Watamu Beach Club
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Historical Traveler Reviews Watamu Beach Club Malindi
Don't use African Safari Club!
Watamu Beach Club looks amazing when you first arrive - really stunning views, very Unique resort - not like your normal full board resort. However dig a little deeper and you soon realise its not quite paradise. The food was boring same day after day for 14 nights... pleased we all got ill so we didn't have to eat it! Health and hygiene was appalling - literally every person we spoke to had been ill - whether it was the food or just the lack of cleanliness we aren't sure.
The staff appear to be lovely - they work very hard for the little pay they receive. However for a group of 4 girls alone it got rather uncomfortable. Don't be too friendly you give the guys and inch they take a mile - every one of us was singled out, even after you tell them you have boyfriends/husband back home they don't care. In the end we just had to be very rude - would never go out into the local village on our own - far too much unwanted attention.
We had some amazing excursion - just a shame African Safari Club had to get involved! Everything went wrong... we were woken up at 5.30am for a 2 hour drive into Mombassa to get a flight for our safari - little did we know ASC got it wrong, in fact we weren't flying until 4pm! So we were transferred to a random hotel and had to kill 6 hours! Another excursion we were left in a disused hotel for over an hour with no guide and not a clue who/when we were getting picked up! Snorkelling was also eventful, the boat managed to "beach" itself, everyone was asked to get out and push! People were falling down rock and one person fell under the boat and cut her leg. We ended up cancelling a fourth excursion as we couldn't be bothered to have another random day/night with ASC.
To top the holiday off we had a 26hour delay home!! The staff's attitude was disgusting, I understand they didn't personally break our plan but the communication or lack of made things 10 times worst. The fact we had to fight for a free phone call home and free drinks during the delay was unbelievable.
Kenya is a gorgeous place with lovely people - just a shame African Safari Club ruined what should have been 2 weeks in paradise!
Keep Away From this Place
Worst possible place
the worst staff, includin your holidays representatives and also if you have a problem african safary club wont be even bother to reply or take your calls
be prepared to eat same choiceof food lunch and dinner time for 14 days
most of bungalows havent got aircon
I have just returned from a 2 week holiday at Watamu Beach Hotel (May/June). I booked with African Safari. Flights were all OK, even got upgraded to first class on the way out. Be warned when you step out of the airport that the porters will be waiting to pounce on your suitcase to take it to a bus a few hundred yards away for a tip of course, we were all a little wiser on our return to the airport and said "no". The bus to take us from the airport to the hotel was very old and did wonder whether it would make the 2 hour journey to our hotel. The roads are the worst - where there are more pot holes than tarmac so be prepared for a bumpy 2 hour ride. When arriving at the hotel we were greeted with the staff singing, cold towels and a complimentary drink. The hotel itself is fine, nothing exceptionally glamorous but nothing wrong with the hotel itself. I would say overall though that it is less than a 4 * that has been quoted and could do with some minor repairs. We were shown to our room, we were staying in one of the bungalows, and although they were basic, they were clean and cleaned well every day. There are no mod cons like a TV or telephone so in an emergency you would need to walk to reception. The air con was fine, there was a safe in the room you could use but everything in your room was 100% safe. There was also a mossie net provided if you wanted to use it and a small area with chairs and table to sit outside your room. The beach which was gorgeous was very close to your room with umbrellas and loungers. Some of the loungers at the beach and the pool were broken so little things like that were in need of repair.There was a nice beach bar where you could sit and have drinks.
All the staff in the hotel were fantastic and did the best with what they had - nothing was too much trouble for them. The food - this seemed to be the problem for everyone. Breakfast would be a mixture of fruit iuices, cereals, pastries, a variety of jams - there would be a plate of just one type of cheese, normally there would be toast, potatoes and tomatoes. Lunch was normally a soup, some sort of pasta dish or spaghetti, a salad bar which didnt really vary throughout the 2 weeks and wasnt really sufficiently replenished once empty. So although there was a time slot for lunch from 12.30-2pm, if you didnt get in quickly there may not be alot left if you left it too late. There would also be hot dishes available for you to choose from buffet style as well. Dinner was more or less the same soup choice, pasta choice and the same salad buffet with the main course only ever being a meat option or fish option which would be brought to you. The portions on these were also quite small. So although most of the food was edible by the end of 2 week holiday it became very monotonous as there was no variety. Although I managed to stay well throughout my entire stay - there were several people around us at that time who had been quite poorly with sickness and upset tummies and some had to have the Dr called. Some of these that were ill had eaten in restaurants outside of the hotel so not 100% sure that it was the hotel food or outside.If you are going to eat outside the hotel I would strongly recommend the Choma Village restaurant. Its only about a 5 minute taxi ride which costs approx 500 shillings, just ask any of the taxi drivers outside the hotel and they will know where it is. The setting was fantastic, the staff great and the food was excellent and really cheap. We went on the last night and found most of the diners were our fellow hotel guests ! The hotel has eveything you need, tennis courts, table tennis, and the swimming pool is nice. The entertainment in the evenings was very amateur, maybe acrobatic show, african dancing etc, normally only lasted for about an hour after dinner and some evenings there would be no entertainment at all apart from background music. There was a board in reception every day with different things you could do on the hour from beach walks, village walks, hat making, swahili lessons, aqua aerobics etc so the staff did try and gather up some enthusiasm for you to take part in these sessions.
On the beach there are beach boys so you do get hassled if you go in the sea as they will come and chat and come and sell you things, the same when you set foot out of the security gate at the hotel, you will be met by guys trying to get you to go in their shops. They are completely harmless and just trying to earn some money, so you will end up with an entourage up the road, but they chat quite happily and if you do buy something they are very trustworthy, if you dont have enough money on you they will let you take the goods away and you can go back later to pay them. Shopping cant be done in a hurry, everything has to be done "pole pole" which means slowly slowly.
There are 2 nightclubs in the village, Happy Night club and Comeback Club which I would say Comeback is better. Both are safe and it is perfectly safe to walk back to the hotel no matter what time of night or morning - I walked down the street alone every night at varying time of early hours of the morning and encountered no problems.
We were also on safari for 3 nights - we went to to Mara Simba Masai Mara which apparently is the best national park to visit - we saw loads of big animals,although it is a 2 hours drive back along the bumpy road to Bamburi airstrip then a 2 hour flight on a small 18 seater plane which stops once to pick up and drop off on the way. The park is in a lovely setting, the food there was fantasic, much better than the hotel. We actually booked ours through African Safari prior to leaving the UK, but in hindsight although the hotel dont recommend it , we did speak to people who had arranged theirs through the beach boys with no problems at all at a much cheaper cost.
The people of Kenya dont have alot, they are very poor and get paid little for working long hours, but for them nothing is too much trouble and you will get several offers to get taken out or visit their families.
I would visit kenya again and I would stay at Watamu Beach hotel again, although the food isnt great and the hotel is fairly basic, it was a fairly cheap holiday so great for anyone on a budget and at the end of the day you get what you pay for. On speaking to other people on this holiday who were staying at the other hotels in Watamu - I think the food issue is more or less the same wherever you stay.
Hope this is of help when choosing your African holiday !
Fabulous location, but some upgrading required.
We have just returned from a 2 week break at Watamu Beach with our two children. Overall we have had a fantastic time and would certainly consider returning to Kenya but would chose an alternative hotel. The location is beautiful, the staff are very friendly and work extremely hard ( for very little pay ) and nothing is too much trouble. We feel that with some upgrading, the hotel could be so much better. We expected basic rooms and they were, but they were kept clean and linen changed often. Everything did smell musty and was damp but we were there in the rainy season and it was quite humid at times, our clothes smelled the same after hanging for a while so we don't think it can be avoided at this time of year and we don't feel it is a reflection of poor housekeeping at all.
