Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg Butt of Travel News – February 2014

Posted on February 3rd, 2014
Categories: News






My youngest daughter complained bitterly that I drove to the coast like an old man (notwithstanding that I am) on our recent trip there over the holiday season. What she really meant, but didn’t say thankfully, was that I drove sensibly for a change.

Boxing Day, no traffic, no pressure, no hurry, no worries – all at a sedentary 100 kph. Which, after all, is the speed limit.

Coming back was another story altogether.

We had to be in town to pick up my two older daughters’ Kenyan passports by lunchtime. They went back to school in Scotland the next day. We made it easily, and thanks to our new immigration services, all was as promised. We’ll now be offering this and other immigration services through our travel agency, see ad on page 12.

As we always do, we stayed in Watamu on Kenya’s north coast, which at this time of the year has the best beach in Kenya by far.

Watamu has mostly been about families and friends renting houses which  – other than top-of-the-range beachfront properties – have in the main been reasonably priced and affordable. A reader from the UK wrote to this magazine a while back bemoaning the cost of house rentals in Watamu over the peak holiday seasons.

It wasn’t the airfares that they complained about, but the huge increase in the cost of renting a house.

I don’t recall their cost increase, but after a house we had previously rented increased its daily rate by almost 100% over a 2-year period, we decided to look at other options in Watamu.

First though, I do understand that house owners have only two or possibly three opportunities a year to get a decent return on their investments. The December-January holiday season, Easter and possibly the last two weeks of August. But does it make good business sense to price yourself out of the market, and make people like myself and many others look for other options in Watamu and beyond?

There have always been options: Hemingways Resort is a little tired, but still a great place to be if you can afford it, but not exactly resident friendly. Then there is Oceans Sports, a legend in its own lunch-time. More than tired, would you believe exhausted – but still the place to be.

What would we do without it?

OS, as it is more commonly known, seems to bumble along, but it could be oh so much better. Over the holidays the service as usual was… well, what can I say when it takes on average half-an-hour or more to get served at the bar.

To speed (sic) things up, they came up with a re-hashed version of their ‘it’s never worked before – so let’s try it again’ coupon book for drinks. This year you could actually return coupons for refund if you hadn’t used them all up. In previous years it was just tough luck, mate!

The trouble was that these so-called new-fangled coupon books were more of a hindrance than a help. A simple solution are rolls of tickets – green for beer, red for wine, brown for spirits and so on – want six beers, that’s six coupons. No more high finance for waiters and customers alike.

We all love OS; it has been a part of many of our lives for decades – but it seems at times to be slowly slipping away from us. We live in hope that some robust investment might be on the way coming – but given past performances, don’t hold your breath!

We stayed at the swank new Medina Palms, a great place and reasonably priced for an on-beach property – much less than a house and half the hassle. It is run as a hotel but all apartments lend themselves nicely to self-catering. It is located between Turtle Bay (another option) and Hemingways.

Medina Palms might be a little too modern for Watamu; you could really be anywhere except for that magnificent beach out front.

When I told a friends we  had stayed at Medina Palms, they asked ‘What else did you do in Dubai?’

Talking of apartments, a lot of our friends now stay at Blue Bay Apartments, which is a stone’s throw from the town’s bright lights. Bright lights – now that’s a bit of a stretch, but a new hostelaria right next to the best little gelateria in the whole wide world, and the ancient Ascot Hotel which still does a great pizza, is about it.

I’ll probably be hung, drawn and quartered by the homeowners of Watamu, but I am always happy to stand to be corrected.

(Now where did that saying come from? Hung, Drawn and Quartered. It was a penalty in England from 1351 for men convicted of high treason. Convicts were fastened to a hurdle, or wooden panel, and drawn by horse to the place of execution, where they were hanged (almost to the point of death), emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered (chopped into four pieces). Their remains were often displayed in prominent places across the country, such as London Bridge. For reasons of public decency, women convicted of high treason were instead burnt at the stake.)


TN Feb   To read this month’s Travel News click on the magazine cover.