Category Archives: Chevrolet

Chevrolet Tembea Kenya – Part III

Chevrolet VascoDaGama Pillar

Vasco Da Gama Pillar

The  #TembeaKenya Maina Kageni Road Trip Tour visit to Malindi and Watamu was scheduled to have many interesting things to do over the three-day weekend between Friday and Sunday.

On Friday evening, after a late lunch in Malindi town, there was a visit to the Vasco da Gama Pillar as well as one to Swahili House which showed a lot of history of the people of the coast, and the infrastructure and development of Malindi.

Chevrolet snorkel Watamu

Snorkel at Watamu

Saturday had a full day of activities available to try around Watamu Beach, from the Ocean Sports Resort point. This is one of the hotels that face the  Watamu Marine Park in which tourists can get to try snorkeling, deep-sea diving, Jet-skiing, kite surfing, beach volleyball & rugby among others.  The park is supervised by Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) who have rules that bar fishing, and forbid tourists from stepping on, or removing,  coral pieces, as they dive to see the  hundreds of species of fish or coral in the shallow water.

Chevrolet Biko skydive lesson

Biko gets a skydive lesson

On trips like this, hotels and other tourism operators expect that conference travellers (will) spend more than leisure travellers as often their expenses are paid for by the organisations they represent, leaving the tourists with substantial disposable incomes that they can spend.

One highlight was skydiving, and fellow-blogger Biko Zulu, went for his first ever skydive, along with a few other brave members of the group. See his post on what it feels like to jump from a tiny plane that’s 10,000 feet above the beach, just a few minutes after a brief talk on parachute safety, figuring out how much you weigh and signing an indemnity form.

After  a late lunch on Saturday, we went for a  sunset dhow sail at Mida Creek, which was a few kilometers away.

There wasn’t much to do on Sunday, but watch as Kenya’s Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala also did a skydive down to Watamu Beach. He later went and released a turtle back into the ocean that had been caught in a  fisherman’s net and then rehabilitated – see more pics.

We were all staying at Turtle Bay Kenya, a wonderful resort that’s popular as it’s very well-oriented to family relaxation with a dedicated free club for kids with all-day activities for them. It’s an all-inclusive resort (meals & drinks are included in the prices) and gets a lot of business by word of mouth, and indeed, they reward repeat visitors and people who recommend the resort to new visitors, with even more discounts.

Chevrolet Watamu fleet

Chevrolet Trailblazers at Turtle Bay

We got around to different venues using the Chevrolet Trailblazers which were also available for test drives by potential buyers at the hotels in the daytime.

 Things like sky diving and the sunset dhow sail were new activities from the last time I was in Watamu. It helped that we had an interesting group of people around, and had discussions on different things like the state of the media, road conditions for tourists who try and drive around the country, the recent KDF soldier deaths in Somalia, and how best to revive domestic tourism in Kenya.

Mida creek sunset sail

Sunset at Mida Creek

Other sights we did not get around to, but should see the next time, include Hell’s Kitchen, Mambrui Town, Juma mosque & Pillar tombs, Portuguese museum, the Cobra village paddle, and  go boating in search of dolphins in Watamu park.

Meanwhile, the Maina Kageni Road Trip Tour will continue during Valentine’s Day weekend and visit more local tourist attractions in another county, somewhere in Kenya.

Earlier, along the highway, the Trailblazers attracted a lot of curiosity and different people from truck drivers to policemen would all come up and ask to say hello to Maina Kageni.

Chevrolet Tembea Kenya – Part II

The Chevrolet TrailBlazer that is being used to support for the Tembea Kenya Maina Kageni Road Trip Tour is a 2015 model new vehicle, that General Motors is showcasing around the country. In line with the current Chevrolet theme of finding new roads, the Trail Blazer caravan has been to many places likes Lamu, Lukenya, Amboseli, Nyeri, Baringo and Nakuru.

Chevrolet Trailblazer in Mbuinzau

And while new highways and roads are built around Kenya, the reality is that there are many parts of the country still unpaved and road maintenance is poor as it’s only done every few years. This means that drivers  often encounter potholes, mud, wet roads, and high bumps in Nairobi and other towns all the time, and a tough vehicle with a high clearance is ideal.

Chevrolet is a strong brand worldwide for GM which remains the USA’s largest automaker with 18% in 2015. In Kenya, General Motors East Africa (GMEA), was started in 1975 as a joint venture between the Government of Kenya and General Motors Company, and is one that is currently 18% owned by Centum, and which is a leading exporter of new vehicles to countries in the greater East Africa region.

And while in Kenya it seems that every other car is a Toyota, GMEA is actually the leading supplier of new vehicles into the Kenya market with about 6,700 new units (33%) supplied in 2015. GMEA  assembles, markets and sells Chevrolet, Opel and Isuzu vehicles and parts in Kenya and the Eastern Africa region. In Kenya, their Isuzu brand is strong, dominating the bus, truck, and pickup market, but they don’t want to rest on their laurels – hence the introduction of the Chevrolet Trailblazer in the growing SUV category.

 The 2.8-litre diesel, automatic model Chevrolet Trailblazer used in the Tembea Kenya campaign retails for about Kshs 5.1 million ($50,000) [but can be had for much less for embassies and government offices who don’t have to pay Kenya’s hefty new vehicle taxes].

The Trail Blazer is available in 8 different colours and has 7 seats spread over three rows. Some of the nice features it has include individual overhead lights & A/C setting for each row, side steps, leather seats, a rearview view camera with parking assist (useful at Nairobi malls), anti-theft /  immobilizer system,  a touch screen infotainment system that links to the phones via Bluetooth or USB,  multiple, charging ports, steering wheel controls, and two setting of four-wheels drive (4WD) that the driver can adjust by simply twisting a knob.

