Overnight Dhow on Kenya’s Coast

by Emeri Callahan

Jan 24, 2019

Kenya © Michal Bednarek | Dreamstime

Reviews / Hotel


If you don’t know what a dhow is, you’re not alone. Dhows are hand-carved, traditional wooden Swahili sailing boats that can be found dotting Kenya’s coastline. Step aboard a dhow and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into colonial times. The sails are raised by hand, the crew is well-versed in old sailing songs and the beautiful wooden structure is untarnished with modern technology.


On a recent trip to Kenya, my boyfriend and I spontaneously decided to try out a dhow boat on our last night in the country. After flying across Kenya in a helicopter, our pilot pointed out our waiting vessel and instructed us to jump from the chopper directly into the Indian Ocean below to reach it. What an adrenaline rush! The crew was waiting onboard with sun-warmed towels and fresh cocktails and we settled in while lunch was prepared.


The boats are magnificent, sleek, sturdy and full of history. A slanted roof covered the back half, providing shade in a “living room” lined with plush, colorful pillows and lounge chairs. In the middle of the dhow rested a large dining table, where three-course meals were served during our time aboard. The rest of the day was spent sunbathing, jumping from the upper deck into the cool waters below and asking for one refreshing cocktail after the other.


At night, the crew made up our bed on the deck underneath the bright stars. It felt like the most wonderful type of glamping in the world. The mattress was thick and inviting and we were surrounded by an arsenal of cozy pillows. It’s incredible how many stars you can see at night when there are no city lights to flood the sky. We laid awake and counted the shooting stars, in slight disbelief of the day on we had just experienced.




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