Port El Kantaoui (Tunisia)
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Review of "Port El Kantaoui (Tunisia)"
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Port El Kantaoui is a purpose built Holiday Resort on the Northern Coast of Tunisia in North Africa. It is situated just a few kilometres North of Sousse, Tunisia's second largest City after the Capital Tunis.It was built in 1979 with a modern 300 Yacht capacity Marina as its focal point. In recent years this Marina has become a popular mooring location for the rich and famous undertaking their Mediterranean Cruises and the Marina here is said to rival those long established Marinas of Nice and Marbella on the Southern Coast of Europe. It is now also Tunisia's most popular Holiday Resort.
I stayed in Port El Kantaoui between the 2nd and 9th July 2006 and found the experience to be a rather interesting one. Since it was my first visit to Tunisia I was a little unsure of what to expect and as my Holiday approached I began to hear mixed reports of not only the Country as a whole but also of Port El Kantaoui and so I arrived with trepidation.FIRST IMPRESSIONS
We arrived around Midday on a Sunday afternoon after a flight of just over 3 hours from Manchester. The Sun was belting down and there was not a single Cloud in the Sky, the temperature gauge on the Wall outside the Hotel where we was staying read 46 Degrees Centigrade and it was hung in the shade, the Weather was certainly a far cry from what we had left behind in England, despite the fact that England was about to enter into a mini heat wave of its own, but on a much less severe scale.We quickly checked into our Hotel, washed and changed and then headed out onto the Beach directly in front of our Hotel. The first thing that I recall was that the Sand on the Beach was so fine and quite unlike anything that I had seen before. It was a pale golden - brown colour with a consistency so fine that it almost resembled Talcum Powder. I took off my Shoes but quickly put them back on, the Sand was so hot it was unbearable. Looking around the Beach that we stood on went on for miles in both directions, it was only quite narrow but stretches for over 9 miles.
I looked at the Sea and noted that it looked incredibly clean. I have been to most of the Mediterranean Countries: Spain, Portugal, Greece, and the I have walked along the Beaches in California on the West Coast of America, but I have to say that the quality of the Sand and the general cleanliness of the Beach and the Water was amongst the finest that I have ever seen.Many of the Hotels, ours included, each had its own small section of the Beach with direct access straight from the Hotel, although this was not private and was open to others. It did however mean that the crowds of People on the Beach tended to congregate in these small areas, with plenty of space in-between for those who were prepared to walk a couple of hundred Yards or so.
We didn't venture too far on that first afternoon as the temperatures were a little too high and we felt that we needed some time to acclimatise. Our first impressions of the Beach area around our Hotel was however very favourable, but the main part of the Resort was a good couple of Kilometres away.Later that evening we headed off to the Marina, which we were told, was the lively part of Port El Kantaoui, where most of the Bars were situated.
THE MARINA & MAISONS DES JARDIN SQUAREThere is no doubt that the Marina at Port El Kantaoui is very pretty. During the daytime this area is bustling with people, which are a mixture of both Tourists and locals. All around the Marina there are a number of Café style Bars, Restaurants and Gift Shops but be warned the local Bar and Restaurant owners can be quite pushy and persuasive at trying to get you inside.
The Yachts at the Marina are an attraction in their own right and sometimes it was a little hard not to feel slightly envious at the extravagance of some of these Vessels. At the Marina it is also possible to take Boat Trips or indulge in a number of other activities, more of which will be detailed below. There is even a large Boat now moored permanently in the Marina, which has been turned into a floating Restaurant.At night-time the Marina takes on a more relaxed, slower pace. The Restaurants and Bars are still busy but it is quite a laid back affair with the only sound of Music likely to be the faint sounds of some Arabic style music on a Radio somewhere. There are certainly no Disco's or anything that could be described as lively.
For a slightly livelier atmosphere then it is necessary to walk a few hundred Yards inland to the Maisons Des Jardines. This is a purpose built square with a set of Fountains as its focal point. As darkness falls the Fountains are lit up in spectacular colours and the jets of Water dance to Music which is blasted out on loud speakers throughout the square.Here you will also find a nice selection of Café style Bars and Restaurants, along with Shops selling Gifts and Souvenirs. The prices here are similar to those at the Marina, which is cheap by UK comparison but expensive for Tunisia. You can expect to pay 3-4 Dinars for a Pint of Lager (£1.20 - £1.60).
At Midnight everything at both the Marina and the Square closes and the people disappear back to their Hotels or Houses in droves. By 12.30am the whole area is generally completely deserted.
THINGS TO SEE & DO
At the Marina it is possible to book a trip on a Glass Bottomed Boat, a trip in a Submarine or even go Deep Sea Diving, or Sea-Fishing.In recent years Port El Kantaoui has established itself as a major Golfing venue, and there is not one but two separate 18 Hole Courses. There are also Tennis Courts and it is possible to go Horse-Riding. For those who are a little less energetic but need a break from the heat there is a Casino in the Resort too. This is called the Casino Caraibe, and has Gaming Tables, Fruit Machines and also hosts regular Cabaret Shows.
