Duara co-founder Elina has arrived back from Kenya in March. Together with a Finnish sociology student Iiris they tested three villages for Duara and confirmed nine host families.
To make everything ready for Duara Travellers, Iiris and Elina tried out many of the things that one can experience in the area as a Duara traveller: hiking, fishing, milking cows, fetching water, cooking Swahili food, watching a football game in Mombasa, picking tea leaves, walking across the hills, market visits and experiencing gospel in a local church.
They visited each house, made sure each suggested contact person is up to her/his task, speaks enough English and has reliable Internet access. As a result of the visit Duara Travels now has three very distinct homestay opportunities in Kenya.
All three villages are now ready to host visitors!
– Tea and hikes in a Community with a capital C
Touristic images of Kenya are mostly filled with safaris and large tea plantations. This Kenya can also be seen in Gacharageini, in Central Kenya. Here however, one can experience what the life of a local Kenyan is in such an area. We recommend this village for hikers, trekkers, photographers, nature lovers, fishermen and anyone seeking a quiet country life experience in beautiful landscapes. Here you can get your hands dirty and dive into a real farm life. Large green hills spread in all directions inviting for long walks. The locals can show you the best paths as well as how to pick tea.
The village in Gacharageini has a strong communal feeling. A local lodge owner and businessman called Zac introduced the area to Duara and helped set up the business, instead of seeing it as competition for his lodge. Zac gathered a set of host families, arranged a meeting together with Duara and facilitated the cooperation. Some of the host family members are also working in the lodge. Zac directs some of the hotel earnings into social projects in the village.
In Gacharageini, 10% of homestay payments go to a local library, which has largely been built by the contributions from Zac’s lodge. Many local and foreign organisations have also donated for this cause. The library enables children and youth to read, play and learn together through various programmes.
You can visit the library while staying in the village. If you wish to have a safari experience while in Kenya, that can also be arranged in Aberdare National Park through Zac’s lodge, Aberdare Cottages. In the park you can see a wide range of landscapes and wildlife without the tourist crowds.
MAKUYU – Mangoes and Mamas
Makuyu, located only one hour from Nairobi, is an area that generally gets few foreign visitors. This might be hard to believe considering how willingly locals here engage in conversation. Iiris and Elina stayed with Mama Salome, who shared many facts and insights about gender roles and generational differences in Kenya. These late night talks were some of the most memorable moments for the ladies.
Makuyu is also a great fit for those who love organic, locally grown food, fresh fruit and veggies, especially during mango season (December-February). These mangoes are something else, compared to those found in the supermarkets of the Northern hemisphere!
If you wish to sing (or listen to) gospel in a local church and get a grassroot level view into life in Kenyan countryside, Makuyu is for you. Here you can work in the fields, milk a cow and learn how maize, beans, bananas, papayas and other crops are grown. You can visit a local primary school, a local market and a fetch water from the river in a traditional way, using a canister or bucket.
Duara supports a local savings group in Makuyu. 10% of the homestay payments go to the savings group, comprising mostly of women. The group saves up money together and meets on a weekly basis. Some of the funds are spent collectively on various projects, such as supporting needy villagers, rearing chicken or giving each other micro loans. These kind of savings groups are common in many developing villages and offer a back bone for families in case of emergencies.
BOMBOLULU – Modern Swahili culture
The third destination in Kenya is on the coast. It is easily accessible in 30 minutes for anyone headed to Mombasa for holidays. The Mombasa area offers a wide range of activities for tourists, with white sandy beaches, water sports and natural parks within easy reach.
Bombolulu has an urban feel to it and is close to the North Beach, which has a reputation as the more lively side of town, with an active nightlife. The South Beach is known for more beautiful beaches and a peaceful atmosphere. Bombolulu is a great choice if you want to fit a beach holiday and a local experience into the same trip.
We recommend this village for anyone interested in urban East African lifestyle, especially young people (although everyone is welcome, of course).
Here you can learn about the current trends in the music, style and sports scenes in modern Kenya. One of the Duara hosts owns a small video game shop, where local kids come and play. If you’re a game geek, you might want to check out which games are hot in East Africa!
Many of the youngsters are studying and you might be able to join them for a day in university or school. It’s also possible to go an watch a football game, learn to cook local Swahili food and join the Sunday service in church. To get an idea of how locals experience the beach life here, you could join them for a trip to public beach of Bombolulu. You can also make a visit to Bombolulu Workshop, where disabled people produce handicrafts.
In Bombolulu, 10% of your payment goes to Upendo Women’s Savings Group. This group of local women gather weekly to save up money together, partly as a personal saving mechanism, and partly to gather funds for common needs in the neighbourhood. The group is dreaming of setting up a clean water tap for villagers to share, among other things.
Don’t hesitate. If you want to know what Kenya is really about, book a few nights in our new destinations. You won’t regret it!
Text Saara Nokelainen. Photos by Duara.