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OUT&ABOUT: A beach hotel that almost ruined my holiday

Thursday November 7 2019

A breathtaking sunset at Swahili Beach. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA

A breathtaking sunset at Swahili Beach. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA 

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I love a good holiday. As I write this, I am currently wishing I was on one – but alas, the economy is failing us all (us all, except for Kenya’s 10 billionaires). That being said I should stop being greedy, because I just came from a holiday – at Swahili Beach Hotel.

Please understand, I have been trying to go to this hotel from 2012, when it wasn’t even complete. I visited it for a work trip and had the pleasure to dine in their Indian restaurant, and I have been dying to actually sleep in their rooms ever since.

The opportunity came this year when a family holiday was decided upon, and I didn’t want to stay in an AirBnB. Which means, of course, that the obvious option is to try and get a group rate going for a bunch of people at a nice hotel. We called Bonfire Adventures and sorted out the whole thing.

Kahawa Cafe, where tea break and fresh bhajias
Kahawa Cafe, where tea break and fresh bhajias are served. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Under normal circumstances, I’m not the biggest fan of Bonfire Adventures, but when I am outnumbered by popular opinion, I will bend my will. The deal was indeed a good one; 40K inclusive of flight and transport to hotel for half board, 2 nights, at Swahili Beach Hotel. Considering the usual rates for this place, it was a sweet save. I was ready to go!

Little things started irritating me from the beginning of the trip. For one, organising family to organise themselves is a whole task – especially when you’re trying to pick one place that everyone will enjoy. It’s such a task! But that’s a whole other post.


We paid the deposit, which was half the amount, for 14 people, which you would think would have been enough to get the tickets for us and all that, right? Wrong!

When at the beach, you simply must try seafood.
When at the beach, you simply must try seafood. Oysters were that day's choice. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA

They were refusing to book the ticket until the whole other half was paid, which was fine – except for the fact that we were 1K short. 1K! Maybe I wouldn’t have felt washwad if it was like, 20. But after paying close to half a mil, it would follow that we weren’t about to cancel, no? Anyway. We got on the plane. Get to the hotel.


For some reason, Swahili Beach has a strange tendency to take approximately 26 years to check people in – or even out. You would think that since they knew there would be a big party coming, they would prepare in advance? Or perhaps, ask for copies of our IDs earlier? Or have 6 photocopying machines at the ready? No. None of the above.

The pickup from the airport was smooth, but that was where the fun ended. Check in took about an hour and a half – the rooms were not ready (we showed up a t about noon, and they said they had been expecting us at 2 pm), and they had to photocopy our documents, at which point the family started getting tetchy and looking at me left because I am the one who recommended the hotel. It sucks when people go somewhere on your recommendation, and then the place sucks. My reputation was at stake here!

When we finally got to the rooms, they were the wrong ones from what we were initially promised by Bonfire. Some were sub-standard. And, we were all supposed to get the same type of rooms, i.e., wide, spacious, overlooking the gardens, etc.

This was not the case. So we caused a fracas. Why did we not get what we paid for? We called Bonfire and raised hell. Which meant, obviously, that other rooms had to be cleaned for us once more.

One of the multiple seating areas next to the
One of the multiple seating areas next to the eight pools at Swahili Beach hotel. PHOTO| ABIGAIL ARUNGA

Which meant…more waiting. Those who could check in, did so, and the rest of us went to have lunch, as clearly it was going to be a long day.

Aside from the beginning and the end of the trip (which I will get to). Swahili Beach really was delightfully magical. The buffet was great and changed every day – half board meant that we got breakfast, and our choice of dinner, as well as 4 o’clock tea, so really, we were largely covered anyway after pigging out in the morning.

They have a seafood restaurant with really great prawns, and a restaurant right by the water, overlooking the sand. You can’t be any closer to coastal living than that.

One of my only complaints was the fact that the areas in the hotel aren’t super accessible if you’re on a wheelchair or an older person who doesn’t manage well on slopes and multiple staircases, and I did put this forward to the hotel as well.

Then. Checkout. We should have learnt from check in. We didn’t. It took so long, we almost missed our plane back! There was a discrepancy in the accounting, because they charged us for dinners, which they weren’t supposed to, because we were on half board. The result? A bill that was inflated by 40K. Sigh. Sigh!

Outside of the admin work, Swahili Beach is bewitching, from the cascading pools to the sunsets. You just, have to be careful to demand for the proper, newer rooms (the superior rooms, I think they call them), call ahead when you’re coming through to check on your rooms and re-read your bills.

Would I go back? Yes, definitely, and I won’t expect the complete holiday experience I was anticipating…