Achola Rosario enjoys the Baobab Festival in Kilifi – in her own words ‘WILDLY’ and surely to the fullest


By Achola Rosario, Contributing Editor at 


(Posted 10th January 2023)


After a Christmas spent making nice with family, a task in itself, a drive cross country to Kilifi
on the coast of Kenya to participate in 3 days of hedonistic revelry comprised of alternative
electronic music with an East African flavour was just what the doctor prescribed. The priest
may have other things to say about it, but who listens to them anyway. And obviously 3,500
other people felt the same way as we all descended to Beneath the Baobabs festival like
thirsty zombies from all across the globe seeking the Elixir of Life.


The 7-year-old festival which had previously gone under the name Kilifi New Year, had shut
down during COVID for 3 years and its much-anticipated revival came this year, on the 2022-
2023 crossover. This was a festival known for its Burning Man antics, burning down 10 ft
wooden effigies in an annual winter solstice pagan-esque purge of negative energy. But
there would be no burning man this year, only eco-friendly and energy-elevating raves
across four stages, in a secret baobab grove opposite Mnarani High School. Even the Kilifi
County government was onboard, repurposing the former potholed one lane “highway” into
a freshly carpeted dual carriageway, recognising the influence of the tourist dollar on the
minimally developed area.


My rented Honda Fit managed the roads and diversions quite nicely, and we almost
overshot the turning to the festival marked by a wooden painted sign on an electricity pole.
Down a dusty track we went until the road opened up to a plateau of cars parked in an
orderly fashion, and polite security guards pointing to the drop off point for your camping
gear before designating you a safe and demarcated parking spot. I was impressed already.
One even helped carry our tent down to the check in desk, where organised queues of
revellers in various costumes were swiftly kitted out with the wristband that was going to
make their festival go off without a hitch. The wristband was where you loaded money for
drinks refills and was your ticket in. Without it, you don’t come in and you don’t get served.
With sponsors like Kenyan Originals, a delightful drinks company with artisan-brewed cider
and flavoured tonic water, Jameson and Heineken, the festival organisers were not there to
play. They meant business.



I set up my tent, helped my co-pilot for the event set up his as he was a camping virgin, took
my camera equipment to the office for safekeeping where I ran into Matt Swallow, the
festival’s Creative Director, and duly informed him that I fully intended to not work that
night and instead soak up the atmosphere. He looked at me with his “usual butter wont
melt in his mouth” expression and told me to hold onto my hat- I was in for a ride. By
midnight, clad in my trademark black UV glow skeleton t-shirt, black leggings and jungle
boots, the 7-foot-tall speaker became my god, and I worshiped it adoringly. The music,
heart-stopping bass thumping electronic tweaking to the next dimension music, pierced
through my soul and liberated my daemons.


They and I danced until the morning light, joined at some point in the night by a barefoot
60-year-old European angel, with silver hair and white diaphanous romper-shorts. Together,
we cut a tableau of Dante’s Paradiso e Inferno, unchained in Acid House choral mysteries,
my co-pilot nowhere in sight for the rest of the festival.


7 am on the 31 st December 2022 found me at the main stage under a 2000-year-old baobab
festooned with white Chinese lanterns, still Midnight-Marauding (Tribe Called Quest) to
Grime and Trap tracks dropped with incisive precision by DJ SkaFace, aka David Cecil of East
African Records. His track “Very Fake”- featuring his regular crew of Blessed San, Kaya
Nemesis, Blaq Bandana and MC Yallah, all from Uganda- had me jumping like was back on
Ggaba road bouncing around with them. It was a very weird time-warp sensation for me.
David Cecil proceeded to later photobomb a section of my footage with a beautiful DJ Alex
Rita with his middle finger, before blowing me kisses and declining an interview because his
crew was not there with him. In his humble words: “who would want an interview with a
lone Muzungu?”. Editor’s note: most of us do not consider Cecil “white”.


By 1pm I had to crash. My legs could no longer bend without eliciting cries of pain, so I
folded myself into my tent and bombed into blackness in the afternoon heat. When I woke
up at 4pm soaked to the core, I prayed the outdoor showers were working. I trundled past a
row of wooden open roofed cabins and found a free one, all with gushing overhead
showers. The cold water mercifully washed my freely perspiring skin, and left me feeling like
a million dollars. It was going to be work all night for me, carrying my camera and tripod
around like I was going off to war (according to Matt Swallow). The dancefloors were
packed and everyone loved dancing for my camera. It is rare for a journalist to find such a
compliant audience. Must have been something in the water.


Water was a component in most of the decorative elements around the site, such as the 10-
man swing with an overhead shower, or the trippy makuti umbrellas with a sign saying
“Turn me on”, which in turn showered you with cold love. There was no plastic litter, as
single use plastic was completely banned and each reveller paid shs200 ($2) for a tall plastic
cup which was refilled every time you went to buy a drink. I still have mine from 2019.
Cashless payment systems meant that you were not losing money all over the place and
instead could load your aforementioned wristband with however much your drinking
budget was. But you had to be careful to only load as much as you could drink, as there
were no refunds for left over credit. Suffice to say, there was not a sober soul on site that
night- except maybe for me, armed with my 3kg JVC camcorder.



Midnight on New Year came and so did the screams, hugs and kisses, the ecstasy of random
“I Love Yous” exponentially magnifying the already loving vibe that permeated the entire
festival. By morning, in the glory of the 6am light, we listened to variations of Congolese
love-songs lovingly crafted and inserted by DJ Alex Rita from London, who says despite this
being her first time in Africa, has infused her music with many African sounds as an homage
from the Afro-Caribbean community in London. Goddesses were doing yoga stretches in the
warm coastal glow, African Queens fanned themselves as they gyrated their hips to the slow
sexy ballads, and White Fly-girls showed the rest of us that white girls can indeed dance.



I was left humbled by all the magical people I met who willingly called me Captain! Special
shout-out to the twin I met called Surprise; he took the jokes about his name on the chin
like a man. And Victor, my son’s doppelganger, who followed me around like a puppy when I
was not filming. They trusted me with their secrets and hugs and shared whatever they had
with them without any hesitation. I shared with them my bag of “Nsenene” (a local Ugandan
delicacy of fried grasshoppers) and for the select few, a swig from my flask of local brew
straight from my village’s forests. It was a wild time; it was a fine time. What a time to be


Tickets cost between $70 and $120. Turn off point is at The Twisted Fig opposite Mnanari Secondary School
Kilifi County. This is a “Leave No Trace” festival and proceeds go towards environmental protection of the
baobab grove and surrounding areas.

For more information on Beneath the Baobabs New Year’s Eve Festival:

Beneath the Boababs

To watch the FOMO Travel Show ep95:



Contact Achola Rosario via if you are interested to have your location featured on the F.O.M.O. Travel Show and on



Your comments are welcome and will receive a response in due course.

%d bloggers like this: