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On April 10, 2015, Tiago and Javi (friend as well as a volunteer) left Tala, Kenya, the city which we currently live, in bicycle towards Mombasa, in the Kenyan coast. The plan was to cycle more than 500km to then meet up with Fernanda and the others friends, also volunteers, who would do the same route but in bus. The common destiny was Tiwi Beach, about 25Km south of Mombasa. That’s us, backpacking in Africa!

See in 5 reasons why you should visit Kenya!

Backpacking in Africa

PS – Soon you will be able to check it on The Bicycle Diaries, post which tells this adventure!

First stop, where to sleep?

We all arrived at this very little known beach on the night of 16th of April and we instantly run for our first jump in the Indian Ocean! Warm water, little waves, soft and pure white sand, and an indescribable blue sky painted with stars.

Backpacking in Africa

Sun rising at Tiwi Beach

There, we met with a man who lives in the region and took us through a way where we had to pass underneath rocks and walk in the dark to finally arrive at somebody’s house who we had no idea whatsoever who we were. Without knowing anything, we gave some cash to them (about 5 Euros each) and they served us dinner, bought us drinks and let us camp in their garden, which was the beach itself.

Backpacking in Africa

It’s dark….but you can see Fernanda and the booze!!

In the next day, we found out that, in fact, the house was from another family who during high season also worked as a restaurant as well as a hotel. A few years ago, Tiwi was a famous destiny amongst travellers who pursued privacy but unfortunately it is somewhat forgotten nowadays.

Tiwi Beach

The resorts are closed and you barely see people at the beach. The access to Tiwi though is rather easy. Upon arrival at Mombasa (being by bus, car or plane) it is needed only to cross the ferry and take a matatu (public transport used here which is basically an overloaded van) that costs about 3 Euros. Alternatively, it is possible to do the same way on taxi for about 30 Euros.

Backpacking in Africa

The boat in Mombasa

The matatu leaves you at the commercial centre of Tiwi beach (which is summed up to two bars and a little market) and from there you have many options of pick-pick (moto-taxi) to take you wherever you want. We made our way over there without plans and luckily we had no problems. However, for those who would like to be a bit more organised, there are plenty of options for hospitality over the internet with a variety of prices (including camping).

Backpacking in Africa

Saying bye to Tiwi Beach

We are in Diani, Beach!

Two days in Tiwi and we marched (Tiago and Javi literally did, with the bikes, as the sand was very soft to cycle, the rest went on pick-picks) to Diani Beach, one of the most famous beach in Kenya and considered the third most beautiful beach in Africa according to the Trip Advisor’s Traveller’s Choice Award (Praslin Island in Seychelles and Camps Bay in South Africa are respectively the first and second place).

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Diani, unlike Tiwi, has a lot more infrastructure to accommodate tourist: shopping malls, markets, bars, luxury hotels and hostels are all over the place. However, even during the high season – from July to September and December to March – there is not the feeling of an overcrowded area. The beach is a paradise and is known by both tranquillity searchers and the more party goers.

Backpacking in Africa

We are in Diani, Beach!!

Places to stay

Diani Campsite

Backpacking in Africa

The pool at Diani Campsite

The first day we stayed at Diani Campsite, which offers accommodations from camping to bungalows. As everything was empty due to the low season, we managed to lower the price to 10 Euros a person for a house with three bedroom facing the swimming pool. In Diani, as in the rest of the country, (and probably in all Africa), absolutely EVERY price is negotiable, ideal for bargainers.

The beach is 2 minutes walking and, in the same street going to the beach, facing the sea, there is a kiosk managed by The Captain (it has no name) which offers nice fresh food at a very affordable prices (5 Euros per person to eat octopus and fresh fishes, rice, chapatti and salad, let alone the fresh coconut water from 0,50 Euros).

Tip: The Captain has its own boat and for 2 Euros he takes you to the nearest island for snorkelling.

Stilts Treehouses

Right after, we moved to another hostel called Stilts where we slept on bungalows constructed between trees so it gives the impression that it is a housetree, and full of monkeys and lemurs!

The accommodations are comfortable and the bathrooms are shared but nice though, let alone a very welcoming bar and restaurant. The price goes around Sch1000 (€10) per person per night for a house with three beds. Every day, at 5pm on the spot, the lemurs come to the reception be fed banana and you can feed them. But be careful! Do not leave any food left inside the houses and do not forget any valuable belongings at the balcony as the monkeys steal everything.

Backpacking in Africa

At the Stilt’s balcony

South Coast Backpackers

After two days at Stilts and tired of being mugged by the monkeys (because we obviously did not listen to the warning of not to keep food inside the rooms), we headed to the South Coast Beach Backpackers, which is probably the most famous hotel in the whole beach.

The atmosphere over there is rather enjoyable. They have different rooms to share from 2, 4, 6 and 8 people, including an area to camping, obviously. They also have a bar by the central pool, a table football, a sort of Lebanese bed by the garden and many other relaxing spaces. The price also goes around Sch1000 pppn (€10). It is everything so cool that we prolonged our staying for much more than of what was planned, thus delaying the whole itinerary. We just could not leave that place.

volunteering in africa

The view from the Lebanese bed (by the way, they are not Fernanda’s feet)

As in Diani Campsite, in the same street of the backpackers, by the sea, there is another kiosk also without a name, which prepares seafood the way the customer wants. Each person pays what want and the Chef prepare the food accordingly. We, for instance, were a group of 5 people and each of us gave Sch700 (€7) to eat lobster, squids, crabs, fishes, octopus, rice, salad and potatoes. All very delicious and with an amazing view.

Backpacking in Africa

Going out

Also check our Kenyan Practical Guide!

Another tip is the Forty Thieves bar, which has a rather relaxing atmosphere, let alone the food, drinks and good music! We also recommend a visit to the Ali Barbour’s Cave, the most famous restaurant in town and is located inside a cave, obviously.

Backpacking in Africa

The entrance

Both Ali Barbour and the Forty Thieves are owned by the same person and both also have its prices higher than the average. A meal at Ali Barbour goes for about €30. Furthermore, for those who like to enjoy the night, we recommend the Shakatak night club, which plays African as well as International hits.

Backpacking in Africa

Inside Ali Barbour’s Cave restaurant

Tanzania border

Anyway, on April 21st we finally put our backpackers on our back again and headed south, towards Tanzania. At this moment, we were only 5 of us travelling. The rest of the group, of which was 9 at Tiwi beach, went back to Nairobi and Spain.

After four hours and two matatus and paying about Sch200 (€2) per matatu, we arrived at Lunga Lunga, the last city on the border between Kenya and Tanzania.

Warning: arrive at the immigration office with your vaccination card proving immunity to yellow fever!
In case of forgetting (like us), you will have to rely on your luck and your persuasion power.

The visa to go in Tanzania is worth US$50 and allows you to stay in the country for three months. As we would stay less than one week, we asked for the transitory visa. It costs US$30 and is valid for 2 weeks.

Backpacking in Africa

The Tanzanian side of the road

As disorganised as we are, we thought it would have an ATM at the border. The three of us (Fe, Tiago and Javi) did not have cash to pay for the visa. The closest ATM was at 67Km from there, in Tanga, a coastal city in Tanzania side.

After one hour talking with officials, they allowed us through. They wrote on our passports we should pay when leaving the country. So, after persuading the officers to let us pass without the yellow card vaccination card and without money to pay for the visa, we were, at last, in Tanzania.

Backpacking in Africa

How we wake up at Ushongo Beach, Tanzania