Experience barefoot luxury at Kenya’s Manda Bay
By Fiona Sanderson
Imagine arriving at an unspoilt, secluded location where you can switch off from the rest of the world, take your shoes off and simply enjoy the natural beauty, with miles of soft white sand on a private beach, fringed by coconut palms. This is Manda Bay; a small, boutique lodge located on the northern tip of Manda Island on Kenya’s coast, on one of the many idyllic islands of the Lamu archipelago.
For many arriving from an African safari, with dusty tracks and hours of driving around Kenya’s game parks, this is the perfect place to just stop and take in the open vistas and the Indian Ocean beyond. At Manda Bay, you can completely unwind and let the sense of space sink you into a slow pace of life. For others, a complete getaway from city life for a week or two at Manda Bay is just good for the soul.
Manda Bay is an eco-friendly private lodge offering empty beaches, coral gardens and an indigenous forest with a herd of buffalo that swam there one day and decided to make it their home. Sixteen thatched cottages, designed in a local style, are naturally laid back with the barest of colourful fabrics, stunning furnishings, and sea grass matting. Think Robinson Crusoe style, albeit with hot and cold showers and fresh towels.
The sea, located just beyond your private veranda, is part of the very make-up of the resort, no more so than at mealtimes. Meals are served either on the beach, in the dining room or on board the Manda Bay dhow. Lunch is freshly caught from the sea and comes with a wide selection of salads and local produce, while dinner is best eaten by candlelight on the beach, accompanied by a chilled bottle of Chardonnay. The staff here are eager to look after you, and nothing ever seems to be too much trouble.
The main central buildings at Manda Bay consist of a spacious bar and lounge area, and a shady dining terrace. At low tide, you can just jump straight onto the sand; at high tide, the waves lap right up to the bar. The bar is ideal for social gatherings, with speciality cocktails enjoyed against the backdrop of the spectacular natural panorama. Happy hour is actively encouraged barefoot, which makes for a relaxed venue to meet and mingle with other guests.
Aside from its food and beverage offering, Manda Bay is most famous for the array of water sports it offers – some of which are included in the rates, and others are available at extra cost. Just some of the sports on offer include water-skiing, sailing, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, kitesurfing, scuba diving and dhow safaris. At certain times of the year, nearby activities also include snorkelling, turtle tracking and whale watching. For a slower pace, the resort’s pool is the ideal way to enjoy a few leisurely lengths before lunch.
For those looking to immerse themselves more fully into the natural world around them, hop aboard a jeep just before sunset and drive further into the Manda bush, where you will hopefully see much birdlife and the herd of Cape buffalo at the water trough, where they are supplied with supplementary water and food during the dry season, before finishing with a sunset G&T at a high spot overlooking the bay below.
Manda Bay is also introducing a coral restoration programme, giving guests the chance to be actively involved in caring for the ocean, through the sustainment of the local reefs.
Owned and run by the same family for over 15 years, their understanding of what guests want is well practised. With its naturally friendly staff, Manda Bay really does stand out as one of Kenya’s best barefoot beach hideaways. We dare you to try it!