The forgotten village by the sea.
Can you visit Kenya without going to the coast? Not in my opinion. Whenever I travel to Kenya, I like spending some quality time in rural places. Since Kenya’s coastal region is a popular travel destination among both local and international tourists, I was not sure if it was a possibility this time around.
I luckily stumbled upon a detailed travel article about Kikambala online. It described Kikambala as a small beautiful village in the coastal region of Kenya that has maintained its authenticity. From the blog, Kikambala was supposed to be a challenge to access from the main road. It sparked an interest in me. I knew that this was going to be my next adventure, as I love exploring and finding hidden gems less travelled to. I have learned, the more troublesome, the fewer tourists.
Getting from Nairobi to Kikambala on your own
After landing in the capital, I got myself a taxi to Nairobi’s Syokimau area. Where the Nairobi–Mombasa’s Standard Gauge Railway (Madaraka-Express) terminus, is located. With about 7 stops in between, the train finally landed me in Mombasa city. The journey was a smooth, effortless journey all through from the booking process which I seamlessness made online through Mpesa.
I remember sitting and relaxing on the train while watching my first wild elephants as we travelled through the Tsavo national park. From my seat, the mighty giants looked like tiny ants scattered in a vast Savannah wilderness, a sight that made my 4,5 hours train ride extra special.
Upon our arrival at the Mombasa Terminus, I boarded a matatu (locals form of public transport) that took me through the city, where I transferred to another one heading to Kilifi.
In Kenya, matatu drivers are known to be notorious for their driving skills. So bear in mind, you might be a bit shocked if you hope for a smooth and relaxing drive while taking in the view.
Eventually, the matatu driver stopped and pointed me in the direction of Kikambala, I got off and was immediately disappointed. Back home, I had imagined fighting my way through a jungle or at least a bush. Then it would make sense to use the words “difficult to access” Instead, I was gazing at a long stretch of a tarmacked 5-kilometre road. On top of that, a bunch of guys were looking for a taxi job with their motorbikes. That made entering Kikambala one of the most simple things to do.
On the bike, I was holding my breath as we entered the village. What else from the blog post would be different from what I expected?
The Charming Kikambala
But I was in luck. The rest of Kikambala was as described. A long-forgotten village with some few hotels by the beach. Camels were strolling through the main street, with the herders trying to rush them. A local tailor sat behind a sewing machine steadily sewing. She glanced up and sent my way a genuine smile that felt welcoming looked like sunshine to me.
I stayed at a local guesthouse in the centre of the village. I have learned that this is the best place to meet all kinds of Kenyan travellers, from business people to young backpackers. It’s also the perfect way to get inside tips about the country.
The guesthouse itself was an excellent place, with wild monkeys running over the tin roof early morning. They made it sound like thunder, after which they would sit peacefully in the trees eating tamarind fruit. Quite a memorable way to wake up and enjoy my morning coffee.
It only took about ten minutes to walk to the beach. With the white sand, the palms waving softly in the morning breeze, and the Ibises sat on top of the palm trees overlooking the sea it looked, absolutely stunning! There were hundreds of tiny crabs scuttling around in the sand coconuts sprinkled decoratively along the shore, all of which left me feeling like walking into a cover of an exotic travel magazine.
As I walked around, my smile grew more prominent, and I kept pinching my arm while pleasantly thinking: nature still beats photo editing.
Shared time is a memorable time.
Just as I had hoped for, I met with the locals in the most relaxed way possible.
In the morning, I hooked up with rasta guys we would then clean the beach and afterward burn the garbage as it’s customary in Kenya.
The heat was insane by the coast. At approximately 10 am, my white skin would prefer the shadow. That meant hiding out with the tiny crabs. It seemed we got attracted to the same small caves along the shoreline. As I watched them, they impressed me too. So many represented at the same time, but not even once did they crash into each other.
The following day I got the pleasure of being invited home to a family. I hurried down to the local shop and bought some tea, sugar, and rice. In Kenya, a guest will be provided for really well, but it is polite to bring a gift to ease the financial burden on the host.
Since the family lived outside the village, I was picked up by the daughter. Together we walked along the beach for about 1,5 hours to their home. The walk was pleasant- watching monkeys play around some abandoned hotels before the path turned into the countryside with small farms and forests with palm trees.
As we arrived, the kids surrounded me. I was happy I had bought some chocolate muffins as well. For some reason, most Kenyan children think white people’s pockets are full of candy. Who am I to be a myth-buster?
After the greetings the family, and I cooked together. They were impressed with my skills but not because I knew how to cook Kenyan food (They had to teach me everything step by step) But because the elders in the family, were convinced that white people have no practical skills. They told me; white people always have to hire black people to cook and clean for them as they didn’t know how to do it themselves. The thought of helpless white people in Africa made us all laugh and share more stories.
In the afternoon, we bought a hen, slaughtered it, picked the feathers, and fried it. We enjoyed the wonderful meal together while the sun gave it up for the moon and the stars. And what a night sky it was. The Milky Way was standing sharp like a bright belt on black velvet. It was time to say our goodbyes, not only for the night but for this time. Cause the next day would bring me to Narok.
The men of the family escorted me back to the village. That was a great idea as we passed some palm wine bars and happy but heavily intoxicated people on our way. I have never tasted palm wine, but it’s said that it hits just as hard as if an elephant runs into you. That might be the reason I have never dared to. Solo traveling and being drunk is not the perfect match.
At night lying in my bed thinking of my stay at the coast, I felt delighted. My stay in Kikambala was everything I looked forward to. Rural, not touristic, and with a lot of positive interaction with the locals. That is when I feel I get the most out of my travel experiences.
One of the things I was also glad to experience was the Blue Lagoon, a reef area, which I highly recommend. It was stunning to watch the corals and the life surrounding them. I got one of the local fishermen to show me around for a small fee, but keep in mind that the locals there are not trained professionally to do the tours. Therefore, it is a shared responsibility to act appropriately to preserve the beautiful reef.
Travel blog and pictures by Cathrine.
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