If you’re looking to get away from the normal restaurant dining experience, then hop aboard the Tamarind Dhow. This is a cruise that will intoxicate all of your senses and is an indulgence that you owe to yourself and loved ones. The Tamarind Dhow is operated by the Tamarind Group in Kenya and is one of the most consistent hospitality groups in the country. The standard offered by the Tamarind Group is always high and the experience that you will endure on the Tamarind Dhow is certainly no exception. Please do not delay in enjoying a one-of-a-kind historical, cultural and luxurious encounter that awaits you in Mombasa.
Travelling to and from the Mombasa Tamarind Jetty
The Tamarind Group owns two dhows, which are docked by the Tamarind Village on the Mombasa Tamarind Jetty. The name of the Tamarind Dhows are Nawalikher and Babulkher. They are both traditional Arab sailing boats that were previously used for cargo trading along the Kenyan coast and onto the Arab states. Nawalikher has a capacity of 70 persons for dinner or 100 persons for a cocktail party whereas Babulkher has a capacity of 55 persons for dinner and 70 persons for cocktails.
To access the Tamarind Dhow that you will be sailing on, you need to climb down a set of stairs in order to arrive at the Mombasa Tamarind Jetty. Prior to accessing the boat, you will also have to take some steep small steps from the Mombasa Tamarind Jetty in order to get on board. If you experience physical mobility issues, then this excursion may not be suitable for you and you should consider enjoying the food and ambiance at the Tamarind Restaurant, located within the Tamarind Village (and overlooking the Tamarind Dhow).
Sail on Nawalikher or Babulkher Dhow
If you are able to and do decide to opt for the Tamarind Dhow, you will you certainly find yourself on a rather enchanting and old vessel that has a rustic feel to it albeit with a few modern touches (whether it be on the Nawalikher or the Babulkher). There are two seating areas within each boat, a lower deck and an upper deck. The upper deck is much smaller and intimate and is the exact place where the captain sits, so he can get a good view of everyone enjoying themselves (as well as sailing the dhow, of course).
Traditional aspects captured in ornate panelling
Once seated on the Tamarind Dhow, whether it be on the lower or upper deck, you will certainly find yourself being struck by the incredible care and effort that has gone into transforming this Arab vessel into a gorgeous seaworthy floating restaurant. From the ornate panelling to the impressive hand carved railings and the captain’s chair, which is like a perched throne for royalty, is a real sight to see and appreciate. It truly is incredible how the dhow has been brought to life without losing its authenticity and traditional aspects.
Various packages available on board
The Tamarind Dhow offers various types of packages in respect to experiences. For example, there is sometimes a fine dining lunch cruise embarking at 1.00 pm and an extravagant dinner cruise commencing at 6.30 pm. If you would like to privately hire the Tamarind Dhow, then this option is also available. The price for the packages available varies contingent on the season, date and time in which you would like to enjoy the cruise.
It should be noted that during certain seasons, such as Easter, a discounted and introductory experience to the Tamarind Dhow is offered at a lower rate for those that feel that the price for the original dining and cruising experience is too steep. Whilst I was in Mombasa, I opted for the discounted Easter option (for 3,000 KSH/ 29 USD) and was so impressed that I have no hesitation in booking the extravagant fine dining dinner cruise when I am next in Kenya’s second largest city. I would recommend that you contact the Tamarind Group and make enquiries to find out if an experience within your budget is available.
Starting off with a Swahili cocktail
Your experience on the Tamarind Dhow, will start off with a glass of “dawa”. This is a traditional Swahili cocktail which is made of vodka, lime, honey, sugar and crushed ice. This will cool you down and get you into the mood of celebrating what Mombasa has to offer with sightseeing and food.
Whilst you sit back and sip your drink, you will feel the breeze in your hair and that’s when you will know you’re now sailing on the Tamarind Dhow. As I explain below, you will pass some very serene sights and if you opt to enjoy the dinner extravaganza, then you may be fortunate enough to see some acrobatic movement on board too.
Live cooking and resident band on board
Whether you attend at lunch or dinner time, you will also be met with the excellent resident band; with sweet and seductive bongo drums and a low key but power singer, your experience no doubt will become as noteworthy as mine.
Whilst the music is playing, there will be live cooking on board of nearly all dishes, which is a real sight to see. The Tamarind Dhow definitely serves up a good gastronomic experience to all guests, including those with dietary requirements such as vegetarians. The number of courses and food options varies on the package that you opt for (which is contingent on season, day, time etc.).
However, I can assure you that whether you opt for a discounted or full-price dining experience, the quality of your experience will be superb and you will feel like you are on a culinary voyage to remember. For my main course, the Swahili inspired curry, marinated paneer, rice and tamarind salad was heavenly. Being able to watch this dish being created was a treat and ignited all my senses — firstly with the aroma.
Sightseeing of UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Whether you take the lunch or dinner cruise, you will have the opportunity to sail around the most interesting parts of the island of Mombasa. This includes passing the famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Fort Jesus and the Mombasa Old Town. Being able to see these sites from the water as opposed to the mainland is really something quite remarkable as you will be able to truly appreciate the architecture and historical significance of these spots. Alongside these magnificent sites, you will also pass the noteworthy Mombasa Water Sports Club and the Tudor Water Sports Club and will be able to see the little boats bobbing on the surface of the water.
Recommended stay at the Tamarind Village too
Seeing the gorgeous Tamarind Dhow and the sights of Mombasa from the water is a once in a lifetime experience that I have to recommend. Being able to touch and feel the carvings and ornate panelling of the Tamarind Dhow is a privilege as you will feel so much more connected to the culture and history of Kenya. Having the opportunity to smell and taste such delectable dishes is a divine experience for your palate. All of your senses will be ignited if you opt to have lunch or dinner on the Tamarind Dhow.
If you would like to see the sights of Mombasa more clearly and fancy being under the shade during the sunshine, then I would suggest that you book a lunch cruise. If you would like to enjoy dinner under the starry sky and see the flickering and colourful lights of Mombasa’s UNESCO World Heritage sights at the same time, then the candlelit dinner cruise is advised. I would highy recommend that you consider staying at least one night at the Tamarind Village on the occasion that you enjoy the Tamarind Dhow.
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