alexa OUT&ABOUT: Why Kilifi is like wonderland- PHOTOS - Daily Nation

OUT&ABOUT: Why Kilifi is like wonderland- PHOTOS

Wednesday September 4 2019

An outside view of Distant Relative, the backpackers' haven. PHOTO| CHIA KAYANDA

An outside view of Distant Relative, the backpackers' haven. PHOTO| CHIA KAYANDA 

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There’s something incredibly awe-inspiring about visiting places where the sky touches the ocean. I make this voyage every so often and settled on Kilifi Town, for a number of reasons.

The beaches of Watamu, Malindi, Diani, Lamu and even Mombasa may receive a lot more air time from travel related media than the creek that stretches for about three kilometres in Kilifi, but there is an undisputed charm about this town that keeps me coming back for more.

It is a choice pick for budget travellers, facilitated by the cropping up of backpackers and more informal instant hotel listings on Air BnB. My top pick for solo travellers looking for hostels and an affordable yet eco-friendly place to stay is the Distant Relatives Eco-lodge and Backpackers, which is just three kilometres outside of Kilifi Town.

Bofa Beach in Kilifi. PHOTO| CHIA KAYANDA
Bofa Beach in Kilifi. PHOTO| CHIA KAYANDA

Prices start from Sh1000 a night with an array of options and activities to keep you occupied during your stay. An added bonus to the stay, as a dog lover, is their local furry friend Mowgli, who is guaranteed to make you feel more at home!



Closer to the town centre and a preference of mine, is the scenic Bofa Road, with some of the most beautiful beach front homes, most of which are also listed on Air BnB for tourists.

I often arrive in Kilifi at around 10 PM after an entire day on the road.

Once I get off the matatu and switch to a tuk-tuk to get to my final destination, the instant breeze from the ocean, coupled with the sound of the crashing of the waves on the creek below and, if I’m lucky, a view of the full moon, I am reminded that for each of the times I’ve chosen Kilifi, she chooses me back.

I enjoy watching the sun rise by the beach whenever I can, as many residents take their dogs for a morning walk. The tide is low at around 7am and the sands glisten to welcome a new day, and you along with it.

I come here often to visit a friend who, after this morning walk, brews an especially fragrant tangawizi tea for breakfast.

This time, I’m here on a different kind of voyage. It coincided with a much-needed social media hiatus, as a way to tap into the flavours, smells and feelings that Kilifi would evoke.

Village Dishes, a restaurant located a few metres from the city clock just as you enter the town’s bustling business centre, is my favourite place to eat while around town.

They have an array of just about every delectable Coastal dish one can name, and then some, at affordable prices with large portions. I like to come here to stock up on a puff pastry, kaimati, to enjoy with tea at the house. On occasion, they also sell pweza (squid) best enjoyed with some viazi karai.

Seafood is exceptionally cheap by the ocean, as it is readily accessible and quite fresh. For lunch, my favourite meal, samaki na mchuzi wa nazi (fish in coconut sauce) and wali wa nazi (coconut rice) goes for Sh 300. The food is delicious and the staff at the hotel are very helpful and friendly.


I was lucky this time to get invited to a party hosted by one of the locals. She specifically mentioned that it was a gin and oyster party, which excited me because I’d never tasted oysters before.

My friend had insisted that they were delicious, even if I’d already decided they weren’t based on all the slurping you have to do to eat it (not to mention a rumour I’d heard that the oysters were still alive when you ate them).

Mogwli will make you feel right at home when
Mogwli will make you feel right at home when you visit Distant Relatives. PHOTO| CHIA KAYANDA

I was just glad that they were fresh and taste good with a bit of lemon juice and some chilli powder. Fun fact: if you make friends with the fishermen that bring the oysters to land, one oyster should cost you Sh5, a lot less than they do in upmarket Nairobi restaurants!

Nightlife in Kilifi is different from big city night life by miles. If, like me, you enjoy sundowners with a view of the ocean, you’re in for a treat if you visit either The Terrace (a bit farther from the town but worth the trip) or Distant Relatives, where they curate events every week catering to different genres of music.

I would highly recommend planning a trip towards the weekend to get there just in time for Pizza Night on Fridays, where they have a two for one offer on pizzas and great music to usher you into your weekend of relaxation.

Much like I risked it with the oysters, Kilifi is a wonderland that everyone should experience at least once. It is a place that is easy to go to yet hard to leave.