Thirty Kilometers south of Mombasa, in Kwale County, you will find Diani. You can’t help but fall in love with Diani. The sandy, white pristine beach kissed by the sun runs parallel to a lush coastal forest only broken by top-class accommodation establishments. These, plus numerous surrounding attractions will make sure that you are actively engaged and enthralled. It is a unique ecosystem with much to see.
You can get here by road from Mombasa or use the conveniently located Ukunda airstrip which is a five-minute drive to the main Diani Beach road.
So, what do you do once you get to this coastal paradise? Accommodation-wise, you will be spoilt for choice, you can find budget backpacking spots, hip kite-surfing lodges, five-star gems and honeymoon nooks. Modern or styled in the traditional Swahili architecture.
Diani is a hub for water-sports, from diving and snorkelling to kite surfing and windsurfing. You will find all of them here. Most accommodations do arrange snorkelling trips to the reef. Be wary of the enterprising beach boys though who can promise heaven and deliver hell. Their services may seem cheaper, but for that, they lack in experience. Snorkeling can also be done in addition to dhow trips to Kisite Marine National Park much farther in the South Coast.
Diani has over two dozen diving sites. Most of them under 29m. A unique attraction is MFV Alpha Funguo diving site. She is a 44.5-meter steel tuna long line fishing vessel with a gross tonnage of 385. It arrived in Mombasa in the 80’s and was used for lining of tuna along the East African coastline. She ran aground in 1997 though after a fire. In 2001, she became the first artificial reef to be created for diving tourism on the Kenyan Coast. For beginners who can’t venture deep into the bowels of the ocean, reef dives are recommended. You can dive all around the year in Diani. One of the things that you can base your diving time around is the migration patterns of certain marine animals that you might wish to see during your dive times. Whale sharks are available from October till April while Humpback whales migrate from July till October.
In East Africa, the only place you can skydive is Diani Beach. It is rush and adrenaline of falling towards earth reaching terminal velocity at approximately 200km/h.
The last of the adrenaline pumped adventures is Kitesurfing and Windsurfing. A combination of natural factors makes Diani the perfect place for Kitesurfing. There are consistent strong trade winds throughout the year; this is combined with the turquoise lagoons, the expansive reef and the white sandy beaches to create just the perfect conditions for Kitesurfing. Many accommodations offer lessons.
The forest in, and around Diani is home to the endangered black and white colobus monkeys. With the advance of development, their fragile home is being decimated, and many are caught in unfortunate accidents. That is why Colobus Conservation was established. The facility treats injured monkeys and rehabilitates them so that they maybe released into the wild. They offer guided walks to guests at a fee. One can also volunteer and help in conservation of the species.
Established in 2010, Diani Beach Art Gallery is a slice of the majesty of Diani beach for the art lovers. It is located in the Diani Beach Shopping Centre and brings together artists from all over Africa. It offers a great variety of contemporary fine African art. The spacious gallery offers an exhibition of painted art, sculptures and creative objects.
Digo, which is one of the Mijikenda tribes, is the tribe which resides in Ukunda. They are the custodians of the sacred forests ‘makaya’. One of them is Kaya Kinondo located adjacent to the beach. These forests have long been culture custodians. They used to house and protect communities though with the progress of modern development many of them have been decimated and only a few remain, protected by a council of elders and still treasured as sites for prayer, rituals and source of medicine. The forest is a centre of tranquillity and it is always pin drop silent. It is home to over 187 tree species with some of them being centuries old. Be careful not to anger the spirits by wearing the mandatory sack-like black cloth before you enter. Shoes are also not permitted and so is screaming, drinking or smoking.
There are no villages in Kaya Kinondo anymore as it is a protected site.
Further South, 43 Kilometers to be exact, there is Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Park. This park covers an area of 39 square kilometres and is made up of four small islands surrounded by coral reef. There are many attractions here with some of them being dolphins – bottlenose and humpback, turtles – green and hawksbill as well as different types of birds and coral fishes. It is also a route for humpback whales when they are in migration and several times in a year they can be found lounging in the swallow waters before heading further.