Tiwi Beach

Typed up: at New Palm Tree Hotel in Mombasa, Mt. Sinai Hotel in Nakuru, Tas Hotel in Nakuru Posted from: Petmary Internet Cafe in Nakuru

On August 27 we made the short trip from Mombasa to Tiwi Beach. We took a matatu from the ferry, then walked over the ferry, and found another matatu (which appears to be the Kenyan word for dalla-dalla) that would take us to Tiwi. Unfortunately we were at the end of the crowd of people, so we sat waiting in a sweltering matatu for the next one to arrive. Luckily somebody sold us some water which made the wait a lot more bearable. It was another laps-on-packs ride, but it was only 20kms. Then we found a taxi that would take us to the grocery store and then to Coral Cove Cottages. You have to take a taxi from the main road to the coast, because otherwise you get mugged. At least that’s what the guidebook says, and locals still agree it’s a good idea. We visited the grocery store because the Cottages come with kitchens, but no food.

IMG 3428 At the Cottages we were met by Kerstin, the owner, who showed us to our place. We had a private 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom cottage, with a kitchen, a living room, and a covered outdoor seating area. It was about 1 minute’s walk from the Indian Ocean, which meant we could hear it but not see it. The plumbing was fine, although no hot water was available. The tap and shower water was brackish, which was a little odd but we got used to it quickly. Overall we were very happy with our place.

IMG 3627 The beach had perfect almost white sand and coconut trees. The water was shallow (1” of water at low tide) for about 100m out, and then it (presumably) dropped off pretty sharply. At that 100m line there were always good waves, which we mostly stayed away from. There were quite a lot of people wandering the beach who were looking to sell us stuff, but they were almost all polite, and accepted “no” for an answer. Things sold were wood carvings, jewelry, fruit, fish, camel rides, coconuts, cloths, massages, snorkel tours, and probably other stuff as well.

Despite the fact that the beach was so close, we only really went once a day. That seemed to be enough to tire us out that the rest of the day was reserved for cooking and relaxing. The first day I didn’t see much at all, because my mask turns out to have a small leak. It slowly filled up, and I was clearing in such a way that got sea water in my eyes, which stung a lot. So I didn’t see much besides a few small fish in a clearing in the sea grass. I assume the cold California water makes the mask fit my face better, or something. We also quit pretty soon because of my stinging eyes.

But the next day I did a lot better. For one thing, I wore my sandals, which meant I wasn’t scared to put my feet down, so I could just stand up whenever and clear my mask easily. We again explored the large bed of sea grass, which had occasional clearings where you’d find some small, sometimes territorial, fish. There were many kinds, the one that really stood out was a school of fish that had the same bright green color as the sea grass. We also saw tons of brittle stars, some of which were hiding inside shells of dead clams. There were also cowries, sea cucumbers, and shrimp.

The day after that we paid Zimba to take us to some large tide pools that are nearby. We walk over rocks for a short while to get there. On the way we saw tons of crabs running away. We also saw jumping fish. They’re about 1 to 2 inches long, and quite thin. They jump out of the pools and up onto the rocks. They have quite a bit of control of their jumping. One fish ran away from us and went pretty much in a straight line for a few meters.

The first pool we went in was huge but no more than 2 meters deep, and we stayed in the warmish water until we got cold. It was next to a cliff, and in 2 places there was a cave we could snorkel into. Neither were very deep, but it got dark enough that we did not want to go in any further. There was notably less sea life in the caves, but some fish seemed to prefer it there. Looking up in one of the caves, there were bats hanging from the ceiling and flying around. The ceiling of the other cave had a hole in it, and tree roots coming down through it. Outside of the caves there were a ton of different kinds of fish, the biggest being about 8 inches long. All the fish were very colorful. Most of them seemed to be single, but there were some medium sized schools of fish, which seemed pretty tame. We also saw an eel, some chitons, and a few other things. The other pool was smaller and had less fish. It had more (drab) coral though, and we also saw quite a few of red-and-white shrimp in addition to some neat worms. (You really need to go snorkelling with a marine biologist to appreciate those.) Snorkelling in these pools was exactly what we hoped to find at Tiwi.

