And so another week passes in paradise and we have been delighted to welcome both new and old guests. Some returned to Sand Island - their home-from-home – for the umpteenth time, whilst new faces also arrived – perhaps to see what all the fuss is about.
This week will no doubt be an interesting one; Kenya went to the polls on Tuesday the 8th of August. Everyone is feeling anxious about the results and how they will be accepted by both leaders and supporters.
But we remain here, cradled in this crook of beach, sheltered from polls and politics – and pretty much anything else you want to escape from. As the majesty of the full moon rises over the reef and turns the tide, we sip a cold Tusker and enjoy fresh octopus salad, whilst listening to bush babies squeal as the waves pound the shore in celebration of another new moon. The beach below sits like an active volcano – ready to erupt with new hatchlings at any moment.
Once the dust has settled after the election, and we get back to “business as usual” at SIB, we will offer some fantastic low season rates in September. Also, if you missed out on your coast trip this August, be sure to enjoy a break on our beach over the October half-term.
Stay safe during these unpredictable times, let’s pray that calm and integrity prevail.
As July draws to a close, Sand Island Beach plays host to another week of exceptional circumstances.
Last Tuesday, guests noticed that Kimmel – our black lab who can usually be found digging feverishly for crabs on the beach – appeared particularly excitable. Upon closer inspection – and to their bewilderment - a tiny turtle was discovered clamped gently between her jaws. As he was released and began scuttling frantically to the seafront, a patch of sand seemed to begin to boil to the guests’ wide-eyed astonishment. In 0 to 60, a nest-load of 80 turtle hatchlings had exploded and was heading for the high-tide mark, their focus championed by our guests’ cheers of encouragement. The determination of these minute creatures is astounding, and it’s even more incredible to know that once they are fully grown, the turtles’ inbuilt GPS system will have them heading directly back to this exact beach to lay their own eggs.
Over the weekend, we had much bigger things (literally) to preoccupy ourselves with - humpback whales. Two of these enormous mammals were seen gamboling just beyond the reef, breaching several times and causing great, thunderous splashes as their tails flipped in and out of the water. Their arrival kicks the breeding season off with a tremendous display of flirting. While they showed off, surprisingly graceful for their 66,000 lbs. body weight, we watched from our verandahs, enjoying cold Tuskers and marveling at such an unbelievable view.
To top off a week of surprises, a little pipefish was spotted by a guest snorkeling among the Mushroom Rocks to the left of the sand island. Just like their relatives, seahorses, the male pipefish carries the babies which are born whilst still attached to the male. The guest, who had not been at Sand Island for a couple of years, remarked on how encouraging it was to see the positive changes along the reef. We hope that the introduction of seaweed and soft coral will help replenish our reef, attracting species such as seahorses, pipefish, sea anemones and the long-lost clown fish (the real-life mission to Find Nemo).
The Star Fish Gardens continue to be a favourite trip for adults and children, but we would also suggest swimming a little deeper out of your comfort zone to explore the fascinations that conceal themselves amid the coral heads.
Early next month the elections take place in Kenya, and the country holds its breath. We wonder whether there will be a repeat of the chaotic 2007 elections, or if events will pass smoothly as they did in 2012. Despite our own theories and deliberations, the future rests in the palms of the politicians and the electorate, and how they choose to behave following the results.
Yet somewhere in the south, at Sand Island Beach, not far from Diani, life potters on at its unhurried pace. The cottages lie curled between cliffs, far from the tension of election fever, but meters from the beach with its peacefully ebbing tide; unaware of anything other than its age-old mission to rise calmly up the shore before retreating softly back to the reef. Whatever next month's outcome, we will ensure that the pantry is full, the cellar is packed, and that the fisherman and bodaboda riders continue to spoil us with daily fresh seafood, fruit and veg.
The Ukunda/Diani airstrip is less than half an hour away from us, and five flights a day ensures there are plenty of options in getting here. If you haven’t already made post-election plans, we promise we’re a good choice. No point in sitting at home fretting, not when you could be here enjoying everything that’s magnificent about the Kenyan coast. The storm will pass either way.
