Che Shale: Our full report
First opened in 1978, but re-invented a few years ago as a kitesurfing centre, Che Shale is a rustic beach ...... lodge on a wide sandy bay backed by coconut palms, on a remote stretch of coast, 20km north of Malindi on Kenya’s north coast. The lodge is owned and personally managed and hosted by Justin Aniere, a third-generation Italian-Kenyan.
Unfortunately, as of March 2015 we cannot recommend this property because the UK's foreign office has advised against travel to the coastal mainland north of the Sabaki/Galana River.
Che Shale is the operations’ centre of Kenya’s first kitesurfing school, and competitions are regularly held here that attract entrants from around the world. Kitesurfing is, however, not the only reason to stay: you can dive, do bush walks in the nearby scrub and dunes, or just lie on a mattress with a fresh coconut and stare out to sea.
A sandy access road through bush and palms leads to Che Shale’s reception and main areas. Your first reaction on arrival is likely to be to take your shoes off: palm-leaf matting, laid directly on the sand, scrunches under foot in the large bar/lounge/restaurant area, which is set on the beach and shaded under cooling roofs of makuti (palm-leaf) tiles. There are bar stools, lots of comfy seating and tables set for meals, plus a horizontally laid-back loft lounge area, with floor cushions.
In the evening, and depending on everyone’s mood, they crank up the excellent sound system and on special occasions they might even switch on the club-style lights if people want to dance.
There’s a beach shop with clothes, jewellery and crafts.
The main accommodation at Che Shale lodge comprises seven, en-suite, palm-mat-and-wood bandas (a lower-budget group of bandas is located just a little north up the beach from the main lodge. Each is different from the others, but all feature handmade furniture (entirely using local materials and built without power tools), and soft, palm-leaf matting as a floor covering. The interiors have been designed by Marzia Chicherretti, a Milanese furniture and interior designer, which accounts for why they don’t feel like huts on a beach.
There are no windows, locks, carpets, air conditioners or fans – just the breeze, the rustle of palm leaves and the sand underfoot. The beds have foam mattresses and mosquito nets, and chairs are made of cane, with soft cushions. Suli Suli and Tewa sleep two guests, Fulusi three, Songoro up to four in two rooms, and Kole Kole up to six in three rooms. The last two – Shakwe and Kiboma – are slightly more expensive and more spacious ‘deluxe’ bandas.
In the open-sky showers and bathrooms, the water tends to be slightly salty as it comes from a borehole. Designer toiletries are supplied, but you won’t find dressing gowns or slippers: most guests rarely put on anything more than a swimming costume throughout their stay. Kuni boosters are in use in the early morning and evening to top up the hot water supplied by generator.
Just north of the main lodge is Kajama bandas, the ‘off-grid’, non-en-suite, budget option which doesn’t have electricity.
Kitesurfing is Che Shale’s raison d’être:,whether you’re an accomplished surfer or a complete novice, you’ll find excellent, safe instruction and some of the best conditions on the coast, with a steady onshore breeze most of the year. There are plenty of other activities, however, the most important of which is facilitated by the innumerable spots intended for you to do absolutely nothing, including hammocks, day beds and a very popular, large shady swing seat on the beach.
One of the great pleasures of the Kenyan coast – walking on the beach and beachcombing – can be enjoyed here in perfect peace, with no beach-boy hassle. Moonless nights are also particularly good at Che Shale: being so far from built-up areas, it experiences inky-black skies bursting with starlight.
Many of the more active activities are free, including stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), windsurfing and surfing, with some decent waves on high tides from July to September (keen surfers bring their own boards, though Che Shale does have a few boogie boards and surf boards to loan). Snorkelling isn't possible from the beach and there's no snorkelling equipment available at the lodge. Other activities, including diving, wake-boarding, deep-sea game fishing and dhow trips (Che Shale has a Mozambican dhow, Sawa Sawa, which does carry snorkelling equipment and anchors at good spots for the purpose), are at extra cost.
Later, if you’ve over-exerted yourself on the paddleboard and need a good massage, then visit the massage hut.
The staff at Che Shale are famously friendly, but if you want to deepen your connection with the local community, you can visit the Baharini School, just ten minutes’ walk away, whose 100 primary-aged children are supported by staff and clients.
Literally on the beach – and what a beach! – this is one of Kenya’s best mid-budget seaside bases. We haven’t stayed, but our visits have been a great pleasure and we can’t wait to get the chance to spend a few days here. The charming and friendly – but reassuringly low-key – owner-manager-hosts, plus the staff and very chilled fellow guests, are an important part of the mix here. The other part is the just-right combination of informality and comfort in the funky bandas (our only quibble: the foam mattresses), and the appealing furnishings. If you’re looking for a beach-hideaway experience that’s more sand than Sandals, we think you’ll find it here.
- Kenya Coast, Kenya
- Ideal length of stay
- 7 days
- From Moi International Airport, Mombasa (3.5hrs) or Malindi airport (1hr).
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Half Board
- Food quality
- Justin’s mother, Vanessa, is in charge of the kitchen. The dominant styles are Mediterranean and Swahili, with lots of fresh seafood.
The day starts with very big breakfasts – required by kitesurfing guests to set them up for the day.
Lunch is served à la carte, but in the evenings there’s a set menu for dinner, with choices including vegetarian options.
- Family holidays
- We highly recommend the rustic, mid-budget Che Shale for remote family beach holidays on the Kenya coast, with children of all ages. Come for outdoor activities like watersports, beach games and walks. A children’s menu and babysitting (by staff) are available.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- Beach holidays
- Che Shale is located right on the beach where the steady onshore breeze offers perfect conditions for kite- and windsurfing. As well as these sports, you can go deep sea fishing or hang out on the swing seat on the beach and watch the black night sky bursting with stars.
- See ideas for Beach holidays
- Attitude towards children
- Che Shale consider themselves to be very family-oriented, with ‘lots of European kids here’.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- There’s a children’s menu, and babysitting can be arranged with housekeeping staff, but there are no childcare professionals available.
- Yes: ‘we can fix up anything’
- Generally recommended for children
- We would highly recommend Che Shale for beach-loving families who enjoy lots of outdoors, bare-foot running around, swimming, beach games and watersports.
- There’s a reasonable cellphone signal, and free internet available, but not very fast. WiFi is being installed. Guests may use the owner/manager’s equipment – but Che Shale is all about going offline and disconnecting.
- TV & radio
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The nearest medical facility is Malindi (20 minutes in an emergency). They have direct numbers for medical emergency callout and they have staff trained in emergency life-saving (for kitesurfers)
- Dangerous animals
- Security measures
- The property is patrolled by askaris, plus two armed, overnight guards. All the neighbouring properties also have askaris.
- Fire safety
- Two staff are trained in fire safety. Buckets of sand are available, and there’s a hose pump in the office. No smoking in rooms.
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- Full Laundry Service - Extra Charge
- There’s a safe for valuables. Currency exchange can be arranged.
- Accepted payment on location
- Cash payments may be made in US dollars, euros, pounds sterling or Kenyan shillings. Visa and MasterCard are accepted with a 5% surcharge.
Other lodges in Kenya Coast
Alternative places to stay in this same area.