What you need to know:
- Back at Amare, the bartender-cum-mixologist serves a mean mojito – “Bacardi is the best rum for a mojito,” says Leonard Lombard. He sets to work on the mint, the quintessential ingredient to a decent mojito. “If you want the essence, squeeze the mint; for expression, steam the leaves and for deco, throw them in.”
- I’m having a great time at the bar – just me and the ocean breeze – with a sea-food platter on the counter.
- In the evening, the stars have started to sparkle. They look a little bit brighter than usual.
A fish eagle soars over the jagged tooth of the cliff, on the lookout for a fish from the ocean. I take off from my perch at the sunken bar facing the blue ocean to follow its course but the bird has vanished into thin air.
It is late afternoon, the perfect time to stroll on the lavish grounds of Amare Resort. Perched on Tiwi Beach on Kenya’s famed sparkling South Coast, the Amare Resort is a big place fit for a big fat Kenyan wedding. The establishment’s sunken amphitheatre is dedicated to weddings, just as the grounds are dedicated to love. Taking into account how big Kenyan weddings can be, Amare can take in a whole clan and still have room to spare for friends. Indeed, the Italian word Amare means love.
A troop of vervet monkeys emerge, running in the gardens and swinging from tree to tree. I reach the furthest end where a cave is blocked with palm fronds to stop people from wandering in. A spot under the makuti banda is perfect to soak in the tranquillity of the ocean and I hope to catch site of a humpback whale or pods of dolphins or, perchance, the whale-shark, the biggest fish on the planet passing through about this time. However, all is quiet.
Past Angelina’s — the rustic beach house on the grounds — and quaint old-fashioned cottages with the traditional baraza by the doorway, stands a gigantic baobab, a fig tree wrapped around it. Beyond them is a tangle of trees and scrub.
“It’s the forest,” says the guard.
“Super. Let’s go in.”
“No,” she replies startled. “There are wild pigs and big snakes in there.”
She’s really in no mood for this little escapade and I am really eager to go in. Walking along the disused road, there is no path into the dryland forest to enter. I hear sounds in the thickets, stop and look but the forest creatures are shy and keep their distance.
Behind me, I hear hurried footsteps. This time, it is the guard again.
“Madam, why are you walking here?” he asks. “There’s nothing in the forest to see.”
When I tell him I would like to see some forest birds, rare monkeys, the wild pigs wandering around – and well – if a snake happens to go by, I will just step back and give it the right of way – he’s at pains.
“Madam, nobody comes here. It’s not safe and there’s no security.”
By this time, I have decided that since there is no trail to wander through like at the Colobus Conservation at Diani or at Mwamba Field Study Centre in Watamu, I will wait for the establishment to open some trails.
The guard is visibly relieved.
Back at Amare, the bartender-cum-mixologist serves a mean mojito – “Bacardi is the best rum for a mojito,” says Leonard Lombard. He sets to work on the mint, the quintessential ingredient to a decent mojito. “If you want the essence, squeeze the mint; for expression, steam the leaves and for deco, throw them in.”
I’m having a great time at the bar – just me and the ocean breeze – with a sea-food platter on the counter.
In the evening, the stars have started to sparkle. They look a little bit brighter than usual.
A shrew scurries past, its snout and tail scuffling through the garden, looking for insects and forest litter to snack on.
“That’ the biggest rat I have ever seen,” a man at the counter exclaims, giving us all a good laugh because a shrew is not even a rodent in the first place. I call it a night as a sea gull flies by.
Though I will be spending the night in the honeymoon suite, I have no one to share it with. Still, the space is resplendent, with white-washed with the zidaka – the decorative wall niches that double up as the bed board, traditionally a feature of Arab and Swahili houses.
The morning brings out the waves. Fishermen walk to the reef to look for octopus and wait for the tide to flow in to sail past the reef for a catch from the deep sea.
In the meantime, the silvery cheeked hornbills emerge from the forest that nobody goes into and send out loud notes while tiny sunbirds flit around sipping nectar from the orange splashed flamboyant trees. Driving out of the resort, past the local homesteads of the Digo — one of the nine Mijikenda groups — I see the women preparing for the day, busy in their chores under the coconut and mango trees.