If I could name just one location in South Coast Kenya that is my favourite it would be the idyllic town of Diani. Located just 30 kilometers from Mombasa, Diani feels like a hidden gem neatly tucked away from its busy neighbour. Diani has been voted Africa’s leading beach destination for the third time running since 2015.
Diani is quiet, tranquil and effortlessly charming. It feels like a fusion between Oman and Swahili culture, especially in architecture. We were back to girl tripping and made it to Diani this year. Here is our adventure on our visit to the coastal town.
HOW TO VISIT DIANI
If you find yourself in Diani, chances are you will plan to visit the white sandy beaches, the beautiful clear coral reefs and probably fancy a Skydive. Whichever you choose, Diani is always a great getaway.
Diani is just 30 kilometers drive from Mombasa. The easiest way is to fly straight to Diani, but if you are up for an adventure I’d suggest using the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). The SGR stops at Mombasa and you have to drive to Diani after crossing to Likoni on a ferry.
The Kenyan coast has amazing climate. On arrival the sparkling white sands and lush greenery of Diani invite you to relax under a beach umbrella with a refreshing drink.
WASINI TOUR | SCUBA DIVING, SNORKELING & CORAL SPLASH
Once you have arrived in Diani, you will soon see that it takes only an hour or so to explore the entire town. Tuktuk is very popular in these parts and the cheapest mode of transport.
A great activity that is a must do in Diani is snorkeling and scuba diving. If you aren’t a strong swimmer you can still enjoy a splash on the shallow coral reefs.
The Wasini half day tour from starts from Kisite Mpunguti National Park. We went scuba diving and snorkeling. The views under the sea were breathtaking. The corals were so beautiful harboring very colorful fishes and underwater creatures like octopuses, squids and dolphins.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see a pod of dolphins, but the experience was no less amazing.
KISITE MPUNGUTI MARINE NATIONAL PARK
About an hours drive from Diani, Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Park showcases the marine life on coastal Kenya. The dolphins and their migration routes as well as the whale sharks.
The whale shark, the world’s largest fish, is an elusive, highly migratory oceanic fish that occasionally ventures to a handful of coastlines. The whale shark satellite tagging expeditions take place on Kenya’s beautiful south coast in the months of February to April each year.
They are mostly seen on the surface, so divers and snorkelers can swim with this gentle yet curious creature.
I am definitely going to swim with the beautiful sharks when I go back there.
SHIMONI SLAVE CAVES
The awesome coral caves are a living testimony of the dark days of slavery on the East African coast. Two centuries ago, Shimoni Caves, located in a sleepy seafront village on Kisite Island, were used as a waiting pen for captured slaves from the outback.
It has been estimated that at least eight million slaves from Africa were shipped away in that time. Local fable has it that people trying to escape the slave hunters initially used the five kilometer long coral caves to hide. The caves were also a sacred site used by Kaya elders for prayers and to offer sacrifices long before the invasion of slave traders.
Old iron shackles, wooden crates, rusted chains and metal studs that are well preserved in the caves tell the unfortunate dark tale of the African slave trade victims. Arab slave caravans colluded with their African counterparts to capture and drive slaves from the interior before being brought here awaiting transportation. Many died while being tortured or castrated.
Captured slaves from the local communities were first taken to the main slave markets in Mombasa, Zanzibar, Pemba, Bagamoyo and Kilwa. They were then shipped to places that are now Saudi Arabia, Yemen, China, Iran and India.
For those who crave a flashback of our country’s history from the seafront, this site is an amazing invitation. Tour guides vividly explain to visitors the sad story of their ancestors, pointing out how the slave masters piled their victims into waiting dhows before they were ferried away.
The Shimoni Slave Museum is managed by the National Museums of Kenya. This historical site is managed by a community-based organisation and opens doors to tourists from 8am to 6pm every day at an affordable fee.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Because of the idyllic touristic setting of Diani, I was certain the prices for food and drinks along the beach would be astronomical: they were not.
Eateries you could visit are first, Swahili Coastal Dishes, a restaurant five minutes from Coral Beach Cottages and Apartments, where we stayed. Second a great place for fine dining would be Ali Barbours Cave Restaurant. A cozy restaurant with environmentally friendly policies. I was surprised at the portions they served, I had to share a plate with Rioba. The meal and Ukwaju drink were stellar. The biryani comes highly recommended!
If you fancy a night out, take a tuktuk to Forty Thieves Beach Bar, Shark Attack and Manyatta.
PLACES & THINGS TO DO IN DIANI
- Diani Beach
- Forty Thieves Beach Bar
- Shark Attack
- Ali Barbours Cave Restaurant – Fine dining
- H2O Extreme
- Skydive Diani
- Diani Beach Art Gallery
- Leisure Lodge Golf Club
- Kisite Mpunguti National Park
WE MISSED THE TRAIN HOME
We underestimated our journey back to Mombasa and checked out quite late from the cottages. Due to traffic and transit from Diani we missed the train. We had to come up with a contingency plan, fast. The following day was a Monday and people needed to be at work. A few girls booked flight tickets and bus tickets for the night. The rest of us were lucky enough to get SGR tickets for the following morning to Nairobi. We stayed the night at Mombasa Backpackers in Nyali. The hostel has really amazing murals.
Have you been to Diani? What’s your best memory of it?