Hotel Review : Swahili Beach – a luxury hotel in Diani, Kenya

During our trips back home to Kenya we always try and have a mini break in Diani, the south coast of Mombasa, and this time we chose Swahili Beach, a luxury 5 star hotel, as our chosen venue to relax and unwind on a half board basis.

Swahili Beach has a unique look and designed with a traditional Swahili and Arabic architectural flair which is characterised by the use of arches, high ceilings, stone and pale colours. I love this design and find it has a charm of its own. Everything is so spacious and open and tranquil. The decor is all deliciously Swahili and beautiful.

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The resort

The resort itself is extensive with 7 cascading pools, gorgeous gardens and set on the beach with a view of the Indian Ocean. I have to highlight that it is not the most beautiful stretch of beach in Diani but it is still lovely and peaceful.

There are various areas across the resort with ample sun loungers and chairs to relax in and there is also a coffee lounge, where afternoon tea is served daily, and a beach bar and restaurant, which is really nice.

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Check in

Upon arrival we were given refreshing Dawas, which are a popular Kenyan cocktail, to cool down with in the intense heat. This was a lovely gesture and check in was really smooth, quick and seamless. The staff were really welcoming and friendly.

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The rooms

At Swahili Beach they have three categories of rooms – standard, superior and Executive. We were upgraded to the Executive suite, which was MASSIVE. It had its own lounge area, bedroom, ginormous bathroom and impressive balcony. There was a view of the pool area palm fringed with the coconut trees I adore!


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The balcony was so difficult to capture in one shot but here is a series of shots so you get an idea!

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The bathroom had a dreamy sunken bath as well as a separate shower and had a stunning design.

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The room had a large TV, desk, ample mirrors and plugs in convenient spots, hairdryer, eco friendly toiletries as well as air conditioning and a fan. The wifi was good and the room was clean and extremely comfortable. We had no complaints about anything.

Food and Drink

There were lots of choices with a lot of African and Indian dishes as well as classic continental ones. As we were on a half board basis, we decided to have lunch at the beachside restaurant Barharini, which was really nice. The sound of the waves whilst eating your lunch is one of my favourite ways to eat al fresco.

For dinner we dined at the buffet restaurant, Majilis, which means meeting place. There was a really good selection, especially for vegetarians as one of our party was a vegetarian. It was a special occasion and the hotel pulled out all the stops to make it special so we were very happy and grateful for that.

Breakfast, also in the Majilis, had an incredible spread of fresh fruits, juices, cold meats, cheeses, pastries, cereals, eggs, hot food and also some Kenyan specials.

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The Kahawa Lounge, where we had our afternoon tea, serves coffees and teas, and at tea time you can have pancakes, bhajias, cakes, and other delicious treats. This is complimentary.

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The cocktails were really good at Swahili Beach too! The mojitos kept me refreshed and happy.

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Amit was more than content with his chilled beers :o)

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The Dawas were delicious too!

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If you fancied it, you could also have fresh madafu (coconuts). I adored this little table that signposted this.

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The hotel also has a seafood restaurant and an Indian restaurant, but we didn’t get a chance to try these out.

Service and Facilities

The service at the hotel was really good. The staff were really attentive without being intrusive and quick at helping or taking food and drink orders.

The pool was my favourite feature of the hotel, and I had a fantastic time swimming and sunbathing by the pool. The hotel was very quiet when we stayed so we had most of the pool to ourselves.

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The hotel also has a spa but I didn’t get a chance to try it out.

The Location

Swahili Beach is located on Diani Beach. The beach is really relaxing and peaceful but I wouldn’t say it is the best stretch of beach you can find in Diani, having stayed at other hotels at the South Coast. However, it is still a really decent stretch of beach and there are nice comfortable lounge chairs to chill in.

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Overall we really enjoyed our stay at Swahili Beach. It was really good value for money when comparing rates at other hotels (March 2017) and the service, food, room and overall experience was wonderful and we would recommend it.

For more information about Swahili Beach visit their website.

 

 

 

The Arbor Restaurant, Nairobi

If there was a restaurant in Nairobi that would win an award in my opinion for its Instagram worthiness it would be The Arbor, in Lavington. When my girlfriends, Meera and Harpreet, who also happen to be bloggers, picked The Arbor for our catch up lunch I knew they would have picked somewhere dreamy and I was right!

From rustic wine bottles as centrepieces, decorative charms, hanging bottles and potted plants and flowers everywhere, it is the ultimate garden cafe for al fresco dining. You can even purchase plants if you want, which if I lived in Nairobi I probably would as they all looked so lush and pretty.

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To start with we picked cocktails and mocktails. I went for the Tamarind Mojito, which was delicious! I very rarely deviate from a classic mojito but this one was really nice that I wish I knew how to replicate it!

