The waves pound on the soft shoreline, ten kilometres of turquoise ocean framed by black reef and fine white sand. When the tide is up everybody relaxes, but when the tide goes out, it’s party time! The wide beach opens right up allowing jogging, swimming, camel rides, kite-surfing, snorkelling, reef exploration, long walks and even a tiny microlight that zooms in and out using the beach as a runway – parachutes gently touching down on the sand were also a regular fixture of the low tide buzz that is Diani Beach.
Diani Beach Bound
Ukunda town is only about thirty kilometres south of Mombasa for a comfortable taxi ride (with Ukunda airport being a convenient touchdown point for those heading south to Diani Beach, Tiwi Beach or Wasini and Shimoni Island).
Living it up
The number of resorts and restaurants here were surprising, but it is not difficult to see why this is one of Kenya’s best beach tourism destinations – Diani Beach is absolutely stunning!
Since we were in Kenya having a bunch of ‘first’ experiences, like seeing the magical Masaai Mara and adopting baby elephants, it felt like a good time for our first time at an all-inclusive resort. Luxury living is almost impossible to come by on a perpetual traveller’s budget, but Kenya made it happen!
Having perused a few awesome resorts, we settled on a week at Diani Sea Lodge, about five minutes down the beach from the quirky Forty Thieves restaurant. The hotel is set among beautiful coastal forest, tall coconut palms and lush gardens. Whitewashed textured walls under the shady reach of enormous trees, where exquisite black Colobus monkeys shake their bushy white manes and call to each other like motorbikes starting up (as Daphne Sheldrick describes in An African Love Story).
Our days were spent on the beach, by the pool, reading books from the library, playing volleyball, darts and coconut shotput; and having an altogether relaxing holiday.
One of the delightful things around Diani Sea Lodge are the birds and animals that call it home. Colobus, Sykes and Vervet monkeys roam the trees and gardens around, while camels and dogs enjoy their long walks along the beach. Hedgehogs and Bush Babies rule the night and you wake to the sound of twittering birds greeting the punctual equatorial sunrise.
The locals told us that the KiSwahili word for hedgehog is ‘Kidongo Maria’ because, like Mary the Mother of Jesus, they are thought to be humble and gentle.
Diani Beach is also home to amazingly diverse and talented people; musicians, artists, beach boys, shop keepers, sports enthusiasts and many others, too. The bargaining platform with persistent sellers seems wide open to interpretation and the banter is all part of the greater struggle against poverty. Tuk-tuks and bora-boras (motorbikes) crowd the market places in hopes of a good day.
Shawls and sarongs line the bamboo shelves and budding artists create against a backdrop of rhythmic dance and the lifesong of Kenya’s musical people.
One such character was Mr. Christopher Odinga, a local artist and sculptor who makes his living through sand sculptures, tourist-commissioned artworks and if he is lucky, the occasional job sculpting concrete animals for new buildings.
We loved his work and think he deserves hero status – read his story here.