Diani Beach, Kenya: At the Junction Between Blue Skies and Crystal Waters
The area has attracted celebrities and high-net-worth individuals looking for a piece of paradise
A scenic 12-mile stretch of sand and sea along the coast of the Indian Ocean, Diani Beach, Kenya, is a quiet patch of paradise where lush greenery and sparkling shores unite.
Located about 18 miles south of Mombasa, on the East Coast of Africa about 310 miles from Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Diani Beach is just over an hour flight from Mombasa or a 4.5-hour train ride on the newly operational Nairobi-Mombasa Standard Gauge Railway.
“The beach is one of the most serene and relaxing blends of pearl-white sands and lush-green forests,” said acting CEO Floice Mukabane of Brand Kenya Board, a state corporation that helps foster national pride and works to promote Kenya. “It has been voted Africa's leading beach destination for four consecutive years by the World Travel Awards.”
The easy, idyllic way of life makes Diani Beach the perfect place to call home—or second home to be more specific. “Celebrities prefer this vibrant, intimate little paradise on the quiet shores of the Indian Ocean—with the longest and widest public beach in the country,” Ms. Mukabane said.
Some of the renowned personalities that have owned homes in the area include Naomi Campbell, former Renault Formula One boss Flavio Briatore, Sir Richard Branson, and Jochen Zeitz, CEO of Puma.
What You'll Pay
“The average cost of a home here entirely depends on the proximity to the beach and the size of land that the house sits on,” said Anthony Havelock, head of agency, Knight Frank Kenya. For beachfront stand-alone houses, prices range from approximately 57 million Kenyan shillings (US$570,00 ) to around KES78 million (US$780,000) per acre, developed with all amenities.
Apartment prices range from around KES17 million to KES27 million (US$168,000 to US$270,000) per unit.
“Buyers are mostly wealthy Kenyans looking for second homes and expatriates who have taken up permanent residence in Diani,” Mr. Havelock said.
“Sea-facing apartments and penthouses are the most popular,” he said, “especially those that guarantee a return on investment. The owners occupy these as holiday homes or when they need a break.”
Other popular types of homes include beachfront standalone units, which are often rented out as vacation properties when the home owners are not there. “With a warm and tropical climate, which is the reverse of European winters, and an average temperature of 82 degrees fahrenheit, it is easy to understand Diani’s unmistakable allure both to the international and domestic markets,” Mr. Havelock said.
The first residents of Diani included fishermen, pastoralists and subsistence farmers who led a quiet life here. After the First World War, European pioneers arrived and encouraged investors to buy land and develop the hotel and tourism industry upon which the economy of the area is largely focused today.
“Diani was a fishing settlement but saw a boom in the 1970s, when tourists wishing to visit Africa found Kenya as the ideal destination, considering the strife and problems in other African countries at the time,” Mr. Havelock said.
Most hotels were built after independence in 1963, when roads along the coast were tarmacked (the first was Jadini, then Tradewinds, and Two Fishes) and electricity supplied to the area.
The Ukunda Airstrip was opened by the late president Jomo Kenyatta in 2013, and Diani developed into a cosmopolitan resort town with over 100,000 inhabitants—all while maintaining its charm and simple ambience. Today, it is one of Kenya’s most renowned tourist sights and the country’s biggest foreign money earner.
Diani boasts white beaches, a coral reef with thriving marine life, ideal surf for water sports, upscale hotels and resorts, renowned restaurants and celebrated beach clubs.
This resort town is replete with a colorful crowd of merrymakers, families, honeymooners, backpackers and water-sports enthusiasts. About 10% of the country’s landscape is set aside for wildlife conservation and biodiversity, which is a mainstay of the country’s tourism.
Centered around beach life, Diani is a hive of activities that cater to pursuits both on land and sea.
Residents can test their swings at Leisure Lodge Golf Club, swim and dive with a whale shark, the world’s largest fish, go deep-sea fishing along the Pemba Channel, visit the coral caves at Shimoni Village—part of the historic slave trail—enjoy flora and fauna in the Mangrove forest ecosystem of the Ramisi River Delta, or try their hand at kitesurfing (Diani is also home to the annual Kenya Kite Cup in January).
A good number of parks and game reserves are nearby, including the Shimba Hills National Reserve, which is approximately 25 miles from Diani Beach and home to wildlife, including the rare sable antelope, giraffe, buffalo, leopard and a high population of elephants. The Colobus Monkey Conservation, designed to promote the protection of primates, and the Diani/Chale Marine National Park & Reserve are also surrounding attractions.
Kenya is widely known for its diverse blend of cultures and traditions.
“Diani is mostly inhabited by Swahili people, whose culture is largely influenced by the Arabs,” Ms. Mukabane said. “The prevalence of the Islamic religion and traditions govern nearly every aspect of the Swahili tribe's culture, including food, clothing, and lifestyle.” Communities present in the area include the Giriama, Digo, Duruma, Rabai, Kambe, Chonyi, Jibana, Kauma, and Ribe.
These tribes represent a traditional way of life here. On Fridays, the official prayer day for Muslims, and on special occasions, you’ll find Swahili men donning their customary long white (or beige) robes, known as a kanzu, and small, white, rounded hats with elaborate embroidery. Swahili women don long black dresses called buibui, and cover their heads with a black cloth, known as a hijabu. It is also common to find Swahili women wearing a veil to cover their faces.
Diani has two major shopping center developments with a host of banks, pharmacies, supermarkets, and retail shops. Various popular restaurants, such as the famous Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant, Leonardo’s Restaurant, Sails Beach Bar & Restaurant, Nomad Restaurant, among others, are also within easy reach.
So, whether you want to take advantage of the local cuisine, enjoy fine dining, or simply laze by the beach, frozen cocktail in hand, Diani offers a path of leisure for every kind of seeker.