I wanted, so badly, for the name Kilifi to have been derived from the word cliff, but from a short session of Googling, I did not find any evidence of this. So having this for a title will suffice.
Anyway, can you believe the last time I wrote here was over a year ago? Yes you can. It’s become normal around here now. Adulting comes at you at all angles and you quickly find your free time is not actually free time. It’s somebody else’s time, unless you are asleep. Not that I am complaining. I wanted this life. 🙂
Back to the topic at hand. A month or so ago, my family and I hit the coastal town of Kilifi for both business and pleasure. I was part of the team behind ETHSafari, an event that brought together crypto and web3 enthusiasts from Kenya and across the world down to Kilifi to celebrate decentralization. ETHSafari requires a whole other blog post of its own to delve into the intrigues and headaches of organizing an event of such magnitude — with decentralization at the core. I am not promising I will write about it, but Google the acronym DAO and get a glimpse of what I mean.
I had never been to Kilifi before. You know how you tell people you are going to the coast and they all assume you’re going to Mombasa? Well, we got that a lot. I did not even appreciate how far away it is from both Malindi and Mombasa until we had to find a taxi from Malindi Airport. Wacha tu. Just to know that it is far. One hour from Mailindi, two from Mombasa.
We booked an early flight out of Nairobi, so we had to get up quite early too. In a nutshell, I did not sleep that night for some strange reason. The flight was short as usual and we were in Malindi by 8.30am. Now the taxi to Kilifi is a whole 5,000 KES, non-negotiable. Uber kinda gives you false hope that there are vehicles available for cheaper, but when you order one, there really isn’t one. So we just accepted and moved on, with one of those yellow airport minivans. Destination: Mnarani Club and Spa.
The moment you get to this popular Kilifi hotel, you can tell it’s an old establishment that was probably the elite joint back in the day. Everyone and their mother (older folk) seem to know it was owned by Jeremiah Kiereini. I did a bit of digging on the web later on and found videos from the 60s referencing the place. The welcome is warm, with a glass of juice I didn’t particularly enjoy (blame the person cooking inside me). We settled the bill since we had booked without payment on Booking.com then were shown to our room.
The side we got was a bit underwhelming, having been used to staying in huge well-lit rooms. But I cut them some slack since the establishment is old anyway. The storage space was also so limited that we actually did not unpack the way we would in other places. I was fine with this too since I discovered a lot of people think it is weird to unpack at hotels. LOL. The baby cot provided also seemed to have been a product of ages past. It was the first time I was seeing a metal cot in my life, to be honest.
Anyway, it was time to catch up on food, sleep and work. One comment I will make here is that the service at the restaurant on first encounter was not the best because we got a lady with a weird attitude. But it turned out later that all the other waiters were great and very friendly throughout our stay and the managers would go out of the way to offer snacks to our baby girl on the house. The food was not as amazing as I would have wanted, but then again, I tend to avoid judging food when I am pregnant. My taste buds can be way off.
Mnarani’s most impressive feature is the infinity pool that features in a lot of visitor pictures. Being on a cliff, the journey to the beachfront is another story altogether, as we later discovered. The path to it is literally named Cardiac Hill. While the hotel is very child-friendly, with quaint kiddie chairs in the restaurant and a baby pool near the rooms, there are vivid signboards everywhere calling for child supervision. We had to be very careful with our daughter who grabbed the first chance to run off and got quite a fright when she came upon a stair she had not foreseen.
The hotel is also very close to Kilifi town, but not close enough to walk for some of us who need to carry babies around. So we introduced our toddler to her first tuktuk ride, our main mode of transport for the days we spent in Kilifi. There is a huge Naivas supermarket on the main road which is quite convenient for guests. We stocked up and we would make several other trips back there on different days.
The next thing we decided to check out was the conference venue: Beneath the Baobabs. This time, we got an Uber, but that was the only time that worked. Beneath the Baobabs is tucked away beyond the main road. They have put up sign boards that make it easy to find in case Google Maps gets its own ideas as it normally does with our unmarked roads. Most ETHSafari attendees were still travelling on the SGR by then and so nothing much was going down that evening. The setup was really cool though, so it was great to see how all the creative work took shape on the ground.
We were back here the next morning to put in some work and meet all the people I had never met face to face while organizing this whole shebang. When I say we, I mean me and baby. Daddy had a string of virtual meetings back at the hotel. The whole ETHSafari experience for me was the true definition of me living out my working mum life. Needless to say, she was the only baby here. Daddy made it the next day since it was a Saturday.
The main conference program ran from Friday to Saturday. As many attendees will tell you, ETHSafari was a very unique conference, from the venue in the sunny sandy coast to different stages under trees and bandas. Everyone dressed the part and it was normal to see speakers up on stage sporting sandals and shorts, engaging in very serious web3 discussions. Want to know when the next one is happening? Do you want in on the web3 community that has really picked up steam since then? Follow ETHSafari or join one of the channels to keep updated on the latest events around Nairobi from the community.
Enough about that. Let me now tell you a bit about some other Kilifi things. Sunday was beach day. We took a walk down the cliffy beach when the tide was low and it was truly beautiful. Baby girl had so much fun splashing, this being her first experience in the ocean. She had discovered this new water thing the previous day as I had her dip in the baby pool. She got so excited, she ended up swallowing some water and puking and still wanting to go back in. Where are those water safety classes, guys? I need them like yesterday. My daughter will not end up a nonswimmer like me.
Another interesting place we discovered thanks to Google Maps was The Terrace. It is a walking distance from the hotel, on the other side of the main road, but you have to be really careful following Google Maps instructions or you will get lost like we first did, ending up at the wrong closed gate. The Terrace has another amazing view of the Kilifi Bridge and Creek (the first pic you see at the top of this post). It is a pretty nondescript restaurant and you immediately get the sense that it gets quite wild at night. So it was a good thing that we went there early enough. The wait for food is looooooong. So don’t go there hungry. When it comes though, it’s quite good. I would definitely recommend it, especially for them with no babies.
Monday was another chill day. I decided to check out the non touristy side of Kilifi town, though not venturing too deep inside. So me and the baby hit Village Dishes, again thanks to Google Maps. While I did not enjoy the fish much, it was good to chill out there for a bit and take a short walk halfway back before calling our tuktuk guy. Yeah, at this point we had a guy, typical Kenyan style. Haha! We hit the beach one last time to let daddy finish his meetings and join us. Just like that, our five day trip was over and we were back in Kiambu the next day.
I can’t wait for my next trip on the other side of baby no.2!
You can learn a lot from taxi drivers. Like how there is this person transferring baobabs to the West. It’s a tricky issue, given how underprivileged most of the Kilifi community appears to be. In addition, it could have serious environmental effects. Coincidentally, The Guardian covered the story recently.