For those of you who like to Shop then Port El Kantaoui will seem like a Paradise. The majority of the Shops are located around the Marina and the Square but there are also large Supermarkets which sell Gifts and Souvenirs. The best buys are Pottery, Clothing, and Textiles, but be prepared to haggle. You should expect to pay around a third of the original asking price. Close to the Square there is also a large open air Market where some bargains can be found but be warned the vendors here can be vicious and therefore I suggest you read my tale below.
A CAUTIONARY TALE
On the second day of my Holiday I wanted to buy a pair of Trainers for my Nephew. I spotted an ideal pair of Puma Trainers which may or may not be fake, but whatever they looked ok to me so I enquired about the price.
"85 Dinars, mate." I was told. "But maybe we do better price for you."
I thought to myself if I could get them for 30 Dinars then he would have a sale and I drove a hard bargain for the next few minutes. Eventually we agreed on a price of just 25 Dinars and so I parted with my money feeling rather smug with myself.
However as I came to leave the Shop an older gentleman, presumably the owner placed a Bracelet on my Wrist and said. "Very good price for you sir."
I had no intentions of buying any Jewellery and no matter how low the price dropped I stood my ground. The Man locked the Shop Doors and turned off the Air Conditioning but still I stood my ground. Eventually, after almost one hour (yes one hour) when he realised that I was not even prepared to pay just 10 Dinars to get out his Shop he suddenly turned very nasty, flung open the Door, pushed me down the Street and yelled. "You are nothing but a little piece of S**t"
Oh how I wished I had bought my Trainers from somewhere else.
There are many different ways to get around Port El Kantaoui. The Resort is very flat but it is rather spaced out and from one end of the Resort to the other it spans around 5 Kilometres.We were staying around a 30 minute walk from the Marina and during the day we used to walk there via the Beach, which we found to be the quickest route.
At night however we invariably always caught a Taxi from outside our Hotel. Taxi fares are very cheap and all fares should be metered. Many drivers try to arrange a fare in advance however and this is nearly always higher than the metered rate so it is important to insist that you want the meter on.All Taxi's are yellow and have a light on top. They are licensed by the Government and the tariffs are standardised throughout the Country. Between 9pm and 5am there is a 50% surcharge added to all fares. Most Taxi's in the Resort are "Petit Taxi's" licensed to carry 4 people, but there are also a few "Grand Taxi's" which can carry up to 6 people. These charge a slightly higher tariff.
We generally paid 3 Dinars (£1.20) for our 3 kilometre journey to the Marina before 9am, and around 4.5 Dinars on our return.If you fancy an alternative to a Taxi there are several other options. These include the local Buses, the Noddy Train, the Tuc-Tuc's or Horse and Carriage.
The local Buses work out slightly cheaper if you are travelling alone but if there are more than two of you then a Taxi is usually better value for a short journey. The Bus from our Hotel to the Marina cost 2 Dinars each.The Buses are few and far between and highly unreliable, it is almost impossible to track down a Time-table and even if you do, they rarely run on time. Should you be fortunate however then they stop at dedicated Bus Shelters at the side of the Road, but they can also be flagged down in between Bus Stops too.
There is a Noddy Train which runs between Port El Kantaoui and Monastir, via Sousse, a journey of around 30 Kilometres. This looks like a Train with four or five Carriages, but it actually has Wheels and runs on the Road rather than on Tracks. It is great fun and must be tried out at least once during your stay.We travelled to Sousse on the Noddy Train which cost us 3 Dinars each from the Marina. Our return journey was by Taxi for the same price but not as much fun.
The Noddy Train is rather slow and it can be a bit of a bumpy ride. As with Buses however they are very unreliable and very rarely run on time. Should you see one approaching you simply stick out your arm and flag it down. When you wish to disembark you just shout "Stop" in whichever language of your choice.Tuc-Tuc's are another novel way to travel around. They are three wheeled Carriages with a tiny Motorbike (or Scooter) sized Engine. They are everywhere in the Resort and can carry 6 people in two rows of three seats and if you are in a large crowd they are a cheaper option than even a Grand Taxi. They are however rather slow and quite uncomfortable.
Finally there are many Horses and Carriages around the Resort which are used to transport people around. The Carriages are often decorated with Flowers but although we saw these every day we never actually travelled by this method so I am unable to comment on the cost or how comfortable they are.FINAL THOUGHTS
On the whole I did enjoy my stay in Port El Kantaoui but as a 30 something single male travelling with just another male friend I did find that the Resort was rather couples orientated and that it was a little too quiet for us.After a few nights we discovered the more lively Bars of Sousse and abandoned the Bars around the Marina in our own Resort in favour for these.
I also found the pushy attitude of the Shopkeepers unbearable by the end of the stay and it is mainly for this reason that I feel that it is unlikely that I will return to Port El Kantaoui, and possibly even Tunisia itself.On a positive note however the Resort itself is beautiful, the standard of our Hotel was superb, and the cleanliness of the Resort in general was good.
We also found the local Tunisians (aside from the Shopkeepers, Cafe/Bar/Restaurant owners) to be incredibly friendly, contrary to the advice given by our Holiday Rep.If you decide to visit Port El Kantaoui then I can guarantee that it will be an experience, and hopefully it will be a very enjoyable one.
Thank you for reading.
Product Information : Port El Kantaoui (Tunisia)
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Listed on Ciao since: 29/03/2001