MY EXPERIENCE

As you can imagine, there are a few places I dream about returning to and Che Shale is one of them.

I arrived in Kenya from Egypt in December 2019, overshadowed by a feeling that I would be there for some time – perhaps my intuition already knew what lay ahead? Because I found myself drawn to yet another remote kite spot, bewildered by the raw and empty coastline of the secluded and iconic Che Shale.

Che Shale 10 1 Following the Wind
Credit:  Alan Kugelmass aka @ziggyq_

I was greeted with a fresh coconut on arrival, beaming with excitement at the glimpse of the wide open bay that peeped through the restaurant’s entrance. This was to become my new home and playground for several months.

Surrounded by local village, I was fully absorbed in the Kenyan coastal lifestyle. Supported by a local team full of big smiles and a humble young family who I am still in touch with to this day.

village behind che shale
Surrounding palms and village

As with most of my seasonal work, I wove working digitally into the kite school’s schedule. In Kenya, that meant mornings began with a breakfast in front of the laptop, accompanied with an ‘oh so sweet’ fresh watermelon juice (or coconut) whilst tapping away at my keyboard; before welcoming new guests and kiters to this unique spot.

Getting to grips with a new language, introducing ‘abari’ , ‘mambo’ or ‘powa’ into my Swahili vocabulary was our kite school morning entertainment. I would step directly onto the beach feeling very much the essence of Robinson Crusoe, truly appreciating my isolated yet open surroundings.

walking towards the kite school
Ready to hit the water

After the season had ended and the pandemic unfolded, I continued to stay amongst this palm tree haven. I watched the rains hydrate the surroundings into a green abundance and kitesurfed in wild winds within an empty bay shared only with the local fisherman.

I was once again witness to the kindness and generosity of others during difficult times, thank you Justin and Gussy.

view to che shale restaurant
Back entrance of Che Shale restaurant / credit:  Alan Kugelmass aka @ziggyq_

Personal Pro’s

  • Plenty of space on the water for everyone
  • Safe & wide empty beach (tide dependent)
  • Diverse kite spot for all levels
  • Unique location with lots of history & stories
  • 25 km from town with bountiful coastal nature
  • Delicious fresh food & plenty of coconuts
  • No beach boys (a rarity along the coast)

Personal Con’s

  • Temperamental Wifi, but hey look where I was at

KITE SPOT INFO

Meet Charles and Bongo at the kite school
Charles and Bongo at the kite zone

Kenya has two trade wind seasons:

  • Kaskazi – mid-Dec until mid-April / North East winds / average 15 knots
  • Kusi – mid June until mid-September / South East winds / average 18 knots

The best months for those wind chasers are July through September and January through April.

Che Shale is located on the North coast of Kenya, blessed with 20 km of a long and wide empty beach, alluring you into that deserted feel. I had discovered another uncrowded kitesurfers paradise.

Preparing to kitesurf
The kite spot all to myself

Hugged by sand dunes and protected by reef, there is no need for shoes at this kiteboarding zone. I experienced both seasons here, so I’ll be sharing my input on them below:

Kaskazi

This season was filled with the wonderful festivities of Christmas and New year with fellow guests and visiting family in high spirits. This was the warmer and lighter wind season of the two, partnered with a picturesque blue ocean and an on-shore breeze approaching in the afternoon – very pleasing to the eye for foilers, kiteboard students and kite buggy enthusiats.

Kitebuggying

Families and couples could enjoy a relaxed morning together, or head off on Safari to return to an exciting kiteboarding session on the water; whilst others dug their nose into that long-awaited book or strolled along the beach soaking up the African sun.

With no salesman (aka beach boys) in sight, guests could enjoy their holiday break at Che Shale without the constant interruption that persists along other parts of the coast.

Overall kite sizes: 10m, 12m, 14m

Teaching a kitesurfing lesson
Teaching kitesurfing at Che Shale

Kusi

Here, the wind blows stronger from morning ‘til night, following Kenya’s rain season (March-May). It is slightly cooler with occasional overcast days, accompanied with some drizzle. By now, the flooding of neighbouring rivers has tinted the water brown on this side of the coast.

Nonetheless, it was my favourite season because the distinctiveness of this destination really shone through. It offered a range of conditions to play with – from waves during hide tides, to butter flat ocean with exposed sand banks during low tides.

You can check the tides here.

Kitesurfing during Kusi season
Kitesurfing during Kusi season

Meaning that kitersurfers of all levels could take advantage of this windy spot. I switched from twin-tip to surfboard daily, knowing that a rescue boat was on hand if my exploring ever got the better of me.

Overall kite size: 7m, 9m, 10m, 12m


LOGISTICS

Location of Che Shale
Map of Che Shale location

Che Shale is situated 25km from Malindi and its airport.

Visitors would either fly into Mombasa and take an arranged taxi ($75 at the time of writing) or fly into Malindi from Nairobi airport, taking a 30 min taxi to the final destination.

Popular airlines to fly with are KLM, KQ, BA and Fly540 or Jambojet domestically.

I chose the Mombasa root, including a sleepy 3-hour drive (depending on traffic) taking in the essence of Kenya along the way.

If you’re lucky enough to be travelling light (a luxury I wish I sometimes had), you can try the adventurous way via Piki piki (scooter) and matatu from Malindi airport or Watamu.

VISA

Visa is now much applied for prior to arrival online.

Dhow sailing
Fire burning on Sawa Sawa

ACCOMMODATION

I hadn’t seen anything quite like it. Aside from that big beautiful beach, I was mesmerised by the traditional Makuti roof towering over me and the uniquely shaped furnishings carved out of locally collected driftwood.

Each banda (beach-style cottage) had its own charm, entirely crafted with local materials distributed around Che Shale’s lush private doum palm grounds, immersing you within its nature.

I was drawn-in by its stylish, low-key and friendly atmosphere, whilst having the luxury of the kiteboard zone directly at my doorstep to maximise my digital nomad life, with kitesurfing.

At every remote destination I become fascinated with the innovation and personalities that lie behind running a kitesurfing school in places less inhabited. Just wait until you meet Justin (owner), he has plenty of adventurous dinner time stories to share.

My most unforgettable moments were at dawn and dusk– where the world almost felt as though it solely belongs to you.

OTHER EXPERIENCES

Kitesurfing wasn’t the only activity I was able to enjoy here. We had plenty of Dhow trips (traditional African sailing boat), I joined a Safari to see lions in the wild and had my first deep sea fishing experience.

Dhow Sailing with Che Shale

WORKING REMOTELY

Internet Connection

Che Shale offers WiFi in its large restaurant, plus a signal booster. As with many remote kiteboarding destinations however I would not recommend relying solely on this to support your connection to the web because its speed will depend on how many people are connected.

In saying this, Google balloons have entered the country and intend to strengthen Kenya’s signal.

SIM Card

Safaricom is by far the most common mobile network which also established MPESA; an intuitive way to make payments without cash in hand.

You’ll have to register your SIM (150 KES / $1.50) with your passport in store, and I highly suggest registering MPESA to your number to make payments a breeze whilst travelling the country without having to carry much cash on you.

With MPESA, you can also top-up your phone with airtime to buy data packages from your phone by dialling *544# and selecting ‘normal data bundle with expiry date’.

I’d purchase the 30-day 40 GB from 3000 KES ($30 at the time of writing).

*TIP – MPESA allows you to pay by entering the a mobile number or Payline of a business. As you will likely not have a Kenyan bank account to link this to, download World Remit to your mobile easily transfer between your account and MPESA.

Our huge thanks to Gen Morris for this post. To read the original post please visit Gen’s site: genmorris.com