Rays of sunlight make their way into my room at 6am. This is nice, I think, I don’t deserve this. I put on my maasai sandals and walk 5 minutes to the beach. My Nairobi feet are on foreign ground. Waves crashing into me is an unfamiliar feeling. Again, I think, this feels too good, I don’t deserve this.
Every time I try to escape to find myself, I end up finding God.
I’ve been in Diani for a week now, with my accommodation sponsored by, Diani Backpackers (who have incredibly reasonable rates from 10USD a night for a bed in one of their dorms). Visit their website to see what discount deals they’re offering now!
Diani Backpackers is great for a lot of things, i.e. if you’re traveling for work, leisure, or just passing by. Diani Backpackers caters wandering travelers on a budget, who need a place to sleep, rest, eat, and connect with fellow travelers. In all the times I’ve stayed here, I’ve met people from more countries than I can count, and made memories to last me a lifetime.
Traveling from Nairobi to Ukunda, Diani, I personally chose to take the Standard Gauge Railway train (SGR), also known as the Madaraka Express – a train that runs from Nairobi to Mombasa in a little under 5 hours).
There’s a lot to be said about the SGR. It’s definitely cheaper than a flight, however, the train stations (both in Nairobi and Mombasa), are far from the city centers, and so you have to factor that into your schedule. For what it’s worth, though, if you’re trying to save cost on flights and if you don’t want to go by bus, then the SGR is for you.
Getting to Mombasa is one thing, getting to South Coast via the ferry is another. Fortunately, when you get off the train in Mombasa, you can find shuttles that will get you directly from the train station to Ukunda. Also, if you book your accommodation at Diani Backpackers, you can definitely request to be picked up.
Personally, on arrival in Mombasa, I decided that instead of going directly to Ukunda, Diani, I’d spend a night in Mombasa, and make my way to the ferry the following day. It’s all about the adventure, kids.
I hopped on a matatu to town at the train station and made my way to town (I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in Mombasa in the past, so I knew my way around). After checking in to my hotel, I freshened up and headed to Fort Jesus. You’re probably thinking, girl, are you not tired?? I was. However, it was paramount that I make the most of my day. Here are some pictures for your consideration.
The next morning, I was off to the ferry. When I got there, I had a feeling that the ferry was about to leave, and so I hurriedly began to run with my luggage to catch the ferry, but I rememberd a poet form Mombasa once said “mapenzi ni kama ferry, ukiachwa usikimbilie” meaning love is like a ferry, if it leaves you, don’t chase it. Also, there’s a ferry every 5 minutes, so I wonder why I was so worried about this particular one leaving me.
Anyway, I caught the ferry and got across to South Coast. One matatu and tuktuk ride later, and I arrived at my destination, Diani Backpackers.
I spent a little over a week in Diani, and below are some of the activities that I was able to do.
Being at the coast obviously means being by the beach, but in the spirit of exploring and being adventurous, I decided to go hiking through the forest, and swim under a waterfall. Shimba Hills was about a 45 minute drive away.
It’s a strange juxtaposition, being in the forest, in the wild, surrounded by Warthogs, leopards, antelopes, all while being a few hours drive away from the ocean. I heard a rumor that the entire forest has only one Giraffe, which I was fortunate enough to see.
The walk – sorry – hike, to and from the waterfall is not for the faint hearted. In fact, the rangers will even ask again and again that you stay behind if you have any condition that may hinder you from making it. It’s a bit of a struggle, however, it’s worth it. Absolutely worth it. The views, the calmness, it’s unmatched.
Reef (Boat ride + snorkeling)
There’s a reef that runs along the coast, and during low tide, you can see what seems like a sand island in the middle of the water. High tide comes in later and water covers the entire area. What’s great about this place, is that there’s a lot of fish that swim here. At the beach, you can always find glass boats that will take you to the reef at a small fee (glass boats are boats with a clear glass panning at the bottom, that allow you to see the fish swimming underneath). I got to see starfish, sea spiders, an octopus, and a whole range of other members of the fish family.
The water there is absolutely beautiful, and guess what, I also went snorkeling! Yes, me, a whole Nairobi city girl, swimming with the fish. How would I define the experience in one word? Different.
Easily one of my absolute favorite spots in Diani. This is where the river meets the ocean. The river is guarded on either side by these big majestic mangrove trees that give the place a sacred aura. I was fortunate enough to visit the river one evening after sunset, and watched the full moon rise in all her glory. If you’re ever in doubt about why Diani is regarded as one of the best beaches in Africa, then I’d highly suggest you visit Kongo river.
If you’re a bit of a historian like me, you might also enjoy learning about the history of the river, particularly it’s history with regards to the slave trade in East Africa.
It’s the sunset for me. Since I’ve been here, I’ve made a habit of asking the locals what their favorite spots are in Diani. Sometimes, relying on internet searches will only lead you to the more tourist-y destinations, and will have you miss out on the hidden gems. As such, as I asked some new friends of mine from Diani to take me to their favorite spots, and I ended up one evening at Chale island watching the sunset. The water there is the calmest I’ve ever seen. It’s almost as if even the waves stop to take in the view. The Mangrove trees again, stand like guards , their roots reaching deep into the water.
There’s definitely a lot to be done in Diani. What I did might not have even scratched the surface, but I’m happy that I got to explore more than just swimming in the ocean. I’ve also made quite a few friends, and gotten to see Diani in a whole new light.