This Week at Atta HQ
Good morning. "This Week" has a slightly different format based on our CEO, Nigel's recent visit to Kenya, his first Africa trip for 2015.
Firstly, our sympathies must go out to the Parisians after the devastating attack last week. But what puzzles me, on my return from a week visiting properties on the Kenyan coast, is the huge difference between the travel advice on the French capital and that on the Kenya coast, yet both facing similar threats. Check out the FCO travel advice on Paris today. It merely cautions to be "especially vigilant and follow the security advice issued by the French authorities”. The Kenyan coast on the other hand, receives a far higher level of advisory, a “non-essential” warning, on the area bordering my visit, Mombasa Island and within 5km of the coast from Mtwapa creek in the north down to and including Tiwi in the south. Although the advice specifically excludes the costal hub, Moi International airport, and also Diani beach, it effectively restricts most tourist access to the South coast unless flying by smaller aircraft to Ukunda on Diani. These wide interpretations simply do not make sense in my book and the level should be lowered accordingly.
In any case, I maintain that a “non-essential” travel advice becomes less and less effective the longer it is imposed (8 months now on the Mombasa section), creating as it does and has, massive unemployment on the coast (at least 1 in 20 jobs are in tourism). This only breeds a smouldering resentment which plays into the hands of those wishing to destabilise the status quo.
So, knowing all this, my wife and I flew to Nairobi with Kenya Airways on New Year’s Eve, always a good flight if you need space, lots of room and cheaper flights. Then on to the North coast, starting with 2 nights at Hemingways in Watamu which was recovering from the celebrations the night before. Excellent food as always and lot of chit chat about a new “boutique Hemingways” for the future. But the guests were mainly Kenyan residents and visiting friends and relations, but very, very few identifiable tourists from UK in sight.
After three nights with friends in Kilifi and Nairobi we headed to Wilson airport for our Safarilink to Ukunda by Diani. Great to see their planes sporting Wildlife Direct’s campaign “Hands off our Elephants”. Talking of tail fins, how about personalised number plate on planes! I spotted this one, a pint to the first person to guess the owner, certainly an Atta member!
and... talking of elephants we had a special evening visit (foster parents only) to Daphne Sheldrick's elephant orphanage which has a record number of 30 orphans http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/fostering.asp a significant sign of the terrible poaching that continues in Africa.
Anyone can adopt, or, as they call it, “foster” a baby elephant for a minimum $50 per annum, a great present and you can follow your chosen one for life. A very small male arrived by air from the Kichwa Tembo area, my old stamping ground, while we were there and I will be fostering him in due course. We caught the little ones coming back in the evening on iphone, click here:
On then to the two Sands properties, Nomads on Diani and Chale Island close by, both extremely well run with excellent food. The Sands at Nomads on Diani Beach is very well managed by hotelier Richard Glasser, who keeps his eagle eye on every aspect of the hotel and the first class seaside restaurant. The Sands on Chale Island managed by Andrea Anelli, is approached by sea at high tide and has a range of accommodation, including a number of palm thatched bandas overlooking their private beach. Andrea even took pride in showing us the immaculate laundry room, reminiscent of a Kings Road linen shop! The resident marine biologist Mariano also accompanied us for a walk on the beach, culminating in a mud bath therapy, which basically means a head to note covering of mud to cleanse the skin.
Chale Island, our banda on its own island and the private hotel beach beyond.
Interestingly the two Sands properties were recording quite respectable occupancies of over 60% for January. How? Well not from UK to be sure? But I discovered that there are still at least 3 or 4 charters from Italy and Germany each week, both using Mombasa and completely ignoring any travel advice. So lots of well attired Italians, enjoying the white sands and blue seas without a Brit in sight! Food for thought!
Our final destination, a long time Atta exhibitor at many trade exhibitions ,The Funzi Keys owned and run by Alessandro and Claudia Torriani, aided by the energetic Alessandro Junior (Sandy) who is fast becoming the Funzi marketing supremo. This is barefoot beach luxury indeed, a 15 minute boat ride from the mainland, 35 kilometres south of Diani. Set on a pristine white beach, under shady eucalyptus trees, there are eight enormous sea-facing cottages and a vast swimming pool. Funzi really is a haven of peace in this world of insanity, perfect for deep sleeps lulled by the noise of the sea or even deep sea fishing for blue Marlin. Certainly Alessandro’s stunning, Italian built, deep sea fishing boat gets far more of his attention than his beautiful Colombian wife, but he insists the boat does not answer back! We loved our stay and certainly left feeling Funzied!
And finally, Atta welcomes three new members this week:
Grootbos Private Nature, Reserve, South Africa, www.grootbos.com
Safari Online, African Based Travel Specialist, www.safarionline.co.za
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, South Africa, www.kwandwe.com
Have a nice weekend!
Nigel and the Atta team - email@example.com