Report from Diani Beach
17 to 24 December 2011
A minivan taxi car came to pick us up at noon to go to Wilson airport, a small airport for domestic flights. Each of us carried a small check-in luggage and a backpack. I was glad that all the luggage fit into the car. The driver told me that to charter a taxi minivan would be KES 10,000 a day, and for a regular car was 8,000. And to hire a driver only was 1,000. The price for daily charter was more than double of what we paid in Bali.
|Large apartment complex on Arboretum Road|
|Safarilink checkin counter in Wilson airport|
|Large green houses on highway A104|
|A perfect cone shape volcano in the distant|
|Groups of small volcanoes with large craters|
|Volcano with water in its crater|
|The large gray trees were the baobab trees|
|Arriving at the small Ukunda airport|
|Reception hall in L:antana Resort|
|Building with thatch roof made of coconut or palm leaves|
|Limestone coral rocks were used to build this sea wall|
|The white, fine and soft sands on the beach|
|Pool in the resort|
|Keith in front of the villa|
|Villas in the resort|
|The ruin sea wall under high tide|
|A dead casuarina tree with vertical roots|
|Pool in the resort|
|My lunch with complimentary addition|
|Old man and his camels|
|Keith, Max and Alex playing volley ball|
|Outrigger fishing canoe|
|Coils of sands|
|Stall for the poor locals|
|Shopping mall for tourists and the rich locals|
|Hundreds of cattle crossing the road|
|Arriving passengers from Mombasa ferry|
|Gigantic elephant tusks sculptures on Moi Avenue|
|Loading a truck from a warehouse|
|Akamba Handycraft workshops|
|Workshop for craftmen|
|He was shaping an object|
|Making a hard selection|
|McKinnon Market (old slave market)|
|Vendors on the alleyway|
We saw five mosques in the old town, and all of them had large loudspeaks mounted on its minaret. We were touring the area from 11:50 to 13:08, and the Muslim pray time on that day in Mombasa was 12:20. However, I didn't hear any large calling for pray from those loudspeakers.
|House built in 1932|
|The old fort|
|Feeding the giraffe|
|The Defassa waterbuck|
|The crocodile in frenzy trying to catch the meat|
|The giant Nile crocodile|
|The Nile yellow crocodile|
|People going home after got off the ferry|
|Shopping at Nakumatt|
Min ordered some take-out from restaurant outside. We had curried chicken, fried pan fish, and many other dishes of vegetables and rices. They were all quite plain to my taste.
On the first two days when I tried to swim, my hip join was very painful when I tried to kick the water in breast stroke, but this morning, I was glad to find out that the pain had disappeared. It was good that I refused to take any pain killer, it seemed that I only had to do more exercises.
|A monkey on a villa balcony|
The day before yesterday when the cleaning staff was in the villa, he advised me to close all windows and doors when we are out because there were monkeys that would take things away. I was not certain whether he meant the human or the animal monkey, because I had not see any real monkeys in the premise. This morning while I was working on my computer next to the window, I saw a monkey on the balcony of another villa across the courtyard.
|A scuba diving lesson|
Min said that an instructor was coming to give instruction on how to do scuba diving. This would help them to decide whether to do it or only do the snorkelling. The instructor came with his assistant and carried with them two sets of equipment. The actual instruction was actually given by his assistant. Each of them took turn to dive in the pool with the instructor. The whole exercise took half an hour.
|A man playing polo on the beach|
There seemed to be more people and activities on the beach this afternoon. I saw two ladies coming back from their trip on a fishing outrigger canoe. A man was wearing proper attire on a horseback hitting a polo ball on the beach, and later two girls also wearing proper clothes and caps were riding with a local instructor. All the horses were chestnut in colour and were strong and beautiful. I took photos of a strong man struggling to hang on to the ropes of a kite to control it. For the first time, I realized how strong that wind was blowing. A fisherman came back on his canoe, but I didn’t go to see what his catches of the day was.
|The two section of the bow|
|One piece stern section|
I went back to check on the construction of the fishing canoe. The beam was inserted in a hole on the pontoon, and the joint was fastened by driving a bolt or wooden pin on the beam. The bow of a canoe was usually made of two sections to take care of the curving up high prow. The stern and the lower section of the bow was in one piece. The two sections at the bow were joined by screw or wooden ? glue? I saw several simple canoes on the beach, they had been turned up site down, and the flat bottom of the canoe was blackening by fire. On the beach were remained of burned wood. The fisherman probably used fire to remove the marine life attached to the canoe. A lady was wading in the water to her hip. She was pushing a floating plastic basket in front of her. And from time to time she would pick something from the bottom and put it in the basket. Further north, local boys were playing soccer on the beach. It was like what I saw in Padang.
