diani beach

2020 has shown us many things. We have learnt to accept the things we cannot change and adapt accordingly. One thing that was taken away from us was the ability to travel. Back then, we would all wait with bated breath for the president’s addresses, just in case he opened or closed something again. 

So it is with no hesitation that the moment the county borders were opened, we quickly jumped on the opportunity to revive our anniversary plans to what we could get as affordably as possible while still getting a new experience. And you know how the travel and hotel accounts on social media immediately began posting some tantalizing offers to bring back customers after that long interruption. I was very much excited about this because I knew I needed a babymoon ASAP, before everything changed. 

We made the decision to go to Diani. Why? He loves Diani. I had never really been that far into the South Coast. We were also going to be daring and go by bus, since we had never done it before. After scouring Google and Booking.com for options, we booked a room at Bahari Dhow Beach Villas and a Modern Coast bus to Mombasa. All this while we’re thinking about how all this is crazy. What if the borders are closed again? But we sort of threw caution to the wind and hoped for the best and waited.

So the day arrives and we’re pumped, up and ready to hit the road early to catch the bus on Accra Road. It gets there right and starts moving right on time. Only about a quarter of it is occupied, with Covid measures still in high gear. You can tell something is off about the bus though, since every time it changes gear, it vibrates repeatedly. For some reason the driver and conductor don’t seem fazed about this so I am not. Or maybe they are but because I am on headphones, I have no idea. Everyone is seated alone, that is why I am in my own masked world. 

Modern Coast O2
The O2 that gave up the fight.

We stop at Total Mombasa Road then at Distinct Stop Over (Makueni) then eventually at Rubi Restaurant (Mtito Andei) at around quarter to 2. I so dig into the chicken and rice along the way. Funny how I can delight in eating on the road now, something I would not even dare think about while stationary a few weeks before this. 

Anyway, you remember our bus has some gear trouble but somehow we have made it halfway? The trouble strikes a few minutes after we leave this last stop. The bus is labouring more now and it eventually gives up and we stop on the roadside. Calls are made back to the office and eventually another bus enroute to Mombasa rescues us. A dirtier, more cramped country bus. 😁 So much for our air conditioned social-distanced journey. Cha muhimu ni kufika. 

The delay stresses us a bit because, remember, curfew is still on and we have to make it across the ferry through another 1 hour journey by cab to Diani. However, when we finally arrive at the bus stop, our cab driver is waiting patiently and is determined to get us there on time. We make it through the ferry queue, having watched a Corona measures video loop over ten times before we’re finally floating over to the other side. 

Bahari Dhow Reception Art

We get to Bahari Dhow in about 40 minutes, because Elkanah has to beat curfew on the way back too. We are just short of curfew time by 20 minutes. Weh. But at least we’re there with a story to tell. We register and are shown to the villa. Rooms are located in lookalike mansions, complete with shared kitchens, dining and sitting areas. The mansions face each other with three swimming pools sitting in the middle. Walking past that leads you to the African Oasis Restaurant and the white sandy beach. 

We’re obviously beat and just want to eat, shower and sleep. Any further delay to this trip and my feet would have swollen from here to Watamu. Babymoon indeed. Exploration will start tomorrow. 

Unlike me, I wake up quite early the next morning because I just want to see everything. The sunrise over the palm trees is so calming. I am clearly falling for the coast slowly. I was always one to prefer staying away from the heat and humidity. The property also has very beautiful frangipani trees. Don’t look at me like that. I am just acting like I knew the name. I only knew after using Google Lens to identify the type of tree. 🤣

Breakfast is served at the restaurant where you select what you want on a paper, not buffet. We suspected this was with the reduced guest numbers. We hit the beach after this, but it is surprisingly windy. Excessively, such that the sand in your face will not allow you to enjoy basking, so we head back up to the swimming pool to chill. Since there are very few people — save for the energetic group of Nigerian men who have commandeered the last pool for a ball game — we have the first pool to ourselves. Not like I can swim or anything, but it’s quite nice being in the water just moving around. They say it’s good exercise. 

