UGANDA AIRLINES’ NONSTOP FLIGHTS TO MOMBASA OPENS UP DESTINATION KENYA COAST FOR VISITORS ACROSS THEIR GROWING NETWORK
(Posted 27th November 2019)
#MagicalKenya – Was the name a lucky strike by marketeers or does it reflect the reality on the ground?
Well, probably both as a recent visit to the Kenya coast, facilitated by Uganda Airlines’ inaugural nonstop flight from Entebbe to Mombasa went to show.
After first spending two days at the beaches north of Mombasa were two more days on the visiting programme, heading to the famous beaches south of Mombasa and here in particular a regular top award winner, Diani.
The Diani beach stretch is home to a number of five and four star resorts and fits any description of a perfect sun and sand vacation, with plenty of other activities of course available as one would expect from Destination Kenya or to be more precise, Destination Diani but more about that later.
I first came here more than four decades ago and my fascination today is not any less, especially when standing at the vantage viewpoint of the Baobab Resort which opens up a vista which truly can only be described as magical. I stood at the very spot in the mid 1970’s when the resort had just opened its doors and the view across the endless white beach remains embedded in my memory, which I refresh every now and again when visiting this part of the Kenya coast.
At the time was this resort called the Robinson Club Baobab, set on about 80 acres of land, with a beachfront of nearly 700 metres and a tropical rainforest which back then expanded well beyond the property and was home to leopard, forest pigs, antelopes, colobus galore as well as other monkeys and a range of additional mammals. Birdlife was prolific – and remains so, when visiting the forest and taking a guided walk. Though the leopards changed residence – now found mainly at the Shimba Hills National Park – are small antelopes, colobus, monkeys and other mammals still found as are tropical trees including the baobab, shrubs and plants.
Today, though the Baobab Resort has grown from the erstwhile one to three accommodation units, is the resort still taking pride to continue with the protection and preservation of their rain forest and has, as a result, been reeling in awards aplenty. The forest is complemented by well laid out gardens, which are in part superbly manicured and in part continue to show the wild side of this part of Kenya too, with ponds and water features completing the impressions.
But from reminiscing to back to reality now.
Baobab Resorts today comprise the initial Baobab and in addition the family friendly Kole Kole and the couples only Maridadi.
This separation of purpose ensures that every visitor can have the kind of fun they seek during a Mombasa visit and especially families with children appreciate this, no wonder given the entertainment programme the resort provides for the kids in particular. In turn can couples have their own fun at Maridadi as can solo travelers across any of the resort units.
In fact is a dedicated kids club looking after the little ones – and the not so little ones too – giving parents peace of mind and the opportunity to enjoy their vacation just that little bit more to make the difference!
I counted 5 pools across the three resorts – one over three levels that is – and the all inclusive concept means that visitors do not have to dig their pockets for their beers, soft drinks, house wines or even selected cocktails and liqueurs.
It also means guests can eat any of their meals at any of the main restaurants but for those fancying something special, are two a la carte restaurants available, Marhaba and Tangezi – table bookings absolutely recommended – which however attract direct charges and meals there are not part of the all inclusive concept.
In addition is a snack restaurant available at the Kolo Kole pool where from 10 a.m. until the early evening burgers, pizzas, french fries and other fast foods are served – and by the look of it are the cooks constantly busy feeding their guests throughout the day. Oh yes, and ice cream, I almost forgot, ice cream too is available and also part of the all inclusive package.
This all inclusive meal plan offers guests everything from breakfast over lunch to afternoon tea and dinner, and the variety of offerings, and their quality, is yet another reason why the Baobab’s resorts are so immensely popular with visitors.
Main courses change every day – the staples of course are available at every meal – and an active cooking station for pasta and for meat and fish are tempting to linger and watch how the chefs display their skills before indulging in their delicious creations. And, going for second helpings is definitely an option when wanting to have some more of that extra tasty dish which tickled one’s taste buds.
As to the visitors coming to these resorts … of course there are plenty of so called wagenis to be found across the three, Baobab proper, Kole Kole and Maridadi, from across Europe and beyond but notably also a lot of visitors from Kenya and of course the hinterland. During my stay I met guests from Uganda and Rwanda, from Congo and South Africa, striking a happy demographic balance as they all enjoyed what the resorts had to offer to them.
All of them I spoke with were more than just happy with the overall quality of their stay, their rooms, the service, the food and perhaps most of all the location and every one of them mentioned that they were made to feel welcome like in few other places they had been to.
