For anyone who hasn’t already heard, Bob and I got married! And with our hard-earned reputation as African travelers on the line, we had to give friends Dan and Linn a run for their money in the competition for most exotic honeymoon. So we headed off to Kenya for a beach-bumming, mango-munching, wildlife-tracking honeymoon safari!
The past nine months in South Africa have been an adventure and a half, with plenty of chances to enjoy the great outdoors, game-spotting, and cross-cultural experiences. But Kenya was something else altogether. Americans who come to South Africa often comment that it didn’t fit their images of what Africa would be like. That’s because all the images you have of Africa are based in Kenya.
This is the country that invented the term safari. Arab traders brought the root word safara – meaning to travel – which Kenyans rendered into Swahili as safari. In Swahili it refers to any trip, but to English-speakers, it means a trip into the African wilderness, sleeping under the stars, enjoying a campfire, and spotting big game among the baobab trees and African bush.
We traveled via Kenyan Airways – thanks, Northwest, for the frequent flier miles – which is pretty definitely the only airline in the world that makes in-flight announcements in Swahili. They even print the little signs letting you know that smoking is prohibited, and life vests are located beneath your seat, in both Swahili and English!
The flight attendants rolled out the special honeymoon treatment for us, with a special captain’s welcome to the honeymooners, Mr. Lee Bishop and Mrs. Roberta Shaver. We had a good giggle over that one, that got even better after two rounds of complimentary champagne. The highlight of the flight into Nairobi, however, was the stunning view of Mount Kenya above the cloud line.
We didn’t linger in Nairobi, but headed straight for Kenya’s second largest city, located on the southern coast. Mombasa has been a strategic point for Indian Ocean trading routes for hundreds of years, and its old quarter – located on an island – is rich in history.
We took a tour of a fort built by the Portuguese in the 17th century, now a museum. The small windows enabled canons to point out at threatening ships in the harbor. The Arabs eventually won the city and did some redecorating to the fort, but the Portuguese name – Fort Jesus – has stuck.
Next we took a brief walking tour through the town. There’s a really amazing cultural geography to the city, with historically Arab, African Christian, and African Muslim neighborhoods, and some great mosques and churches. Mombasa has this incredible cosmopolitan vibe to it, a city where cultures have rubbed shoulders since before New York City even existed. With folks of all colors walking the streets in modern clothing, traditional kanga wraps, even full Saudi-style black cloaks, it’s the sort of place where everyone fits in.
Next we launched for a incredibly romantic lunchtime cruise in a sailing restaurant. Our boat – a traditional dhow- was decked out with white tablecloths and a live band. They offer a choice between the seafood platter or a nice steak, but how could anyone pass up the ocean fare while in Mombasa? It was a perfect beginning to a honeymoon every bit as delicious as the lobster, crab, calamari, and tilapia on which we dined. If you’re ever in Mombasa, we definitely recommend the Tamarind Dhow.
Wishing we could have stayed longer in Mombasa, but eager to check in at our resort and hit the pool before dinner, we grabbed a matatu and headed up the coast two hours to the beach resort town of Malindi. I’ll catch you up on the rest of the honeymoon when our flight lands in Indianapolis… we’re off the airport now!