Diani is one of my favourite destinations in Kenya. I believe in the last 7 years I have been there at least once a year. (well 2015 I missed it but I was living on a beach in Peru – so I am forgiven). I love beaches, sun, sea, sand, seafood, crashing waves, white sand, beach strolls literally everything that constitutes to a beach vacation.
Unfortunately as much my love for this place continues to grow the state of affairs there are not as pleasant. 2011 – mid 2015 have been terrible years for my lovely country. Faced with terrorism from all directions and at unexpected times, lives have been lost, people have lived in fear, tourism has greatly deteriorated and people have lost jobs. 2013 – 2014 was when hell broke loose and we had at a minimum 11 attacks in 2013 with the most impact being Westgate Mall where about 68 people were killed and also The Lamu attack where 50 people were killed. In 2014 we had the 2nd worst attack in Kenyans history where the death toll was about 147 people. The worst terror Kenyan attack remains the bombing of the US embassy in 1998 where 213 people were killed and at least 4,000 more were injured.
This dark time from 2011 – 2014 led to the United States, United Kingdom, France and Australia issuing travel warnings to their citizens in Kenya by mid May 2014. This had an immediate impact on Kenya’s tourism industry, as European visitors left the country and hotel establishments were consequently forced to lay off staff and some even closing. The U.S. also reduced its staff levels at its Nairobi embassy in June 2014 and the U.K. likewise shut down its Honorary Consulate in Mombasa over security concerns.
Things have changed, attacks are now scarce and almost none – the state of the country is peaceful and people have regained faith in humanity and if all stays well things should get better. However the Kenyan Coast has not recovered. Tourism is below 50% occupancy with 3 out of 5 beach hotels still closed in hope for better days. The glorious beaches are still amazingly beautiful , but the locals are suffering, the beach boys who have grown up fully reliant on selling merchandise on the beach have no buyers, they now flock in large numbers to the open hotels making it even harder. Only a few of them can have a decent meal or sell anything per day.
You can see their hope in the eyes when they sell anything and everything to you and even when you don’t need it you find yourself buying. Their happy faces no longer look as happy despair shows on their faces.
The long beach walks may be nicer with only 1- 5 other tourists on the beach but my heart aches for those fully dependent on tourism in the Kenyan Coast. On the numerous taxi trips we indulge our driver and ask a few questions about how the locals feel and if they feel optimistic. It made me smile knowing they have not lost all hope. Direct flights from Europe may have been cancelled, hotels run done to ruins but they believe that happy days will return and the glory of Diani will return.
All is not lost as we are heading into what is original known as peak season (July – Aug) some restaurants and hotels are renovating and hoping to reopen. A good day is indeed going to come.
It was not all sad we stayed in a lovely guest 15 minutes from the beach. It was a large house with 10 rooms and so with our gang of 7 we had plenty of room and a lovely pool to hang out. The staff was great making us meals, taking us shopping and just having a smile of gratitude the entire team we were there. There is nothing that differentiates a good hotel stay than good customer service. In this regard they were perfect, tending to all our needs with bounds unfolded.
We had great company which makes everything so much better.
On one of the evening we joined the Diani people at the drink for charity event – Diani Rules where they raise funds for an eye Clinic by hosting annual event that is full of fun and life.
While there we ventured into some restaurants like Forth Thieves for cocktails and also bidi-badu restaurant and it was nice to see patrons dining and enjoying themselves.
Besides getting some very well needed sun healing, it was nice to getaway from the city.
As I sit on porch writing this I make a silent prayer to a higher power to grant a rebirth to this magical place and return it to its glory.
Keep Warm and Travel to Kenya,