A Taste of FlyJambojet and Voyager Beach
I visited Mombasa for the very first time courtesy of Jambojet and oh what a treat! Jambojet lends itself as an affordable no frills airline but there was nothing “no frills” about the experience. The Jambojet airline launched into the Ugandan skies in February 2018 after successfully cementing operations flying from Nairobi to Mombasa, Eldoret, Kisumu, Malindi and Diani. Booking online is so seamless that payments can also be done with Airtel Money and MTN Mobile Money.
They decided to give a couple of Ugandans, Keith – yours truly and a Charlotte a taste of the Jambojet Holiday. It’s amazing how the right things come to you at the right time when you least expect them, most times you don’t even know that that was exactly what you needed until it comes into your life. This is what this trip was for me.
Four Points By Sheraton Nairobi Airport
With only 55 minutes of flight time from Entebbe to Nairobi, travelers save so much time while traveling in the comfort of one of the world’s youngest fleet averaging at only 3 months old! I remember calling my Mom shortly after 9 as I was having breakfast at the Market Place in Four Points by Sheraton – Do I sound important? Anyhow, Mom was quite surprised that we arrived so fast compared to the times she has to wait close to 9 hours when I travel by bus. It was such a welcome break from the hassle that bus travel entails.
Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport is a business airport hotel within Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. This was the perfect pit-stop to clamatise ourselves to the cool temps ahead of an action packed day in Nairobi. Their 24 hour restaurant, Market Place sits up to 145 guests and has an outdoor terrace stretching into a well manicured garden, I was so obsessed with weddings at the time that I imagined it’s perfect for an intimate wedding!
Tazama Rooftop Restaurant specializes in international meats – grilled and roasts- pairing them with craft cocktails and Best Brews – their in-house brew. As if that’s not enough, they also serve views overlooking the airport and Nairobi National Park. My favorite feature was the lobby coffee shop by morning and a lobby bar by evening. Supper innovative.
A tour around the hotel revealed why it’s a top choice for business travelers – boasting luxurious rooms, nicely equipped conferences named after mountains in East Africa, it was a pleasure to see Mt. Rwenzori in Kenya! It makes a perfect stop for those in between flights, those with unavoidable meetings.
After our breakfast, we went on a safari drive in Nairobi National Park, Kenya’s oldest national park established in 1946. Only a few minutes out of the central business district, the drive opened way to expansive grass plains, wildlife such as zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, rare birds and so much more roamed about. I have to admit that it was a definitely a first spotting wildlife with a backdrop of the city’s skyline, the expression jungle in the city comes to mind when I think of Nairobi National Park.
But. Is it really a #MagicalKenya experience if you don’t interact with the Masaai? Another first for me.
We had a lunch stop at the Roast by The Carnivore the Hub Mall. Sometimes I think to myself that it’s a good thing I don’t live in Kenya, too much meat would kill me for sure. And I love meat way too much to resist the urge – the platter was so moist and delicious and so filling, the kind that you need an hour or so to sit out the food coma before hitting the airport for the next stop, Mombasa.
Mombasa is such a hot destination, in every sense, that it wasn’t surprising that every seat in our Jambojet was occupied! Being a low cost carrier, the earlier one books their ticket, the cheaper it is. Travelers get 10 KG free cabin luggage and pay any extra buggage. We left Nairobi at 7:20 PM and we were in Moi International Airport, Mombasa 50 minutes later! This trip normally takes up to 6 hours on road! Different climes slapped our faces, forcing us to entangle ourselves from scarves, sweaters and jackets we had on from the cool Nairobi. I was so excited for my maiden coastal town, tuk tuks everywhere in the evening rush hour.
Voyager Beach Resort
About half an hour later, we were moored to our home of the next few days – Voyager Beach Resort, a ship-themed resort located 7 KM north of Mombasa City. Guests are called Passengers and the staff is comprised of officers and captains. When our car pulled up at the gate, a trumpet was blown to announce our arrival. Fancy huh. We were welcomed by the wonderful Officer Valentine armed with cool towels to refresh our faces and shortly afterwards, freshly harvested coconuts – madafu were passed around to quench our thirsts. Sipping coconut water was another first for me. Legend has it that it makes men viral, so if you’re on a honeymoon in Mombasa… We were given All inclusive wrist bands that gave us an all access pass to 3 meals a day, all day snacks and (some) drinks at the bar.