An area of concern was the food, you are in a third world country and taking this into account we weren't disappointed at the choice , yes it was a liitle repetative but hey, so what. The problem was the amount of people who were ill. Most folk who you spoke to were unwell themselves or someone they travelled with was. 3 out of the 4 of us were ill, we had taken enough medical supplies of re-hydration salts etc to treat ourselves but many called the doctor. Make sure you take enough of these with you and immodium or something similar in case you need to travel. It's also a good idea to take snacks of plain biscuits or crisps, if your poorly you may not want to go into the village to buy them. As soon as we ate outside of the hotel we were much better.
We felt the excursions offered by the hotel poorer value for money than local companies. We booked a 2 day safari to Tsavo East with Abdul 'the mayor' from Tunda Tours and Safaris ( just outside the hotel gate). We stayed in the Voi Safari Lodge which was just fantastic. We had a van to ourselves and the experience was out of this world for us, we saw so many animals and our driver Spaz was great and was experienced and we felt very safe in his hands. They are also good for local trips and are well worth checking out prior to booking anything with the hotel, you'll get a good deal, Abdul gave us first class service throughout.
A general tip, take as much as you can out with you.If you have children take clothes they are growing out of etc or collect them from friends and take clothes you won't mind leaving behind. We visited a community on the way to Malindi on our last day and gave away clothes and shoes etc. Afterwards we wished we had been able to leave more, they were just so happy and grateful, it was quite emotional.
It also left plenty of room in our cases to bring things back which also helps the local ecomomy and we were well under weight on our return.
It's also a good idea to take pens, pencils and paper or note books. Some schools have to use scraps of cardboard to write on. The kids also appreciate sweets.
It may sound a bit of a pain to think about taking all this stuff but you will not regret it. Many people said that they wished they had thought of it prior to going.
A second tip, if you go expecting to be let down then don't be surprised if you are. However of you go with an open mind and don't expect the standards you get in say Europe or America you will setting yourself up to have a much more positive experience. You will be grateful for what you do get in comparison to the way the locals live. We often forget just how lucky we are and take far too much for granted.
Overall our holiday has been an extremely good one, we have loved our time in Kenya and the only downside was being unwell, this however has not stopped us from having a fabulous adventure and we'll have long lasting great memories of Kenya and the wonderful people who live there.
Hope you all have as good a time as we did.
Do not waste your time at the Watamu Beach...
We have just returned from a very disappointing week at the Watamu Beach Hotel in Kenya courtesy of the African Safari Club, from take-off to landing back at Gatwick, I've never been in a situation (from all our years of travelling) to wanting to get back to London so quickly.
Be prepared for a long and bumpy flight, make sure you get to know your neighbour (in cattle class) early on in the flight as frotage can be name of the day when seated... If you can, upgrade for the leg room (well worth the extra spend), allowable luggage weight and edible food. Take water and snacks on the flight if you are vegetarian or require a decent amount of food (to prevent you starving over the 9 hours). The crew are friendly and can (if asked nicely) give you extra nuts and glasses of soft drinks when no one is looking. Alcohol costs extra!
On arrival and once through customs be prepared for the porters to take your luggage all of 50 yards and expect a magnificent tip in return (take small coins for this). Demarcation seems to be the order of the day, whereby there is one chap who talks to all the travellers, the driver and one poor soul who is left to load all of the luggage in what appears to be a coach from the 1970's. ALL EXPECT A TIP! Again, be prepared for a long journey, take water and food, most importantly, go to the loo - the driver will not stop until you arrive at your destination. Expect the journey to last about 2.5 / 3 hours, the scenery is quite pleasant (once you leave Mombassa), although the coach does seem to labour at the slightest incline and appears to be on the verge of breaking down every time the gears are changed.
On arrival to the Watamu Beach hotel, you are warmly greeted with singing, cold towels and a drink, in my opinion, it was just great to get out of a hot sweaty coach and to stretch my legs. Make sure you have your hotel voucher and passports to hand as this speeds up the checking in process. The porters are nice and on first impression the hotel and grounds appear to be great.