Our final day was the best. First we walked out to the breakwater at low tide, and hung out in some small pools just on this side of it. There wasn’t a whole lot to see, but experiencing the water rushing in and out was quite a thrill. I did find some parts of pencil slate urchin spines rolling around with some rocks. Then we walked kind of in a straight line to the pools we visited yesterday. On the way we saw two small eels completely outside of their holes. They were a little over a foot long, yellow, and tried to hide amongst urchins and rocks. We also observed a few hermit crabs fighting. Cheering on the two big ones were several smaller hermit crabs, everybody hoping to move up one shell size. The fight looked to be a stalemate when we left. In the bigger of the two pools we again snorkelled until we got cold. We saw a few really big nudibranchs, some big cowries, and most of the things we saw before. The experience was a lot like being in a giant aquarium. It was awesome.

IMG 3460 Coral Cove Cottages acts a little bit as an animal rescue home. There were about 10 dogs, as many cats, and many parrots which were all rescued. Only the parrots were caged. One time we went and visited 7 African gray parrots in their cage. It was very neat to see such birds up close. They weren’t comfortable enough with us to be petted, but they definitely came up to us to check us out. Occasionally a dog would come visit us at our cottage. The most visible animal, however, were the vervet monkeys. A large troop lives in the area, and they are fed by the resort every night. They are occasionally fed by guests as well. We inadvertently fed them when we were buying some produce from a merchant. Danielle had temporarily placed the fruit on a wall to look at some other things, when a vervet monkey ran by, taking off with an avocado bigger than its head. I chased it a little bit, but it easily stayed out of my reach. Then a bigger blue monkey came and took the avocado away from the original thief. Finally several vervet monkeys at the scraps discarded by the blue monkey.

IMG 3541 There was also other wildlife that we got to see. Most interesting were the geckos which roamed the walls of our cottage at night. Our lights would attract bugs, and the geckos would try and catch them. Mostly they just caught small bugs, but they also attempted (but failed) to catch a grasshopper. Of course that did mean there were bugs. Most obnoxious were the “big flying things,” which were black, had long legs, and were over an inch long. Then at night we were visited by many mosquitos. The room came with the nicest mosquito net we’ve seen so far, but every night a few mosquitos made it through anyway. Outside we got to see several of the giant African millipedes similar to the ones Danielle used to have in her class room. They’re harmless, so were really just interesting. After a few days the night time bugs did get to me, and we started having dinner inside instead of out.

IMG 3587 As for food, we cooked for the first time since Paris. (Really, Danielle did most of the cooking and I did most of the dishes.) Every day local fish, vegetable, and fruit mongers would come by our cottage or meet us on the beach to sell us everything we might want. So we ate seafood and rice for lunch and dinner every day. The first day we had shrimp. They tasted great, but cleaning them was a lot of work. So the next day we had crab. The crabs here are swimming crabs, so they had some interesting paddles on their back legs. The day after that we ate squid and fish, which was tasty but we were getting over seafood every day. On the final day we got a different kind of fish, which arrived uncleaned. We scaled the fish together, and Danielle took up the task of gutting it. One salesman stood out, “Mango man.” He sold us our fruit, and twice we bought his fruit salad (lunch for 2, with a little bit of leftover). He was quite a character.

IMG 3568 I am continuing my workouts. On 8/27 I jogged about 2 minutes. Then I ran that same distance (350m?) 4 times, with 2 minutes rest. 1:38, 1:36, 1:36, 1:36. The beach sand was soft, even right near the beach. 8/29 I did a beach workout inspired by the one I did with the folks who run the newly opened CrossFit Ventura. As many rounds as possible in 15 minutes of: drag drift wood 25m. 25m bear crawl. 25m walking lunge. I completed 6 rounds plus drag and crawl. The drift wood was a wet piece of wood in a Y shape, and I made nice plow marks in the sand. 8/31 I just ran some on the beach. 5:45 to the sign, 5:56 back, 5:58 to the sign again, and then 1:53 back to meet Danielle.

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Living the good life in Seattle, occasionally sharing something interesting with the Internet.