After it was dark, Keith suggested that we should go out to the beach to watch the crabs. I took a camera, but it was too dark to catch any photo of the crabs. They moved very fast and quickly plunged into their holes in the sand as we came near. In the dark, they looked like large cotton balls being blown by the wind. We gave up and back to the villa. Min ordered pizza from outside. The price was only KES 500 and the price in the villa restaurant was 750, The taste was just as good.
|A fisherman equipment|
We went collecting shells on the beach this morning. I saw a fisherman sorting his equipment laying on a small styrofoam floatation getting ready to go fishing. He seemed suddenly remember that he had forgotten something; he left all his equipment on the beach, and ran very fast along the beach to the south. I looked at his equipment that he had left, they were a spear gun with a spare spear, and both spears were rusty; a bag, and floatation liked half of a squash, some ropes and a net. For the first time, I saw a Masai walking on the beach wearing a red robe. There might be more of them further north where there were more tourists.
An old fisherman was returning from his fishing trip. He was pushing his simple canoe with a long pole. Aftr landing his canoe on the beach, he took down a large crap trap and pulled it up to a resting hut on the head of the beach under a wild pandan tree. I went to see his catch, and he had one basket full of fish and some more lying on the canoe. It seemed plenty for a day meal. His wife wearing a shawl and niqap suddenly appeared from nowhere, she came to fetch the fish. She walked back to the hut. The oldman continued emptying the water in the canoe, and then took the pole with him to join his wife.
Four men were bending to fill their bags with sea weed which had been raked on the beach. They then marched on a file and dumped it about 20 metres away on the same beach. Three men landed heir fishing canoe on the beach, and walked up the beach. Only one of them carried a small bag. I wodered if they didn’t have a good day.
When we returned to the villa, we found Alex had a haircut. In Taiwan we call the style pingtou (flat head). I might consider that when the time came.
|It was hard to decide what to discard|
We were walking on the beach again late this afternoon, and Ching decided that she would not pick any more shells. But at the end she could not resist the temptation, and had her hand full of shells. We passed two beautiful private houses, The stretch of beach in front of their house was completely littered with broken shells, and was painful to walk on without shoes. That layer of shells was deep, and must have been accumulated over a long period of time. I wondered what force was causing this deposit.
|Mansion with traditional roof|
Today, we were going to Shimoni to do snorkelling. A minvan came to pick us up at 7:30. The wind was blowing real hard last night, and we were worried if we could make it today. Fortunately it was calm when we left. The driver took a shortcut by turning into a dirt road to join the highway A14. We saw many village houses and large mango and tamarind trees, and a mansion with its traditional high pitch thatch roof. The road was in a much better shape than the heavily used Diani Beach Road, and was not bumpy.
|Pile of small coconuts on the ground|
Fifteen minutes later, we turned south into A14. The scenery was much more pleasant than our trip to Mombasa. We passed a major new road construction, and the driver told us that it was built for a Chinese company who had a new operation deep in the wood. I wondered what could that be. The driver said that the Chinese might be mining for precious stone, but the geology of the area was limestone coral, and there would be impossible to find this stone in this geological formation. We saw a large coconut grove, and large piles of the small fruit on the ground. We passed a sugar cane plantation and a small sugar factory. But there were not enough canes to run the factory full time. It was originally own by an Indian Kenyan who had fled the country, the government re-established it to provide some employment opportunity for the locals.
|Taking charcoals to market|
There were many people carrying charcoals on bikes, they were taking them to market. I saw power lines far away from the road, and asked the driver. He told us that the original plan of the road was next to the power lines, but it was later changed. Some politicians must be making a lot of money for making this change. A matatus was broken in the middle of the road. Some branches were scattered on its side and on the vehicle to warm the passing traffic. Three Masai were walking along the road, and I wondered where they were going to.
|Sign to Shimoni|
After half an hour on A14, we saw the sign for turning to Shimoni. We drove on another dirt road. I noticed that there were many tiny mosques along the dirt road. They were built by the government according to the need of the people. But I could hardly see any large number of houses. The drivers said that many people lived deep inside the bush, and they would walk to their mosque for the daily pray. The Muslim prayed six times a day, and would be very impractical for them to walk a long distant frequently every day. The driver said that they usually came to pray and then stay to socialize instead of going home or work immediately.
