It is ‘Safari Njema’ to Roger Sylvester as the iconic Driftwood Club in Malindi closes down


(Posted 02nd May 2021)

It is May 01st 2021 and it is the end of the road for the Driftwood Club in Malindi. But it is also the end of the road of a love affair of Driftwood aficionados from across East Africa, Africa and the rest of the world, a property always described by this correspondent as ‘Kenya’s best bare feet resort‘ after the resort closed down on the 30th of April.

I remember myself the ups and downs and ups again of the Driftwood, always a place of great hands on hospitality, first when Bruce Buckland owned the place before Roger Sylvester took it over, moved from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi to the relaxed beachside town of Malindi and gave the Driftwood a new lease on life.

Roger, ever busy on social media to promote the Driftwood at the same time also was one of the key promoters of Destination Malindi and both Driftwood and Roger will be leaving a big void behind.

I spent some memorable weekends there in the far past and the Driftwood was always my place to stay when in Malindi to explore the neighbourhoods and write about what makes Malindi so special for visitors, who were seeking a laid back resort, free of dress codes and silly rules – being silly was in fact encouraged – but full of fun, a place of good home cooked meals and a place where beers were cold and tea was served steaming hot.

I remember the tuk tuk rides which the Driftwood offered every guest, the quizz nights, the themed parties and the special celebrations like St. Patricks Day when Roger turned the Driftwood and everyone working and staying there green.
Roger opened the Driftwood to host market days for the locals and his faithful clientele, yours truly included of course, kept coming back and back and back.
I remember Roger performing a Scotish sword dance, dressed up to suit any occasion and his colourful shirts, like himself, became the stuff of legend.

Roger had many challenges to meet, the at times sorry state of the Malindi roads and town itself and the apparent neglect of Kilifi council of Malindi affairs. But Roger never stopped believing in Destination Malindi, where he was not only hotelier par excellence but also self styled chief marketeer.

The Driftwood will be remembered among what we used to call Kenya Cowboys, but also their families after they – as we all did eventually – grew up. The Kenyan and East African Brits and Irish took to it as much as plenty of other expat nationalities did and overseas visitors too kept coming to the resort which size and direct beachside location made it a very very special place to be.

It is said that all good things come to an end but here that end came too soon for me, not having been able to do my biannual pilgrimage to the Driftwood last year because of Corona travel restrictions and this year due to having to take care of family affairs in Germany, which has kept me here for several months already.

So all I can do is to bid a very fond farewell to Roger and the lady of his heart Sarah, a farewell I also extend to the superb staff of the club who looked after me when I was staying there.

Asante Mingi Sana Roger the Dodger for your hospitality over the past many years at the Driftwood – I feel privileged to be your good friend since my early days in Kenya so many decades ago!

Safari Njema Roger, be safe and well wherever you go and as our saying goes, Roger – Over and Out.

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