About Diani Beach
With swaying palms and soft, white sand caressed by glittering, turquoise water, Diani Beach has many of the ingredients of the perfect tropical holiday destination. It is deservedly popular, and as one of Kenya’s premier Indian Ocean resorts, it has a large and still-growing assortment of hotels and restaurants, some of them extremely luxurious by local and often international standards. Thanks to warm seas and beautiful coral reefs it is also one of the best places to get close to the richly diverse marine life of the southern Kenyan coast, by snorkelling, scuba-diving or joining a boat safari.
The beach is the area’s major attraction – long, soft, white and lovely, it comes close to the tropical ideal. The offshore reef offers rewarding snorkelling; it also keeps waves at bay, making paddling and swimming close to shore a pleasure, and providing perfect conditions for windsurfing lessons. The only drawbacks are the seaweed that gets washed up from time to time, the tides which, at their highest, cover much of the sand, and the hustlers (known locally as beach boys) who can be hard to shake off.
Beyond the beach:
The romantically inclined can cruise the shoreline in a dhow (traditional boat): a favourite destination is Kisite Marine National Park near the Tanzanian border, which offers outstanding snorkelling. Elsewhere in the underwater landscape, there are rewarding wrecks for scuba-divers to explore; you’re likely to see turtles, mantas and barracuda among many other marine species. Whale sharks patrol the coastline between January and March. To spot one, or even snorkel beside one, you can join a half-day whale shark safari organised by the East African Whale Shark Trust (www.giantsharks.org), a locally based conservation organisation. To learn about local village culture, take a guided walk with the Kaya Kinondo Ecotourism Project.
Diani Beach has plenty of relaxed, family-friendly resort hotels that go out of their way to keep children amused with special menus, sports, games and other activities. The beach is safe for swimming but kids who want to snorkel will have to be strong swimmers to reach the reef – it is better to take a boat or canoe. The Colobus Trust (Diani Beach Road), set up to protect Diani’s endangered black-and-white colobus, is great for monkey spotting.
Many visitors to Diani build a safari into their stay. With a few days to spare you could head inland to Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks, which together form one of the largest game-viewing areas in the world. Far less crowded than Kenya’s more popular parks, they are home to lions, hippos, elephants, zebras and a great many species of antelope and gazelle. Alternatively, to experience another side of coastal life, travel north through Mombasa to the beaches and marine parks of Malindi and Watamu, great for snorkelling and diving, or immerse yourself in Swahili culture on the island of Lamu.
For a chance to soothe body and soul in gorgeous surroundings, treat yourself to a few days at the Shaanti Holistic Health Retreat (Ukunda) (www.shaantihhr.com), a boutique hotel specialising in yoga and wellbeing treatments. Guests are encouraged to rise early for dawn yoga sessions, unwind over sessions of meditation or massage, and refuel on delicious vegetarian fare. Best of all are the open-air Jacuzzis, set into the rock right on the edge of the beach – perfect for a long soak at sunset.