If you want to know more about the recent history and traditions of the people who currently live in the coastal region, and particularly those near Diani, then you may like to visit this Eco-project situated about 15kms south of Diani. It is run by local people who are trying to conserve the little that remains of the indigenous coastal forest and the sacred trees that exist within the Kaya.
There are many Kaya, or sacred grounds dotted around the region, but the Kaya kinondo is one of the largest. The other kaya I visited was a small cave near a village. These Kaya must be respected by visitors and we were made to wear a black cloth around our waists. At the smaller kaya our guide carried an impressive knob-handled stick. Visitors are not allowed to damage the trees within the Kaya because it is considered that the village ancestors exist within them. We were encouraged to hug one of the trees to engage more closely with these ancestors.
Well we enjoyed our insight into how the villagers lived long ago. I also saw a Golden-rumped Tinkerbird which was an added bonus - a similar species to the one in my VT photo. The trees are very impressive and sadly it is only in these little pockets of preserved ground that you are going to find treasures such as these along the coast. Do try to add a visit to a Kaya as part of your Diani itinerary. These are community run projects and the entry fee goes back into the village.
The visitors are escorted around the project by a guide who will greatly appreciate a tip on top of the standard fee of KSh500 per person. Our visit took only about an hour - it was cut short by the arrival of the baboon troupe and our guide said it was the ancestors advising us we should leave!
As we were staying in a privately rented house we did not have access to a private section of this lovely white, coral sand beach. We found our way onto the public access part of the beach hoping to go for a swim and snorkel. Sadly the sea was too choppy that day and visibility was very poor.There was a fair amount of washed up sea weed to wade through which might put some people off as well.
It seems that every visitor will be approached by people selling something or looking to provide some sort of service: a trip out on the dugout canoe, a camel ride or perhaps a massage. Most of them however were looking to sell trinkets. They tended to be very persistent and would not readily take no for an answer. To be honest I think this is their strategy - wear the visitor down who will eventually either buy something or give them something just to get rid of the unwanted attention. One chap even said to me that if I gave him something he wouldn't bother us again and he would tell his mates to leave us alone as well. I reckon that is blackmail and it didn't make me feel well disposed towards these individuals. Needless to say we didn't go down to the beach very often. We found that a walk along the strand at dusk seemed to be a good time. On the two occasions we did this we were hardly bothered at all.
We also tried using the beach at the popular Ali Barbour's 40 thieves bar and restaurant. Unfortunately the unwanted attention was just the same here as it was elsewhere. At least we could retreat to the bar for a drink or a snack.
The photo shows a small stall set up by the main access point. Please don't buy shells here. It only encourages people to plunder the live animals from the reef. Anyway it's also illegal to take these shells out of Kenya. We were asked specifically about this at Mombasa airport.
The beach is lovely and a stroll along it is a real pleasure. With the waves crashing on the reef about 150 metres out to sea there is a lovely backdrop sound that adds to the atmosphere of this wonderful place. It should be enjoyed for what it is rather than as a place to exploit tourists.
I noticed a sign on a board near the Diani Post Office. It was advertising local birdwatching tours. As a keen birder I called up the guide and we arranged to meet the following morning at 6.30am with a view to hiring the services of a boatman who could pole us up the local Congo river. The river mouth on the coast served as the boundary between Diani and Tiwi beaches.
Paul, our guide, was extremely friendly and quite knowledgeable. I felt that between us we both managed to identify most of the birds we saw along the way including a species whose exotic sounding name is matched by its equally exotic appearance of irridescent green and scarlet - the Narina Trogon. Paul was as excited about this as I was.
The boat captain - who appears in one of the photos - was very patient with us and didn't try to hurry us in our examination of the different species as we madly flicked through our books for details of the birds we had seen.
I don't think you would need to be an enthusiastic birdwatcher to enjoy the trip on the dugout canoe. The slow pace up the river is a great way to take in the scenery and landscape. I felt it was well worth the cost - but of course you have to agree a price before you start off.
Galu Beach, Ukunda, Kenya
Good for: Business
Diani Beach, PO Box 32, Ukunda, 80400, Kenya
Good for: Families
PO Box 363, Diani, Kenya
Good for: Solo
Diani Beach, Ukunda, 80400, Kenya
Good for: Business
This hotel is not to be confused with the Diani Reef Sea Resort. I really enjoyed our week here,...more
Stayed here in Oct 2006. The hotel is fantastic. The food is good and the staff are extremely...more
Galu Beach, PO Box 696, Ukunda, Kenya
Good for: Business
Diani Beach, Diani, Kenya
Good for: Solo
Galu Kinondo Rd, Ukunda, Kenya
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business
Amongst the host of different souvenirs available for the tourist visiting Diani beach are some examples of local sea shells. Now I don't know how these are collected but they are almost certainly harvested as live animals from the nearby reef thus depleting the natural population.
Supporting this trade only encourages and provides a market for further harvesting of these molluscs. It's not necessary and although they are beautiful objects surely it is better to admire them as living creatures in their own natural habitat?
For tourists though it is important to realise that it is illegal to take seashells out of Kenya. When we left the Mombasa airport we were questioned by a customs official who checked that we were not taking any seashells out of the country. This is another reason for leaving the shells where they belong - in the sea.
they are sneaky
and coniving too
yes, they are the monkeys of Diani beach and 1 such monkey stole my 30ksh packet of chips.........
best advice is to keep your gear packed away, mine wa on the table infront of the banda i was staying in and the monkeys still had the nerve to take my food.
watch out for the beach boys along Diani beach. i found them to be a real peat at times. Although othertimes like my usual self i figured out how to overcome them. Try some of these for a bit of fun.
* walking along the beach you will see them head towards you, slow your pace, quicken it or walk at angles, watch them get so confused.
* when your not being hassled walk in front of single women and act as a shield, at one point i kept 3 beach boys in for the interest and the 2 women walking behind me had a nice and peaceful walk.
* put on your headphones, dont even have the music playing and when they come to talk to you, point to your ears and mutter your listening to music and cant hear them.
* remind them how rude it is to interupt a conversation when you are talking to a friend, it seemed to work.
good luck and have fun.......
Asked if we would like to go and cheer some kids up a bit was right up our street. Not far from the hotel was this small orphanage called " New Diani Children Support Centre". It turned into rather an eye-watering experience as these kids sang us some local songs, then Frere Jacques. The Centre is supported only with donations from the tourists that visit and a few handouts (bags of rice but no money) from the Kenyan authorities. The teachers are all working for nothing, and as the children sleep in-sito, there is one girl that acts as cook, nurse and guardian.
I'm not making a plea to send money, just that if you are in the area of Ukunda, it won't hurt to pop in and hand out a few smiles and laughs to these kids (and a few sweets if you've got them).