Hostel REVIEW: Distant Relatives Kilifi EcoLodge - Nature is Queen // Frame Ambition
Known and loved for their Kilifi New Year’s Party every year, Distant Relatives is a peaceful retreat and a shining example in how easy it can be to practice ecotourism and take those habits and beliefs with you when you leave. Read on for our weekend experience (which we could easily have stretched to a few weeks and just might in future).
(This was a complimentary stay but all opinions are my own because I want you to win. Go on)
It's hard to imagine a better welcome back to the coast after probably 2 years than a dawa and an outdoor shower under a tree. Reinforce my not-so-inner naturist tendencies. I'm into it.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We had to get there from the big city first, which was like an expedition all on its own. A mish-mash of overnight bus convoys, curios, grasslands, half-sleep, tuk-tuks, a political rally, overheard tense matatu arguments and aloe vera plantations.
One boda-boda ride to "backpackers" (all the local riders will know it, they gotchu) and we were finally in to see what Distant Relatives was all about.
For one, it's about nature. Even more than I had imagined, being aware it was an eco-friendly lodge and backpacker's. Expect to forget to flush toilets when you leave because over here it's a couple scoops of sawdust down the loo for the compost heap and you're good. That saves the lodge about 1000 Litres of water a day. Aside from that there's a tree nursery, vegetable garden, a few gorgeous dogs running around, a turkey enclosure and indigenous trees aplenty.
It's on a fairly big property so you can go roaming around the tree or watch the turkeys if you're done swimming, or walk down the quiet path to the private creek at any time of the day or night.
It's definitely a place that brings the party vibe if you want it too but there was a nice balance with families and older more chill guests. That may be a different story around the time of their infamous NYE party though, so I'd say this season between high and low was the perfect atmosphere for any and everyone.
Like any backpackers' there are both ensuite private rooms and 8-bed dorms (one which is built around a tree!) with common showers and toilets - and all constructed with local materials. Camping facilities, too! I actually loved the idea of not having glass windows anywhere so the air supply came in from the barred openings in the wall and you were never 100% indoors, even in the common areas. Somehow though the mosquito nets didn't even feel that necessary because I don't recall seeing or hearing any mozzies in our room. I could be wrong though.
We barely spent any time in the room but if you're someone who might want to chill in/on bed and read or relax during the day, it may be a little dark for you. Climate control, y'all. (There are fans, electricity and running water though, don't stress!)
The toilet, shower, basin and even a urinal were all open-air which is absolutely my favourite feature of the private room. Also the names. Kilifornia was ours :)
You have the option of cooking and mixing drinks for yourself in the airy communal kitchen, going out to the supermarket or a couple of restaurants around, or ordering from the restaurant menu. Really quick some personal in-house favourites:
Breakfast: the french toast with bacon on the side. Nom Lunch/dinner: the chicken penne pasta, the lamb curry and mash if you feel like some spice or the good old backpacker's burger. Classic. To wash it down: the Kilifi iced tea- very sneaky, very alcoholic, very tasty. Or the homemade lime juice which I will dream about until I go back.
Just trust me and go snorkelling with Captain Issa. Even the dhow ride to the spot would have made it a pretty great day but there were entire seaweed forests and an underwater coral civilisation to explore.
Before jumping in we had a quick briefing with Captain Issa: in short, the message was no worries. In all his 40+ years of swimming and sailing these waters he had only seen someone attacked by a shark once. All you had to do was put your face down, watch the fishies and let the current carry you.
Fight it and you'll lose your energy before the ocean does. Just in case you forget, nature is queen.
The lodge can organize more watersports, things like safaris to nearby Tsavo, village tours in the nearby Fumbini Village with a local guide- that one I think I'll go back for.
And of course there's the old faithful beach.
Over here you have 2 options: the private beach which is a quiet little creek (where there are bioluminescent i.e. glow-in-the-dark plankton as long as the moon isn't out). It was a full moon when we were there though, so something else for next time. Just in case you forget, nature is queen ;)
And a bigger public beach a 5-minute tuk-tuk ride away- Bofa Beach. Clean, uncrowded, perfect for a peaceful swim with locals and visitors alike so much less worry over beach boys trying to haggle you to buy any and everything! lol. I also spied some kite-surfing and this one guy who emerged from the water with a long fish (a baracuda I heard?), took some selfies with it and proceeded to scraping its scales off for dinner. Swag.
I'll need to come back and stay a week or two, because I'd also want to catch yoga day, volleyball day, pizza day (night) and go diving once I'm certified. And that's not even all there is re:activities.
I loved it. Ordering at the kitchen every day will get pricey but like I would at any other backpackers, buy your own groceries and drinks in town. I found a lovely open atmosphere where you could come to the lounge and have a chat with the staff and other guests or just as well give them a smile and a nod and go find yourself a cozy khanga cushion to sit and enjoy your book. Either way I came away with new friends I may well see again in Kilifi and elsewhere, some moisturized skin and joy in having supported local business by taking Captain Issa's dhow, local bodas and tuk-tuks.
You do have to pay daily for a 24-hour Wi-Fi code but hey, you came here for a different kind of connection, right? You'll soon come to appreciate even that when, on boarding your 9-hour bus back to Nairobi, the Wi-Fi situation is "Haina bundles, samahani"*. Sleep it is, then, huh?
Click here to watch the vlog.
*"There are no (data) bundles, sorry."
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