Home' Travel News : May 2014 Contents 24 travel news May 2014
May 2014 travel news 25
The Beach Part
OK, OK, I married the place so am obliged to write nice things
about it, but let me assure you that until I found myself promising
to love, honour, obey and spend my beach holidays at Tiwi
(where?), I was a dedicated North Beach Babe. My conversion
was not an altogether easy passage. After all I liked the north. I
liked goggling at Watamu, skiing in Mida, dancing at the
Driftwood and eating Italian in ‘I Love Pizza’.
I liked the fact I knew every nook, cranny and curve of a wide,
white beach you could walk on for miles and miles. But I’d made
a promise, and that was that. My husband was a South Coast
boy so ever since we got married, a quarter of a century ago
(OMG! That long?!), that’s been the beach destination of choice.
Indeed I even committed to living there for a bit to rehabilitate the
place, retaining the charm whilst subtly updating the quarters. I
quickly learned that rustic isn’t always the best way for a property
to be described... so that with barely a murmur it was dragged
from a 1970s commercial holiday destination to one that befits a
traveller today: free WiFi, vastly swagged mozzie nets, plenty of
fans, quality bed linen, lots of pillows and enough towels.
Sand Island Beach has belonged to my husband’s family since
the 1940s. It began as a clutch of cottages upon which the family
could descend for coast holidays from the farm in Kaptagat. My
children’s great-grandmother discovered it from the water,
swimming miles in a bid to beat the pain of cancer; she spotted
the pretty bay, flanked at either end by rocky outcrops and coral
pools and caves. She was utterly seduced by the sand island
that rose as the tide fell, 150 metres from the beach. Generations
later, there are still no high-rise hotels, no discos (a fact I’d have
lamented at seventeen admittedly) and no beach boys. Just the
sea, the beach, the main house (chock full of treasures, trophies
and eccentricity), eight cottages and an orchard.
For me and for my children, though, it’s the beach that’s always
been the real prize. My huffy teenage-imposed loyalty to the North
has, over the decades, been slowly eroded by an unexpected
love affair with the same places my husband knew so well as
a boy. The quaintly named Swallow Pool (where there’s always
enough water to swim, beneath the cliffs, accompanied by
the wheeling birds that spill out of their homes above us), and
Crocodile Rock, a navigational point for anybody out goggling.
North Bay. South Bay. Starfish Gardens. Names that could have
dropped off the pages of a Famous Five adventure story. At
low tide the beach is one enormous playground, the ultimate in
child-friendly. There are shallow puddles of clear warm water to
paddle in; rock pools to explore; caves to duck into and vast rocky outcrops, thrown up like protective arms, under which
to hide from the sun and dig in the sand. Whole, happy mornings can be spent like this, safely shaded, with just the sky,
the water and the odd passing fisherman for company, and the cries of busy swallows and the pounding of a distance surf
for music. Or you can join the more active and stride along the reef or fly kites on the sand island or bat a cricket ball. And
when the water’s up, you can dive under waves a stone’s throw from your verandah.
The cottages, all with Kiswahili names for tropical fish, are self-contained, and range in size from one bedroom to three. They
are all within a hundred metres of the beach, set up on a slight incline to catch the breeze, in gardens that have been tamed
just enough but still scramble with colour and lushness. There are even ruins, either the remnants of the slave trade or a
sultan’s palace. Hard to tell.
Under palms that swish and rustle on the air like ladies petticoats, the odd fishermen will wait patiently for you to inspect
their catch; resident management Arty Round-Turner works hard to sustain a positive relationship with fishermen and
promotes an initiative where the fishermen will escort guests for a small fee onto the reef or down to Fairy Pools (in my
husband’s day) or Africa Pool today; funds accrued go towards education in the local community.
You can buy your fruit for breakfast off the farm, depending on what’s in season: pawpaws, tangerines, grapefruit, mangoes,
oranges, limes, passion fruit. The managers Arty and Cheryl sell a careful selection of groceries in the office shop and will
assist in ordering a basket of vegetables so that you don’t need to stir yourself from a torpor induced by heat and holidays
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