Manfriday's Mida Cove is a luxurious and remote lodge on Kenya's coast,…
Manfriday’s Mida Cove: Our full report
Manfriday’s Mida Cove is one of the few owner-run properties that we feature on Kenya’s coast and its also currently one of the most remote. Located by Mida Creek, across the bay from the rather more touristy Watamu, it’s a luxurious and secluded property with just four villas.
Unfortunately, as of March 2015 we cannot recommend this property because the UK's foreign office has advised against travel to this area – Mombasa Island to the Tana Delta.
It is accessed either by a rough dirt road which takes roughly 45 minutes from Watamu, or by boat which takes only 15 minutes. When you arrive you will be met by the manageress Sonya and the owner Papu – two lively and larger than life characters who will try their utmost to make sure that you enjoy your stay. Once in the grounds of the lodge, you will find a series of individual villas built to a very high specification, on coral rock and surrounded by mangroves and beach.
Most of the materials used in the building of Manfriday’s were sourced locally, and local craftsmen did much of the construction. Though Papu kept a close eye on the detail throughout, which is quite extraordinary in concept – we loved the design of this lodge. Coloured stones are carefully laid in the various steps of the villas. Strings of lovely shells cover the doorways. Wooden shelves made from reclaimed dhow wood feature in the rooms and bathrooms. It took years and the detail has paid off – its thoroughly unique.
The main areas of Manfriday’s Mida Cove are not vast, but they are well designed to offer a number of little private areas and salas. These consist of lounging spots with seats, hammocks and day beds tucked between the mangroves that have been left to grow between the rooms and main areas to increase privacy. There are also some lounging spots down by the lovely white sandy beach – usually deserted apart from the odd fisherman from the nearby village.
A further comfy lounge area is located next to the well stocked bar, which is built out of dhow wood and shaped to resemble a traditional boat. The bar forms a very sociable spot in the evenings – with cocktails being merrily poured and encouraged by your hosts. In fact Manfriday’s claim that if you ask them for a cocktail that they do not know – they will give it to you for free.
Flagstone pathways lead you from the bar to the pool – which are both very close to each other. The sparkling blue pool has some sun loungers, and shade nets due to a lack of natural shade around it.
On the evening that we stayed at Manfriday’s, we enjoyed a dance performance by individuals from the local village. This is often arranged by Papu as a way of involving the local community and providing a bit of diversity to the evenings entertainment for guests.
What really makes Manfriday’s stand out are their stunningly designed beach villas of which there are four, all varying in size and layout though similar in design.
- The largest is the Stonehouse which is a 5-bedroomed villa sleeping up to eight adults, plus four children. When we last visited this building wasn’t yet complete, though we understand it now to be finished and ready for use. Thus it is great for a family or group of people travelling together. The rooms are never sold separately. It has its own plunge pool and small swimming pool in a central courtyard, plus a private dining and a couple of lounge areas. Its own service team allows for a completely private experience too. White washed walls and flagstone floors create a cool and stylish look. Whilst glass beads embedded in the flooring, colourful African materials and rustic reclaimed wood – all add an arty and boutiquey character.
- Jack’s House is built to be very open. It faces the main swimming pool on one side and the beach on the other which is just a few steps away. This house sleeps two adults and two children and has a private also has a private dining room.
- Then there is Mida House, which is named after Mida Creek – a quiet creek which it faces on to. It is a two bedroomed villa, with similar white washed walls and stone floors. It can sleep up to six people and has a lovely roof deck for sunbathing.
- Last you have the Garden Cottage which is built for just a couple. At 25sq metres it is the smallest villa – but there is still plenty of space for two people. When we stayed at Manfriday’s this is the villa we had. As with the other villas it has white-washed walls and stone floors and has a spacious master bedroom with a double bed. On one side of the room are wooden shelves built into the walls where you can store your clothes. In front is an outside but shaded lounge area. Whilst to the side is your stylish ensuite, with a shower and a single sink sat atop a lovely piece of reclaimed wood. Simple toiletries are provided.
