Two years ago my family took a holiday in Diani and last year, we decided to change the scenery and visit Nyali. I expected the kids to be excited about the warm water and sand the same way they were about Diani but, no. My son said he wants to go back to the other Mombasa – the one that has a lot of white sand and clean water. Clearly not all beaches are created equal. 2018 is the year to visit a few places in Kenya, first because Kenya is a beautiful country and you need to enjoy all this beauty; it shouldn’t just be for tourists from China and the UK. Secondly, traveling around and mixing with other people may help us to better appreciate all the roles that we all play to make this a great republic and why we all need each other. Lastly, they say that you are happier spending your money on experiences rather than on things. What happened to the recommendation to have companies pay for our local vacations? Here are places you should visit.
- Diani Beach. Of course because my five-year-old son believes this is a superior beach but so do other people. When I told someone previously that I had never been to Diani, she looked at me as if I had dropped from another planet. “The water is so blue, the beaches are clean and the sand is pure white; you can’t compare with these north coast beaches,” she said. My colleague told me I should include a day trip to Wasini Island for some snorkeling and to swim with the dolphins. The kids won’t forget, she promised. You can ride further in to the Kisite Marine Park and enjoy Kenya’s underwater animals. If you’ve already been there done that, it’s time to venture north to Malindi and finally Lamu to call yourself a true connoisseur of Destination Kenya. Malindi is quieter and it made me fall in love with eggplant. I’m still thinking if Lamu is a trip worth making.
- Takawiri Island. This has been called the most beautiful island on Lake Victoria because of its white sandy beach, palm trees, turquoise water and unspoilt serenity away from everything you know. Definitely a place to surprise yourself with when you decide its #RouteLakeVictoria. For me I have been ogling pictures of the lodges on Rusinga and Mfangano islands for a few years. From my wish list to God’s ears.
- Kakamega Forest. Majestic nature, small details amplified, the only remaining rainforest in Kenya, abundant and unique birdlife, home to 40 per cent of the total butterfly population of Kenya, delicious kuku kienyeji at Rondo Retreat, over 60 species of orchids… you need more reasons to visit Kach?
- Masai Mara. Because it is weird that people have the Mara on their bucket list and fly thousands of miles to see our wildebeests yet you who lives 200km away has never been to a game park.
- Mt Kenya. Everyone needs to attempt to try and climb a mountain at least once in their lifetime. Mountains, I was told, humble you. Mt Kenya, being the second largest mountain in Africa, makes for a challenging but still life-transforming experience. You can get to base camp and still get bragging rights, by the way.
- Kerio Valley through Iten. The drive up the highlands from Nakuru is sweat inducing yet full of fascination for a first timer. You get a glimpse of former President Moi’s backyard in Kabarnet and get to steam a little on the floor of the rift valley then are caught up in wonder again as you ascend the Tambach escarpment into Iten, the home of champions. It’s a breathtaking drive and you can make it more breathtaking by paragliding down the escarpment or getting a hotel room overlooking the valley where you are sure to catch a glimpse of a wonderful sunrise. But any time of day, sitting on a rock staring at the vastness below will sing music to the introvert in you.
- The majestic north, rugged wild with jaw-dropping landscapes stretching to forever. It has some top of the range luxury camps that I can only dream about for now. If you want to play it safe visit Ol Pejeta for a chance to see the only living northern white rhinos in the world, Najin, Fatu and Sudan, before they go extinct; see game from the sky walkway in Ngare Ndare Forest and skinny dip in the forest plunge pools or go run in the wild at Lewa for a good cause.
- Lake Turkana. Leave the beaten path and walk into pre-history, a possible home of pre-modern man. This is one of Kenya’s six World Heritage Sites and there’s record of the existence tools as old as 2.3 million years old from here. Meet communities whose lives are still unmarred by modernity including the almost extinct El Molo. Understand the other side of Kenya after passing through Suguta Valley. You can time your visit to the Lake Turkana Festival to enjoy local culture and food and possibly lose some vanity.