Reviews of Driftwood Beach Club
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Driftwood Beach Club review
I had stayed at Driftwood with my wife in 1992. To my relief it has remained totally unchanged with the exception of IT and Air Con in the lodges!
For me a perfect set up. Individual cabins under thatched roofs, not too many, surrounded by palms and sand and a short walk to the recption areas, a relaxing bar area and restaurant. It is still very much in the tradition of what it was originally set up as in Fifties, as a Beach Club for locals and expats to unwind and relax and talk but rarely for large scale tour operations; there is even a very serviceable squash court for the athletic!
I loved it. The cabins were excellently appointed within large comfortable beds and efficient loo and shower areas. Each has small veranda with chairs and tables for an dawn ( and what dawns!) coffee or a G and T before supper after sunset. The food was first class and the service throughout efficient and friendly.
The lovely sandy beaches stretch for miles either way and when walkimng you were really not pestered just smile and walk on, indeed none came near the Club since we had security keeping careful watch.
I walked alone through the Malindi Markets after a tuk-tuk of ten minutes. full of life and colour and, though only the white face there, many smiles in response to 'Jambo'. To be enjoyed alone though perhaps best with a local guide to ,pave the way..
One highlight was a dhow trip with two amiable rogues Feisal and J ( name unpronounceable). Left at five pm returned two hours after sunset in pitch black under the stars; a four hour trip not as planned ''two hours. OK?''. Simply perfect including wading back to the shore afterwards in sea the feel of warm milk!
As a place to stay and relax, you could not fault Driftwood. With the walks and the lively town of Malindi to visit it was for me, perfect after the game lodges in the Noboisho Conservancy and the prospect of a return to England in March!.
Drifting through Malindi
We were aware that this is not the same kind of accommodation as the previous two lodges, but the rooms were good. We had asked for a 'sea view', but the view from our first room (29) was partially covered with other huts in front of us. We managed to change hut for the second night (25) and we were then in the front row, hearing the waves crash on the sand and able to walk straight out into the sand to watch the sun rise from the Indian Ocean in the morning. It was nice that the staff were able to accommodate our wishes. The staff were generally helpful (with different levels of friendliness) and attentive in their service. The pool was clean and the club seemed appropriately managed. We were happy that the manager, Roger, made an effort to introduce himself and make us feel welcome. The Driftwood helpfully supplied a babysitter (who charged a reasonable rate) during the evening. The food and selection at breakfast was good.
Our expectations of a 'beach holiday' were quickly revised when we got to experience the persistent beach boys we had been warned about. As soon as you lay close to the beach within the Driftwood compound or just step outside of it onto the sand of the beach, the beach boys want to sell you something, or take you to the reef. They are the reason I wouldn't recommend this holiday destination or Driftwood to friends. The staff from the hotel didn't really react to this situation or help us to deal with the beach boys.
We ended up walking up to the reef with one of them at low tide. several other guys were around us, picking up amazing looking starfish to show us. By the time we got to the actual corals we started to feel uncomfortable with the lack of respect for the habitat - and we felt our daughter's patience was coming to an end, so we turned back. The experience left a bitter taste in our mouths: we felt like we took part in the destruction of a marine reserve and encouraged the beach boys to continue hassling tourists. We also felt threatened by the group of boys when the amount of Ksh we gave to them was not considered enough for their troubles (an amount which we had previously sought advice on from the reception staff).
Going into town was a much more satisfying experience. The Driftwood offers a tuktuk ride around the town. The driver, Said, took us through the narrow streets of the Old Town and to some very specific shops - we assumed that he must be paid a commission if we had bought something there. There was none of the hassling that we experienced on the beach and we felt quite safe walking back home from where Said dropped us off.
We asked the reception about prices and arrangements for a trip to Gedi. We were not convinced that the staff member we talked to provided impartial advice- He quoted Ksh 5000 and suggested that we may have to pay more if we would want the driver to wait for us. When we asked Roger, however, he suggested a lower price (Ksh4000). As the receptions were the gate-keepers, we felt at their mercy to quote any figure. Further, when we asked reception about the Marine safari and the glass bottomed boats, they offered a package from Said. Again the receptionist seemed to suggest that we'd have to pay a high figure to compensate for the fact that there were only 2 adults (when the boat could take more) so we were not sure what we should or shouldn't pay. Basically, we expected to be able to trust the advice of the staff at Driftwood but these situations made us doubt the impartiality of some of the staff members (not all). Again, the actual boat trip involved the guide picking up star fish to show us and throwing bread into the water to attract the pretty fish. All things that seem to be inapproriate behaviour in a marine nature reserve.
Expert Africa comments
The Driftwood management have responded, agreeing that these travellers make some very good points. They say that some are beyond their control, and comment that beach boys (beach vendors) are a problem on many parts of the Kenyan coast, not just in Malindi. The hotel is in discussion with local government to try to give beach sellers another area in which to sell their wares. They agree that handling marine life is unacceptable and they plan to bring this to the attention of the marine park warden.
The Driftwood says the price of the Gedi trip should be around Ksh4,000 round trip (UKP28), per group in the vehicle, but not for stays exceeding 2 hours. Travellers should expect to pay another UKP5-10 per hour for longer visits and the management believe the staff were probably being cautious, rather than partial. The hotel states that glass bottom boat trips have traditionally been sold at a fixed rate per person, no matter how many people go. But if the group is only two or three travellers, they can expect to pay a little more.
Driftwood Beach Club review
Room clean, food good.
Freddie found hassle from "beach boys" very intimidating and this meant that he would not go on the beach. Many guests/day visitors used the bar area during the day, some couples looked slightly dubious. Freddie asked me if the two black ladies accompanying two white African men were prostitutes - and I think they were. However, this aspect did not tarnish time at the Driftwood Beach Club.
I went out to the forest - guided bird tour - very good and also snorkelling on one of the dive boats - well looked after and enjoyable. Water a little cloudy for good views of fish.