TRAVEL GUIDE: DIANI BEACH, MOMBASA, KENYA

TRAVEL GUIDE: DIANI BEACH, MOMBASA, KENYA

- in Tips and Guide, Travel and Leisure

Diani Beach

White-sand beaches, camel rides, monkeys galore, great food, and tranquil vibes.

What to Expect

  • Diani Beach offers a unique environment capable of supporting a variety of wildlife. On your trip you may see: Colobus Monkeys, Baboons, BushBabies (you can feed them at Stilts Backpackers), Red-Bellied Coast Squirrels, Antelopes, Civet Cats, Bush Pigs, Cane Rats, Honey Badgers, Elephant Shrews, and an assortment of birds, which vary and may be difficult to spot. *This list is in order of most common to least common.
  • While Diani Beach is incredibly relaxing, you may be pestered by so-called Beach Boys, some of which are dressed in traditional Maasai clothing who may or may not be an authentic Maasai. Don’t worry, they will leave you alone. Just be firm, but be nice, and hey, it doesn’t hurt to throw them a little business if they offer you fair prices.
  • Diani Beach is swimming with tourists in comparison to other places that we visited in Kenya. The amount of tourists is quite small, however, compared to other beach destinations around the world.

Travel Times

DIANI BEACH

The ideal time to travel to the Kenyan coast is from  December to March. Temperatures remain steady throughout the year (warm and humid, but the sea breeze takes care of that!). The rainy season kicks in from April to May and October to November. We traveled in early August. The skies were cloudy and we were hit with rain a few times, but the trip was still worth it.The traveler must also be aware of cultural festivals, which often take place in November, as well as religious times, such as Ramadan since this area of Kenya is predominantly Muslim. Click HERE to find out more about Kenya’s weather and average temperatures.

Getting There

To Mombasa: My boyfriend and I traveled via bus, which we caught in Nairobi. Getting to the capital wasn’t all that difficult, thanks to a range of low cost flights to Nairobi. The bus line we took was Mash Poa, which was quite comfortable and easy to sleep on. It is recommended that tourists travel on bus only during the daytime because of highjackings and accidents.

To Diani Beach: Once we arrived in Mombasa, we were met with a bustling city. We met up with a friend of ours who found us a Tuk-Tuk (a three-wheeled vehicle) for 100KSH (a little over 1USD) to the ferry. Chaos filled the streets as it seemed to be that we were traveling during rush hour. We eventually made our way to a jam-packed ferry that would take us a short way across the water (only a few minutes long). Seriously, I had no idea that a boat could hold so many people. I recommend that you hold tightly onto your stuff and the person you are traveling with as you make your way both on the ferry and exiting the ferry, since the crowd is so dense. We became one with the pack of people as we unloaded and eventually fought our way out of the herd and into a less busy area (with the most beautiful Kangas – traditional East African garb – I have ever seen!), where we found a taxi. We were most certainly overcharged for the ride (I believe it was about 2,000KSH or roughly over 20USD), but the sun was setting and we needed to get to our destination.

Must Do

  • Camel ride: Our spot on Diani Beach, near the Forty Thieves Bar & Bistro, was met with one man and his two camels.I am unsure whether or not he is the only man with camels in this location. The man walks up and down the beach asking tourists to become his customers; however, most people pass up the opportunity. We decided to play the tourist and settled on a price of 1,000 KSH for the two of us (about 5USD each) – he had initially wanted over double the price. The trip was well worth it ad much longer than expected! I urge you not to be nervous of being the cheesy tourist on the camel – live a little!
  • Kaya Kinondo (Swahili for ‘The Sacred Forest’): During our stay, the weather wasn’t exactly ideal for lounging on the beach and catching the sun’s rays. We decided to take a Piki-Piki (a motorbike) to Kaya Kinondo, the Sacred Forest, after talking with some people at Stilts. The overall trip lasts about two-hours, which consists of walking through the forest with a local guide who discusses the medicinal properties of the plants and brings you to the sacred areas of the forest. We were lucky to have an enthusiastic guide, Binti (Swahili for ‘daughter’), who made Kaya Kinondo an enjoyable experience. You will be asked to wear a Kaniki ( an almost black sarong) so that you may be permitted to enter. Since it is a sacred area, it is necessary that you dress in modest clothing. Kaya Kinondo is a part of Kenya’s ecotourism efforts, which promotes conservation and the spreading of history. Find resources below for more information.

*We caught the Piki-Piki by walking along Diani Road. We took down the driver’s name and number, because rides back into town can be tricky to find. The Piki-Piki ride is a little bit longer than expected and it may be more ideal for someone to catch a Tuk-Tuk, or even a Matatu (a mini-bus), if possible. Traveling via Matatu in Kenya may not be the best for the unexperienced traveler, however, since they are often packed to the brim and it may be difficult to keep an eye on your belongings. 

Shopping/Food/Lodging

  • Shopping: The majority of my shopping took place walking along Diani Road, where there is an extraordinary amount of local vendors waiting to make a sale. Many of the shops carry the same products, so it is easy to compare prices and to haggle since the competition is strong. You may also shop in the little westernized plazas; however, the prices are generally higher in these locations.
  • Food: Diani Beach may very well be home to some of the best food I have ever tasted, much of which is infused with Indian flavors since India is just a swim away (a very long swim). We primarily ate at the Forty Thieves Bar & Bistro, which had an incredible lamb burger and samosas (much more than the samosas you can find on the streets, but extremely delicious!). It is also easy to access both local and westernized food markets, where you can purchase an assortment of foods that can save you some money.
  • Lodging: The beauty about tourism at Diani Beach is that both the high and low-budget traveler can enjoy their time in accommodating lodging. While there is an abundant amount of luxury resorts that line the beaches, there are also plenty of places for the person with empty pockets. We stayed at the Diani Campsites & Cottages, which we were thoroughly impressed with, and Stilts Backpackers, a place comprised of the coolest tree houses, a chill lounge area, and the best neighbors – the wildlife of course!

Don’t Forget to drink a Dawa (an alcoholic beverage with honey, vodka, and lime) and to buy a Kikoy (a traditionl garment that may be used as a sarong, a beach towel, or even made into pillows, curtains, etc.)!

Tips

  • Be careful of leaving food in your room – the monkeys are sneaky!
  • Do not make any shopping deals with merchandisers when on Diani Road if you are not ready to commit to purchasing their product. Unfortunately, I promised a man I would buy his figurines after I returned to my room to grab some money. We spent the rest of the trip avoiding his merchandise stand, which meant much longer walks than necessary.
  • It is recommended that you do not travel much at night because tourists are easy targets for petty thief. The lodges have guards that will often times take you where you need to go at night – just remember to tip them a little bit.

Overall

Diani Beach is the perfect retreat for both the traveler on a shoestring budget or one with luxury in mind. I’m looking forward to the day that I can return to the Kenyan coast so that I can sip on some more dawas with my toes in the sand.

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