The ship docks at different ports around the world and on the night of our arrival, Voyager Beach Resort was docked at Mombasa Port – which meant that the menu that evening was Mombasa grown. We made a bee line for the Mashua Restaurant for that all you can eat buffet dinner – even though I had been thirsty earlier, I regretted having drunk all that coconut water and filling up where more fish I had never tasted before would have gone. Don’t ever make my mistake. Sip kidogo kidogo and leave room for the buffet.
Voyager Beach Resort is famous for hosting some of Africa’s finest family entertainment. The property has 234 cabins – because it’s a ship, not a mere hotel. Capt. Sammy told us with a proud smile that they were slightly over 90% occupancy that weekend! Voyager Beach Resort is the first hotel/resort I have ever been to where there were more Africans than foreigners. It really warmed my heart. The ambience was very lively, the Animation Team, the good people responsible for keeping the Passengers entertained were teaching dance moves as the band played classics. It was a real party. After working up a sweat, we went to our rooms and I called it night, only to find out that my travel buddies spent the better part of the night bar hopping – there are 4 bars on board, including the 24-hour Harbour Bar.
I did not want to leave my nice and comfortable room, I wanted to lie in and listen to the waves hit the shores, the palm trees rustle in the wind but Mombasa had to be explored.
A pre-breakfast walk around the resort is enough to leave you energized for the day to come for it’s really beautiful! The palm trees offering a green lash environment against the white sand remind you in case it skipped your mind that you are indeed at one of the best locations at the coast.
Breakfast was such a huge affair, it’s a buffet setting with yet another all you can eat plan. Serving so much from porridge, sugar free juice and of course the normal juice (with sugar) cereal, pastries, lots of fruits which I didn’t touch and plenty of fried stuff, which I ate a lot of… Here’s a photo of the fruits I should have eaten.
After breakfast, we were ready to go explore the Old Town. It was so exciting! We were curious as to why the buildings were white and blue. Early this year, Mombasa County ordered the owners of residential and commercial buildings in the Central Business District to have them painted white and blue but mid last month, the Mombasa High Court issued interim orders stopping Mombasa County’s order.
A trip to the temple left us with so many questions and so much fear.
Later that afternoon, we explored the ruins of Fort Jesus built by the Portuguese as a military base from 1593 to 1596. Fort Jesus was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011. Perched on a coral ridge, Fort Jesus was strategically located to overlook the Old Mombasa Port to protect the Portuguese’s interest in East Africa and their trade route to India. Interestingly, it has the geometric harmony of a human body.
A tour around the Old Town introduced us to the Oldest hotel in Kenya that opened its doors to its first clients in 1901! The nicely paved narrow streets separating the old buildings. We marveled at the richness of the antique shops and the oldest Post Office.
La Marina Restaurant
The highlight of the day was the sunset boat cruise, well, we didn’t really catch the sunset but we definitely went star gazing on a boat at La Marina in Mtwapa. The evening program at the La Marina is as follows.
- Clients arrive at the La Marina jetty to board the Dhows by approximately 1730hrs.
- The evening begins with a leisurely sail into the inland waterways of Mtwapa Creek on a traditional Arab Dhow to experience the sun going down over the African wilderness. The cooking fires of the local villages scent the air with giant Baobab trees making superb sunset photograph opportunities.
- Relax to soothing entertainment and take in the breath taking tropical scenery.
- As night approaches, the stars begin to shine, the torches are lit and the beat of cow hide drums set the scene for a spectacular Limbo and Acrobatic display followed by an authentic African fashion show.
- With the night now set in, Masai warriors bearing flaming torches line the shore chanting their welcome ritual for the arrival back at La Marina Restaurant.
- As the guests make their way ashore into the candlelit, open air palm tree terrace, the lights come on and a choice of any of the following menus begins.
