From the Masai Mara we flew “directly” to Malindi on Kenya’s coast about half way between Lamu on the northern border and the main port of Mombasa. I say “directly” because, as with many scheduled flights in Africa, the planes are like flying buses, picking up picking up passengers at one stop and dropping others at the next.
After landing in Malindi, we drove two hours north, half on paved road then half on a dirt road, where the Orma and Pokomo tribes live in small, poor villages. Then, we boarded a small boat which took us down the Tana River Delta to Delta Dunes Camp. Set atop and nestled into tall bush covered dunes where the river meets the sea, Delta Dunes is a cool 7-bedroom property that offers a unique combination of experiences – part game lodge, part beach resort, part river lodge and part fishing camp on a 150,000-acre private conservancy. The funky chalets either overlook the river delta and a 40-mile stretch of private beach. Each room features comfortable beds with plenty of cushy chairs and lounges. Some units are designed for two guests while I had a roomy two-bedroom family unit which my wife and kids would have surely enjoyed. Bathrooms feature twin sinks, flush toilets, and hot showers. All units are the type that invite you to relax and stay awhile and enjoy the view, read your book and fall asleep as the breeze wafts off the ocean.
As the rising sun peeped over the horizon my first morning at Delta Dunes, I considered spending the day inside, but with so many activities to choose from, I was eager to get out. After my room steward delivered strong Kenya coffee and ginger cookies as my wake up, I took a morning jog on the wide beach. Soon after, our group took a boat trip up river and nature walk through the dunes to the beach and back to the lodge for brunch on the top deck open air dining area and lounge which provides a 360- degree view of the reserve and ocean. After brunch I took a dip in the lodge’s pool and then we had another boat trip and game walk in the mangrove forest, timed to coincide with the incoming tide which reaches many miles upriver. Here, a variety of species can be found including buffalo, elephant, baboons, vervet monkey, maneless lion, countless bird species, and the endemic Tana Delta bushbuck. At night at the lodge we enjoyed watching the neighborhood genets (weasel-like tree-dwelling mammals) square off against the local bushbabies (diminutive, large-eyed monkeys) for the lion’s share of some tasty leftover fruit. Later we sped along the wide beach on three-wheeled go-karts with large sails in a great sport called sand yachting or blow carting. It’s relatively easy to pick up and even easier to become overconfident, and I quickly found myself tipped sideways with a bruised wrist and sore elbow. Not giving up, I was later able to attempt a basic trick—to coast slowly while lifting one wheel off the ground. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to try the sea kayaking, boogie boarding, fishing, and other activities available to guests, but I have no doubt they would provide great entertainment. Just about the only thing you can’t do here is snorkel or scuba dive as there is no coral reef in the area and the water is somewhat wavy and murky.
To finish off the day, we enjoyed a last sunset boat ride with cocktails, followed by a beachside dinner complete with bonfire. Food at the lodge was delicious and included lots of fresh fish and fruits, homemade breads, tasty salads and tempting desserts like chocolate brownies and mango-banana sherbet. The lodge, like many here, can cater to special diets such as vegetarian and gluten free. The staff, made up primarily of local people from nearby villages, was very friendly as were camp managers David and Laura. The only people the lodge cannot cater to well are guests with mobility issues, as there are lots of steep stairs and dunes with deep sand.
All too soon it was time to go, and after our last breakfast, we walked down to the beach to await our private charter flight, which landed right on the beach just yards from the crashing waves! Taking off and flying low over the reserve, we saw how the mangrove forests soon give was to open bush and drier plains, then to small villages where local people eke out a living growing rice and coconuts and herding cows and goats. Two hours later, we were back in Nairobi for lunch at the ubiquitous Carnivore Restaurant, then dropped at the airport for our flight home.