Travel differently this Christmas festive season

Friday, December 27th, 2019 00:00 |
A cruise ship docks at the Mombasa Port recently.

This holiday is a long-awaited time of the year.  It’s the only time when most people go on leave and spend money saved all year just to be with with their families and friends. It is also time to consider new destinations

In the past, the most common form of travel during the festive season was going upcountry to spend time with relatives.

However, things are changing fast, especially with more Kenyans able to afford trips with families and friends. 

According to the 2018 Ministry of Tourism report, Kenya experienced 37.3 per cent growth in the number of international visitors to 2.05 million from 1.4 million in 2017.

Out of this, 73.9 per cent came for holiday, 13 per cent for business, 6.7 per cent to visit friends and relatives, while 6.4 per cent for other purposes. 

The number of bed nights for domestic travellers increased to 9.03 per cent from 3.6 million to 3.9 million. 

The results also show more passengers used the Madaraka Express to travel in the same year.

The increase of low cost carriers improved road networks, additional routes to various destinations as well as low airline fares are some factors that raised the number of travellers.

Popular destinations for domestic tourists for the past four years include Nairobi, Nanyuki, Naivasha, Samburu and Masaai Mara. 

This report further indicates that domestic tourists comprise residents who have been in the country for the past five years, Kenyan citizens, Indians, Whites, Chinese, Whites as well as other nationalities who have made Kenya their home. 

Apart from the usual Coast and Naivasha destinations, Eliud Ndungu, CEO of Safiri Nasi Tours and Travels advises a traveller to consider adventure activities and bush getaways.

“Take your families to places they can enjoy outdoor activities such as the forest, Athi River, Nanyuki, etc.

These places are deserted during the festive season. You can also use this time to explore and see wildlife in parks such as Meru and Samburu. Basically, leave coast for the curious and do it when it’s not crowded,” he advises.

One leisure activity Kenyans can engage in is cruising. It’s open to families or a group of friends with an adventurous spirit.

The Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) estimates the economic impact of one traveller going abroad on a cruise ship is the same as 10 charter aircraft commuters.

Ocean cruise 

Statistics indicate cruising in Africa has not made an impact on the global ship tourism.

The Caribbean region dominates the segment, at 33.7 per cent while the Mediterranean takes up 20.44 per cent of ships docked on shores.

Kenya hopes to attract cruise ships to give guests ample time to enjoy the country’s various destinations. 

Simon Kabu, CEO Bonfire Adventures, says most clients prefer and book the Asian route due to cultural and tourist attractions.

While the company had quite a number of bookings last year for cruises, he still believes more needs to be done to change people’s perception on this kind of travel.

“Most Kenyans believe cruising belongs to the wealthy and famous. We are trying to change this perception by making people believe that they too can experience luxury travel,” says Kabu. 

Fabian Mutinda, owner of Discover Classic Ocean Cruising and Events discovered this gap in the industry and began offering this service at the coast.

After research, he bought a yacht that could take travellers cruising along the Indian Ocean.

“We take our travellers to 10 different destinations like Mtwapa, Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi, Pemba and Seychelles.

The yacht can accommodate 45 people comfortably. It has large common areas and observation decks, which offer panoramic views of the travel destinations. It has bedrooms, a bar and toilet,” he says.

By the end of the trip, travellers are treated to an all-white masquerade party. 

Though the business is picking up, Mutinda believes more people need to know how affordable cruising is and to wade off their fear of water.

Another option is going on a desert safari. While the wilderness is usually linked with Dubai, northern Kenya, particularly Marsabit, offers a similar experience for young people aged 18-50 years who love adventure.

More Kenyans are venturing into the area currently considered a diamond in the rough when it comes to such trips.

For Ndungu, the passion to explore this region began two years ago when he opted to self-drive himself to Marsabit. Since then, he’s been taking anyone who wants to have the desert experience. 

“Going to Marsabit is a must-do thing if you are an ardent traveller. First, if you are passing via Nairobi on a road trip, you’ll enjoy sceneries like Mt. Kenya, the wheat fields in Nanyuki as well as Mt Ololokwe. 

Most notable is the equator stop over at Nanyuki,” he explains. It takes about eight hours to get there and one can use a land cruiser to have a Dubai-esque experience. 

Helicopter ride

Also on the less-travelled places list is Turkana, which has a wide range of activities including unique landscapes, archeological experiences like Nariokotome (Turkana Boy) as well as an intact traditional culture of the Turkana or El Molo.

One can tour Central Island, an important breeding place for crocodiles. On foot, it takes approximately an hour to hike, and visitors are warned to carry the right pair of shoes. 

One enjoys beautiful vistas of the lake from above. Around 50km east from Lodwar is the Eliye beach, which has drawn a lot of international jets from guests who just want to chill at beach.

“The excursion four by four cars are charged at Sh10, 000 per day including fuel and meals.

We make bitings for the day and if the customer wants, we give them a chef to go prepare meals at the camp by the lake,” says Esther Njeri Mwangi, Events and Communications Manager at Stegra Hotel in Turkana.

Taking a helicopter ride and exploring remote regions of the country is another way to spend your festive season.

For instance, one can fly to the peaks of 5,200-foot Mount Kenya, go down and have a bush breakfast by any of the glacial lakes surrounding the mountain like Lake Alice, gaze upon the rarely seen Mathew ranges with a view of Turkana’s lake Jade from the top. That’s part of the package that scenic Air safaris offers.

More on Lifestyle