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The menu has so many amazing sounding dishes and is really good if you are a vegetarian. It has a nice selection of Asian dishes and so I decided to go for the Nasi Lemak. The presentation was fantastic and all the various flavours were so intriguing and tasty.

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Meera went for the Grilled Halloumi Burger, which was grilled in a peri peri sauce and topped with onions, pepper and mushrooms and served with a side of chips and salad. We had predicted she would choose this :o)

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Harpeet chose the Thai Green Curry, which looked divine. This was served with a side of rice and she really enjoyed it.

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I loved the presentation of all 3 dishes and the helpings were so generous that we couldn’t manage any dessert. We had an amazing time catching up and nattering away though.

The venue is stunning and the type which is perfect for a date, girly catch up or to really impress a client. I couldn’t get over its rustic yet charming decor and all the prettiness everywhere.

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Inside is a shop where you can buy home decor items. I didn’t dare look as I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist and our luggage to go back was already close to being over weight.

This is also the kind of place where you would want to be at during golden hour with a cocktail in hand as it is seriously swoon worthy.

If you are in Nairobi, or visiting, I would recommend The Arbor for lunch and I think it is  definitely one of the most stunning al fresco venues I have seen in Nairobi.

While the girls did treat me to lunch, I did have a peek at the prices on the menu and they were really reasonable! I really enjoyed the food and the ambience and thought the service was excellent. My verdict is it is a fabulous restaurant and one I would definitely return to on my next visit to Kenya.

The Arbor can be found next to Ebru TV, James Gichuru Rd, Lavington, 69671 – 00400, Nairobi, Kenya

 

It’s Pepper Time! A little about Peppers and a Pepper Smoothie recipe

Peppers are so underrated! I normally use the humble vegetable for toppings on pizzas or in curries but have realised that I have not been using them to their full potential. One fact I learned about peppers that shocked me is that they contain more vitamin C than oranges, kiwis and strawberries. Yes its true! They are so good for you.  They are also jam packed full of other vitamins such as E, B1, B2 and A!

Now it might sound a little crazy but peppers taste really good in smoothies and here is a recipe for a vitamin enriched smoothie courtesy of “It’s Pepper Time,” which is an initiative to promote the use of peppers and widen their scope in recipes.

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Orange Vitamin Hit

In a blender or juicer, blitz together 2 celery stalks, 2 carrots, 2 apples, 2 orange bell peppers and for some zestiness, the juice of 1 lime.

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That’s it and you get a glass full of an orange delicious smoothie which will make you feel good. It is perfect for summer and to spruce it up a little further you could add some crushed ice and perhaps some lemon grass for some extra zest.

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Not only do peppers taste good on pizzas, in curries and smoothies, you could blitz peppers to make dips for crisps to snack on in the park on nice hot lazy summer days, or cut them in strips and dip them in a dip of your choice or even just eat them raw in a salad! They are sweet, crunchy and one of my favourite ingredients.

The best part is that peppers come in all shapes and sizes, as well as a rainbow of colours. My favourite are the orange peppers although when I am using them on pizzas I love using the yellow, red and green bell peppers.

Do you use peppers in your cooking? I would love to know in the comments section below.

For more information about the campaign “It’s Pepper Time” check out their Facebook page Colourful Taste.

 

An indulgent ChocolaTEA at The Montagu at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill

A ChocolaTEA, which is a Chocolate themed afternoon tea, is literally the afternoon tea of dreams. Available from Friday 14 April at The Montagu at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill in collaboration with Green and Blacks, there is an element of chocolate in each treat, savoury and sweet and is amazing! If you gave up chocolate for Lent there is no better way to indulge!

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This was Sir Winston Churchill’s favourite dessert and it also happens to be Green and Black’s 25th Anniversary so what better way to celebrate than to launch London’s only entire chocolate afternoon tea! This plays homage to the cocoa bean, which traditionally has only been associated with sweet dishes. I personally only discovered that chocolate was used in savoury dishes when I visited St Lucia and went on a trip to see how chocolate was made!

We started off the afternoon tea session with a delicious Sir Winston’s Martini cocktail, which is a classic Martinez garnished with Green & Black’s Rich Dark 85% Chocolate, whilst real life “willy wonka” aka The Taste Specialist Brandt Maybury, from Green & Blacks, talked us through the concept of the afternoon tea, which will be available permanently at The Montagu at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill.

