Jonny visits childhood haunts on the south Kenya coast – November 2010
After a comfortable flight direct from the Masai Mara, where I had spent a week visiting safari camps, I landed at Ukunda on the south Kenya coast in order to revisit some old haunts and explore new options along Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline.
An ideal safari – for me anyway – always ends on a beach where I can indulge my love of diving, snorkelling, fishing and generally lazing around after a week of dawn starts.
In my opinion Kenya’s best beach is at Diani, to the south of Mombasa. This is a very biased and objective view as I am sure that many will argue for Watamu Bay or Kiwayu. But for me Diani will always be about school holidays spent exploring the seemingly endless soft, white, sandy beach, and swimming in the bath warm water.
Diani is still wonderful, but I found much has changed. Diani has developed from a few traditional beach hotels and the sleepy village of Ukunda into a bustling town with an airport and a thriving tourism industry. Development spreads southwards through Galu Beach and Kinondo to Msambweni, and Diani has become a hotspot for kite surfing, as well as still offering great scuba diving and fishing.
While it is true that there are several large hotels on Diani that offer a traditional resort experience, the last few years have seen the emergence of a number of small hotels and guest houses that cater for visitors looking for a more exclusive and tranquil experience. Often owner run and managed, these more ‘boutique’ style hotels strive to offer a home from home feeling while at the same time offering first class service, food and facilities.
Some of these are wonderfully private and exclusive such as Tijara Beach Hotel, Msambweni House and Alfajiri Villas. Others are elegant yet casual like AfroChic and Kinondo Kwetu, or homely and down to earth like Asha Cottage and Waterlovers. Some of these properties, such as Kinondo Kwetu and Msambweni House, are located south of Diani on more exclusive beaches, but for the ultimate escape Funzi Keys is a real ‘get away from it all’ island experience about an 60 minutes drive south of Diani (there is also an airstrip on the island).
Diani offers some very upmarket and private places, but I think that out of all the properties visited, I especially enjoyed Waterlovers. I just loved the young owners’ sincere and infectious enthusiasm, and its unpretentious simplicity as well as its turtle shaped pool! I felt it reflected all the friendliness and fun of the Diani Beach I remembered.
For further information on combining a beach holiday with a safari in Kenya please call us on 01787 888590 or contact us to speak to one of our friendly safari specialists.
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