The Napier Nation Lifestyle - Steve & Sally Mullens | Napier Outdoors The Napier Nation Lifestyle - Steve & Sally Mullens | Napier Outdoors

The Napier Nation Lifestyle – Steve & Sally Mullens

Tell us a little about yourself 

We have lived in Kenya together since 1983. Previous to that Sally, (also from UK) was teaching in Uganda during and immediately following the Iddi Amin regime and I was a musician, carpenter and kitchen designer from London. I decided to travel to Kenya looking to buy a dhow (traditional sailing craft) and sail back to Monté Carlo. I never wound up leaving as Sally and I met up again completely by chance (having spent an afternoon together in Nairobi 7 years previous to now).  With no prior experience, I installed an engine in our first dhow TomTom. For the 30+ following years I took on many more building projects. I bought and renovated more dhows, varying from 30 to 60 feet long, and was involved in community and conservation projects – we worked hard and had fun.




We were part owners in a business on Wasini Island off the coast of Kenya: originally Wasini Island Restaurant and Kisite dhow tours, changing to Charlie Claw’s. They operated day tours taking guests as snorkellers, divers and would-be divers to Kisite Marine National Park (set up by the Kenya Government as a national marine park in 1973) to see dolphins and experience sailing in lateen rigged vessels. This was followed by a crab lunch on Wasini Island and visiting the village and various community projects in the afternoon. A stunning area of the Kenyan coast, part of ‘real’ Africa, off the beaten track of the tourist areas but made accessible along an interesting drive. In 2011 we handed over/sold the business to our then Kenyan manager.

Avoiding the word ‘retired’ we now enjoy life doing various projects: Sally has taken up painting and I have expanded (in more ways than one) and improved our home and my guitar skills, which I should have done years ago but never had time. We live within an indigenous coastal coral rag forest, here in Shimoni, which used to be a sleepy fishing village close to the Tanzanian border, now becoming a lively soon to be port town. I enjoy my lathe, guitar playing, carpentry and making ‘stuff’. Kenya is where we want to be and are fortunate to be here.


How many places have you visited and which was your favorite?

Despite working (was it work? We had so much fun!), we would travel for annual 7-day trips. Most of the time these would be during the rainy season/winter (when temperatures go as low as 20C!). We love to travel, one of our first trips was in 1985. It was in mid May when the Indian Ocean is rough, and we sailed to Pemba Island. Twenty nautical miles from mainland Tanzania, it was just the two of us on TomTom – our original 40-foot dhow which ideally has a crew of four.

We arrived after almost sinking, and were nearly arrested for being South African spies (there had been some sort of bomb attack threat in Dar e Salaam the coastal capitol of Tanzania). We then enjoyed 2+ weeks of camping bliss.

We explored and snorkeled in pristine waters around Pemba and in the many lagoons. Also, in the 80’s and early 90’s we decided to travel to Uganda and explored the fantastic game parks. At Murchison Falls in the North, on the river, I had to lend a hand mending the ancient inboard on a boat trip we’d taken. With no anchor, we drifted towards Lake Albert. We’ve had adventures and travelled around the USA, Thailand, Europe, Tanzania, South Africa and enjoyed it all, but never found a country so varied as Kenya. In Kenya, you can enjoy hot coasts, snowy topped mountains, savannah and forests.

Our last overseas trip was to surprise Sally’s sister in Australia for her 80th birthday. Sadly, this was cut short by Covid-19. In 2019 we visited Réunion and plan on doing more island hopping to these less accessible, rarely visited Indian Ocean Islands. For my 70th birthday in January (no camping as it is too cold) we stayed in Log cabins on Mount Kenya and have been again stunned by the beauty and different scenery we did not know existed here.  


Once we started camping, we set off with the Land Cruiser loaded. I built a roof rack, organized solar power to keep the car fridge/freezer and lighting going, made tarpaulin flooring to also cover the side awning and set up the comfiest bed in the back on a proper solid bed base, after removing the back seats. We already had a sliding drawer in the back that I’d made which is really useful, helping to access everything in the back while we travel. This took months and with the Napier tent attached to the car, we have the most comfortable camping rig. As we camp where there have been no facilities, we also have a toilet tent, shower, cooker, BBQ etc. 



 Our two camping trips so far have been at:

Elerai, near Amboseli National Park for seven nights. We enjoyed the wildlife and daily views of Mount Kilimanjaro. With the amount of food we had we enjoyed great meals and were able to understand the movements and lifestyle of giraffe as they visited and stayed close daily. We camped alone and on a private reserve where we were fortunate to be allowed. We received water from the ever-helpful local rangers who helped in strong winds to both put up and take everything down. As Sally’s a bit wobbly on her pins I have to do most of the work myself, which thanks to Napier’s planning and design, I can travel with ease. We’d meant to stay for three nights and ended up staying seven.


Our last camping trip was on Galana River (below Galdessa) at a KWS private campsite, again with no facilities, and we planned to travel there for a week. We camped under doum palms and had a fantastic view of the wide river, sandbar right in front of us and the daily visiting crocs and bird life. We were joined by two friends for a couple of nights who were also camping. We put together all our facilities, cooked, and took shade under our two Napier awnings. It was hot, but the fly sheet along with the addition of solar fans kept the inside surprisingly cool. Sleeping in the car gave us an added feeling of security because we appeared to have camped in the garden of two daily visiting enormous elephants who came to collect their daily doum palm fix.

One, we discovered was quite well know to other friends who had camped there in the past and was called Mario. He was inquisitive (very!) but gently curious and seemed friendly. The other larger one had a squiggly tail and scar on their rump, compared to Mario, they had attitude and were quite frightening. It would like to come silently up and let out a surprise “hurumph!”. One time, during our first meeting, this happened right by Sally’s ear! We learnt on this trip that elephants move, despite their size, travel completely silently and Sally learnt getting into the back of the car could be done, when necessary, very quickly!


How did you first get into travelling?

Traveling we’ve always been into when the opportunity arises. But when our favourite lodge, Galdessa, on Galana River in Tsavo East National Park, was sold to another company, moving completely out of our price range, we decided we needed to start camping.



We thought it might be a tad late perhaps, with us being in our late 60’s but nope! With some work, we now enjoy lots of fun and a feeling of great independence. You could say we are new campers and ancient travelers. It was Covid-19 that kick started us into actually creating our own comfy camp setup and for Sally’s birthday in May 2020 I bought her a Napier tent and all the periphery gubbins that goes along with it to set up a tented home for the two of us. It is so necessary to be careful social distancing and responsible travelers it is a great option and our Covid-19 swerving trips would not have been possible without this. 


What made you want to choose a Napier tent?


When I looked at all the tent options available on Google and viewed a few camping outlets in Australia I realized we needed either a rooftop tent or one that attached to the car. The main problem with a rooftop tent is that we would have to disassemble it before going off for a drive. Also, Sally would have trouble climbing up there. So, I then researched all possible options of tents that attach to the car and the ease of disconnecting the car from the tent with the minimum of fuss appealed to us. The Napier team patiently answered all my questions and with the large space it provides, easy setup, good ‘snake proof’ layout, the awning and also the anteroom between main tent and outside it has worked out really, really well. I’m tall, over six foot, and the height is great for me, too. We have ample space.


What’s a piece of advice you’d give an aspiring traveler?

Research well, plan well and have fun! Napier has helped us enjoy the GREAT outdoors in comfort and made our camping trips as easy as possible. Always look forward to the next one once you’re home!


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