Lizzie Williams
South Africa ZA
Aug 11, 2014 August 11, 2014

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Category: Highlight of the Month

With a gorgeous tropical climate, pearly-white sands blending into the turquoise warm ocean, and plenty of fine hotels, restaurants and activities, Diani Beach is one of East Africa’s favourite resorts.

A an hour’s drive and a short ferry ride south of Mombasa, Diani Beach has about 20 kilometres of dazzling powdery white sand, clear sea and a coral reef that is exposed at low tide. It’s one of the most in-demand destinations on Kenya’s coast and the climate and scenery are marvellous.

Dotted along the beach are elegant guesthouses, upscale hotels and glamorous villas, and most have been attractively and sensitively-built using local materials like palm-thatch and coconut wood and are set in large flowering gardens. With a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere, brilliantly-blue swimming pools, hammocks strung among the trees, and just steps away from the beach, they are the perfect place to kick back and do nothing.

But there are also a number of other attractions in the dense coastal forests and undulating hills, and a safari to one of the closer parks like Tsavo can easily be combined with downtime on the beach.

The most popular activity is frolicking in the clear aqua-blue water of the deliciously warm Indian Ocean and numerous water-sports are on offer. Marine reserves off the coast protect important species of marine life, and the colourful coral reefs teem with fish, dolphins and turtles. Divers are spoilt for choice and over 30 dive sites within a half-hour boat trip from Diani Beach offer near perfect visibility.

Snorkelling can be done by simply walking into the sea as the water is shallow and allows a clear view of the sandy bottom. You can also enjoy the reefs by snorkelling from a dhow (traditional white-sailed boat) or, if you don’t want to get wet, watching the fish through a glass-bottomed boat. With wide uncrowded sand, flat water and cross- and side-shore winds, Diani has great conditions for wind- and kitesurfing and is particularly suited for beginners.

Away from the beach, Jadini Forest straddles the main coast road, and is a great spot for bird watching and many species of butterflies occupy the clutches of hardwood trees. It’s also home to lively troops of baboons, vervet monkeys and endangered Angolan black and white colobus monkeys, which can be seen on guided walks. Among several day trips from Diani, Shimba Hills National Reserve is one of Kenya’s largest coastal forests and has sweeping views over the ocean.

It features dense tracts of rainforest with distinct vegetation from giant knobbly baobab trees to tiny delicate orchids. Its home to warthog, giraffe and numerous antelope including the rare and graceful sable, and elephant and buffalo are likely to be seen while having lunch on the wooden balcony of the Shimba Hills Lodge.

The tiny Wasini Island is undoubtedly the most popular excursion on the south coast and lies one kilometre offshore within the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park. The day includes a dhow ride to go snorkelling – the lucky may be joined by turtles and dolphins – followed by a delicious barbequed seafood lunch at the famous Charlie Claw’s Restaurant.

Diani Beach is the quintessential tropical resort for a relaxing beach holiday, accommodation and food is of a very high standard and there’s plenty to do. But it’s only when you look up from your sunny nap, and see a lazy trail of camels meandering across the beach, or the characteristic white sails of a dhow gliding through the breeze-ruffled waters, that you are reminded that you are in the middle of Africa.

Best time to visit
Diani Beach’s climate is near-perfect from August to March when there are clear blue skies. December and January are the hottest time when the temperatures reach 30˚C, but even then the temperate breezes to make it very comfortable. Rains are typically in April and May, and Kenya is coolest between June and July, when temperatures hover around 20˚C.