Thanks to a last-minute cancellation by other guests, we recently found ourselves at Jinchini, an old-style coastal house in Msambweni. From Diani, where we had stayed the previous few nights, it was just a short hop south. The beach itself is lovely – all the more so because it is mostly lined by private houses, giving it a more intimate and peaceful feel that its more popular neighbours to the north.
Jinchini, the beach home of the Orr family, is an old-fashioned stalwart with homely appeal, a large garden and direct beach access. When I think of Kenyan beaches, my mind drifts to Watamu or Diani, but Msambweni really deserves to be more popular than it is. It is a long stretch of golden sand with lots of pools and shallow swimming at low tide, and there is almost a complete absence of pestering beach boys.
That said, it’s worth investing in anti-malarials this far south – on a trip a few years previously, my husband picked up malaria, a reminder that not all of the coast is malaria-free. Sand flies can also be a nuisance, making it wise to slather on insect repellent. Even with all that, it remains one of my favourite beaches in Kenya.
Admittedly, I wasn’t sure of what to expect at Jinchini. We had been staying at a much more upmarket resort further up the coast, and the cost of a three or four nights at Jinchini was equivalent to a night for a family elsewhere. Surely there had to be a reason it was so reasonably priced, I wondered. The reason is, I suspect, that Msambweni doesn’t spring to mind when it comes to a coast holiday – it remains very undeveloped and is that bit further from the nearest airport in Ukundu. I would strongly argue, however, that it should be on everyone’s list.
The house itself was built many years ago, and is much simpler than the newer, rather chic houses built further up the coast. For me, the simplicity is part of the charm. It feels like I’m returning to a family home, and not a fancy hotel where I look around in terror every time my toddler picks up a breakable object.
The owners have made various improvements added over the years. The rooms are fairly unadorned – oldish furniture, single beds pushed together to make a double, showers that could do with upgrading – but for us, it was just what we were looking for. Kassim, the house manager, runs a tight ship, and the cook rustled up delicious seafood dishes. Helpfully, the owners’ information pack, suggests recipes that they know he can do well.
Our young kids spent considerable time on the beach, or in the pool situated away from the sea on a terrace above the house. It also provided us with a very convenient base for exploring the south coast islands, meaning that our five nights at Jinchini really felt much too short. A night at Jinchini costs around Ksh 20,000.
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I'm a former travel magazine editor, focused on Kenya, before which I covered news in Africa and beyond. These days, I travel with my kids.