After a eight year hiatus, I recently returned to Kenya to the beautiful coast of Msambweni, just a half hour’s drive south of Diani beach. Staying at the gorgeous colonial house, Jinchini, my friend and I indulged in the art of doing absolutely nothing.
We swam in the tepid Indian Ocean and lolled under enormous palm trees by the pool. We ate fresh fish, prawns, lobster and fresh fruit every day, visited the local village, walked along the white beach flanked by tropical trees, wooden boats and thatched roof huts and marvelled at the iridescent colours of the sea and rock pools.
We read book after book from the house library including dog-eared copies of Ernest Hemingway’s ‘To Have And Have Not’ and Wilbur Smith’s ‘Elephant Song’.We laughed at the vervet monkeys that watched us intently from the trees and listened to the sweet squeaks of bush babies calling to each other.
At night new creatures emerged. Enormous black millipedes with orange legs chugged across the patio like tiny trains, while huge crabs would scuttle into the dining room and freakishly roll in and out of their shells as we screamed for Kassim, our brilliant and highly amused house manager, to save us.
But this is Africa after all. Where everything is super large, super colourful and super interesting.
Our last three days we spent at the newly redecorated Shimba Hills Lodge near Kwale. Built on stilts along the edge of a huge waterhole, the lodge is under new management, the rooms exquisite – you feel like are sleeping in an enormous wooden ship – and the whole place a nature lover’s paradise.
From the lodge we watched majestic Fish Eagles dive for bread thrown by the restaurant staff and enormous monitor lizards chase each other around the pond. Baboons would grunt and roar as they passed through the bush.
I spent an hour photographing a troop of Colobus monkeys at the back of the lodge who started showing off and pulling moves that even the supermodel Gisele would have been proud of. Every mealtime was a battle of wits and speed as twitching red squirrels, bouncing bush babies on springs and silent staring baboons scaled the trees and came at us from all sides trying to grab food off our table.
At one stage we witnessed a bush baby ‘boinging’ past our table with a whole loaf of bread in its webbed hands that it had obviously stolen from the kitchen. The furry creature cleared the entire restaurant with one bounce and sprung into the trees before anyone could stop it. Meals were definitely energetic but our laid-back restaurant manager Dallas kept most of the hairy thieves at bay by waving a stick in the air.
One day we went on a game drive in Shimba Hills and saw herds of warthogs, Buffalos, antelope and three giraffes and although we saw lots of elephant poo and tracks, we didn’t see one elephant – a sad result of all the elephant poaching. Our armed ranger who took us to the nearby Sheldrick Falls for a swim said he would shoot a poacher if he found him with a dead elephant. One can only hope he was telling the truth.