The rooms can vary from pleasant suites to down right shacks, all seem to have been constructed in the 1970's and they have never been upgraded... The beds smell of sweat and damp, we were fortunate that our single beds were set together and not apart. Mosquito nets are provided, and most rooms have air conditioning (take ear plugs) which can be extremely noisy. Some rooms have fans and a decent view. The wet room can play up, taking a course in plumbing (prior to travelling) certainly helped one couple we met out there. Expect power cuts, if there is a gadget to take, take a powerful torch. Do not expect anything else, you have to pay extra (per day) to use the safe, or to obtain a refrigerator. There are no phones and no other electrical appliances available to you. On the whole, we (as with many other people) tried to spend as little time in the rooms as possible.
The facilities within the 'camp' are poor and very dated, for those of you who appreciate and relish life from the 1970's it's a blast! The staff are amazing, for people who have faced tremendous tragedy / hardship, these people come to work at the resort for very long hours everyday and are expected to smile and be happy all the time. In return, they receive a few Euros pay per day. If a complaint is made against a member of staff (for something as small as a cup of tea), that will be taken from their wages - the price we are charged for a cup of tea equates to the daily pay for an employee at the resort...
The beach is fantastic, glorious white sand with clear blue sea (depending on the tide). There are beach boys who spend all day raking up the sea weed, the resort is placed so that the sea weed always gathers on the stretch outside the hotel. You can play at being David Attenborough with all the crabs that live in the sand on the beach. Be careful when walking through the sea weed and on the beach as there can be sharp objects that have washed up. Also, if you do venture out to the rocks at the edge of the cliffs (at low tide) be careful of the sea urchins (they are very big and can be very painful), also the shore (in some areas) consists of very sharp jagged rocks.
The food is dreadful, on the first day, we had our first experience of breakfast, all the fruit was crawling with flies, no attempt is made to cover anything up. Our policy was to make sure we got to each of the meals as early as possible. Times are regimented. A good game to play is trying to guess how many dishes (from the previous meal) have been reconstituted to make another dish (for a meal during the next day) - nothing is wasted... Be careful when ordering anything above and beyond water, fruit juice, beer and wine as this can cost extra. There is absolutely no variety in the cuisine. Make sure you have luck in terms of who you are seated next to, for the time that you are there, your eating partners will stay the same for the time that you are both there!
One great tip is to go to Hemingways (an amazing sea food experience) or the Italian pizza restaurant literally outside the hotel, both are worth going to for an improvement in food and atmosphere).
The shows in the evening are dreary apart from the Bio Ken show, these guys are amazing, they bring in so many types of snakes and provide a very good overview of what you could expect to see in the grounds of the hotel - don't worry - we didn't see anything...
The village (although very safe) can be very daunting, from the moment we left the complex, we were hassled to the point of having one interesting chap accompany us from one shop to the next (he simply would not leave us alone). Some guests took old clothes, pens and sweets for the poor of the village. The taxi drivers are generally honest and very reliable. We met a couple who visited the local night club and said they were safe even during the early hours of the morning.
The beach boys are great, if you can, try and organise a boat trip, safari or excursion through them. You can negotiate on the price and will get far better value for money. The hotel discourages you from doing any business with these people, from our perspective its better to give as little to the money making machine that is the Watamu Beach hotel.
Make sure you take enough Euro / Sterling notes, the nearest bank is in Malindi and will cost a pretty penny just to go and withdraw cash from a cash point.
Mosquitoes can be a real nuisance, be prepared, even though Deet is a poison - take it!
The journey back to Mombassa is a painful one, you are supposed to have a wake up call an hour before departure (we got one 30 mins before hand). Departure time is 3:30 am. You can be expected to settle up twice before leaving. Our coach almost broke down due to the third gear not engaging. Keeps your eyes peeled for your luggage once its off loaded from the bus.