July has yet to pick up so we still have cottages available this month at low season rates, and can offer discounts to those staying 10 days or longer.
The first turtles are hatching. Guests and staff gaze expectantly and hold their breath for fear of frightening these fit-in-your-palm-sized creatures. However, the miniature newcomers pay little heed to the audience they have attracted: they have work to do. The bravest will be the first to lift himself carefully over the rim of the nest, before making his way, tentatively in the beginning, towards a terrifyingly-enormous sea. As he gains confidence his flippers move more frantically, the ocean’s pull is overpowering. Slowly others follow, clambering over each other and across the sand, each bit of seaweed and cuttlefish shell an obstacle to overcome. Once they reach the water, the gentle waves are enough to push them half a meter backwards. They soldier on regardless and we must resist the temptation to scoop them into our hands, in a bid to protect these little warriors from all the dangers they will encounter out at sea. Eventually the last one successfully plunges himself into the chaotic break of a wave and is pulled out to join his army of siblings. We are left cheering on the shore like proud parents, and watch for as long as we can before the grey dots become indistinguishable against an impossibly large ocean.
We have seen four Green Sea Turtle hatchings already this summer, and there are 8 more nests hidden along our beach. Sand Island Beach is a sanctuary for these turtles which, due to hunting and the collection of their eggs, are endangered. Our beach provides much-needed refuge and nesting ground for the turtles, who migrate hundreds of kilometres to reach the shore to breed and lay an impressive 100-200 eggs at a time. Tragically, many of these won’t survive as young hatchlings are vulnerable to a host of predators on land and in the water. This is unsurprising considering they start out at only 5 cm big, before a tremendous growth spurt leaves them 1.5 meters long and weighing over 300kg. Their shell is what makes these turtles so impressive, and its dark olive colour gives the species its name. They are the largest hard-shell sea turtle in the world and can swim up to 56km/h.
And so it is easy to understand why Sand Island tries so hard to protect these remarkable creatures. We hope that our guests can continue to enjoy this incredible spectacle for decades to come – it is truly a performance not to be missed.
Posted by Hattie
What makes Sand Island so much fun for us, as management, is that we meet such interesting people. This week we had a family of Fins who live in Nairobi but grew up in Australia. It’s surreal to meet a man called Haikkenen who bears an Aussie accent and speaks Swahili mzuri sana. Such a lovely group of people; they wrote a song about Sand Island which we hope to post soon.
We recently also had a couple from Addis and a family from Khartoum. We had Kenyans, KC’s and expats from Fort Portal in Uganda and if that wasn’t eclectic enough, we had a group of twenty from Dubai who came for a couple of days to celebrate a birthday. They asked if we could do something special for them one evening so we served dinner on the veranda at our house, a simple Pea and Crab soup, a surf and turf barbecue of Piripiri Chicken, Beef Fillet, Lobster tails and Salt and Pepper Calamari, Salsa Verdi, Dill Aioli and Barbeque sauce with Salads and Baked Spuds and we finished it all off with an Apple Tarte Tatin, Apple Sorbet and Cream. Great fun and much appreciated by the group who went to Sails at Almanara in Diani for dinner on the second night which they also enjoyed.
Others of our guests dined at iconic Ali Barbour's Cave and they very much enjoyed that too. Flamboyant has opened a cocktail bar and does great bar bitings whilst the food at Nomads is good too. So Diani seems to have a few more options for a slightly more sophisticated night out these days.
But if you want something really special, really on-your-doorstep personal, ask us first. We are a great venue for a party whether it be a reunion, birthday, anniversary, stag or hen party and we love a good wedding too, more about that later ...
A week ago we had guests staying at Sand Island who were here to attend “Diani Rules”, a fun weekend competition where teams raise money for charity by competing in weird and wonderful games such as soccer with a rugby ball, surf polo, slippery barrel and lots more. It’s a super-social weekend and all for a good cause.