Being so close to Watamu means that Manfriday’s Mida Cove is able to offer quite an abundance of activities. Some from within its own operation, and some from those based over in Watamu at the larger and more touristy hotels.
Activities offered by Manfriday’s themselves include boat trips and snorkeling. There are two catamarans, two sea kayaks and a windsurf for guests to use. Massages and facials are available, in the room or perhaps somewhere private but outside and with a nice seaview. Guided beach and reef walks are also easy to arrange with the team. You can also do a trip to the nearby ruins of Gedi – it's a 40-minute drive to this 17th century stone town reclaimed from the jungle. It’s a fascinating spot, largely because of its sudden and unexplained abandonment.
Excursions that can be arranged from outside the hotel include sport fishing and diving with Aqua Ventures based in Ocean Sports in Watamu, who can also offer sailing, kayaking and kite surfing.
Our viewManfriday’s is built to a really high quality – we loved the design. We also enjoyed its very laidback atmosphere during the day and its friendly team. In the evening its owner Papu likes to host with lots of energy, potentially dominating the conversation and certainly if the group of guests is right, stirring up a bit of a party. So although the offbeat and non-touristy location would appeal to people looking for a quiet beach holiday – this might be a lodge best suited to sociable people who like tucking into the cocktails.
Ideal length of stay: 4 nights +
Directions: Manfriday’s Mida Cove is best reached via a short 15-minute boat from Watamu. Though if the weather is bad or the tide too low, it is also possible to drive on sandy roads through a number of small villages for about 40-minutes until you get to the lodge.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: The food at Manfriday’s Mida Cove was really good, using lots of local produce and with plenty of seafood.
Our first meal was a delicious set dinner, with a starter of asparagus and homemade mayonnaise. The main course consisted of huge prawns with rice and vegetables, and with dipping sauces of garlic butter, chili-coriander and soy, and a sticky tamarind sauce. Then dessert was a rice chocolate and peanut brownie with shaved coconut on the top.
The following morning we enjoyed a varied breakfast spread of fresh fruit platters, yoghurts, cereals and a cook breakfast to order. Fresh coffee was also on offer as well as breakfast tea and fruit teas.
We didn’t have a chance to try the lunch here – but understand it to be a lighter a la carte offering of salads, seafood, pasta and meat dishes.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £10-15
Drinks included: Drinks are not included. When we were last there a local beer cost US$3 and a bottle of wine about US$8-12.
Further dining info: Manfriday’s Mida Cove does both group and separate dining, depending on who is at the lodge. There is room service available, but there are no phones in the rooms and so it has to be organized in advance.
Attitude towards children: Manfriday’s Mida Cove are happy to have kids of all ages, and the villas are well suited to families. But they feel that the atmosphere of the property is a bit more adult and so they would prefer more mature children over the age of six years.
Property’s age restrictions: None.
Special activities & services: Manfriday’s Mida Cove do have some kids activities such as beach badminton, a trampoline and pingpong table. They can also provide a nanny from the housekeeping – though it is important to note that they will not be trained in childcare.
Generally recommended for children: We felt that this was more of a boutique beach lodge that will probably appeal to older guests and adult children. Also the bar might get a bit lively in the evenings which wouldn’t be so ideal for younger kids.
Communications: There is cell phone reception at Manfriday’s. They do not have wifi but can provide a wireless modem for people who need to access the internet.
TV & radio: No.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: One of the team is first aid trained and Manfriday’s has a first aid kit on site. There is also a 24-hour clinic in Watamu, and a hospital in Malindi which is a town 40 minutes away.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There are safes in the rooms. During the day and at night askaris (security guards) are on site and there is also a police station up the road who can be at the lodge in 15 minutes.
Fire safety: Manfriday’s Mida Cove didn’t have anything in place when we were last there but they planned to add fire extinguishers and a pump that pumps water out form the pool.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is an extra cost, and weather depending it should be returned in 24 hours.
Money: Manfriday’s Mida Cove cannot offer any currency exchange.
Accepted payment on location: They will accept cash in any major currency, but are not able to take credit cards.