At check-in you are expected to come under the 23kg luggage allowance for ALL your bags (including hand luggage), anything over will cost extra.
On the whole, if you want a good African experience don't bother. I am sure there are better hotels and carriers who provide a far better experience at probably the same price. For me the Watamu Beach resort is a factory that brings in tourists from the UK, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. If you do go, all I can say is the best of luck! We shall not be returning...
My girlfirend and I booked a last minute holiday with African Safari Club, and I read all the reviews on various sites, even phoning them to say I had heard some poor reviews.
We were at the Seahorse in Kilifi, which was lovely, albeit rather sleepy and certainly a bit too quiet if staying there for 2 weeks. However, we approached our rep, James, told him what we wanted, and he sorted it out. We spent a couple of nights at Kilifi during which time we went to the Ruins and a snake farm - very impressive. Also spent some time in the sea, sailing, etc.
Then James arranged free transport for us to Watamu to stay at another ASC Hotel. We then stayed there a few days, visited the Forest, had a dawn tour going bird spotting and trailed a troup of baboons - amazing experience. Also went up the coast to do some shopping, croc farm and faclonry, but not that impressed. The co-operative was very good though.
Then went back to Kilifi - free again. Went on a 4 day safari taking in Tsavo East, Kimana, Amboseli and Tsavo West. Hit lucky because everyone else had cancelled so me and Jo got a safari to ourselves. Masaii were incredibly nice people.
Came back to Kilifi for a night and then transferred, (free!) to Mombassa to stay in another ASC hotel, took in Fort Jesus, the Old Town and went on a v. romantic night time dinner cruise on a dhow, then returned to Kilifi for a couple of days - had to pay for a taxi on that one, tho . . .
I'd recommend Kenya. Basic food, (apart from the Dhow trip) and basic, but comfy accommodation. Spend the money on a Safari trip, the camps are fantastic, especially Zebra Camp - it looks like a set from Graham Norton - Camp is definitely the right word, fake Zebra skin curtains etc. do be careful with your valuables, I was pick-pocketed by a poor little kid, and our room was robbed by a cleaner on Safari, but they are genuinely nice people.
ASC in fairness arent exactly 5*, but they did try their hardest to accommodate all our requests.
Tired run down Swiss run hotel (part of a chain of 6)with tasteless mundane food
The food here is dreadfull but you will only know if you venture out of the compound to try "The Ascot" next door for pizza and fish, Hemmingway's for anything delicious, day or night that is on their menu. Or the perfect Driftwood Beach Club Hotel in Malindi for smoked sailfish, grilled catch of the day, prawns cooked any way you wish straight out of the sea with fantastic chips utterly memorable with a small charge for use of their pool for a wonderful day out. When you compare standards of rooms between Hemmingway's, The Driftwood, and Turtle Bay Beach Club then the rooms at Watamu Beach Club are appalling, old and tired. This AFC hotel is Swiss owned, yet it has cracked tiles in the bathrooms, worn out tiled flooring throughout, old stained mattresses and lumpy pillows with discoloured (clean!) linen and ghastly brown towels that smell after you have used them once. No effort appears to be made to recycle anything and yet the Swiss are reknowned for recycling, they own 6 Hotels and Safari Lodges in Kenya and yet they cannot make a small charge so you can re-fill your used plastic water bottle. Watamu Beach Club need to look at the admirable efforts next door made by Turtle Bay Beach Club and go into their hotel foyer to read the local Community/Conservation Info. Turtle Bay also have excellent excursions as do Hemmingway's try their dhow trips to Midas Creek. Any Safaris you may want to take can be booked in advance by email, or pop into Mlaindi and go to Allamanda Safaris. You can fly from Malindi Airport, (15 mins drive) and fly to the Safari lodges in the Mara etc whereas AFC drive you 2 hrs back to Mombasa Airport to collect people from their other hotels. Email Bryan on allamanda@swiftmalindi(-) or phone 042 811286 and he will give you the best Safari tailored to your needs at a far more reasonable price. AFC on the other hand offer no choice but their AFC lodges and Safaris and they never recommend any other business in Kenya.