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First to arrive was a selection of savoury items which comprised of a Smoked Salmon Sushi sandwich with cucumber and dill cream cheese and garnished with Green & Black’s White Chocolate flakes, a Churchill Mini Burger with Chilli Chocolate-infused BBQ Sauce, a Venison and Milk Chocolate Pate with Fresh Raspberry braised with Green & Black’s Milk Chocolate, an Aubergine Mousse Éclair which is dusted with Green & Black’s Organic Cocoa Powder and a Coronation Chicken Sandwich in Homemade Green & Black’s Chocolate Bread.

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Everyones clear favourite was the Churchill Mini burger. The theatrical award went to the Smoked Salmon Sushi sandwich which was smoking away and my second favourite savoury dish was the Aubergine Mousse Éclair . They were all really tasty and the one which surprised me the most was the Coronation Chicken Sandwich in chocolate bread. This combination totally worked as unusual as it sounds and I now am on the hunt for chocolate bread loaves!

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As a palate cleanser we had a really refreshing Lime Sorbet served in a ginger Chocolate Dipped Cone. I absolutely loved the presentation of this!

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Then followed a variety of sweet treats which included a Passion Fruit & White Chocolate Macarons, Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Buttercream & Salted Chocolate DIY garnish in the form of a syringe, Butterscotch Tea Cake with gold leaf garnish and Raspberry & Dark Chocolate layered mousse with fresh raspberries.

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I absolutely loved all of them but if I had to pick a firm favourite it would be the Butterscotch Tea Cake with the gold leaf garnish.

To accompany the afternoon tea we had pots of Maya Gold Cocoa Nib Tea, which was infused with orange, cinnamon & nutmeg, which I am so going to try and recreate at home! Not only did it look really pretty in the tea pot, it tasted lush too.

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The scones were divine too! It wouldn’t be an afternoon tea without scones and these included a Chocolate and Pistachio Scone with a Chocolate Curd, deliberately included as the colours symbolises the Green & Black’s name. Green stands for the brands commitment to ethically sourced cocoa while black for the high quality element as well as delicious taste of the chocolate.

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If you love chocolate or want to try something unique and new, definitely get booking for the ChocolaTEA as it is a really good one!

The afternoon tea is available at The Montagu at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill daily during the following time slots:

Monday to Friday: 1:00 – 5:30p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 3:30 – 5:30p.m.

It costs £38 per person or £47 including a glass of Champagne or Sir Winston’s Martini cocktail.

For more information or to book visit this website.

Disclaimer: I attended the media preview of the ChocolaTEA and all views and photos are my own.

 

 

 

 

A Taste of Tuscania, Italy (not to be confused with Tuscany)

During our Mediterranean cruise with P&O Cruises, one of our stops was Civitavecchia, Rome. Originally we had booked an excursion to tour Rome for the day but once we found out about the “Taste of Tuscania” excursion, we changed our mind. I had been to Rome before and convinced Amit we would go another time and so we decided to visit this lesser known Italian town and I am so glad we did. We also got to go with new friends Karen and Amanda, who are also bloggers, and it was such a great day out.

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Not only were there less tourists, it had so much history as well as included a visit to an agri-tourism farm, which was a memorable experience. Agri tourism is an agricultural based activity, in this case farming, where tourists are able to visit and see the operations of the place or try the produce, for instance. These are quite popular in Italy with some places even offering farm stays so you can fully immerse yourself.

Tuscania is often confused with Tuscany and although it has lovely green rolling fields, it is actually located in Lazio.

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We started our day touring the town of Tuscania. It was so pretty with rustic charm, amazing food ( we nipped into a shop to try some savouries), and just had perfect instagram worthy spots everywhere you looked! I love Italy and I especially love the Italian way of life.

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Tuscania is located about an hour’s drive from Rome and is like the other end of the spectrum as its so tranquil, laid back and idyllic. It is such a romantic town and I loved walking the cobbled streets and marvelling at the pastel coloured walls with pretty flowers adorning them. We would find the occasional chair with Lavender on it or colourful bikes stood against walls, and it was the perfect photographers dream.

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If it hadn’t been for the cruise, I would probably not even have known about Tuscania so I am so glad it opened my eyes to a part of Italy off the beaten track which I may have overlooked normally. In fact, we fell so in love with Italy that we have vowed to visit more of the lesser known parts over the next couple of years.

After strolling around we headed to the farm, where we were going to try the produce, try some wine and enjoy an Italian anti pasti spread. I was in heaven with the cheese, olive oil tapenade, home made bread, cold meats and omelettes. It was all so delicious. The wine was gorgeous too and I preferred the red wine.

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The farm is particularly proud of its olive oil production and they were selling these in these gorgeous tins. We got to try some with the bread and it is astonishing how different it tastes to shop bought mass produced olive oil. Sometimes it is worth spending that little bit extra.

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The grounds of the farm were just how I imagined an Italian farm to look like with produce growing, pretty fields and that clean crisp air which makes you wish you owned a cottage in the countryside.