Last weekend we had a group of golfers staying from Vipingo Ridge; they were down for a social inter club match with the members of Leisure Golf club. They arrived on Friday afternoon in time to play 9 holes followed by dinner in Diani. Saturday morning we arranged for our cottage cooks to prepare them a grand breakfast. They explored the reef, swam and chilled in the morning and played golf on Saturday afternoon. We arranged dinner for them on our verandah that evening which was a great success. Sunday was an early start with golf followed by brunch at the club after 18 holes. It’s a fantastic venue for a social golf tour - you could take in the courses at Nyali or Vipingo too. How about a holiday with us in October over the Diani Beach Masters and the Diani Goat Derby?
The second weekend in July is the Diani 5-a-side Beach Touch Rugby at Forty Thieves, another great weekend. Sand Island Beach is only twenty minutes drive away. We can arrange transport back and forth from the venue to your cottage here.
If you're tempted to attend any of these events on the south coast, do remember Sand Island is a great place for a group of friends to hang out and make a base whilst enjoying a Golf Safari, Diani Rules, Beach Rugby, Goat Racing, Kite surfing championships or Sky diving boogies. We're just down the road from all this excitement.
Have a great week everyone.
Sand Island Beach looks fabulous at the moment; the heavy rain has passed and we are settling to more traditional rain patterns, a little light rain over night and in the early mornings clears to yield blue skies and sunshine all day. The grass is green, the trees are beginning to flower, the sea is clear again and the temperature perfect.
Last Friday I visited Tiwi School and had the privilege of meeting the teachers and some of the 350 pupils to present them with 2 big boxes of reading books and school books. One box was donated some of the owners, the Rowan family. The other was a box of school text books we had bought with money collected through our “Get Africa Reading” initiative where we rent books out from our library in the Sand Island Beach office.
A turtle nest hatched on our beach on Saturday night but most thrilling was a half dozen stragglers who popped up and flapped their way down the beach and in to the sea at 2.00pm on Sunday afternoon. A great photo opportunity which our guests snapped up, I however found myself without a camera and only a dodgy phone battery.
Posted by Arty
Until I found myself promising to love, honour, obey (my husband of almost 30 years) and - by necessary extension - spend my beach holidays at Tiwi (where?), I was a dedicated North Beach Babe. My conversion was not an altogether easy passage. After all I liked the north. I liked goggling at Watamu, skiing in Mida Creek, dancing at the Driftwood and eating Italian in ‘I Love Pizza’. I liked the fact I knew every curve of a wide, white beach you could walk on for miles and miles. But I’d made a promise and that was that. My husband was a South coast boy and so for almost three decades I've been turning left at the junction, not right. A reluctant convert, I have morphed as a devotee.
Sand Island has belonged to my husband’s family since the forties, it began as a clutch of scruffy cottages with outside loos and showers, upon which the family would descend for coast holidays from the farm in Kaptagat. My children’s great grandmother discovered it from the water, myth holds that she swam miles in a bid to beat the pain of cancer and spotted the pretty bay, flanked at either end by rocky outcrops and coral pools and caves. She was seduced by the sand island that rose as the tide fell, 150m from the beach. There’s acres of untouched bush inland, turtles scramble ashore during laying season and tuck their eggs in sand above the highwater line; they know they're safe there, solitary where a committed staff stand sentinel. There are no high rise hotels and no beach boys. Just the sea, the beach, the main house (chock full of memories and eccentricity) , six cottages grew, under my brief tenure, to nine, the stoic remains of an Arab settlement and scrambling bush, palm trees lean into the wind and whisper secrets to one another.