|Goats on the road|
In less than half an hour, we came close to the town. A group of about 40 goats were lying lazily on the road like they were in a sit in demonstration. They ignored the approach of our car and didn’t move; the driver was probably used to this, and just manoeuvred slowly in the narrow spaces between them. Most of the stores on the road side were also made of simple thatch huts. Soon after the car parked in a lot, several other minivans arrived with their full load of tourist passengers. Next to the parking lot was a sign advertising the old slave cave. The town had an ugly history of being the centre for transporting slave. They put the slaves in the cave while waiting to be shipped. They were really being treated like domesticated animals.
|tourist boat (left) and cargo boat (right)|
|Guide leader gave some instructions|
We walked to the pier. It was low tide, and on both sides were large and small boats stranded on the beaches. Some people were working to fix the bottom of a boat. There were many tourist boats and cargo boats in the water. We boarded a small tender boat and then transfer to a bigger tourist boat. There were 18 tourists on our boat and 5 crews. We soon left the harbour, and the leader of the guides gave introductory speech. We were travelling east in the middle of a narrow strait separating a large Wasini Island from the mainland. The swell became stronger as we got closer to the entrance of the strait. We saw that the wave had carved deeply the limestone coral bank of the island. We saw many large baobab trees in the island. They seemed to like that kind of soil and climate.
We turned around the island and went further south to the Kisite-Mpunguti National Marine Park. Many of us were not feeling well due to the strong swell except Keith and a few others. Ching and I lied down most of the time to fight against the seasickness. A school of dolphins came to greet us. We all got excited to watch them. There were two other boats also in the area, and we were all watching the sea surface for any sign of the return of the dolphins.
We passed a long island. It end was deeply carved out by the sea, and looked very much like the head of a crocodile. I called it the Crocodile Island. We then passed a chain of small islands looked like mushroom. In one of these islands, the sea had carved out a big hole through it, and left a piece of rock in the middle of the hole like a hermit meditating. The boat was not allow to moor too close to the park, and everyone soon got ready to put their equipment on. There was a young couple, and the lady was seriously seasick, but she also went snorkelling. Ching and me were the only two left in the boat resting. They swam in a group toward the island in the distant where the park was. They came back 40 minutes later with some excitement. Keith saw a moray eel and a flash of a big fish later suggested might be a large barracuda. They rested and had cookies and drinks for half an hour, and then started to take another trip for another half an hour. Most people were tired as we headed back to Wasini Island to have lunch in a restaurant.
|Our restaurant on Wasini Island|
The western end of the island had beach and was populated. And the rest was mainly wood with a large number of large baobab trees. Our restaurant was in the middle of the wood. The wave was probably too strong to let us land on the pier in front of the restaurant, the tender boat sent by the restaurant took us to another pier further away from the restaurant, and we had to walk through a narrow trail cut through the woods. The trail was covered with sharp coral rocks. One could easily get a serious cut falling on to it.
|The main hall of the restaurant|
|Restaurant staff holding the dishes in the basket|
A lot of sands and soils must had been brought in to build a beautiful garden surrounded by a large and tall thatch main hall with no wall, and several other smaller walled buildings. We took seats in the main hall, and soon a line of 8 female staff came in each carrying a basket high on their hands with a dish in it. They stood behind the head table. The head waitress started to introduce the dishes. One by one, the staff would bring the food she carried and gave it to her, she explain it to us and then put it on the head table. The foods were all Swahili and looked good. They were steam mangrove crab, brown fish ball, quick fried green local seaweed, fried potato and corn, plantain in coconut cream, skewered octopus in dense curry sources, and rice cooked in coconut cream. I sampled all of them but found the taste was a little plain. It was probably due to my prefer taste of using more coconut cream in cooking. The only local specialty was the sea weed. It was good but not as crispy as that from Korea, and the sea weed itself was of different kinds.
|Water reservoir in the garden|
We rested on the pavilion in the garden and enjoying the view and breeze from the sea. I noticed a big hole covered by strip of woods, and thought that it might be a water reservoir to collect the rain water. The owner moved into the island with his family 17 years ago, and now they spent more time on the mainland due to children schooling. There were other two or three boats with us at the same time, but ours was the only one came to this restaurant. The competition must be very keen on this island.