Jolly Bar Pizzeria Ice Cream

We take advantage of the calm the next morning to explore the beach just before it starts raining that afternoon, albeit for a short time. And then we decide to walk out the premises on the road to see what is on that side of the world. Lots of establishments are still closed with the few open ones being quite empty. We settle for an Italian restaurant, Jolly Bar Pizzeria, for some cold refreshments. It’s a real cool place I wouldn’t mind going back to for a pizza. One day. 

Did I tell you Bahari Dhow has these monkeys that wait for any opportunity to get into your space and eat whatever you leave behind? Yep, if you don’t lock up when you leave, they will find all your snacks you leave lying around and feast. Side note: The male’s blue balls would make me so happy.

For the big day we had made this trip for, we explored the other side of the beach where very few hotels were open. The Leopard Beach Resort has a very scenic beach front although very much abandoned. We spend some time around, walking and soaking in the sun, then head back before the tide traps us on this side. It’s less windy today, so lying on the sunbeds is a delight. Given the frequent windy conditions though, I rank Watamu higher than Diani in as far as Kenyan beaches go.

At this beach, you also bump into a lot of beach boys trying to sell you everything from day excursions, to shells, madafu and roast fish. They are very salesy. Shaking them off is very difficult, especially when they use the corona clause to defend their case on why you should support their venture. So you’ll definitely end up buying some things from them to support them brothers. Oh, they all call me Ras. It is the life I chose. 

The highlight of the night is dinner at Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant. These guys offer a complimentary shuttle to and from the restaurant if you are staying along Diani Beach Road. And they are very good with the time. We had booked via their website, but for some reason I had to call them to ensure they picked us up when time came. Somehow they had no record of my request for the shuttle on email. That aside, the driver’s prompt service and the welcome at the restaurant make that all go away. 

The guy who welcomes us is draped in Maasai regalia. Hehe. So touristy. He directs us to wash our hands with soap and water just outside. Usual drill. Then he points us to the lit stairwell that leads to the underground cave. So cool! The guy at the bar welcomes us and a waiter leads us to our table on the other end of the restaurant. Time to take it all in like a bewildered child. I will try to describe it as best as possible. 

Ali Barbour’s is a classy restaurant that could easily turn into just another scary dark cave if it were not for the beautiful yellow lights strategically placed around the cave’s nooks and the candles on every table. All the tables are occupied; given social distancing, they are not that many anyway. The food is not like super super awesome, but the ambience tricks your mind into thinking it’s very nice. Anyway, that’s what such restaurants do to your brain. 

Being in such a setting also makes me want to have talks that I might not have elsewhere, because it forces you to concentrate on each other and listen, as opposed to being on your phone. I end up saying things I didn’t think I would, like I am dating all over again. And asking questions like “What has surprised you most about me after being in this for a year?” 🤣 In the end, we have to leave some drinks and dessert unfinished, because, you guessed it: curfew time! Bummer. But overall, it is an experience I would want to relive again. 

We head back to Nairobi the next day. The day that my body decides I have had enough fun and it’s time to finally puke in public for the first time. In the cab. Fuuuuun. So you can imagine I am walking on eggshells the whole time after that such that I grab the two sickness bags in front of us on the plane back, just in case. I have them in my bag to date. 😭 Up here, they have everyone seated alone, except the couples or I guess those who booked together. 

No more incidents. We’re back home to thrive through life. And that was Diani.

    2 Comments

  1. Hannah Olukoye 21st September 2020 at 11:03 pm Reply

    wow! I enjoy reading your stories and laughing quietly to myself. For me, I’m looking forward to a Diani birthday this year!… Too bad I won’t be able to narrate it in the amazing way you did.

    • shikungigi 22nd September 2020 at 9:09 am Reply

      Have fuuuun!! I know you will have some fire IG stuff.

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