Health & Fitness

Bowling in Nyali

Victor Venant spends his Saturday afternoons enjoying a game of bowling at the Hollywood Bowl at Nyali Cinemax. in Mombasa. PHOTOS | WACHIRA MWANGI
Victor Venant spends his Saturday afternoons enjoying a game of bowling at the Hollywood Bowl at Nyali Cinemax. in Mombasa. PHOTOS | WACHIRA MWANGI 

A 12-pound ball rolls over to the end of an alley in an attempt to knock down 10 wooden pins. That makes a score.

“It is a strike. Today you have beaten me,” Joseph Woni tells his play mates.

This is at a bowling club in Nyali, Mombasa, perfect for people who want to have a fun night away from dance floors drenched in neon lights and loud music.

It is the only 10-pin Brunswick bowling alley in Mombasa situated at the Nyali Cinemax.

Mr Woni, an attendant at the bowling centre explains that a strike is when the player hits all pins down on the first throw.

“The game is more exciting if you play with a partner because you compete. Everyone gets 10 chances with two throws each. The balls vary in weight and one picks them according to your body strength. Some are 6, 8,10,12,14 pounds each,” says Mr Woni.
Players are required to wear special bowling shoes as a feet brace incase the heavy ball falls on them.

Bowling as a sport is gaining foothold in Kenya with a few clubs setting up alleys and doing competitions.

For seven years, Cedric Scherer has been a familiar face at the Nyali bowling alley on most evenings for a game with friends.

He has even formed a small club of passionate bowlers who show up week in and week out since 2010.

“I used to play the game in Europe but not as regularly as I do in Kenya. It is for friendship, for getting out of the house,’’ he says.

“When I began I was not such a good bowler but I had fun and got to know people. We play every Saturday and Tuesday evening. I come here mainly to socialise and compete a bit.”

Older players

Mr Scherer, a real estate entrepreneur, further admits to always leaving his office in a hurry to come and engage his muscles in the fit out.

“I make a lot of friends especially during the holidays when the place is full. The bowling staff has also grown to be my family as we have played together for seven years. I recently hosted four of my Swiss friends who specifically came to check out my favourite sport in Kenya,” added Mr Scherer.

His passion for bowling keeps the alleys rolling and has given him a record of the highest scorer in the game amongst his friends.

Nyali Cinemax opened the bowling centre in 2004 and the game now attracts both international and domestic tourists who can also enjoy a meal at the restaurants on the ground floor.

Popularity of the game has extended even to older players, says Sapna Sacchania, the marketing manager at the recreational centre.

“This game is unique. Previously, our clientele was foreigners as bowling is a big sport abroad but now locals are embracing it. Older people and children are also playing the game especially during holidays,” says Ms Sapna.

Some passionate bowlers come from Nairobi on weekends. During the Eid Festivals, they also receive visitors from Tanzania. Victor Venant, another frequent bowler has been playing for four years and says the sport has helped him get contacts.

“I have interacted and created a network of contacts which has been so helpful in my life. During a game, I get to socialise with both locals and foreigners. I even made a friend from Germany who plays here when in the country,” says Victor.

Besides interaction and networking, the Hollywood bowl attracts families, as it has a strict no-alcohol-no smoking policy.

Boasting six lanes, it can accommodate 48 bowlers at a time. Corporates also come in for team building activities.

To add fun to the game, there is a cosmic bowling where the game is played with glow in the dark effects every Friday and Saturday.