It is hard to deny that the Kenyan Coast is a land blessed with several stunning beaches. There is plenty to choose from when it comes to the beachy side of life, and Che Shale Hotel & Kitesurf Center in Mambrui, Malindi is no exception to this rule.
This Kenyan village-meets-the modern world property sits on a long stretch of beige sandy beach in a remote patch of the Kenyan coastline, North of Malindi Town. It is relatively large but still manages to attain a homely community feel with its layout and atmosphere.
The homely feel can probably be attributed to the fact that the business is family owned and stems from a rich Kenyan history. The current owner is Justin Aniere, who took over from his parents, John and Vanessa Aniere, who originally started the business in the late ’70s.
It is founded on a wealth of experience in the hotel and safari industry and is regarded as one of the early adopters, if not pioneers, of the mkeka nature inspired building style, which is still vividly present in the vernacular architecture of their buildings.
I had only heard of this place from my partner, and he decided that I should not miss out this gem, so he invited me on his next trip, which I happily obliged. The online reviews were insanely positive as well, so it did not take much to convince me. And by all odds, it did not disappoint.
Here are a few highlights of my stay and experience at Che Shale Hotel & Kitesurf Center.
1. The World-Class Kitesurf School
If the hotel had an elevator pitch, its hook would be that it is the only hotel on Kenyan coastline where the winds are so strong that it is a mecca of sorts for kitesurfers in Kenya and the greater East Africa region.
It initially started as a getaway hotel famous for its provision of a secluded, tranquil beach vacation, but due to the prevalence of these constant strong winds, which are a vital component for extreme, action-packed wind and water sports, they diversified their hotel’s offering by introducing a world-class spot for kitesurfing.
This kite surfer’s playland includes a kite school, where veterans can rent all of the different kinds of water sports equipment such as paddleboards, surfboards, and, of course, kites, and where beginners can get an introduction into this highly addictive sport.
If you are not entirely sure if the sport is for you, they have short 2-hour sessions known as tasters, which are, as the word suggests, a “taste” of what kitesurfing is all about.
The curious cat that I am, I took the taster sessions, which lasted for 2 hours at a cost of Kes. 5,600 ($50). And it was, undoubtedly, the highlight of my trip, especially the body dragging session. This is when you literally let the kite drag your body through the water without the use of a board while still in control of the kite. It is insanely fun.
Aside from it being fun, it is an essential skill that all aspiring kitesurfers have to learn before they can actually get on the board, as it is useful in the retrieval of your board in case you lose it in the water.
If you enjoy the taster crash course experience, you are then welcome to take the full course for 3 days-about 9 hours-, which will cost around Kes. 38,000 ($380). Confirm the costs here.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely join the sport one day after I’ve worked on my confidence as an ocean swimmer.
2. The Secluded Golden Beach
Kite surfing aside, the beach is something out of a dream. Dubbed as the Golden Beach for its iron pyrites that brilliantly sparkle in the sand, the beach stands on a large bay that is nothing short of enchanting.
This gorgeous beach also sits uncrowded as most of the people around are guests of the hotel. It actually almost feels native as there are no major establishments anywhere in sight, making it a perfect place for that quiet, reflective vacation.
Moreover, for people like me, who are not very confident swimmers, the water is usually shallow and flat with no crazy, scary waves. Great Mother impeccably set it up for us for a safe swim and perfect for those envious Instagram photos.
And when you’re not in the water, it is a great place to completely immerse yourself in a good book or indulge in a cocktail or madafu water as you blissfully watch the kite surfers simultaneously juggle the forces of wind and water.
3. The Affordable But Chic Accommodation
The accommodation options are reasonably cheap. My partner and I stayed at the rustic Kajama budget banda, which cost us, Kes. 4,500 ($45) per person for bed and breakfast.
The banda is basic but chic, spacious, and comfortable, giving you a “true” African experience as it is a raised thatched room with an interior of mkeka walls. Inside, it has a standard queen size bed complete with a mosquito net, a stand-alone fan, and simple indoor and balcony furniture, all customized from locally available material.
Our particular banda option was not ensuite. It had a shared toilet and bathroom shared between two adjacent bandas. Both the banda and the lavatories are cleaned every mid-morning.
You also get a complimentary 500ml bottle of drinking water daily. If you require more water, you would have to purchase from the bar. But upon request, the bar also offers free, clean, drinkable water from the borehole. That is what we drunk.
4. The Delicious Food
They say an experience is not complete without food and as a recently converted foodie, thanks to dating a foodie, I would easily give them a 5-star rating on this one. The food is delectable. It is so good that I can taste the glazed sautéed onion appetizers that graced every meal. They were among our favorites.
Most importantly, their food comes fresh, especially their seafood, as they have a soft shell crab farm where they breed crabs. Therefore, if you are a seafood person, this is a little piece of heaven for you.
Since our package included breakfast, every day we looked forward to the tasty, generous, well-thought-out meal. It came with a choice of fresh juices, fruits, yogurt, and a selection of an ala carte breakfast, which you could down with some tea or coffee.
Also, if you go for the half board option, as my partner did, expect a four-course meal fit for a king, complete with appetizers, starters, main course, and dessert.
They also offer free snacks at around 4pm. I especially liked the nachos and the homemade tomato sauce.
5. The Warm, Tranquil Ambiance
Ever entered somewhere and felt like you have been transported to an entirely new world, where time has no meaning, and the world has no worries? I get that vibe from this place. From the reception to the bar and dining area to the lounging area, you are welcome by a feeling of simplicity with an artistic touch. The entire place just radiates calmness and serenity, which makes it the go-to spot for that well-deserved R&R.
The décor and building materials echo an active responsibility to the environment and the community as it is tastefully decorated and constructed with materials native to the land, with a few bits of modernity sipping flawlessly here and there.
As if it needs more to add to the already quaint charm, all the structures strategically face the ocean, giving you a clear view of the sea for that famous African sunrise.
During the weekdays, it is restfully quiet. On the weekends, the moods shifts a little to a busy buzz of families and friends bustling in from around Malindi for a day out in the sun, or purely, to enjoy their incredible meals.
6. The Impeccable, Friendly Service
Have you ever been to a place where everything ticks the box except that the service lets them down? I gauge the value of any place I visit by their customer service, and I am glad to report that this is not one of those places that forget about the importance of customer experience. The staff and management were amiable and professional throughout. We both felt comfortable interacting with the owners, Justin and his family, as well as the rest of the team.
Everything always came with a smile and warmth that made you feel like you are part of the family even if it is for a little while. In fact, this was exemplified when we had a small issue with our billing, which was our fault, but the management handled it calmly and respectfully.
If you are looking for a chill place where you can engage in water sports, specifically kitesurfing, or to relax quietly on the beach, or maybe even, celebrate a special occasion with friends or family, you will love Che Shale Hotel & Kitesurf Center. It is uniquely suited to give you a thrilling yet relaxed vacation. What’s more, it will not dent your wallet.
It’s also easy to get there as it is only 30 minutes away from Malindi Airport and a short 20mins drive from Malindi Town and is accessible with all types of vehicles. The only thing is you have to be careful not to miss the turn. However, you can easily give them a call in case you get a little lost.
So do not just daydream about this fantastic location, go shut off the world and experience it for yourself. Consider yourself warned, though, you might not want to return home. It is sure to linger in your heart forever.