiwi is marked as a 4 elephant in the Somak brochure, and a five something or other on the travellers web site, it is neither, and I have been to 3 stars that have been better. The rooms themselves where very good, although the louver windows let the entire air con out and the bugs in. The food was varied but not well kept although some of their speciality nights where quite good, although if you use the al a carte Indian, Chinese, Italian and Seafood, the quality is better although the choice (for all inclusive) is very limited. The entertainment was almost non-existent, with half hearted attempts to engage the guests in dull activities. The gym is not air conditioned and the squash courts let rain in thus limiting the activities when its raining. You are not supposed to take drinks away from the bar, which is a real pain, especially when its hot and you need to keep hydrated. Not everything is included in the all- inclusive and you are not informed of what you have to pay for, as we found out to our cost when we ordered an ice cream, they are supposed to have a 24 hour tea/ coffee bar, and they don't, in fact when I asked for tea in the morning due to being up earlier than the allowed start time of 07:30 for breakfast the staff stopped me after my 3rd cup. The Beach was very good, with security so you did not get bugged by the beach boys, although if you are willing to talk to them you can save a fortune on any trips you might want to arrange we spoke to Elephant (I know) and Eddie both helpful and honest. The hotel in general was well layed out spacious and well kept.
The Mayfair Court Hotel in Nairobi is an ideal place to use as a starting point for a safari. The hotel is on the outskirts of the city centre, but near enough to be within walking distance from the main shops. The hotel boasts an extensive range of facilities, including conference rooms, two restaurants,a cocktail bar,hairdressing salon, various shops and boutiques, two swimming pools, health club and a casino. The restaurants are very nice with a large selection of dishes, including pasta, fish and burgers. The rooms are adequate but very basic, some of the rooms are poorly decorated and a lick of paint would be beneficial, however, if this hotel is used to start off your holiday, it is perfectly acceptable for one nights stay.