For me and for my children, though, who, like their dad, all grew up on this beach and have an affection to the south coast that mimics my long gone affection for the north, it’s the beach that’s the real prize. My huffy teenage-imposed loyalty to the North has been eroded by an unexpected love affair with the same places my husband knew so well as a boy. The quaintly named Swallow Pool (where there’s always enough water to swim, beneath the cliffs, accompanied by the wheeling birds that spill out of their homes above), and Crocodile Rock, a navigational point for anybody out goggling. North Bay. South Bay. Names that have dropped off the pages of a Famous Five adventure story. At low tide the beach is one enormous playground, the ultimate in child-friendly. There are shallow pools of clear warm water to paddle in; coral outcrops to explore; caves to duck into and vast rocky outcrops, thrown up like protective arms, under which to hide from the sun and dig in the sand. Whole, happy mornings can be spent like this, were spent like this, safely shaded, with just the sky, the water and the odd passing fisherman for company, the cries of busy swallows and the pounding of a distant surf for music. Like their grandmother, like their dad, my children grew up with an abiding affinity for this place, it left its mark in sunburn and freckles, was dredged for months after leaving at the bottom of suitcases and drawers in sand that still smelt of the ocean. Sometimes we donned tackies and strode for miles along the reef, further south, to Fairy Pools, so named by their great grandmother, where they could dive into inky water, cold for its depth and the dense shadow cast by the cliff. My daughter flew a kite from the beach on late afternoons when the rising breeze let it fly high and chase a thousand white horses across the sea's choppy surface and the resident labradors barked like things possessed imagining the bright dipping shape above them was some exotic bird. My son, has, over the years - almost a quarter of a century - bowled more cricket balls on a low tide sand island than I could ever count.
This is the enduring beauty of this pretty, special place: its familial pull, its generational appeal; my children - all grown up now - have been fortunate to call this place home from home but they are not alone: many families return, generation after generation. I imagine that one day I will watch my husband take his grandchildren out over the reef, guiding them carefully, pointing out to the them an enormous underwater world, just as his mother introduced the same to him and his siblings. just as later she showed her grandchildren.
When you're not recapturing your childhood or flying a kite or exploring the reef or watching the sea and sky embrace tenderly on a far, far away horizon or wriggling your toes in the sand, you can head to Diani to shop, eat in any number of restaurants (Aniello's has been a family favourite since forever).
Or, if you're brave, with more energy than sense, and are not intimidated by queues at the Likoni ferry, you could head north.
But why on earth would anybody want to do that?
posted by Anthea Rowan
In May we had 876mm of rain (34.5inches) which has been hectic but this last weekend was glorious and the forecast going forward is for sunshine and clear skies. They say make hay whilst the sun shines ( which is code for come visit us) and we are amazed at how grass that was brown and burnt 21 days ago can green up and grow three feet in as many weeks; that's half an inch a day!
The local golf course has enjoyed the rain and Arty and Cheryl - both keen golfers - enjoyed a good month's play: Arty winning club nite with a net par round and Cheryl the monthly mug doing the same. We have extra golf clubs at Sand Island and can arrange a discount on the green fees; the course is well laid out with established trees which play host to resident troops of Vervet, Sykes and Colobus monkeys; it's a must-play course for golfers staying with us.
A turtle nest hatched early on Thursday morning last week - much to the excitement of our guests - and the same night a mama made a new nest and laid 120 eggs. With twelve nests now on our stretch of beach, hatchings will be a common occurrence throughout June, July and August.
If you feel the need to get away from the chaos of the election frenzy and instead witness those hatchings, Sand Island Beach is the place to hang over the next few months.
Check out our specials for August.
Bang on cue, as World Turtle Day dawned (an annual observance to remind us to celebrate turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats) and the sun rose over a still sea and retreating tide, a turtle came onto our beach to lay her eggs. Her flippers left traction marks in the sand, like a tyre's tread. She patiently, laboriously, dug a hole above the high tide line. Later, eggs safely laid and carefully covered up, she found herself - as the sun rose high and the tide fell further - too far from the high water line to make it out safely. Our local fishermen, a number have received training on turtle conservation, fashioned a teepee for her as shade as she reclined in a rock pool until the sun sank and the tide rose and she could swim back out to sea.
Her eggs will hatch in the next 60 - 90 days ... we'll keep you posted here.