Chevrolet Trailblazer in Mbuinzau 2The TrailBlazers come with a 5-year service plan or over the first 90,000 kilometers which is virtually the life of a typical car owner in Kenya. Servicing is set for every 15,000 kilometers, and owners also have the comfort of a warranty and roadside assistance over the first 120,000 kilometres.

Last week, GMEA signed a deal with Kenya’s leading asset financier, NIC Bank, to enable buyers of Chevrolet and Isuzu vehicles to get up to 95%, at an interest rate if 15.5% which can be repaid over 6 years. This promotion lasts till the end of March 2016 and is available at all GMEA locations across the country.

Chevrolet Tembea Kenya – Part I

Tourism in Kenya has taken a beating over the last few years, so the Kenya Tourism Board has launched several #TembeaKenya (i.e. visit Kenya) campaigns to promote domestic tourism.

Last Friday, saw the start of the Malindi leg of the Magical Kenya Maina Kageni Road Trip Tour, which is one of the promotions to highlight local tourist attractions.   Through this one, the popular radio host has visited several counties in a caravan of Chevrolet TrailBlazer vehicles provided by General Motors – East Africa (GMEA) and fueled by Shell fuel (Vivo Energy).

Chevrolet Emali

Emali stop over

The drive to Malindi (and Watamu) started at the GM Nairobi office at about 4 a.m. and the fleet of Chevrolet SUV’s took off on the dark highway towards Mombasa. The early start was to avoid the heavy traffic along the highway, and we met the first signs of that a half-hour later at the Machakos turnoff which was full of trucks parked on both sides of the highway.  The first stop was at a petrol station in Emali town at 530 a.m. for refreshments.

Soon after, as the sun rose, we had the first view of the construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR). However, on the road trip, you don’t see as much of the new railway as you do when you are on the RVR Mombasa train. But we still saw two trains on the new railway, with another near Voi town where the highway is adjacent to the new highway for several kilometers.

Chevrolet trucks SGR

Overtaking trucks near SGR at Voi

We stopped in Mbuinzau for some drone shots and to wait for some late-starting vehicles. This part of the country was very green with fields of banana and maize on different sides of dry river beds. The many small towns we passed through had empty stalls which would likely be busier later with sellers and buyers on the roadside.

We stopped at Mtito Andei for almost two hours. This is the traditional mid-point stop between Nairobi and Mombasa, and also the turn-off point for many visitors who would then proceed to either Tsavo East or Tsavo West national parks which have many lodges like Kilaguni, Ngulia, Voyager, Finch Hattons and Severin.

We then continued at a rapid pace, overtaking lots of trucks that sped on the highway in the daytime as well as late night and the caravan made good time at speeds of about 120 kilometers an hour.

There are few road signs on the highway to know which town you’re passing, and sometimes they’re confusing e.g in Mackinnon town, where there’s a bridge being built for the new railway to pass over the road, there’s a sign that says “86 kilometers to Mombasa” next to another one that says “96 kilometers to Mombasa”.  This also used to be the first point where you’d spot a coconut tree, but it seems coconut trees are now being grown further away from the coast, to the north-west around Lake Victoria and even near Mount Kenya, where you can find a coconut farm in Meru.

It’s now much warmer here and the roadside was dotted with local produce like paw paws, charcoal sacks of charcoal, and sisal.

Chevrolet Taru bypass

Taru diversion

After that, we passed the first stretch of bad road after Mackinnon. This is the road under construction with two diversions on both sides of Taru, a mushrooming town with lots of buildings right next to the road. The road is narrow, with bumps, many trucks to overtake as well as impatient drivers. There should be ample space for traffic to pass on the highway, but if there’s any blockage, or it rains, or drivers overlap, then the highway can still easily get blocked.

This happened in October and November last year, and local leaders expressed concern when there were highway delays of several hours that inconvenienced motorists, food supplies and tourist movements.

Hersi FB map bypass to North Coast

Hersi FB map bypass to North Coast

The delays at places like Taru, Mariakani and Likoni got so bad in December, ahead of the busy tourism season, that Mohammed Hersi, who’s the chairman of the Kenya Coast Tourism Association and a veteran hotelier (unofficial ambassador for Mombasa tourism) posted several maps on Facebook of alternate routes that tourists could use to access parts of the South and North coast and avoid these choke points.

We took one of these, turning off at Mariakani about 35 kilometers from Mombasa to proceed toward Kilifi. There’s poor signage marking the turnoff, and we asked for directions and were told to use the bypass and avoid the main highway which had much more traffic, even now.

Chevrolet Kilifi bypass

Kilifi bypass

The bypass was very smooth, and we made good time on it. It has no lane marking, no signs or bumps, and there kids running next to the road which had many fast stretches.

It went very well but for the last 12 kilometers to the Takaungu turnoff on the Kilifi highway, which have not been tarmacked. The rough road stretch was okay for the cars, and there was no need to deploy Chevrolet four-wheel drive, but that will probably be a necessity in a few month’s time when the long rains start, and also on the main highway around Taru unless the contractor is able to complete his work.

The driver of one Chevrolet TrailBlazer who had earlier made two side-trips around Mtito was a bit worried about his remaining fuel, but the car computer calculated that, even though the fuel light was now on, the car could still do another 80 kilometers and he was able to arrive in Malindi without making a fuel stop.

We had started at Nairobi at almost 4 a.m. and got to Malindi at 3:30 PM, completing the 570-kilometer journey in about  9 hours (after excluding the 2 hours of stops).