It had hardly seemed like yesterday that I had been standing in reception being welcomed by Niels the GM,Joy, Julius and all staff although this time my husband was with me and we were going to be there for over three weeks.
We were given a lovely cold cocunut drink and the usual flannel and as the form was already filled in for us we were taken to 'our' second bedroom and what a beautiful basket of flowers and welcome card was waiting for us.
I opened the verandah doors and what a wonderful sight to see the powder white sands, waves crashing and the swaying palm trees.
I think the porters were a little taken aback as we had travelled from Edinburgh with 8 suitcases and large holdall as we were renewing our 35th wedding vows and taking 75 kilos to the orphanage we support - Footprints in the Shimba Hills. We had already deposited a cheque for £2000 into their bank account which we had raised through a raffle. I was lucky to obtain a signed rugby Scottish Union top and signed rugby ball and someone kindly contributed a signed English strip. The response this year was amazing and we still have over 100 kilos in my summer house - now called the African hut which will be taken to the trustee in the New Year.
We parked the car at the Brittania Country Club and met up with friends at the Styal lounge in Manchester who were staying at the Baobab Hotel but invited to the wedding renewal. I must thank you Tracy for the beautiful guest book bound in Campbell tartan which all the guests wrote comments and will be treasured as one member of staff 'quoted' that was from the heart as I am sure the other comments were as well.
We personally cannot find any faults with this hotel 'our second home'. All waiters excellent service, bar tenders quick to give out refreshments, Mahmoud you are doing a great job in the restaurants - we mainly ate in the main restaurant and lunch in the Boriti snack bar and all food was excellent especially the breakfasts where there was no shortage of anything.
The lady chef made my scrambled eggs fresh plus beef sausages and bacon therefore piping hot.
We visited the Italian and grill a few times and there again the food was excellent.
Thank you Omar and Hassan for tending our sun beds and to the gardners for the lovely garden flowers on the table next to my bed each day.
The gardners are always busy cutting the lawns or tending to the flowers and plants which makes the scene so lovely.
We had our usual room steward Richard who kept the room clean and immaculate and fresh sheets and towels every day.
Our renewal of vows was a week after we arrived on the Saturday and I decided to do all the arrangements myself as the wedding co-ordinator was a tad expensive and I must extend a huge 'thank you' to all involved who made the day so special and for doing various things before we arrived. We sent over a copy of our original certificate but told to take the original out which was needed by the minister who in turn after the ceremony returned and also given a renewal certificate signed by ourselves the witnesses and the minister.
Our thanks go to our good friends Ferdinand and Seriana for registering the ceremony and obtaining a minister - I wished a minister as close to the Church of Scotland as possible as we were married in a church and did not wish a registrar. Also the money would go to the church. I'm glad I chose this reverend as it was a moving service with 30 guests attending.
Also thank you Ferdinand - luckily you had a cousin that was a professional photographer and who took excellent photographs and DVD in the massive grounds and beach.
I received 72 prints and 1 hour 30 minutes of an edited DVD as opposed to half of what I would have got from another photographer.
Joy thank you for obtaining the seamstress who did an excellent job of the flower girls dresses in such a short time and Nellie for taking the girls for the beautiful shoes. It was great that they had all been measured as I had only to hand over the material etc and she could get on with the work.
My heart was in my mouth with the three kilts for the page boys but they fitted well.
Now Bettie Guest Relations what can I say!! You were a gem and your idea of myself coming on a camel to the ceremony was superb. I have been on a camel before but in a swimsuit and wondered how I would get on with my dress but it was quite easy and the camel was spick and span - my husband as you know did not know a thing and was rather taken aback and I did not fall into the pool!!!
Niels thank you for giving us an excellent costing for the lunches in the Fountain bar, for the dancers and what a surprise when I saw the beautiful three tier cake given as a gift. I have never seen anything like it even in this country! Mahmoud thank you for forfeiting your day off to oversee things and to all involved with the service of the meal. The Pineapple Hakuna Matata went down like a storm. Also Stella who was always there in the background and Joy for being my best maid and looking after the children but they were good as gold.
Thank you also to my husband for the beautiful jade jewellry as of course 35 years is of course a jade wedding. Thanks to the hairdresser Pamela for doing my hair at 8 am in the morning and coming to the room before 11.30 am to help me with my tiara and veil and lacing up my dress. Two rooms were kept empty downstairs for the children to change and my husband was banned from 'our' room and a do not disturb sign put on the door.
Bettie you must have though 'oh here she comes again the days before the ceremony' but you took it all in your stride and the decorations placed where I wished them to - the beautiful bows on the seating and the table where we stoood for our vows and it was good to plan out the seating plan with you,Mahmoud and Stella. Also happy to have the reverend and his wife at the meal.
Although we were tired coming off the plane to save us going into MBA again I headed with Ferdinand and Seriana who met us with their new safari van to Alexanders florist and chose my own bouquet giving him the colours I wished. the best maid's, 5 button holes and flower bands for around the flower girls hair and the long and low table flowers for the ceremony table. Munerva what an excellent job you did with all. Beyond expectations.
If I haven't thanked or missed anyone then I apologise but things were so rushed for that week - I was still making favours with Edinburgh rock and tying them with tartan ribbon and heather up to the last minute.
This was a wedding we both wanted - some may wish it quiet - it is a personal choice but we had a large white wedding 35 years ago although this time I wore ivory.
We were meant to have a lobster dinner at night but we were too full so saved that for my birthday!!
After the ceremony we took off by small plane from Ukunda to the Mara Fairmount Club and my goodness it is no wonder that the camp was awarded the best hotel in Africa and The Middle East by Travel and Leisure Magazine in 2010.
The tents have all been renovated although we still were allocated 'our usual premium tent' beside the hippo bank and Mara river and were spoilt very much by Munene Ngotho the GM and staff as per usual. (Review under Mara Fairmount)
One thing I will say which we did not expect was we saw a lot of animals and we did not expect to see a crossing of 5,000 gnus cross the second day that we went out all day. It was amazing to see at that time of year.
When we returned we were met by Ferdinand and Seriana at the airstrip and were given a beautiful large mask carving carved on the back 'To Anne and Jim' from Beach Air Tours and Safaris.
When we were dropped off at the hotel the notice board had been written 'welcome home' Anne and Jim. Also when we first arrived the board was also written 'Welcome back Anne and Jime 34th repeat clients.
It is these special touches that make this hotel so special.
The next day was my birthday and my sun umbrella was decorated in balloons,banners and party poppers - a lovely touch - arbour round my door and arbours with flowers around the sun beds and special stars the gardners make themselves.
Bettie came down to the beach and asked where we were sitting for lunch which we thought odd !
We normally sit on the lawn area away from the Boriti to watch from the gardens what is going on at the beach and the boats in the sea.
All was revealed - Bettie arrived with a beautiful display of flowers and a beautiful birthday cake which was a lovely touch.
We had some of the cake but far too much so shared with our Kenyan friends on the beach.
That was not the end - in the evening 'our' usual table was decorated excellently by Bettie, Stella and Mahmoud whom I think had a hand in that too. Large banners, balloons. poppers flashing lights, palms etc and once more a beautiful cake and arrangement and birthday card from all the staff was brought to the table and the whole of the staff sung 'happy birthday' and then sang my favourite song Malaika.
We had the lobster that evening and I must say it was perfect!!
Our next port of call was the orphanage and luckily Kerry the founder had just returned from the UK where the yearly annual ball is held with raffles etc and Kerry depends on this for her budget throughout the year and I believe £15000 was raised.
She arrived right on time and it was a bit dicy at first but we managed to get all the kilos into her van. When we were nearing Footprints she told us to shut our eyes and all the children were standing with a big sign 'Welcome Anne and Jim' with Heart of Midlothian football strips and a huge big saltire flag behind them. That was me off!! Not literally but moved.
We were taken to the dining area and given a refreshing large glass of mango juice - I had already asked the hotel if they could bake a cake for the children and they did a 2 kilo gorgeous cream cake iced in pink with Anne and Jim loves you all in icing on the top.It was huge and very beautiful. I also took out some extra decorations and the children loved these especially the poppers.
We emptied all the goodies and clothes on their table and even I was amazed at the amount of goods we had amassed.
The children were so well behaved and did not grab a thing until we gave out to each and everyone.
The staff also received gifts and I have never seen such appreciation from everyone.
The table was cleared and we had lunch with them all - potatoes and green bananas which were delicious.
Then the cake was brought out with candles and sparklers and and a special candle that flashed. They all blew out the candles and I was given the honour of cutting the cake which all received and also seconds as it would not keep in the heat.
Personally and Kerry agreed it does not harm them to have a treat once in a while. Morrissons were very generous giving me 12 boxes of Roses chocolates plus other items which I took out and Kerry took charge of these and it will be her decision when and where to give them.!
The two housemothers have a hard job doing the washing and had started when we were there but what well washed clothes and what a huge number of washing lines.
We were than shown around once more and I must say the rooms are very clean and tidy and all clothes neatly folded and toys put away.
Apparently the General Manager of Thomson has visited plus other managers and were very impressed with the way this orphanage is run.
