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Self Catering on the Kenyan coast

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Just spent a glorious week at the beach; kicking along white sand beaches, wallowing in rock pools and swimming pools, bouncing on waves at high tide, snorkling amonst tropical fish, eating lots, sunning myself and dodging mosquitoes. Our eldest daughter returns to school today looking like she’s recovering from chicken pox as she got so badly bitten on the first couple of nights and the scars are still in evidence. I feel like a failure of a mother and still don’t quite understand why it happened in spite of treating nets, lighting coils, plugging chips into power sockets and copious amounts of Doom sprayed everywhere at sunset. In fact, going to bed at night ended up being a toxic experience, so, as well as looking out for signs of malaria in the family, I’ll be searching for long term mosquito repellent poisoning.

Strange that Kenya coast houses don’t simply put mosquito gauze at their windows to keep the blighters out once you’ve nuked the ones inside. When living in Tanzania we always had a screen over each opening and kept doors firmly shut. Perhaps it’s part of the Kenyan ‘devil may care’ attitude, where camping amongst deadly elephant, buffalo and lion is a breeze, strolling freely through game reserves and sundowners at the river’s edge are the done thing, waterskiing/swimming amongst hippo and crocs is no sweat and for some there is still plenty of spare time to party hard in spite of small children’s routines, school runs, cooking meals etc (all these jobs can be out sourced.)

The self catering holiday is a bit of a different kettle of fish in East Africa to that experienced in England. Cornish houses will charge £1,500 per week peak season and expect you to come with your own towels and sheets for the privilege. Not that I’m knocking it, but you might then spend the week hoping for good weather, popping to the local Spa shop, cooking, washing clothes, making beds and cleaning up after everyone. In Kenya, you will find hot sun, blue sea, white sand, sheets on the bed and two or three dedicated staff at your disposal; a cook (often male), a junior clearing up person and someone to launder and iron your clothes every day if you wish. It’s usually possible to delegate shopping by sending one of the staff off on his bike to the local fruit and vegetable stand or small supermarket that in turn will be happy to set up a tab for you to clear at the end of the holiday. In some cases you can even arrange for shopping to be done before your arrival so that there’s bacon, eggs and milk in the fridge already. A fish man (dealer, as opposed to fisherman) will turn up on the doorstep to take your order for fish, prawns, lobster or calamari, last week it was ‘Kazungu’ who had a moped and a mobile phone. Every day the table is magically laid, food arrives beautifully presented with the minimum of effort and tea tray is produced at 4pm. No washing machines, no washing up, no damp smelly salty clothes hanging around, no sweeping sand from the living room floor and all at a third of the price!

Having previously been to hotels in favour of the ‘no fuss’ aspect of meals being provided, I’m now a convert to the Kenyan house rental approach, though next time I might enquire about mosquito gauze on the windows and the possibility of air conditioning during the hot season. Next time, I might even read a book, instead of only summoning up the energy to compulsively devour ‘Heat’ and ‘National Enquirer’ magazines to learn about Britney’s narcotic lolly pops, which celebrity is anorexic and who is headed for ‘Splitsville’?!

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