Christmas and Camel Racing in Kenya

I was never originally going to go to Kenya on this trip. I had already been there and it was just another long bus ride to get to Uganda. However, I had been moving faster than expected because of some days of flights, availability, etc. So I emailed my friend Joe who was traveling in East Africa to see where he was and if we could meet up on Christmas for a few days. We had originally talked about doing a portion of this trip together but couldn’t work out the timing or the details. But luck had it that I could meet him in Mombasa, Kenya on Christmas Day after a night in Nairobi. That decision turned out to be the best decision of the trip thus far. And the biggest lesson learned is that Christmas in Kenya is a lot different than Christmas in Connecticut!

I spent the night in Nairobi after a nightmarish 3 stop connection which included a missed last connection so I had to spend a 3 hour overnight in Addis Ababa after a 24 hour travel day and like 5 airports. Finally, exhausted I made it to Nairobi Christmas Eve and promptly decided I needed a decent place to stay and negotiated a Christmas steal for the best hotel in Nairobi, The Stanley. The hotel was really cool and all the bell man and workers actually still wear top hats and tails on their tuxedos. The place was really nice and had a lot of colonial ambience which made Nairobi one of the great African cities.
I honestly didn’t do too much in Nairobi except for walk around a bit around the center of town and try to find a blackberry charger to no avail and eat dinner at Trattoria. Trattoria was a decent Italian place with overpriced food for Nairobi and crappy service but the food certainly hit the spot before I went to bed very early to catch the early Christmas morning flight to Mombasa.

Mombasa is the second city of Kenya and one of the most important ports in Africa and I believe the biggest on the Indian Ocean. I met Joe at the airport and we decided to head south of the city to stay at Diani Beach. This was again the best decision of the trip.

What an amazing place! It was truly awesome and to be there over Christmas and Boxing Day was extra special because everyone was off of work and on the beach. There were great restaurants including a restaurant that could be a five star place in the States but it was in a cave in the ground. It was fantastic. (I don’t have a picture of it with my camera but once I get Joe’s pictures I will try to put it up).
This restaurant was part of the Forty Thieves complex which is the place where everybody goes. The bar is run by a British man, George (above middle), who is a total trip and has been in Diani Beach since 1954. His bar and restaurant has the market cornered on pretty much everything in town and has some amazing barbequed shrimps that we devoured.
Forty Thieves also sponsors the Boxing Day camel races which I decided I clearly had to partake in. I had ridden camels several times but had never actually raced them before so I was pretty psyched and a little apprehensive considering I had no idea what I was doing. The bar took bets on each race which featured four camels and I was drawn against a Welshman and two Italians.
My camel was pretty pissy and he got off to a rocky start by refusing to move initially, then when he finally did and made the turn pole he knocked it over and whacked me with it. However, he did recover and I managed to finish third.

It was a lot of fun and I do have it on video but the speed here is awful and I cannot upload the video yet so I will have to wait but trust me it was hilarious and a blast. However, camels are easily the most uncomfortable animals to ride, especially for guys!
A few other awesome things we did were enter a ping pong tournament at one of the other hotels that we were pretending to be staying at because it was all inclusive. We did manage to get a free dinner and drinks out of it and had some amazing ping pong matches. Normally I would never do something like that but the extortionate prices we had to pay for Christmas accommodation warranted it. Additionally, everyone else was doing it too, haha.

Joe and I did manage to take care of all the entrants including all the Kenyans that worked at the hotel and then we were pitted in the finals together. I managed to win two of three very intense games that went down to the wire and it was a blast. You haven’t lived until you’ve sweated out like 10 pounds playing ping pong for 2 hours in 110 degree heat in Kenya!

Honestly, I can’t even describe how nice, fun and pleasant Diani Beach was to be at. We didn’t want to leave this morning. I am now in Uganda but I will always remember Diani as the place that caught us by surprise. What a hidden gem and one of my all time favorite places that if you’re ever in Kenya-you must check it out. Head to Forty Thieves and tell George I said hi and that his pool game is SHITE!

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  1. I had never heard of this particular beach, thanks for putting it on my radar.

  2. Once again, this looks amazing and I am jealous. I can’t believe they let regular people race camels…I assume it was somewhat controlled? Did anyone fall off?

  3. LOL, great stuff. I want to go there and race camels too, that sounds like a bucket list event. I doubt my wife will go for it though…but that’ll be an excuse for her to not come which would be a real vacation for me, LOL! Stay safe in your travels Lee.

  4. William it was led and followed by a local who guided the camels bc lord knows I would get tossed in the ocean! and nobody fell off but a dog did get trampled by one of the camels and he then bit the camel and there was a fight between one of those Italian guys and the camel walker person-it was pretty damn funny although the dog easily could’ve been really injured.

    Patrick, don’t make your wife mad at me for putting the idea in your head, haha…good luck getting her there.

  5. Camels hurt girls too!

  6. Lucky we were not in the tournament together because you would have gotten whooped up by me like that camel did to you!

  7. This is crazy! I haven\’t been reading…checking in now 🙂

  8. Awesome!

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