The F.O.M.O Travel Show – Impressions from Kilifi


(Posted 01st of July 2020)

A little birdie told me that the Black Marlin luxury complex in Kilifi was re-opening. Excited by the news, I dusted down my archives and re-lived the time last year when The F.O.M.O. Travel show was invited to look over the property that Miriam, a lovely Kenyan lady who partly lives in France, had just purchased. Not only is the sprawling 2 villa property set on a pristine secluded beach on the exclusive side of Kenya’s coast, it also has a rather heady history as well.

The property originally belonged to Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping mogul and one of the wealthiest men in the world in the 1970s and Jackie Kennedy Onassis, an American icon. Jackie and Ari had started as dear friends. It wasn’t until a few years after the assassination of her first husband, President John F. Kennedy, that their courtship actually began according to online background information. So, this place was their honeymoon retreat in Africa, a coral stone and thatch roof complex that cleverly integrates the decorative use of cement and colored tiles in a manner reminiscent of creative basket-weaving.

The Black Marlin Resort, then passed on to one of the Kashoggi brothers, one an arms dealer and the other a world re-known journalist that got chopped into little pieces by an Arabian king for being a little too fearless. It is said the property changed hands several times and then lay abandoned, before being rescued by Miriam, who fell in love with it the minute she saw it.

The long driveway tops up into a round-about that the front-open reception curves around. Swahili architecture is cleverly employed, with clean lines bordered by stylized carvings in white, wood poles and ocean blue Kikoi fabric soft-furnishings. The air at the coast is such that one cannot tolerate enclosed spaces and The Black Marlin takes this into account with an open plan arrangement that sees the reception tumble into the dining room, which smooths down to the secluded beach via a grove of palm trees, green grass, several swimming pools that are yet to be re-filled and the salty sea wind blowing at you as you approach it.

Put on your daishiki and fluff out your afro. We are unlocking the beach door and slowing down the tempo. Besides the Beach House, an architectural wonder I will get to later, was a little wooden-plank door set into the perimeter wall. We watched as the caretaker hit the locking beam in several different positions to loosen it, before heaving the door past gathered sand to reveal a pristine white private beach. It shone so bright I still squinted behind my shades and held my hand against my eyes. The tide was out, so I walked right out into the water, thankful that I had worn my sandals after spotting a bevy of spikey sea-urchins nestling comfortably between the rocks and the sand.

I walked for a good 15 min East along the beach, virtually topless in my bikini and khaki shorts, not caring about sucking in my slightly inflated belly from breakfast, before encountering other people from neighboring properties and a couple of local fishermen in a similar state of undress. I asked one where I could find someone to roast for me a fresh catch and he pointed further along to a little shack on the entrance to the beach from a public path. It took the young hajji about an hour but I got my freshly roasted salty Taffi fish with some fresh tomatoes, a cold beer and a sagging wicker chair in the sun by the shack. Satisfied, I walked back in a little sandstorm and stopped to clean off in the ocean before crossing the hidden gate back to the Black Marlin.

Freshly desalinated by the waterfall shower in my Tex-Mex mosaic themed bathroom, I stroll back down to the Beach House to meet some friends who had ordered fresh oysters and lobster from The Terrace Café in Kilifi. A gigantic log cabin with huge elephant tusks at the entrance framed by dramatic lighting, the innocuously named “Beach House” felt like the beach retreat of the King of Zamunda. A-line structured and glass fronted and backed, the elegant living-room is definitely larger than my entire apartment, with an enormous polished driftwood bar occupying one full side, and lemon-yellow cushioned sofas on the other.

The entire corridor to the master bedroom was the closet, which made me wonder how much luggage one would be required to check in with in order to seem like you belong there. And then there was the master bedroom, exposed high-ceiling beams, clean white walls, a bed one accesses by climbing up an antique African carved stool, and large enough for the average adult to roll over in it at least 4 times before falling off the other edge. The bathroom had the prerequisite jacuzzi and not one but 2 shower stalls and sinks, and was beautifully appointed with wall to floor, sink and skirtings, basket-weave mosaic. Simple and yet stunning in its’ Afro-Mediterranean effect.

As I sucked on shell after shell of oysters in the setting lilac sky, overlooking the turquoise waves returning to lap at the boundary walls, my hostess told me of the newly renovated 15 rooms that are now available for bookings, as well as the other extensive renovation plans she is undertaking with the help of interested potential partners. The Beach House is also available for private bookings, either recreational or matrimonial, and personally I could not think of a more perfect place in which to sit in my wedding dress, basking in the feeling of being newly-married, far from the madding crowd.

A year later and the Black Marlin wears a new face and we will be there to cover its post-lockdown re-opening. Book now to take advantage of low-season rates, with a double room at the Garden House going for $40 per night, room only. Meals can be arranged for you in advance based on your preference, and guides are available to take you around the charming Kilifi town for a little culinary excursion.

Meet me at the coast in two weeks. Don’t miss out on The F.O.M.O. Lockdown Breakout Special.

Activities here might include visits to the nearby Arabuko Sokoke forest, the oldest endemic forest of east Africa, the Mamba (crocodile) village or even Haller Park. Given its location in the lesser visited parts of the coast, exclusivity is highly guaranteed here for those who’d like to avoid crowds.

To make bookings email or call Suzie:

+254 711 396 898

To watch The F.O.M.O. Travel Show Ep 12 (Archive)- The Black Marlin:

To be profiled on The F.O.M.O. Travel Show email: