MYD – stands for Malindi / Kenya


(Posted 10th March 2015)

It is almost inevitable that questions were asked and motives studied when I announced a trip along the Kenya coast, covering Vipingo, Malindi, Watamu, Kilifi, Shanzu and Nyali.

But why here and why not there or what on earth made you chose that place …

Vipingo was a given, as the resort hosted the wedding of my daughter and with due respect, no why here and not there will be entertained as after all the team at the Vipingo Ridge delivered the goods to everyone’s fullest satisfaction, emphasis on FULLEST.

And then came Malindi and a stay at an old stomping ground, the Driftwood Club. It was back in those good ol’ days a refuge of sorts on weekends to get away, foot loose and fancy free and then, the one thing which mattered, was a constant supply of cold beers which never ever ran out at the Driftwood. Perhaps it was a place for what was then referred to as ‘Kenya Cowboys’ who came from Mombasa, Nairobi and even further upcountry, and having fun and horsing around as we put it then was the main purpose for coming there. Roaring campfires at night, with BBQ’s of steaks, chicken, sausages and at times a goat or a suckling pig and a fast growing tab with the barman for the beers that was the place to be.

Fast forward into the 21st Century and, as I tweeted on arrival, the place still has the same feel to it and yet has changed, gone with the times. The reception is where it used to be and once past the check in formalities does the vista open up through the palm trees allowing for sweeping views of the Indian Ocean.

In the 29 rooms were the bathrooms of course modernized over the decades and visibly more recently again, the soft furnishings changed, new furniture put into the rooms and the air condition units were state of the art – but the essence of the Driftwood, the informality, the feeling of being able to be as casual as one wants to be, the tide of almost inevitable relaxation when laying down on a sunbed or sitting back in a chair, feet up, wants to make one throw the watch away, or else at least store it in the safe until the day comes when the receptionist very tentatively walks up and asks when one intends to vacate the room. It is then that one realizes that time either flew by or stood still with the daily purpose being getting up late, strolling along the beach or going out for a spot of fishing before returning in the afternoon for tea and a nap prior to dinner.

(The Driftwood main building and the beach just metres away from it)

The rooms are thankfully not over furnished as the purpose of a visit is to enjoy the outdoors, get sand between the toes, swim, sunbath, go fishing, go golfing or go do anything but sit in a room but when one has to. Perhaps during the rainy season, or to use the high speed free internet connection available across the resort, there is enough space to sit down on a chair and dressing desk rather than having to squat on the bed.

Swahili style desks and chairs give the right ambience, and being privileged to have been accommodated in a two bedroom villa, the same was replicated in the sitting room and the large terrace outdoors. A private pool there is to be shared between the occupants of the two cottages, aptly named Lamu and Banda, which are in a walled compound within the club grounds.

Roger Sylvester, the proprietor, moved to Malindi a few years ago after selling his stake in one of Nairobi’s top travel agencies, and fulfilled his dream to retire on the beach and in his own little kingdom for that matter. Those connected with him on the social media know that he leaves out not one opportunity to post pictures and uptalk the Driftwood. Yet, only those who have followed his clarion call and stayed there indeed know what it is all about and that, what is posted on an almost daily basis, is truly real. While Roger was away did St. John Kelliher, whom many may remember from the Mt. Kenya Safari Club, stand in and a splendid host he was.

One true eye opener for me was the food and the service, both excellent. The main restaurant, where breakfast and dinner is served, offers during periods of lower occupancy the option for all guests to select their meal from the a la carte menu while, when the place is packed, buffet options are a popular choice.

The snack menu at the Driftwood was very and I mean extremely well priced with not one dish over 700 Kenya Shillings, equivalent to about 7.5 US for which one gets a prawns sandwich or a club sandwich or a burger with chips and the cheapest meal is a Samosa for just 110 bob, as the local currency is called by people who live here. A plate of chips goes for 150 bob and deep fried onion rings with chilli set one back 150 bob only enough to deal with the inevitable peckishness around lunch time or in the early afternoon.

For dinner one night I chose the Sashimi Tuna, the Zanzibar Fish Soup and a delicious chocolate mousse, while on day two the Catch of the Day was Red Snapper, grilled to perfection and served with a lime and garlic dressing. I had another helping of the Zanzibar Fish Soup and then seriously considered to crayon over the print on the menu and rename it Driftwood Fish Soup – Roger, we don’t promote our closest competitors, not even by naming a soup after them.

Breakfast is very informal and the selection of Marmites and Bovril, obviously an acquired taste, made my two morning meals a kickstart for my palate.

Poached eggs cooked to my taste rounded up the start of the day before then setting out to explore, beaches, town and beyond. And also noteworthy was the quality of the home made orange marmalade, prompting me to have another slice of toast to make sure I was not dreaming when I had the first two.

Given the club tariffs available for locals, the residents in the region but also for visitors from overseas, there are differences of course, this must make for a top notch holiday at economy prices.

The hotel’s star rating does not come into play because coming back to my roots alone was worth 5 stars, and the cuisine definitely is tops of the pops – Roger sure did a fab job in this department and even in his absence was the staff switched on, keen and present without overwhelming the guests.

Remains the big question people will ask, but what is there to do in Malindi. A lot really and if I were to list it all, starting with safaris to Tsavo East to a flying visit to Lamu, I never end this article.

The Arabuko Sokoke Forest where over 230 species of birds and some 40 species of mammals including elephant can be spotted is but half an hour away from the Driftwood. A car with driver and a guide will cost about 6.000 Kenya Shillings but can be shared among several participants to keep the price per person low. An additional entrance fee of US D 15 applies for foreign visitors.

A crocodile and snake farm is just a few minutes away from the Driftwood, diving beyond the reef of course available for those who know how to dive and the Driftwood is really at the centre of activity during the fishing season when boat charters can be arranged through the reception and when the skippers come back, rarely as that may be, empty handed they will spin the yarn of that record catch snapping the line just metres from the boat after reeling the monster in for the better part of the day.

And then there are dhow trips, glass bottom boat excursions to the reef, kite surfing, golf – that not to be forgotten (clubs can be hired at the Malindi Golf and Country Club). This all besides the culture and history of Malindi where a visit to the Malindi Museum takes one back in time, as does the walk down the beach to the Vasco Da Gama point or the old Portuguese chapel which was lovingly restored and is watched over by Bendrick Masha.

(My Tuk Tuk driver Said and your’s truly about to embark on a three hour trip through Malindi)

And the non plus ultra is a Tuk Tuk tour with Said, free of charge for Driftwood guests, though entrance fees must of course be paid directly. This trip takes a couple of hours and takes visitors through the back streets of the old Malindi town’s Arab and Swahili quarters, passes mosques and places of interest and allows for some spot of shopping for souvenirs. I managed to rediscover old spots, no longer familiar, as for instance the former Sindbad Hotel is now a mere ruin, while the Blue Marlin was transformed into apartments. Other hotels were still there, but from the look of it when strolling in and around, as empty as they come.

Why Malindi suffers of low tourist numbers remains a mystery as it is for the entire Kenya coast.

During my trip so far I walked, jogged, Tuk Tukked, used a boda boda and felt safe, everywhere I went. The locals were especially cheerful thinking I am a proper wageni, only to realise later that I lived in Kenya for ages before moving to Uganda. I never felt unsafe, threatened or stalked, people were friendly and responded to greetings. Sadly were the tourist market, the woodcarver’s place and the tourist shops empty of buyers.

The local hotel and even property market is dominated by Italians and most of the beach front properties belong to them, either living there permanently or at least escaping the European winter, and who can blame them. Flavio Briatore built the award winning Spa the Lion in the Sun and last year completed the half a billion Shillings Billionaire’s Resort. He flies into Malindi in his private jet, as do other well off Italians who own villas along the beaches while the rest of them come by scheduled flights when they want to take time out and enjoy the sun. As a result is there a clear bias towards Italian restaurants in town but the taxi or Tuk Tuk drivers know the locations where one can get a Swahili meal, fresh seafood or just plain burgers and chips. I found the food at the Driftwood far too good though to venture outside and that is a real compliment I can make the chef and kitchen staff.

It makes sense to come to Malindi and is sensible too for those who do not bother about the big names – not that the Driftwood does not have a big name itself … Malindi is laid back, family friendly and ideal for a getaway far from prying eyes …

My choice of Driftwood seems to have befuddled those who in the past claimed that I only ever do five star … agreed, the Driftwood is not a five star resort but it ticked all the right boxes with me and as I left I could honestly say I had a five star experience and I think that matters more than stars over the front door which as we all know, more often than not do not live up to expectations.

Kenya Airways flies daily, with the exception of Wednesdays, from Nairobi to Malindi as do some other local airlines and while at the coast I learned that Kenya Airways in fact appears to have put fares on the market from London to Malindi via Nairobi of less than 500 pounds. Extraordinary value for money and those savvy enough to see it will jump on the opportunity to come to the Kenyan coast, to Malindi in particular and perhaps spend a week or two at the Driftwood, or any of the other resorts in and near the town, and all at bargain rates.

Added information about Destination Kenya can be found via and about the marine and nearby territorial national parks click on Kenya Airways flight schedule can be accessed via and other airlines on the route can be googled.

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