We all need a getaway once in a while some sun, sand and sea. Michelle Slater takes a trip down to Medina Palms and discovers five star service, delicious food and some much needed relaxation.
For many city-dwellers, it’s not unusual to feel an overwhelming urge to escape to the coastline every few months. My wandering mind needed a holiday but logic told me a mid-year break was unnecessary. My mother, and perpetual voice of reason, was having none of it. She repeatedly reminding me the importance of switching off and checking out. So when the opportunity to visit the recently five star rated Medina Palms was presented, I gave in and in the same breath insisted she join me.
Both my mother and I love traveling. We romanticise airports, relish in the idea of being cliché tourists and strategically make friends with the bartenders! We unfortunately also have a tendency to be rather ditzy and realised, the day before we left, that neither of us had a swimsuit. We headed to Woolworths to see what we could find and were in hysterics as we attempted to squeeze ourselves into various elasticated ensembles. After the swift swipe of a credit card and humbled acceptance that both of us required slightly larger sizes, we swallowed our pride (and sucked in our tummies) packing the final missing piece into our suitcases.
Upon arrival at Malindi airport, mum spotted our driver holding a personalised sign board and was visibly delighted at the prelude to our weekend of luxury. A brief thirty minutes later, a zen like calm washed over us as we drove through the Medina Palms gates. I paused in awe, taking in the palatial Arabic-inspired architecture. Our speech gradually slowed as we acclimatised to the laidback Swahili surroundings and sipped on our watermelon infused welcome drink. Situated north of Mombasa, the sleepy village of Watamu is tucked away between the lush Arabuko Sokoke Rainforest and pearly sands. Minutes into our stay, it was evident why this establishment had won numerous awards and a prestigious five star rating.
An intricately hand carved door with gold detail led us into our two bedroom suite. The elegant whitewashed interiors lent to the chic and tranquil atmosphere which was mirrored throughout the hotel. I gave in to a second wave of calm as I peered into the en-suite bedrooms, each fitted with a delicately draped four poster bed and minimalist decor. Magenta bougainvillea scattered around the apartment added a pop of colour and were hand picked straight out of the plush tropical garden outside my room beyond which the pool glittered, extending along the length of the resort right down to the beach.
The golden hour glow signalled that night was about to fall and we just about managed to peel ourselves off the sofas to explore. The grounds were quiet with a few picture perfect families and couples dotted around the pool soaking in every last ray. A few steps away, the ocean waves crashed dramatically on the shore as the sun set, changing the sky from soft hues of pink to purple. We were only a few hours into our stay and already in a trance like state, contently exploring the rest of the grounds hand in hand.
Each night the alluring smell of freshly grilled seafood and char kissed steaks carried on the warm evening breeze. I firmly believe food should play a starring role on any holiday so we committed ourselves to three nights of pure culinary indulgence. Like the architecture, Moroccan, Mediterranean and Swahili influences weave through the menu, featuring wholesome pastas, fresh seafood and a few continental classics. Chilled wine and decadent desserts took centre stage and as the nights drifted on, the creamy mango semifreddo quickly became a personal favourite.
My mornings were spent sipping masala tea accompanied by fresh mahamaris, croissants and fluffy eggs in the Amadina Restaurant and once, upon request, beneath the shade of the trees in the Coffee Garden. My poor mother on the other hand had managed to catch a flu and upon doctor’s orders had cocooned herself within the crisp ivory sheets where I cosied up beside her. I soon realised that there is no better way to test five star hospitality than being sick. Each of her meals from that point were delivered to the room along with a warm smile and hot toddies made with love by the bartender, who sweetly asked after her everyday. Even at the height of her flu, mum had somehow succeeded in befriending the man behind the bar!
Each day blissfully rolled into the next with every experience bringing further relaxation. On the last day, mum had fully recovered so we treated ourselves to a morning at the Sakina spa. Using soothing Africology oils we were massaged into submission to the sound of ancient Tibetan chimes. Our trip was drawing to an end and after sharing stories of our love of food, Hotel Director Max Cheli insisted we head out for an authentic taste of Watamu at the Crab Shack down by the the mangroves overlooking the Mida Creek. Minutes later, a van was waiting outside and whisked us through the village. As we walked through the thicket along the wooden pathways deeper inside the mystical natural phenomenon, it was clear that we had simply scraped the surface of Watamu. Mum and I ceremoniously cracked open an ice cold beer and gazed out over the creek as we devoured a plate of lime drenched crab samosas. We were content and thanks to Medina now had every reason to return the next time our mid-year itch set in.