Contrary from what I have heard on the grape vine the children are happy,contented and very well nourished+.
The reps have the sanction to announce this orphange in their welcome speech by the gm for people to visit. As Kerry says it is not a zoo but people have come back saying what a marvellous time they have had at the orphanage as we did.
We were taken to another room where the children san and danced for us and even got us up to dance - another tear to the eye.
One of the books that I had given had a video in it and the boys were dying to see it but Kerry wanted to show us the video of the ball therefore we watched that and what beautiful tables and what a wonderful evening they had. The children were all crowded round and a little girl could not see properly therefore I took her on my knee and she casually put her arm around my neck and held my other hand. We had to laugh at the children when the goods were brought out as the word 'posh' came out of the mouths of babes when they saw something they liked.
It was lucky we did not buy maize as they were well stocked and it would have gone off therefore when Uncle Patrick took us home after being kissed and cuddled by all the children (one lof the bigger girls told me to come back soon - I think Eliza) we stopped off at a special store in Ukunda and bought 10 kilos of sugar and beans which they needed.
What a lovely day and we can't wait to go back in 2012.
I now believe Kerry has achieved two of her visions a second hand Matatu bus to ferry the children to the beach for an outing and a fridge/freezer run off the generator therefore I hope our contribution helped in some way.
After we came back I went up to Diani hospital as Kerry had suffered badly from malaria and also the children just before we came out and asked Dr Rajipul if he would sponsor the orphanage with malaria tablets which he agreed to do.
The last few days were not so good weather wise - very bad rain but no worse in Edinburgh - we had our pack a macs so braved the rain with 2 hotel umbrellas and lunched at the African Pot several times and other restaurants.
All too soon the holiday came to an end but we shall certainly be returning in 2010 god willing and soon.
The hotel is beautiful, the pools are one of the biggest in each Africa, jacuzzis, swim up bar and beautiful white powder sands although the first 2 weeks were roasting the tides were very high and one night I could not sleep for the crashing of the waves and discovered fishing boats amongst the sun beds in the morning and the tide had come right over the fence into the gardens and also I think the Maria came onto the beach.
Thanks also to the animation team for their hard work - never a dull moment with them but they don't force you to do anything you don't wish.
I did actually buy a beautiful carving and stork for the garden but when we were taking the decorations down from the loft we discovered a large and it was large chess table and pieces hidden away with two beautiful carved chairs and a wall hanging made of rosewood and two carvings unwrapped and the house is stocked!I don't know where to put them.
May I just say to one of our page boys Juma aged 12 for the loss of his dad Klaus whom we have known since 1996 and passed away the beginning of December aged 33 which came as a big shock to us all.He was at the ceremony.
Our thoughts go out to his family at this time. I cannot and my husband cannot believe we will never see him again.
We did so may things that I forgot to say thanks to Islam for setting the rugby match on the lounge TV which we watched although disappointed we lost.
Also for the beautiful carving we won in the quiz.
Thanks Louis and Nancy for the items in the shop and also to my favourite boutique 'Ina's ' in the main shopping centre for the lovely clothes I bought and good to see the indoor/outdoor restaurant up and running by the kind British lady and man.
Ali Barbours does not change nor the Forty Thieves - we have done all the trips thrice over or more and quite honestly did not have the time to do any this time.
Niels it was great to have our chats - You run a good ship and also Joy, Patrick, Julius and I could go on with names but asante sana to you all and all the best for a good 2012.
Also lovely to see James the previous GM come into the hotel and have a drink with him and talk about old times
We personally believe (others may not) that this is the most consistinent and well run hotel on the South Coast and will be returning in 2012 hopefully sooner than later.
I know the boats will be getting ready on the lawns for hogmanay (New Years Eve) and I wish I could be there!!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This dramatic hotel with its fantastic pools and beautiful beach is the perfect spot to relax after a safari… or simply visit to relax! The warm and very African feel of the hotel with comfortable rooms, well appointed bathrooms and selection of restaurants offers guests plenty of places to lounge in the sun and almost as many shady spots to enjoy a bit of a breeze and a good book. All rooms have quiet, split unit air conditioners, televisions, mini fridges and coffee and tea making facilities. There is a safe (chargeable) in each room and a business center located in the main building with internet or wifi access in public areas. The drama of the huge, traditional makuti (thatched) roof in the main restaurant offers the Chef a terrific showcase for a varied selection of local and international dishes on the buffet or you could indulge at one of the a la carte restaurants (chargeable) for a special occasion or just a quiet evening for two. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Southern Palms Beach Hotel Diani
- Southern Palms Beach Diani