I stayed at the Kole Kole part of the resort, the view from my balcony extending towards the main pool and beyond to the ocean, and apart from that, left no wish unanswered as far as furnishings were concerned.
A large sunbed on the balcony invites for an afternoon nap and I hope readers taking the jump and visiting the resort are not as startled as I was when I woke and two little monkey sat on the balcony rail, watching me with much curiosity – before doing a runner when I moved to get my camera.
Superior comfort was instantly visible when I was shown to my room, not just that everything worked and presented itself sparkling clean but was it evident too that regular maintenance is a constant feature.
The amenities kit in the bathroom takes care of whatever one forgot at home but then there are shops across the resort, and of course the supermarkets along the beach road where guests can buy their bathroom necessities and other items.
The air conditioner can be regulated to adjust the room temperature, a ceiling fan is also available but sleeping with open doors may not be such a good idea, given that the resort is also home to monkeys which are inquisitive to say the least.
Two nights is not nearly enough time to discover all there is to see and participate in as the resorts have daily entertainment programmes lined up, active participation during the day and in the evening regular shows at the amphitheatre, which the three resorts share together with other common features. In fact, had it not been for another trip already confirmed the day after my return to Uganda, I would have extended my stay at the Baobab and that is probably the best compliment I can make them. Warm friendly staff and engaged management combined with excellent food and sun drenched days got to me to the point of wanting to put phones and laptop in the room safe and then forget the combination.
While I was there, on my second morning, I took a guide to visit the sandbank off the main beach, aptly called Robinson Island, which I reached with a glass bottom boat, opening up the views into a colourful underwater world dominated by a coral reef. Low tide is the best time to do that excursion. The sight of colourful reef fish, star fish and other marine life – and expert explanations from my guide Kennedy – made this a truly a very memorable experience.
Snorkeling and diving is available – including courses for beginners – and given the number of visitors to the sandbank is this a very popular pastime for guests staying at the resort.
Other water sport activities are available and can be booked at the water sports centre, including windsurfing, paragliding, jet skies and of course deep sea fishing beyond the reef.
For guests not so keen on those activities is a fully equipped gym available as is the Afya Bora Spa and for more physical exercise are volleyball and tennis courts available. And if all that is not enough, take a walk or a jog and enjoy it as the surf of the Indian Ocean kisses the white sandy beaches of Diani day in and day out.
Additional activities can also be found outside the resort and a visit to Colobus Conservation is a personal recommendation to better understand the challenges of keeping their numbers up and how much more the centre does for injured animals of all kinds, including sea turtles and birds.
Skydiving is available from the Ukunda airfield and short safaris to the Shimba Hills National Park can be booked through the tour desk at the hotels.
Another recommendation worth considering is a visit to Shimoni and Wasini Island right at the border with Tanzania where dolphins and whale sharks are regularly seen.
Of course there is the question of transfers from the international airport in Mombasa to the south coast. It presently takes anywhere from around two hours to more, depending on traffic but the good news is, that the bypass from the airport directly to Ukunda is under advanced construction.
The first major bridge across the mangrove swamps is already completed and work on the second bridge is ongoing. When bridge construction is complete will the driving time be very substantially reduced and when the entire new highway is open all the way to Ukunda can the resorts in Diani be reached even faster than those at the beaches north of Mombasa.
My hosts at the Baobab assured me that transfer times from airport to resort will not be longer than 45 minutes and probably even shorter.
Uganda Airlines (www.ugandairlines.com) charges US Dollars 318 for a return flight, all taxes included, and offers boarding in Entebbe and deboarding in Mombasa without the hassles of changing planes along the way.
The flights – presently three per week but an increase to four is anticipated before the end of the year – leave Entebbe on Monday, Friday and Sunday, and the timings bring a weekend trip to the coast within the grasp of many.
The aircraft used for the service is a new 76 seat, dual class CRJ900 which, for the flight duration of 1 hour 45 minutes is comfortable with a 1×2 seat configuration in business and a 2×2 seat configuration in economy class.
The combination of nonstop flights and accommodation packages like the ones offered by Baobab are nothing short but a winner, be it for a Friday to Sunday weekend trip or a longer stay.
The resort arranges transfers from and to the airport in Mombasa, at a nominal cost, and it is truly a place where visitors from Uganda and across the region are welcome.
While Uganda Airlines is working on putting proper packages on the market for Destination Mombasa can savvy individuals already book flights and accommodation on line or else leave it to their travel agent to do that for them.
Check out www.baobab-beach-resort.com and get a feel of what awaits. Happy Landings!