KLIFI, KENYA. It is impossible to not to fall in love with this place. To many, Kilifi would seem to be set in the middle of nowhere, which is what makes it all the more wanderful. When I knew that I’d be doing a bit of traveling in Kenya and started doing research, I automatically saw the more popular names like Mombasa and Diani (which I also did visit). But if you head two hours North of Mombasa, that is where the real magic happens – and I do mean it when I say magic.
The coastal town of Kilifi lies on the East Coast of Kenya in between Mombasa and Malindi. Over the years, a strong and vibrant community of Kenyans and expats has formed and transformed the area, putting the people and environment of Kilifi first. With permaculture projects, ecolodges and grassroots movements changing the way we interact with the land that makes our stay so special, a trip to Kilifi becomes much more than just a visit.
Currency: Kenyan Shilling 1 USD = 103 KSH
Visa: $50/ $20 Transit visa
Visa on arrival was apparently withdrawn when the evisa came into play but was then reintroduced, so that is why you may see mixed messages in your research. I applied for my evisa and received it in a matter of days (do of course give yourself at least a couple weeks before your estimated arrival into the country). You can apply for your evisa here.
Since I was coming from Mombasa, I grabbed the matatu (public taxi) to Kilifi, which dropped me off in the centre where I then took a boda-boda (taxi motorbikes) to Distant Relatives. This was relatively cheap, and although I can’t recall the exact cost, it was no more than $5. The public taxis are safe yet not always the most comfortable, but did you really travel to Africa to stay in your comfort zone? I recommend traveling during the day using public transport. Overnight transport is perfectly fine for longer trips.
Once in Kilifi, you can get around by boda-boda – one of my favourite modes of transport. Or hire one yourself.
I remember first researching Kilifi and immediately seeing Distant Relatives Ecolodge. The place itself seemed amazing, but there didn’t seem to be much else written about Kilifi. What I discovered was that although travel and tourism in Africa is a lot less documented than other areas, there are a lot of places that get overlooked yet are absolute gems. Well, they do say seeing is believing right?
Distant Relatives is unlike any other place I’ve been before. I remember just being absolutely blown away from the drive to the centre to this magical green nook surrounded by baobab trees and palm leaves. Upon arriving, all of my doubts about coming to Kilifi were washed away.
One of the main reasons for this was the staff and the people that I met there. Everyone was extremely accommodating and friendly. As a solo traveller, my experiences are greatly shaped by the people I meet on the road, and the people I met in Kilifi left beautiful marks on my trip. From visiting Moses’ (one of the chefs at DR) village and drinking fresh coconut, to listening to an Australian-Dutch guy play the ukelele by the ocean (thanks Christo, you’re dope), I have held some of the greatest memories that still make me smile a year later.
Of course though, right behind the people are the surroundings that just make you go “wow.” I mean, who cannot fall in love with this?
Theres is tonnes to do in Kilifi, including snorkeling and scuba diving for the water lovers, dhow sailing and kayaking for the adventurous, as well as village tours for the curious. Oh, and did we mention bioluminescence? That’s right, when the night goes dark and the moon is still low, you can catch bioluminescent plankton lighting up the shore. Bucket list: check!
Distant Relatives is always hosting events and bringing the community together. They throw one of the best New Years’ Eve parties in East Africa, with previous artists such as Walkenmut headlining the party.
A trip to Kilifi is not complete without visiting the Musafir. The Musafir (which in Swahili means traveller) is a 70-ft dhow or traditional sailing boat built by a wide ranging group of travellers and locals. I was invited for dinner on the boat, where guests, expats and locals shared freshly caught prawns, played music, had a couple beers and hopped on the deck for a clear view of the milky way. The Musafir has been traveling since I’ve visited, so make sure to check their Facebook page here for updates on their location! (A little birdy told me they’ll be traveling to Zanzibar early 2018!)
Distant Relatives has their own restaurant that serves delicious food, but if you had to choose one night to eat out, make sure it is their Pizza night on Fridays. I had the veggie pizza with roasted pumpkin and avocado = divine!
They also have a supermarket a short 5-min-boda-boda drive away and a spacious kitchen to cook your food in. Ask the staff about local spots in town to visit, there are a few really tasty ones at extremely affordable prices that also make fresh juices. One-stop shops!
Dorm bed: $15
Food: Let’s say $12 ($6 for one restaurant meal, $6 for 2 home-cooked or local restaurant meals)
Transport: (if used) $3-5
$30 a day, that ain’t bad! And I can assure you, every cent is worth it!
Share the love. Check out www.kilifigoldtriathlon.org and see how you can help build the community!