I ate a whole basket of garlic bread. Don’t skip their bread, the weight will watch itself after the holiday! I also had a run in with their resident crab. I was so shocked by the creature, I went back and told them I had seen a giant spider with a shell. Of course I was asked to describe it, ultimately bewildered I said I couldn’t look closely but it had tons of legs and it carried a snail shell on its back. Turns out it was a crab.
Haller Park | Bamburi Nature Trail
The following day brought even more exciting excursions. We explored Haller Park, formerly known as Bamburi Nature Trail – Africa’s largest crocodile farm. This thriving ecosystem of lash forest, grasslands and ponds is an award winning transformation from limestone quarries – boasting beautiful walking trails to fenced wildlife such as hippos, antelopes, buffaloes, fish, crocodiles, a butterfly pavilion and the children’s favorite – the giraffe viewing and feeding area.
The day we visited, there were over 10 buses of school children, as some were feeding giraffes between shrieks, others were singing rhymes that are meant to persuade butterflies to spread their wings as they made their way to the butterfly pavilion.
Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve
We made a mad dash across the beach for the glass boat through a drizzle, we were going for my most anticipated marine safari. I was worried it was going to rain and ruin my maiden trip to the ocean but our guide looked at the clouds and announced that the cloud was going to pass over. It did. Our ride had a glass bottom that allowed us to see marine life I had never seen before – coral reefs in different sizes and shapes, different types of fish – I even held a star fish in my own hands!
Brave souls went snorkeling to see more while yours truly cheated by bringing them come closer.
We reached a point were we could leave our boat and walk on water, well, the tide was low and the reef was high. We returned to MV Voyager to an evening of cocktails and snacks. This was our last night here, this time round.
Dinner that evening was a romantic affair. Served at Voyager Beach Resort’s à la carte seafood restaurant, Smugglers’ Cove. The restaurant lives up to its name. It looked a like place where people steal their dates’ hearts and smuggle them to pirate knows where! It’s a cave, cove decorated with star fish, chests that are likely to be filled with smuggled items.
This was my first authentic seafood experience and I didn’t know what to do with myself. The good chef suggested I order the platter that comes with a half a lobster, oyster, prawns, calamari and pair it with white wine. Keith and Charlotte each ordered just lobster. The kitchen was very generous with the lobster they served. I honestly feel like seafood is an acquired taste. The wine definitely complimented the lobster taste, my favorite was the prawns because they had a familiar taste. In all honesty, my taste buds are so accustomed to Nile Perch and tilapia to fully appreciate the seafood experience but I will definitely be trying it again.
I had such a lovely time at Voyager Beach Resort, my only regret was not spending enough time in my room. I didn’t even get a chance to prop my feet up on the balcony, that’s like the standard unit of a holiday – but with so much to do in Mombasa and the hotel itself, it’s more than enough to keep a restless traveler busy. What’s more, the little ones get to enjoy their own adventure while the parents are off excavating things. Voyager Beach Resort has supervised children’s activities and days out with experienced Children’s Safari Club, a marine education centre with salvaged shipwreck displays, hands on beach conservation for eco-conscious children, unique beach and pool activities. Time will be your only enemy.
Panari Hotel Nairobi
Panari Hotel Nairobi was our last top on our Jambojet Holidays itinerary. Located just 10 minutes from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport offers luxury, comfort and an ideal location for accommodation, meeting venues, hotel conferences and banqueting facilities specially designed to suit every kind of business or social occasion.
Panari Hotel Nairobi is also home to East and Central Africa’s only ice rink with an assortment of ice skating programs from pre-schoolers to adults. Skating sessions are an hour each, starting 11 AM to 9 PM.
Rooms exuded elegance, money and power and it explained the powerful signatures in the visitors books that included heads of states and their first ladies on the continent.
We had red snapper for lunch, I happily remarked that it tasted like real fish – it tastes like tilapia. We grudgingly left Panari Hotel Nairobi to catch our 5:30 PM Jambojet to Entebbe. Flying twice daily from Nairobi to Entebbe and from Entebbe to Nairobi, Jambojet is bridging Uganda and Kenya with (same day) low cost travel starting from $113 and $120 respectively, fares are inclusive of taxes. Visiting friends and families on the other side has become a lot easier. Jambojet serving magical Kenya on a silver platter.