Malindi’s everlasting touch of magic

By Hans

As a tour representative in the 1970s one had to be flexible because you could be transferred at a day’s notice, be happy working in Kenya and within a week get transferred to another destination thousands of kilometres away.

Rules from the mother company were strict, they favoured the singles, if you found a partner, you were not allowed to work in the same country. It was impossible, therefore, to build a serious relationship, which most of us anyway were not interested in.

Another rule was that you would never stay longer than two years in one destination, lest you start making extra cash on the sides. Despite the difficulties of personal relationships life was interesting.

With its beauty, Malindi leaves an everlasting impression on visitors. Photo: Courtesy

After a few months in Nairobi and boring Mombasa town, my next destination was Malindi and I fell in love with the place.

I met Mark Easterbrook, who had a snake farm and he offered a one-day bush safari, hunting for snakes, exploring the bush and explaining much about the flora and fauna.

Exciting times

He taught me not to be afraid of snakes, most of them, he said, were harmless. They would not attack unless stepped on. We walked in and around Mida Creek, in the water and mud, and ate our lunch under mangrove trees.

At Eden Roc Hotel, popular with Germans, we had a tourist teaching the staff how to cook real German food. I also visited the Lawford’s Hotel, managed by the incredible Marjorie Freeman, one of the best hostesses I have met in my life, professional yet witty who charmed anybody and everybody.

Only a few locals had flip-flops and a bicycle was a rarity and the few who owned one were instant celebrities. Mitumba was unheard of and most wore torn trousers and shirts. A packet of rooster was only Sh2.50, too cheap to stop smoking. Wine shops had nothing more than papaya wine.

An excursion programme included a visit to Giriama villages of Msabaha and Kabwere, where one was treated to a lot of dancing, singing in a natural ambiance. Also a trip to Robinson Island was a must, delicious oysters, prawns, whole grilled fish, pilau and coffee, made it a day to remember.

I was based at Eden Roc Hotel whose owner was known as Mama Maridadi, a name given to her by the founding father Jomo Kenyatta, because of her beautiful flower arrangements and her incredible garden at the private house (now Villa Casablanca). Together with her husband Lacy, they owned a hunting bloc in Tsavo East.

The fake lion

Every morning we heard a lion roaring in the distance – until a colleague discovered that it was it was not a lion but a clever worker who was ordered to roar and make the guests’ stay more exciting.

Times for sure have changed, but Malindi has not lost its magic and now host quite a few artist, sculptors, painters and writers. The air is still conducive for creative people and for me the best place to be in the world.