Needing a break from Nairobi, Faith Kanja heads off to the coast for a relaxing weekend filled with yoga, sunset cruises at Mida Creek, Thai massages, healthy food and an immersion into nature at the beautiful Watamu Treehouse.
In a world full of endless hustle and bustle, taking time out to recharge and rejuvenate is critical. An escape from the city’s noise and the everyday rigorous uptight schedules is always welcome. After all, rest is key for both the body and mind… and my recent trip to Watamu Treehouse was the perfect antidote.
Watamu Treehouse is a family-owned boutique hotel and retreat center nestled in the bay area of Watamu. It is perfectly camouflaged amongst indigenous mahogany trees and has direct access to a pristine beach through a natural bush path. Paul Krystall, who runs the beachfront facility explains that no tree was cut during the construction of his lovely home. The house sprouts up from three clearings in the forest left behind by the previous land owner and is perfectly connected to and protected by the surrounding forest, creating the perfect natural aura.
One is welcomed by the soothing sound of the fountain at the pool and the whistling of the trees that encircle the house creating a cool atmosphere despite the high temperatures at the coast. The different colours and shapes of the recycled glass imprinted on the walls and floor are evident works of Nani Croze, a renowned glass artist and conservationist. The house opens up to nature and tree branches spread freely within the space causing a magical feel all round as butterflies hooping around the fixtures and flowers create a momentary fairy effect.
I am accompanied to my room by Steve, who is in charge of guest experiences. We head over to the adjoining tower where cosy little lounge areas and beautiful stairways dot the space. The “openness” of my room is a pleasant surprise. A huge double bed overlooks the forest as a lagoon lightly pops up from the horizon. Steve explains that Mida Creek sits at the edge of the grove of trees not far from where the house is . I also notice a huge baobab tree peeking majestically among the bushes surrounding the driveway. Each of the eight double rooms has varying designs but all enjoy exquisite sunrises or sunsets while others have spectacular oceanfront views. The yoga studio at the rooftop provides an almost 360 degree view of the surroundings.
After a much needed shower in the open bathrooms, I head for a full body massage. The Thai spa music playing in the background draws me away from reality as I float through the calmness of another world altogether. The experience is very refreshing as I start to feel every inch of my body relax.
Settling down for lunch at one of the numerous dining areas, I am met with Chipira, the head waiter, who welcomes me to Treehouse with a sumptuous starter – beetroot soup. He explains how it’s made and I add it to my ever unending list of recipes to try out . Paul joins me and we delve into a long interesting chat about Treehouse and its focus on wellness. He explains that a real retreat is built on rejuvenating the body, mind and soul; taking a step back and hitting the reset button. It all comes down to the food we eat, amount of sleep we get, interaction and connection with nature as well as the exercises we engage in. Watamu Treehouse serves fresh food at every meal and their menus cater for all food needs and allergies as they are also additive and sugar free, with a variety of super-foods used in dishes. Baobab jam, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest honey, moringa and mango jam are bought from local community projects.
Paul puts an emphasis on the balance between food, exercise and rest while staying at Watamu Treehouse. The exercises vary based on each guest. Paul’s daughter, Aja, who has studied Ayurvedic healing, enlightens me that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the other. Health and wellness is therefore not a straightforward formula, but rather a delicate interplay between activation and relaxation; challenging and accepting oneself. Consequently, every retreat they offer is developed to suit the specific needs of each guest. Some yoga retreats for instance emphasize relaxation with gentler forms of asana and walks, massages, lots of sleep and rest while others are geared towards adventure, with power yoga and more intense nature explorations. Others, still, are complete detox programs that incorporate specific juice cleanses, days of silence, safe fasting and yoga for ridding the body of stress. Therefore, creating a bespoke experience for each of their guests is of utmost priority.
Some of the activities taken up while at Watamu Treehouse include kayaking and stand up paddle-boarding (SUP) at the mangroves. Being yoga teachers as well, Paul and Aja have also extended their yoga classes to empower not only their guests but also the community around them. Every Tuesday, the staff here have a yoga session. In addition, three other community classes take place at Gede, Dongo Kundu and Crab Shack Dabaso.
My final day at Treehouse is wholesome. I start by catching the sunrise at the empty beach before sinking into a session of quiet reflection. No better way to kick off the day than by soaking in the morning light and making my intentions for the day clear. It is magical and I can only wish to experience this surreal tranquility every single morning. This is followed by a yoga session before breakfast. The Dru Yoga led by Aja marks my first yoga experience ever and I love every bit of it.
The day unfolds quietly as I enjoy some nap time and a warm afternoon swim at the beach. The day’s highlight is taking a sunset kayak trip around Mida Creek, setting off at four o’clock. With the kayaks and SUP boards all tied up on the colourful tuk tuks, our little trip to Mida Creek begins. Paul notes that he could easily tie the boats on a private trailer but as part of engaging the local community he uses the tuk tuks for transport. Wading through the mangrove channels on the SUP boards and kayaks will forever be my favourite experience at Watamu Treehouse. We swim at the creek before taking a lovely walk inside the mangrove forest, ending up at a serene sandbank where I can’t help but play in the mud puddles. My inner child is awakened and it is fulfilling to let go. The sunset backdrop is perfect for doing a yoga session on the SUP boards before heading back.
What started off as a project to build a family house is now ultimately one of the best yoga retreat centres in Kenya. Paul Krystall began by renting out the rooms at his family home as a way of projecting and sharing his wellness lifestyle with others. It has now become a full-time pleasure to host guests as well as other yoga teachers at the Treehouse. I leave the place feeling more relaxed and rejuvenated having experienced the true Watamu Treehouse effect.