Our first visit to Mombasa. We booked a 2 week, All Inclusive, beach holiday with First Choice staying at The Voyager Resort, Nyali, North Mombasa during the last 2 weeks of March. This is before the rains and the insects.
We flew from Manchester to Mombasa with First Choice as ĎPremier passengersí, on a Boeing 767. The extra leg room and service is worth the upgrade as it is a long flight, all night out and all day back. No problems with the flights really in either direction.
Before you go. Take a $50.00 note each for entry and a $20 note each to depart. Download, print off and complete the visa form, itís a pdf file. We were the first through because I had visited the Kenya High Commission site and was prepared, http://www.kenyahighcommission.net/ have your passport, form and dollar note ready. No one warns you about the departure fee until you are at your hotel. I was never asked for a photograph or my health documents but I carried both in any case.
The bus transfer was okay to the Voyager but it was hot, with little or no air-conditioning. The journey takes you through some very poor areas, slums. It is a short drive in a very old coach.
At the hotel we were taken to the sports bar and given a cold flannel and a fruit drink. The introduction given by the hotel staff was lengthy and unnecessary because everyone was so very tired.
We had a ground-floor superior room with a great balcony. The room was fitted with 2 double beds, a couple of chairs, tables and a built in desktop. There were tea and coffee making facilities, a fridge, a safe (expensive) and open wardrobe and shelves. No draws or cupboards. It didnít matter that the TVís remote didnít work, television was not worth watching unless you are a football nut. The beds have mosquito nets, the ceiling a large fan and the room is air-conditioned. This hotel is lovely and the staff some of the best and friendliest I have ever come across. The hotel and food were not at Caribbean standard, but I was more than happy to stay at this wonderful resort. It was clean and tidy. The food was varied every day and my only concern was that this part of Kenya had a famine, severe drought and that we may have been guilty of greed in the circumstances
Water stations and bottles. Each morning 2 water bottles are left in your room, for tea coffee and brushing your teeth. Only use the tap water for showering and washing. Keep the empties and fill them at one of the 5 water stations at the hotel. There is one in the restaurant at breakfast.
The food and the drinks are fine, unless you are ultra fussy. We took Rose wine with most meals and beer or spirit later while sitting out. I think of all the food we found the fish dishes to be the best, but there was a good variety to choose from. The soups are very good but the sweets are best described as average. They even had a teenage corner for burger and chips.
At the hotel we were entertained by the vervet monkeys visiting about 5pm, they will enter your room and steal sweets so donít leave doors open and food available when they are about. I walked among them and found they were timid really. They run along the roofs and carry their babies as they travel around the site.
In the evening the hotel has an Animation group of entertainers and they worked very hard in the heat to entertain with all sorts of variety shows. The apprentices will join and chat with you. We had Salim and he was very entertaining, very good at his job. The Masai came one evening and they are quite spectacular to watch. Movie camera stuff really.
The hotel is terraced down to a white coral beach and foreshore. The gardens are immaculate and the pools clean. The hotel is a nice size with a couple of different areas to sunbathe or relax.
Our rep was Stacy, full name Rhoda Stacy Obiya, and she was helpful, contactable and very polite.
We booked a trip to Wasini Island with Stacy and I have to say that I thought it was value. We saw several Dolphins, sailed in a 66 foot twin masted lateen rigged dhow under full sail and were given great service, meal and a guided tour round the island. Everywhere the children were delightful. At the quayside where you board the Dhow, boys are selling pencils and books for the Island children. Donít buy them. You are not allowed to give the children anything on the Island as it encourages begging which spoils their character?? Go for the walk around the village and speak with the people. We didnít get to the caves because we ran out of time. The snorkelling was okay but you need to be lucky with the tides. I think it was too high when we were there. Also be prepared to wade as the boat canít get to the Islandís beach. I wore trunks and rubber shoes.
We did a lot of snorkelling; I went twice with the staff and the glass bottomed boat from the hotel out to the reef. The first time I hardly saw anything, but the second visit was wonderful, shallow water around the coral heads. I saw beautiful starfish, a lion fish and corals. Find ĎNemoí, the clown fish in the Sea anemones for fun. Itís very safe and ideal for novices. The area is a marine park and it costs £10.00 or 1,200 shillings to enter. Payable when you book the glass bottomed boat.
The hotel itself caters for most water sports, from canoe to laser and hobie cat (similar), Scuba diving, Windsurfing. I took out the yellow catamaran fun boat for a sail up the coast to look at the area. Good Fun, but only 30 mins at a time, so you canít go far even in good air with a single sail.
The best advice I can give regarding the holiday is to speak with other guests that are in their second week. They are only too willing to tell you about their safaris and adventures. We were grateful for their advice. We booked a two day safari to Tsavo east and Taita hills with the beach boys. Cheaper than with the tour operator and we had a truck to ourselves. This is called a VIP tour. With the rep you could have 7 people in the truck with widely differing interests. We booked through a beach boy named, Bruno, who wears a red cap and is badged. He works for Kings Tours of Mombasa and our driver guide was Juma Hoka. Juma was very knowledgeable and carried reference books for identification of birds and animals, though he didnít really need them. We didnít experience any problems. Juma went the extra mile to make the safari spectacular. It was better than we expected. The whole thing was all inclusive, lunch at Tsavo Lion Hill Lodge with its spectacular views, Taita Hills reserve, we stopped overnight at Saltlick waterhole, a fabulous place to stay and wakeup. At 4am elephants trumpeting outside your room and a lioness drinking at the waterhole, really magic. Younger visitors should go for more days and more game parks. I was warned that Tsavo west and amboseli took a heavy toll on visitors with bad backs as the roads are very rutted and Iím in my 60ís. We could have seen more animals if we had gone for longer and further to include Tsavo West, the Mara or Amboseli National Park but we were more than pleased. We went to take photographs and were not disappointed in any way. It was two very hard days travelling, Juma drove well over 500 kms. He can be contacted on Juma_hoka@yahoo.com
I would recommend Voyager as a base, but get out and absorb the surroundings. Watch the people, the animals and the birds. Everything apart from the poverty is beautiful. If you sit at the hotel you will miss the experience that is Africa.
The beach boys are a nuisance, but not aggressive, they just talk a lot and follow you around. There are some real bargains to be had in the way of souvenirs, safaris and fishing trips, speak with other guests. Once you have booked your safari they quieten down. Donít walk out of the hotel after 5pm, its not safe seems to be the general advice.
You will return light, we, like most visitors gave clothing, shoes and toiletries to the staff and locals. Kenya is poor and suffers from political corruption. Tips, we gave 50 shillings as a small tip. 100 - 150 as an average and 1000+ for special service. I was asked for money by the staff at the airport on more than one occasion, even public officials, but never at the hotel.
We both had DSLR Canon cameras and my wife used a 70 -200 f4 L lens with 1.4x converter. The safari photographs and pictures of birds that she took are stunning. You canít really get good results with a handbag camera. At the very least get a Canon 450d and research lenses. I took a 18 Ė 55 and 70 Ė 300.
Have a wonderful fantastic holiday if you choose this resort. My wife and I loved the whole experience. I would go back, but split the holiday with a safari to the Mara in the first place. Voyager has sister lodges in the game reserves so the quality will probably be the same. I would think the balloon trip over the mara at migration time must be a once in a lifetime experience. We will do it next time.