Would we go back to Watamu yes but sadly not to stay at this hotel, until it listens to its guests and retuns a little of its profits to Kenya and gives tourists value for money, fresh delicious food and modernises and updates its rooms.
Lovely Place, Lovely People
Just returned from an African Safari Club Holiday which combined a week in Watamu with a week safari. We had a great time in Watamu. The bay is spectacular, and I feel the hotel is in a better location than the Hemmingway and Turtle Beach hotels, which are near by but on a flat stretch of beach. The accommodation is simple, but no worse for that.
We felt the chalets on the bluff were the best location and get a good breeze off the sea. The staff were very friendly and efficient and the food was varied. The free drinks with meals certainly kept the cost down for a family of four. There was no diving whilst we were there but the snorkelling on the reef surrounded by every colour of fish you can imagine was amazing - wish I'd taken an underwater camera.
On the down side, you do get accosted as soon as you step outside the hotel boundaries on the beach, but the village is worth exploring with a guide. Be prepared to haggle on the prices for the ubiquitous carved wood, only because the initial prices are ridiculously high. 50% or even 70% reductions seemed possible (and fair comparing with similar goods prices in South Africa). The road from Mombasa to Watamu is also a pain as mentioned in previous reviews, with many potholes.
Oh, and the safari was fabulous and I'd recommend that this should be included in any holiday. We were very lucky and saw the big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Buffalo) plus lots of other game. Especially memorable was seeing a cheetah hunt and kill.
We also had a few nights at the Paradise, one of the ASC hotels close to Mombasa and we felt that this had less character than Watamu. The Paradise was a big hotel complex with the associated Shanzu Beach hotel that could have been anywhere.
I Liked this hotel I had also read some "iffy" reviews but it was wonderful.
The food here was very good except for one evening when they had an Indian night and it was very spicy food. If you look at the menus during the day and if you do not like the meal you can arrange with the staff to have something else cooked for you an omlette or Pizza. You could actually get on the beech here as the sale people were kept away. We had a bungalow which overlooked the sea and had a fridge in it which was very welcome. We took our own coffee and kettle with us which alot of other people did. The air conditioning was noisy but very much a relief from the heat. This was very good I would certainly stay here again. It is about three hours from Mombassa airport by coach. Take water on all journeys with you. The staff were also very good ASC good.
Relief on arrival!
On booking my holiday with my fiance through the African Safari club to the Watamu Beach hotel, i checked a few websites to see what the reviews were like.To my disbelief the hotel sounded mainly dissapointing.I then contacted the club and they assured me it was one of their best hotels and we would not be dissapointed. After the long flight and lack of sleep we were in need of a shower.2 hours later on an awful bus ride(this is due to the roads in kenya)we arrived at the hotel with all of the staff singing for us and waiting with a cold drink and a freezing cold face cloth which was greatly recieved!The hotel was set in large grounds, mainly big wooden thatched buildings, a beautiful white sandy private beach and an fairly big pool.The beach boys ARE a nightmare on the beach but they are not allowed any further up the beach than the seaweed( this is cleaned daily)The rooms could do with a lick of paint, and less noisy air con machine but the fan can be switched on through the night.Daily events were organised, village tour, snake farm, tours to nearby towns, african nights at another hotel, glass bottom boat. etc.The staff are unbelievable helpful and the food was very nice, large selection and although you pay for drinks, wine and water are free with your meals.My main pain throughout my holiday was the mosquitoes.They are everywhere and i do suggest a very good spray,pen, plug in is used.Venturing out of the hotel i would suggest 2 or more people as you get people coming up to you trying to sell you things all of the time but a firm 'abana' meaning 'no' will do! The reviews i have read were a bit harsh i just wanted to give my impression of the holiday for other people to read. It was a holiday not to be forgotten and i would certainly go back again, but to a hotel closer to the airport such as the flamingo.