Tembea Kenya: Experience local adventure at the South Coast
By Waridi Ajambo
| April 20th 2018
The beach embodies the very essence of tranquility. On many occasions, I have dreamt of living next to beach and how that will enhance my creativity. There is just something about the water. The dream is still there but now that I have discovered that there is more to see apart from the beach when you visit the coastal region, I want that experience in my back pocket as well.
Marcel Proust believes that the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having, new eyes and I could not agree more. How many times have you been to Diani? It has become a prime destination for both local and international tourists.
What activities have you done while you were there that may seem predictable? We all have places that sip into our souls in diverse ways. That is just how it is; it is how we are wired to love one thing more than we do the other. There is also that hint of experiencing adventure wherever we are. I respect that we have to eke out an existence that we can call ours but the web of life can allow you to see more than what you are willing to take a chance on.
I saw Diani for the first time with my new set of eyes and it was thrilling. I was travelling with the Tembea Kenya Na Mimi team from the Kenya Tourism Board.
Young people are the future of tourism; I do not know how I can emphasize that point further. Shimba Hills Forest Guides Association (Shifoga) is an example of what young people coming together can bring forth.
A community group that is aimed at ensuring that the Shimba hills remains intact and the members of the community are able to co-exist with the animals in order to avoid conflict. When we got to the Lola Rako model village, I felt like I had walked into a scene of a Nigerian movie when the mother-in-law is going to visit the witchdoctor. Only this time I was walking into a model Kaya in Kwale and the Kaya elder was there with incense. He looked like he was in his element. In African culture, I noted that most of the tribes were patriarchal.
Would have I loved being in that era? I highly doubt. Immersing yourself in culture is also part of the thrill while travelling. It was something beautiful thing to experience and I believe that we cannot forget our history in the pretext that we are moving forward. Learning about where we come from helps one to appreciate how far we have come.
Our guide was hilarious and that made it easier for me to keep up with what he was saying. He was well informed and that was refreshing because sometimes uncle Google does not have all the answers.
“Why aren’t women an integral part of the Kaya?”
“Because of bla-bla,” he said.
I could not help but laugh. According to him, that meant women could not keep secrets and what happened in the Kaya was to be handled with discretion something that women did not have apparently.
The highlight of my tour at Lola Rako was learning how to use the maize grinder to make flour. The song strength of woman was at the back of mind. It looked easy but the moment you started working on it required a lot of strength from me.
Chores and music went hand in hand amongst the Mijikenda and I believe that this rings true amongst other tribes in Kenya. I immediately thought of how I needed a playlist for all my chores. I put my dancing shoes more than once during this trip and it was incredible to let loose with people I might never meet again.
When was the last time you took a bike ride even in the comfort of your own home? Just dust it out and peddle even if it is just a short distance. We went to Diani Bikes something that almost everyone was shocked to realize was there even though they have to Diani multiple times.
They organize biking tours across various villages in the area and at the end of the tour you get to go to the beach. My attempts at refreshing my bicycle riding skills were not very fruitful so I had to forfeit that experience because we were supposed to ride a distance of around 8 kilometers.
The bike ride would take us through a couple of villages just to get a feel of what it looked like. Our finally destination Mwamanga village in Ukunda was the best because it came with a meal. A lady invited us to her home where she made us Ugali and papa choma(shark). As we waited for the meal we got to taste the mnazi which is the local brew.
The village is famous for the henna plant, lime, cassava and passion fruit. We all sat on a mat as we waited for the meal which was an interesting experience for my taste buds. The hospitality there was also a delight, the Diani bikes team do this tour often but it usually attracts foreigners but they are now working on ways to incorporate locals as well..
Katana a guide with the Diani bikes stated that there is a need for sensitization for locals in order for them to gain interest on what local tourism has to offer. He further added that packages that suit local tourists need to be worked on so as to peak their interests on things they would otherwise ignore.
The question is what can a native gain in their country while travelling such information needs to be provided to them. Lack of information is what drives local tourists to do the same activity repeatedly. This can only be done through collaborations and partnerships in order to grow the aspects of tourism in such places that can cater to local tourists. Places that offer accommodation across the board need to join hands with various organizations such as Diani bikes and guides from SHIFOGA in order to share such information with their guests. Through these partnerships discussions can direct them into curating packages that accommodate Kenyans travelling alone or in groups.
I learnt that demographics are changing even in the aspect of food. Food is an experience in itself while travelling. Hotels are now incorporating local meals just to provide options for their different guests. Tastes vary but we all would like to try something new even if you would never try that again at home.
Of course, the vibrant nightlife is part of the thrill. I was too tired to stay the whole night but I got to sample it and I would recommend that you try it out. To make the most of your stay here I would suggest at least two nights because you might find an activity that I might overlooked.
The beauty is that we now know that there are travel options whether you are going via train, airplane or road they each have their niche. There is freedom of choice when it comes to accommodation now; you are not limited to a hotel. The buffet experience gets old very quickly and furnished apartments give a different taste and you are given the option of hiring a chef if you would rather not cook for yourself.
I would never rule out the beach experience. Even with the scotching heat and fatigue, I still made time to walk to the beach and just hear what it had to say. The beach is always calling and it always will be, it would be remise if I did not answer the call. Promise me one thing that when you decide travel anywhere in the world that you will be more present and observant to what is around you.
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