Sea-nic side of Kenya

A holiday on a Mombasa beach rather than a safari proves a hit with a family.

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A holiday on a Mombasa beach rather than a safari proves a hit with a family.

I was looking at the tide coming in from my sunbed on a small sandy patch next to the main restaurant of the Maridadi wing of Robinson's Baobab Hotel on Diani Beach in Mombasa, Kenya. It was one of those pleasant days when you venture into the sea slowly, to begin with, and then enjoy the cool, clear Indian Ocean. There was not a hint of humidity in July and August (it was winter).

Obstructing my view of the sea were trees, hundreds of years old, dotted along the sandy patch.

The hotel was built within the environs of the Jardini forest, which is home to the delonix, with its flaming orange flowers; the prickly ash; the Indian almond, with green pods and bright red leaves; casuarinas; and, of course, the palm trees.

It may sound a bit like a cliché but the sea was really split into perfect blocks of different shades, starting with emerald green, followed by perfect turquoise and ending beyond the horizon with midnight blue. The clichés don't stop there.

The beach, just a few metres away, was broad, soft and had the colour of new calico with the feel of thick velvet.

To my right was the Robinson's Baobab Hotel and if I chose to keep going round the headway I would reach the slightly more lively Kole Kole bit of the hotel.

Life was sweet - as were the monkeys, if you watched them from afar. The most common were the Sykes monkeys and the more unusual - although we saw them a few times - were the colobus monkeys, with fluffy white chests.

There is a reason why people do not order food and drink by the pools. No area is off-limits for the resident monkeys. They will snatch food from your table without a second thought. However, during my stay, they didn't venture into the bar and restaurant areas and kept to themselves, swinging around the roof.

Sometimes it's really cute to watch their families, complete with young ones - it is a welcome respite from one's paperback. But do resist the temptation to feed them.

We stayed in Superior rooms, which were spacious with a large balcony - a vantage point for watching monkeys, especially in the mornings, with a concealed cup of tea - and an exceptionally spacious bathroom.

There were tasteful Daphne Butler prints on the walls and the linen was fine.

There were eight of us in our group, including grandparents, so we had four rooms in a row and it was perfect. Although interconnecting rooms are available on request, I didn't want to see any hair straighteners, teen cosmetics, society magazines or iPods and felt completely at ease having a separate room next door to that of our daughters.

There were three decent, interconnecting pools, one with the usual swim-up bar, on three levels.

The resort is one of the best in the South Coast. Since it operates on an all-inclusive basis, all meals and house beverages were included in the package and we didn't even have to wear an indicative wrist band or have our hand stamped.

It was, of course, a boon that we didn't have to pay for that late-morning cappuccino or for those celebratory refreshments in the pool or the odd glass of soft drink that the children suddenly couldn't do without.

Food is sadly not the hotel's strong point but for each meal there were elaborate buffets with a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare.

Most evenings there was some kind of entertainment for children in the form of Safari Bingo and the Big Five Disco.

The hotel also organised a colourful show in the specially created amphitheatre away from the main rooms - good for those who wanted to go to bed early. We saw a carnival-type version of Allegria, with a touching finale when the staff invited the audience on to the candlelit stage to enjoy mocktails.

We visited the local Italian restaurant, Aniellos, a couple of times for some excellent lunch - it's just a few minutes' drive away. But we decided not to take any of the boat trips to Shimoni Island nearby.

Since we knew Mombasa quite well, we didn't bother taking the ferry to explore the north.

We focused on just letting everyone do their own thing wherever they wanted and got together for food and drink.

- Monica Kapila is a UAE-based freelance writer.

Fact file

Fly Emirates to Nairobi from Dubai (4.5 hours), get a connecting flight (an hour) by Kenya Airways to Mombasa and transfer by road and ferry to the South Coast (about an hour).

You can also go via Air Kenya (from Wilson airport in Nairobi, a short drive away) and fly direct to Ukunda, Diani and get the hotel staff to pick you up (15-minute drive away).

Book with the Robinson's Baobab Hotel and ask for Superior rooms. We stayed in the Maridadi bit, which is quite new but Kole Kole is considered a bit more upmarket.

Arrange with the hotel to collect you from Ukunda airstrip - just a 15-minute drive away.

Enjoy your holiday and expect to feel completely relaxed within a couple of hours of arriving.

Caution:

Do not feed the monkeys, just watch them.

Do not expect fabulous food. A

sk for mosquito nets to be put around your beds

Stick to loose, long trousers in the evenings and leave the glitzy minidresses for Dubai.

Mombasa

From Dubai: Emirates flies daily. Fare from Dh..... Kenya Airways flies daily via Nairobi. Fare from Dh2,915

- Information courtesy: The Holiday Lounge by Dnata. Ph: 04 3492886

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