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After a wonderful meal and wander around the farm, we headed back towards the port. Karen, Amanda and I asked to be dropped off half way towards the port so we could explore a little bit before heading back to the ship.

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We also couldn’t resist a cheeky gelato. When in Italy! It was lush 🙂

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We had a wonderful day and I am so pleased we decided to try something new rather than visiting the usual spots in Rome.

Have you been on a cruise and chosen an excursion you wouldn’t normally have done? Would love to know in the comments below.

To read more about my cruise click here.

Binny xx

 

Haller Park – a beautiful ecological sanctuary in Mombasa

When I was growing up in Mombasa, Haller Park, a gorgeous sanctuary in Bamburi,  was known as Bamburi Quarry Nature Trail. It is now named after the founder, Dr. René Haller, who has done the unthinkable and managed to transform barren limestone quarries into what is now a thriving ecosystem of forest, grasslands and ponds.

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There are beautiful walking trails where you can wander and see various animals such as giraffes, hippos, reptiles and bird species. It is actually hard to believe that Haller Park was once a rough, uninspiring quarry and what Dr Rene Haller has achieved is quite remarkable.

Mombasa is also not usually associated with wildlife and so it is to me a hidden gem where you can escape for a few hours and absorb the serenity and marvel at the various animals you can see. It is also so good for education to teach children all about ecosystems and how animals, birds and plants are all interlinked and each play such an important role in nature. In fact, there was even a school trip there during our visit and it was so lovely to see the children all excited and interacting with the guide.

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The first step in the transformation of the quarry to the ecological paradise it is today was to introduce the Casuarina tree, which is able to grow under severe conditions. Dr Haller then introduced Millipedes to the site, as these feed on the pine needles of the Casuarina tree. Their droppings enabled a rich layer of humus to form allowing other plant species to grow. In turn, animals were introduced and slowly it all started rolling into place like clockwork.

Today it is a tourist attraction as well as an important site for education.  I had visited so many times as a child but it had been at least 15 years since my last visit so I thought it was about time I re-visited this stunning place.

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What we saw as we drove in was Giraffes just casually wandering about on the rough road and feeding off the tall trees in the vicinity. Now I am rather obsessed with Giraffes so this already had me all excited.

This is how close they were!

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We were told that the Giraffe feeding time was at 11am so we decided to go around the park and return for that as there was no way that I was missing that. If you have been following my blog you will know that I absolutely love feeding Giraffes.

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We started off with the Reptile park, to see the famous crocodiles. Boy were these fiesty! I wouldn’t want to come face to face with one in real life that is for sure.

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These range from Kindergarten Crocodiles to fully grown ones, and there is a feeding time, where you can see them rise up from the water to grab their food, but we unfortunately missed this.

We also visited the snakes, of which there are over 40 and about 12 different species. I am a little freaked out by snakes and somehow didn’t end up taking any photos either! Close to the snakes are some baby leopard tortoises which are adorable. We actually have 7 as pets at my home in Nairobi.

Haller Park is famous for its giant tortoises though, and here is one. As a child the park used to allow people to sit on these but I am so glad that they no longer allow this as it is quite traumatising for the tortoises.

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There are also Hippos at the park, Sally and Potty, including the world famous Owen, who was best friends with one of the giant tortoises Mzee. They had been pictured in press always together but as they got bigger, unfortunately they had to be separated. It was a really cute story though of how different species thrived together.

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If you are a monkey lover you will be pleased to find these cheeky clowns everywhere across the park hanging from trees or thieving the food of the other animals!

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Ours was a quick visit so we did miss the fish farms as I really wanted to make it on time for the Giraffe feeding. However, I had seen these as a child so I would encourage you, if this is your first time visiting to see everything.

It was now time for the Giraffe feeding session so I patiently waited for them to arrive.

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They get me every single time. Just beautiful majestic animals and with eye lashes to cause major envy! (Blogger caught in action).

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Feeding them was just so much fun and literally the highlight of our visit. If you haven’t had a chance to do this yet I highly recommend it. Buying the bags of pellets only costs 50 shillings but the experience is one of which will have a lasting memory.

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How can you say no to that face? I certainly can’t and eventually Amit had to drag me away. I could easily have spent my day chilling with the Giraffes.

I did sneak in a selfie too and I think the Giraffe was more than happy to oblige.

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I still find it as exciting years on as I did as a child so if you are visiting Mombasa, or even  live in Mombasa and haven’t visited in a while go! If you think about what the site started off as and what it is now you will be awe-stricken at the transformation that Dr René Haller has achieved!

Have you visited Haller Park? What is your favourite memory? I would love to know in the comments section below.

Binny xx