Backpackers, Beaches and a Big Burning man: My Christmas in Kilifi By Calum Warriner

We all know that Kenya is famous for one of nature’s most incredible spectacles; the great wildebeest migration. Perhaps what is less well known around the globe is the mass migration down to the coast for the festive season. If people aren’t heading up country to see the family, then you can bet your bottom shilling they’re making this annual journey to kick back on little piece of white beach and soak up the sun. A trip I was privileged enough to round off 2015 with and one that will leave anyone from the northern hemisphere swapping they’re stocking for a snorkel, and they’re hot coco for an ice cold tusker! Here are just a few of my thoughts, experiences, tid bits and tips. Those I can remember anyway 😉

The majority of my stay on the coast was spent in the lovely little town of Kilifi, about 56Km northeast of Kenya’s second largest city, Mombasa. If you are coming from Nairobi, most bus companies will run all the way to Kilifi town, although if you find yourself stuck in Mombasa for whatever reason, local minibuses (matatus) run all day and should only be a few hundred shillings. A little heads up, Kenya’s matatus can be overcrowded and a bit on the rough side let’s say, but if you don’t mind getting cosy with a local and are on a tight budget then it’s the only way to get around. In my experience, cheap is cheerful, and its always best to keep an open mind, you never know what might happen on one those things.


At the epicentre of Kilifi’s travel and social scene is the one and only Distant Relatives Ecolodge. Only a couple of kilometres from the main town, tucked away in Giriama village on the doorstep on the creek, this magnificent place is a haven for weary travellers, families, couples, and lone wolfs alike. Good company, relaxation, warm hospitality and an environmentally sound ethos. You’ll find it all there, in an intimate and idyllic setting. I would recommend this place to anyone going to the continent of Africa, let alone the Kenyan coast! I was also blessed enough to be a part of their truly epic New Year’s Eve celebrations, which took part over 2 days in the hostel and down on the beach. We were graced by the musical stylings of internationally renowned DJ’s such as Wanklemut, Monolink and Toby2shoes. To top it all off and give 2015 the send-off it deserved, a huge burning man was lit up in the creek, giving the hundreds of us party animals a spectacle we’d never forget…


Kilifi is also home to one of the most stunning and untouched stretches of beach on the coastline: Bofa Beach. A Vast expanse of warm white sand lined with towering palm trees and calm blue waters, this place is straight out of a postcard. It goes without saying but remember all your beach essentials and if you fancy a snooze in the shade, always put your blanket down or you could end up with a ghost crab hanging off your nipple. Trust me on that one. Although there’s not a lot of surf there, it’s got the perfect conditions for wind and kite surfing. With little tourist influence, the town itself is your typical Kenyan coastal settlement. You’ll find all the basic amenities, supermarket, banks, a liquor store and bus companies etc. but precious little else. So if your craving a bit more variety, it’d be worth heading up the coast about 40Km to Watamu to check out the marine reserve and indulge in some authentic gelato.


I could spend all day reminiscing about the unparalleled beauty of Kilifi and the inspiring people I met along the way, but I’ll keep this piece like my holiday; short and sweet. I implore all of you, if you ever get the chance, to experience this lifestyle for yourselves. I can’t promise it will be easy to leave, but I can promise it will give you a whole new perspective on Kenya and change your life for the better 🙂

Kilifi creek at sundown



The Musafir is a great little project ran by some of the most talented, dedicated and kind hearted people it’s ever been my pleasure to meet. The best way to describe it would be a floating community project/hostel. Some of the most interesting conversations and memorable evenings I had were spent with the crew on deck of the big dhow boat, watching sundown in the creek and jamming out. Check out their website and Facebook to find out more about the work they’re doing and if you can, get involved! Asante sana.

Until next time,


Special thanks to Romy Latter for her impeccable photography skills 🙂