Nobody told me this … about visiting Kenya’s Coast…
1.It’s hot, and very humid. Be prepared to sweat! When living full time by the sea further South in Dar es Salaam, sweat trickled down the backs of my legs on a regular basis – usually when out shopping in street markets. The hottest time of year at the coast is December through to the end of March.
2. It rains, even at the beach! – Mainly in April, May and June. Most of the time, rain falls in short sharp showers then clears to reveal a blue sky within minutes, however, a very rainy holiday at the coast can be a bit miserable so best to avoid visiting during the ‘height’ of the rains. Some hotels actually close during this low season period for refurbishment.
3. Don’t write off July and August. Although this is classed as the ‘cool’ season, it is never cold – but pleasant enough to catch some hot sun without being heavily reliant on air-conditioning (which I can’t live without during the hotter months).
4. We know that mosquitoes come out at night so think of packing long, light coloured trousers and long sleeved, light weight shirts/kaftans for the evening. Also, lots of insect repellent and bite/sting relief to relieve those pesky bites as they are fairly unavoidable. A can of insect killer spray to spray under mosquito nets once they are drawn down at dusk, is a good idea. Unbelievably, I actually wore boots and socks in the cooler season when I lived at the coast, just for that peace of mind from being bitten around the ankles whilst out in the evening.
5. The culture is predominantly Muslim – so be a bit respectful about the way you dress when out and about in the towns and villages. Cover shoulders and do not wear extremely short shorts. As a rule, knees and shoulders are a no, no. Obviously this does not apply when you are inside hotels or on the hotel beach.
6. If you are big into wind based water sports such as; kitesurfing, windsurfing, sailing then there are fantastic trade winds that blow steadily for months. Kaskhazi: from December to March and Kuzi: from June to September.
7. Keep hydrated. The humidity can sap your energy. Also, wash fresh salads in purified water or when eating out, only order from a reliable outlet. Same goes for icecubes. This way you guard against cases of bacterial stomach infections which are common. If you do fall prey to one of these, don’t tough it out, ideally consult a doctor but failing that, chat to a pharmacist as broad spectrum antibiotics are available over the counter without prescription.
8. Malaria and anti-malaria medication is locally available and is often a lot cheaper to buy here than it is back home. Remember, just because you visit a malarial country does not mean that you will get the malaria if bitten a few times. In fact, contracting the disease is relatively rare. Touch wood, I have not had malaria and I’ve lived here for 17 years, either living at or visiting the coastal areas regularly.
- The malaria carrying mosquitoes are only a certain breed (anopheles) and they are most active late at night.
- You should watch out for signs of malaria (spiking fever, nausea, chills, aches, flu like symptoms) from 7 days to two weeks after visiting a malarial area.
- Testing for malaria can be done within 10 minutes at local clinics in East Africa, whereas back home you will find the process a lot slower which carries with it a lot of risk.
- When you are home, tell your doctor that you have been to a tropical country where malaria is prevalent so that he or she acts fast.
- You can still get malaria, even if you have taken a course of prophylaxes (anti-malarial pills). The anti-malarial pills are in fact are a low dose malaria treatment, so can mask the symptoms of disease. You might feel like you have contracted flu on returning home. If this is the case, consult a doctor.
9. And finally, nobody will be able to tell you how beautiful the Indian Ocean in East Africa is. White sand that is so fine it looks like snow, bowing coconut palms, balmy breeze, warm clear waters, lagoons, coral reefs, tropical fish, ancient dhows, mouthwatering and abundant seafood, welcoming people; what’s not to love?
*These tips relate not just to visiting Kenya, but also Tanzania and Zanzibar.