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Mafia Island

We like to do trips for our birthdays. We’re more about experiences than presents. It’s how we roll. This year, for my birthday, it’s how we dove.

We went to Mafia Island, Tanzania. It’s a remote island that’s sort of part of the whole Pemba Channel. You get there via Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar.

The island is very eco-friendly, but we did manage to stay at one of the few places (maybe only place) with air conditioning. Say what you what. I like toilets and air conditioning. (There are a lot of mosquitos so air conditioned rooms allow me to sleep. Otherwise I will be bitten to death.)

The air conditioned place, Mafia Island Lodge, is a bit run down. It’s fine. I’d say average food. Service was good. The rooms were…okay. We had to change rooms because the first room had a broken air conditioner. Besides climate control, the other reason we picked the lodge is because Mafia Island Diving is there.

They are an amazing dive shop. Organized. Professional. Really nice. They know the reefs and they aim to please in terms of what you’d like to see.

We did a mix of shore diving and diving from their dhows. We did not do night dives this trip, but they do offer night dives.

I’ll post video later, but I did go through the photos we took. J. and I swapped back and forth from the GoPro and the small point and shoot camera. This was not a trip for DSLRs and and strobes. (Taking that on small planes is a real hassle.) As such, the photos are…okay. Some are better than others. You’ll see some back scatter (because we couldn’t control lighting) and some shots are slightly blurred (because of shutter lag).

See the photos. Look toward the bottom of the photos to see captions.

The Widow

The series The Widow on Amazon Video is getting a lot of chatter. Some people find it offensive. The people who don’t like it take offense partly at the dialogue, partly at Kate Beckinsale’s hair and makeup, and partly because they feel the story plays into the white savior theme. I disagree on most of this.

The one part I agree on is that the bronzer was a little heavy and that the ponytail was annoying on Ms. Beckinsale. But that’s it. On the important part of the story, I totally disagree.

I found the story and the characters nuanced and complex. If you know anything about current events in the Democratic Republic of Congo, you will know that much of the dialogue is realistic and that the story line is accurate as to what’s going on there. As someone living in Africa (albeit in Kenya), well aware of what’s going on in surrounding countries, with a husband who works for UNHCR, and having worked in financial inclusion (interacting with many NGOs), I can tell you that the story is spot on.

Furthermore, (especially since I’m not white), I know the white savior complex when I see it. It isn’t here. The filming depicted many aspects of Africa and did not go into poverty porn. Various characters put other characters in line whenever one character started to go into the wanting-to-save-the-world rabbit hole. It was realistic in storyline as well as dialogue.

One critic bashed the line “It’s so beautiful, but there’s such darkness beneath it,” as trite. Guess what. That line perfectly describes DRC. (I’m guessing many of the critics don’t know much about DRC.)

Watch the show for yourself. Did you watch it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Diving Over Christmas

The visibility was as good as past dives in Watamu, but the diving was still good. Here are some photos and a bit of video (not my best) to show you some of what we saw.

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Review: Voi Wildlife Lodge

On the way to and from Watamu, we stopped in Voi. We wanted to take a break and make the drive a bit easier. We chose Voi Wildlife Lodge as the place to make our stop. Big mistake.

I don’t want to go into too many details as I don’t want to relive it. However I can tell you this:

  • Service was terrible on the way down. Their excuse was that no one was really around and so there was less staff.
  • Service was terrible on the way there. Their excuse was that the lodge was full and thus very busy.
  • Food was barely edible.
  • We reserved and paid for an air conditioned rooms. We did not get one either time. Didn’t get any real answer as to why either time.
  • The fan in the room didn’t help as the bizarre mosquito netting somehow blocked the air flow at the top.
  • There is no safe in the room nor are there adequate locks.
  • There is no Do Not Disturb sign so you can’t even request that housekeeping stay out, given that there is no safe.
  • It’s pretty easy to break into any room.

The place is a dump. Do not go there. Here are some photos to show you a bit of how bad it is there.

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Our uncomfortable bed

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Fan overhead…but the airflow is blocked

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Another view of the tiny room

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A note that basically says to expect to be robbed.

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This lead to an adjoining room. I did not feel particularly safe.

Christmas at the Coast

This past Christmas was our second Kenyan Beach Christmas and it was a good one. We drove down, which was fine but we wouldn’t do it again. We did a lot of diving with Aqua Ventures, which was great. We stayed at a lovely house, which we would do again.

It was really nice to have the space, not to mention the access to the beach and privacy that the house provided. We had a cook, which made things so much easier. We could get up, have breakfast made for us, go diving, and be back for lunch. Then we relaxed the rest of the day. The featured image for this post is from our private, little, shaded beach lookout point.

Our cook, David, got whatever we needed (mostly fresh fish and vegetables). We did a little bit of shopping at Blue Marmalade, a local grocery store that has most of what you’d want. (We drove down with our own alcohol.) We ate in mostly but did go out for a couple meals. Christmas Dinner was at Tamu, a relatively new Italian place, which was really nice. Boxing Day Dinner was at Medina Palms, which was superb!

We skipped eating at the Crab Shack as we learned that:

  1. They don’t always have crab.
  2. They are not eco-friendly and, in fact, tore down a lot of mangrove to build out their restaurant.
  3. Of all the businesses in Watamu, Crab Shack is the only one that does not give back to the community.

We didn’t feel the need to support it. There are plenty of other places in Watamu that are great and support the community.

Going back to the positive, another good thing about this trip was Non Solo, a gelato place. We went three or four times. We even bought a large container to take back to the house. No regrets with any of the indulgences from there!

Overall it was a lovely Christmas.