Diani Beach

The beach itself is the longest commercially used beach in Kenya with about 20 km of dazzling white sand, coconut trees, clear sea and a coral reef that is exposed at low tide. It has acquired a whole string of hotels over the years, although most of these have been sensitively built, often out of thatch and local materials. Diani is the place to come if you want a traditional beach holiday; the climate and scenery are marvellous, accommodation and food is of a very high standard, and activities on offer include windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing, snorkelling and scuba-diving. You can also go waterskiing or parascending, or hire a bike or motorbike and there is the additional option of combining time on the beach with a safari to one of the closer national parks and game reserves inland. Increasingly, a number of shopping centres have mushroomed on the 'strip' geared towards tourists, as well as numerous informal souvenir stalls, and other facilities include the golf course and casino at the Leisure Lodge, a number of independent restaurants and nightclubs outside the confines of the resorts, and many of the resorts have added wellness spas and/or fitness facilities to their ever growing list of things to do.

Diani is mostly geared to big-spending package tourists from Europe, which generates some disadvantages: intrusive beach touts or 'beach boys' that hound visitors trying to sell curios, camel rides along the beach or trips on glass-bottomed boats, as well as offering themselves as models for photos (some of the Masai who come round are not Masai at all but are of other tribes). Most of the goods are poor quality and hugely overpriced, although you can try bargaining the quoted prices down. Additionally, over the years Diani has gained a bit of a reputation as a bit of a pick-up place for European female tourists looking for sex with Kenyan men. Even if no payment for 'company' is exchanged, there are many hopeful young men in the area that seek to befriend a European woman in the hope of a passage to Europe.

Getting there

From Likoni the A14, the main Kenya-Tanzania coastal road goes south and all the turnings off are well signposted. For Diani, go as far as Ukunda village (25 km) where there is the turning off to the smaller road that runs along Diani beach. At the T-junction, some hotels are to the left, while all the others are to the right. The hotels and other facilities surrounding this junction are commonly referred to as the Diani 'strip'. Most of the large resorts at Diani will collect you from Mombasa's Moi International Airport or the train station, and transfers are usually included in package holiday rates.
Matatus
run frequently from Likoni to the south coast.

Sights

It is worth going out to the reef at low tide at least once when the very top is exposed to look at the myriad of fish. You'll need to take a boat if you want to go out to the main reef, although you should be able to wade out to the sand bank which is not too far. Of course this depends on the tides. At full moon and new moon there are
spring tides
, which means very high high tides and very low low tides, while in between there will be
neap tides
with low highs and high lows. Wind and kite surfers can go out for longer at neap tides, while those wanting huge waves will do better at high tide.

At the far north of Diani beach just past the
Indian Ocean Beach Club
, is the
Kongo Mosque
(also known as the Diani Persian Mosque). It is rather a strange place, very run-down but not really a ruin, and still has some ritual significance. The mosque is believed to date from the 15th century and is the only remaining building from a settlement of the Shirazi people who used to live here. There are a number of entrances and you should be able to push one of the doors open and have a look inside.

Jadini Forest

www.colobustrust.org

This is a small patch of the forest that straddles the main beach road and used to cover the whole of this coastal area. It is great for birdwatching, and many species of butterflies occupy the clutches of hardwood trees, but it's especially good for spotting primates. The forest is home to troops of baboon, a large population of vervet monkey and the endangered Angolan black and white colobus monkey. There are only an estimated 2000 colobus in Kenya, 400 of which are at Diani. Local group the
Colobus Trust
is devoted to the conservation of these rare primates and their habitat. Many of the primate species of this area are threatened both by traffic on the main coastal road, and by hand-feeding by tourists, which encourages anti-social and unnatural behaviour. The
Colobus Trust
works to build aerial bridges, known as 'colobridges' across the roads to prevent traffic casualties, and works to educate tourists against feeding monkeys. Another major problem is that the creatures get electrocuted on the many un-insulated power lines around Diani. The main electricity lines can carry up to 22,000 volts, which can be fatal, whilst the domestic power lines, which carry around 240 volts, can severely stun an animal and cause loss of a limb and/or secondary infections. Trees that allow access to the power lines have been cut back so the monkeys have reduced contact with them and the trust sends a team out weekly to keep vegetation trimmed. It has also been involved with rehabilitating vervet monkeys that were kept as pets and re-releasing them back into the wild at Shimba Hills. It has a centre called Colobus Cottage with plenty of information, nature trails, and can give good advice on local wildlife. It also offers a one-hour guided primate walk.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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