Sand Island Beach Cottages; languid days on the South Mombasa Coast

From my earliest teenage years I’ve wanted to go to the coast of Kenya.. My absolute IMG_3416.JPGfavorite book growing up was about a hippie who travelled the world and spent a significant amount of time in Lamu.   Since we’ve landed in Kenya it’s been my main motivation to make it to the coast… Tiwi isn’t Lamu, its far south but for now it seemed good enough….
Hairdryer hot air as soon as the train doors open.  Coconut palms ripe with enormous fruit dangling precariously above your head. A coral reef 100 metres out from shore with requisite tropical fish and beyond that humpback whales rising gloriously out the water.  White, baby soft sand littered with seashells. Seawater so warm you’ve had cooler baths.  Fish straight from the sea, cooked over coals for supper every night.
We stayed at Sand Island Beach Cottages in Tiwi.   First thing you need to know about Tiwi is there is nothing there but private houses, the odd hotel and miles and miles of perfect coastline.  A coral reef protects the beaches and forms a lagoon which at high tide offers nearly surfable waves and at low tide all the rock pooling / star fishing adventures you could wish for.   When I was younger we went to stay on a remote Thai Island, Tiwi is like the Thailand you grew up hearing about before it went commercial, Sand Island Beach Cottage picturesque beach houses of varying sizes but the largest had 3 bedrooms.  Rustic and basic accurately describe these cottages but so does clean and well stocked. All of the houses are just a few short metres from the perfect beach with areas to sit out and gaze at postcard perfect views.
Walking the beach at low tide, searching for starfish

The cottages, however, are made by owners Cheryl and Arty… we arrived with nothing and were soon stocked with wine, beer, bread, eggs and a massive basket of fruit and veg from their store.  For meals the fisherman sit a short distance away from your huts and you can either buy what they catch or put an order in for the next day. For 14000 KES we had 3 large lobsters which we bbq’d under the open stars.   In addition Cheryl lent the kids body boards, masks and snorkel and beach shoes all completely free of charge.

Days are spent in the sea, it’s too hot to do anything else.  Our kids woke so early every day we saw a sunrise every morning and were in the sea and back for breakfast by 7am.  The days go swim, rest, swim rest, eat, swim, rest, swim crack open the booze…eat perfect supper.   If you want idyll and relaxing and close to Nairobi at least in terms of travel time, then this is what you are looing for. It was paradise and Ill be back…
Baobabs by the beach
  • We got there on the new SGR train, not recommended with kids (blog to follow)
  • We got back to Nairobi by plane… only 40 minutes; we booked from Mombasa, which was a mistake, much better to book from Ukunda.
  • From Mombasa where both the train and plane arrive it’s nearly a two hour taxi ride (approx. 40 dollars) Ukunda is only 20 minutes.
  • It’s hot. Please understand I’m not fresh of the boat from England, I’ve lived most of my life abroad and I grew up in Saudi Arabia where in the height of summer my sister and I would slather ourselves in baby oil and sunbath all day (yes that’s part explanation for the wrinkles) but this was torrid, humid, almost suffocating heat… for adults and kids both the only option for this was to spend all day in the sea.
  • Because of being wet from sea water or sweat the entire time my daughter developed a nasty rash which despite cortisone creams and antihistamine meant that by the end of the holiday we had to keep her inside… not amazing with no telly/ AC /toys.  Similarly because they were constantly in and out the water the boys got very sunburned… think of solutions beyond sunscreen and prepare for a day out of the water.
  • The mosquitos weren’t too bad. We didn’t see many and had no bites.  We gave the kids malaria tablets and they had no side affects.
  • Tiwi to Diani – approx. 1000 – 1500 shillings. Shops, pharmacy’s, pubs and restaurants are all here.

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