|Sign for the slave cave|
We were back to Shimoni before 4:30 pm. The driver Ali had told us that in Diani Beach, there was a giant baobab tree with 200 ft circumference. He was a driver and must be familiar with measurement and therefore, his statement should be reliable. I liked to see this giant but it might take too much extra time and we didn’t go. We also a little in a hurry wanting to leave and didn’t visit the slave cave despite the driver already mentioned that he would wait for us to visit the cave.
|The crooked coconut tree|
On the way back, we passed the sugar factory and saw many people leaving. Many male workers still wearing their blue mechanic coveralls were carrying a large plastic bucket clumsily on their shoulder walking along the road. On the other hand, their female counterpart could easily carry them on their head graciously. When we passed that large coconut grove, I notice that one of the trees had a crooked trunk. It was not as spectacle as the one I saw in Batusangkar near Padang.
It was a great day, and I still felt the rocking of the boat after we were back in the villa.
|Ali Barbour's Cave|
Today, we just relaxed and enjoying our time in the pool. Alex had made new friends and they were together all the time. Tonight was our last night on the trip, and Min had arranged something special as a surprise for us. A taxi came to pick us up at shortly after 7 pm, and it took us to Ali Barbour’s Cave restaurant. Along the Diani Beach Road, we saw several groups of Masai walked hurrily. The driver said that they were business Masai. They sold small souvenirs to tourists and also performed dances on requested. They lived and mixed with other Swahili residences in the area.
A tall Masai greeted us at the door. The main hall had nothing special, and then we walked down a stairs and entered a large underground natural cave decorated with beautiful soft lighting. It had bar and tables, and several waitresses were busy serving the customers. Min said that it was French style, and they staff were very careful in selecting the proper knife and fork etc for every dish. Ching didn’t want to have a big dinner and order a spaghetti, and we were shocked to see a tiny little bit of noodle curling at the bottom of a giant plate. Keith ordered an oyster entrée for all of us. The oyster was small not like what we had in Canada. Some were fresh and others were baked with cheese and herbs like what Shyan’s friend had cooked in Shyan’s house. They were good. I order crab meat, and it tasted good too. The most attractive specialty of this restaurant was its atmosphere. There were three additional hole like sky-light that were open on the ground and we could see the stars in the sky. We were wondering what did they do when it was raining. Later we found that there was a sliding roof built beside each hole.
While we were waiting for our taxi, on Min’s request, the Masai guard took her and me to see a bar on the beach not far behind the restaurant. We passed the security guard without any check, and enter the bar. It was big and crowd and was set up right on the sand. There must be at least more than a hundred people there. It had very bright light lighting up the beach front. Not far away must be another bar with loud life musical band playing. We didn’t stay long and quickly left. We saw a white lady was being searched by the security guard as she wanted to enter.
For once more time, I went to the beach in search of the beach crab, and I finally got a good photo of it.
|Early morning sun|
We were returning to Nairobi this morning. For the first time, I got up very early and went to the beach. The tide was probably high last night and had washed up the beach completely clean like a tile floor. I hesitate to put my feet on it as I didn’t want to damage its purity. The sea was very calm with almost no wave like a giant pool. There were some fishing boats with their sails on, and the sun was hiding behind the early morning clouds. Its rays exploded like a giant chrysanthemum. The temperature of the water was just perfect, and I could not resist the temptation of submerging into it. It was great.
|Masai on the road|
|Mawensi (left) and Kiro (right) peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro|
We left the resort at 9:30, and saw 4 Masai on their clean clothes walking on the road. They waved at us when I took their photo from the car. We took AirKenya, and it provided some light meal on the flight. It was a bigger plane and was more comfortable. The great excitement on the flight was seeing Mt. Kilimanjaro. First we saw only the large flat rim of the crater of Kibo peak surrounded by clouds like wearing a ballet dancer short skirt. Gradually, the jagged peak of the Mawensi emerged from the cloud. It started from a small appendix south of Kiro peak, and gradually became completely of its own. The Kilimanjaro volcano was much gentle than I thought, and its base must have covered a large area. Again, we saw the many small volcanoes and craters in the Chiulu National Park east of Mt. Kilimanjaro. My GPS showed that the flight first went south crossing the Tanzania border and then went straight north to Nairobi. I didn't understand why the flight path was like that.
The taxi driver took a direct route through downtown without any traffic jam and arrived home in half an hour. Min and Keith went out shopping in the afternoon.
More photos can be seen by searching "lku99999, photo" in Google.