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For the very sceptical amongst us, who sometimes think that those wistful sigh-inducing pictures of white sandy beaches, blue skies and crystal clear waters are just a little too perfect to be true, then a trip to Galu Beach might just change your mind.
Set on the eastern coast of Kenya, bordering the Indian Ocean, Galu Beach is approximately 35 miles south of Mombassa. Galu Beach neighbours Diani Beach, which is also a very popular tourist destination and provides what seems a never-ending expanse of white sandy beach, palm trees and clear, warm waters – this really is the picture postcard.
Charter flights to Mombassa are readily available from the UK and take approximately 11 hours. Taxi transfers to Galu Beach are available at the airport terminal, as are hire cars, if you prefer to do things under your own steam. It is worth remembering, however, that if you plan to drive inland to explore, or anywhere away from the main connecting roads, then the road conditions are likely to be poor. Provision of a 4x4 vehicle could be well worth it.
The first thing to greet you at Galu Beach will be the spectacular panorama of the beautiful sands, lapped by the Indian Ocean. As with any modern tourist resort, the area also boasts a wealth of hotels and self catering apartments – including idyllic beachside villas - together with bars and restaurants, many providing nightly entertainment and as you may expect, with such a glorious expanse of sand and sea, there is a wealth of beach sports on offer. Kite surfing is a particular favourite in the area, due to the steady cross-shore winds, the calm waters making this an excellent area for beginners and the more experienced alike. If water sport isn't really your pleasure, there are also other sporting activities available, including an 18 hole golf course located a short distance from the resort, horse riding and even camel riding!
As you might expect from a coastal resort, sea excursions are also in abundance. Scuba diving, snorkelling and deep sea fishing are all available but if you don't feel the need to be quite so energetic, simple sightseeing pleasure cruises are also provided. The area also offers tropical forests, teeming with local wildlife, including monkeys and birds – most notably the endangered Angolan Colobus Monkey. It is best to join an organised excursion for any trip which may take you off the main routes. These areas are classified as a 'Kaya' (meaning they are protected by the National Museum) as the surrounding areas are deemed to be holy forests and sacred land and are best explored with the help of an experienced local guide.
If you can bear to tear yourself away from the enticing beachfront and all it has to offer, travelling a little further will open up the chance to visit Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as the chance to see the spectacular wildlife at a number of Kenya's National Parks, including the Masai Mara.
With no specific seasons such as those of the western hemisphere, temperatures in the area range, on average, between 20–30 degrees, making it a good all-year round resort. Do bear in mind, however, that the rainy season takes place between March and May and this is generally not a good time to visit if you are planning on taking a safari during your stay.
Travel throughout the area is generally via taxis and minibuses (if you don't hire your own vehicle). The locals refer to the transport as 'matutas' and they are one of the most popular forms of transport over short distances and between cities - although it is recommended that you do not use them at night. Train services do also operate but are generally very unreliable and offer little in the way of comfort or dependability.
When eating out, as with any coastal tourist resort, you will find an emphasis on locally caught fish produce. However, there are also European and Asian cuisines available across many restaurants and some local restaurants also serve traditional Kenyan food, predominantly goat meat dishes.
Visas are required for all visitors to Kenya and are obtainable via most travel agents. It is also advisable to seek advice on the appropriate inoculations prior to travel. Immunisation against typhoid, malaria and yellow fever are generally recommended, as of course is the provision of suitable medical insurance.
Credit cards are widely accepted across the area, particularly within the larger establishments. There are cash machines available but these are generally only in the major cities, so it is most advisable to take travellers cheques, which can be cashed at banks and hotels.