The beach is my safe haven, where I can let go of all my worries and dive straight into paradise. And the Kenyan coast, well you see, I like her waves in particula (cue in Major Lazer & DJ maphorisa)! One beach I can’t get enough of is Diani beach. Over the last decade I’ve made hundreds of warm memories there with old and new friends. For those who don’t know, Diani is located 30km south of Mombasa, in Kwale County. It stretches for about 10kms, from the Kongo river to the north and Galu beach to the south.
For years, I was pretty used to booking an all inclusive or half board hotel and enjoying hotel facilities with a gazillion other people. It’s how we did coast with the family. But little did I know, the real luxury comes with staying in a private villa (obviously!).
To ring in 2018, I had booked a pretty little villa called Maisha Maridadi in Diani (a very fitting name, for those who don’t know Maisha Maridadi means ‘Beautiful Life’). We were there for 5 nights.
Maisha Maridadi lies at the Northern end of Diani beach, very close to the estuary, where the Kongo river meets the Indian Ocean. If you’re flying there, then there are direct 1-hour flights from Nairobi to Ukunda airport. If you’re driving from Nairobi then it’s going to be at least a 9-10hour journey (we drove, but the journey is REALLY long and only worth it if you’re there for 4 nights or more). Alternatively, take the SGR down to Mombasa and taxi it to Diani.
Once you’re in Diani, finding Maisha Maridadi is pretty easy, it’s on Google Maps here
Maisha Maridadi shares a compound with another 3 villas (House Italia, Maisha Marefu and Maisha Tabasamu). However, the way the villas are built, I guarantee absolute privacy.
Maisha Maridadi has a total of 3 ensuite bedrooms and one more double bed on the top floor. It can fit 6 people comfortably, but there is space for 8 people. 4 people would just have to share one bathroom.
There’s the blue room that had a huuuuuge circular bed made from cement straight out the ground, which was pretty unique. The bathroom had two wash basins, a shower and toilet. There was plenty of storage space to hang up your clothes. The best part of this room was the French style windows that opened up directly into the pool. I called dibs on this room (the person who books it gets first pick right? That’s definitely a rule!).
The orange and green rooms were equally as spacious with plenty of storage space and king size beds. The raw cement look and feel was dominant across the rooms.
There is a TV lounge upstairs with a round bed-like sofa, a massage bed (business cards for the masseuse can be found in the kitchen) and a double bed. It could get a little noisy for the person sleeping up here as the water tank and pump are on this floor too.
The villa had the perfect chill space downstairs with a big U-shaped lounge sofa. The owners clearly put a lot of thought into decorating the space with the Big 5 making an appearance in paintings and statues. The paintings were pretty impressive by an artist named B.Gateri. They also had these cute little Christmas decorations in place, mini Christmas trees with silver décor.
The best part was the DIY chandelier they had made out of 7 circular lamp shades hanging off threads from a metal frame. When there was a breeze it would rotate, and especially at night, created a sense of calm and relaxation. The circular lamp shades made an appearance throughout the villa.
The kitchen is fully equipped with an oven, toaster, kettle, fridge, pots, pans, glassware, cutlery and crockery. There are two dining tables with one being closer by the pool, perfect for breakfast, brunch or lunch. At night, the hanging lampshades over the second dining table create a romantic ambience for you and your friends.
Some of my favourite things about booking Maisha Maridadi:
- Private pool, which means I could take a dip at any time of the day or night. Zero restrictions. The pool boy was there every morning to give it a clean as well.
- Chef Daniel. Yes, the villa comes with a chef, a pretty great one at that. So no more set times for meals, like they have in hotels. AND we ate whatever we wanted which meant we indulged in lots and lots of seafood. Like copius amounts. Chef Dan was the man, and we would just let him know what we wanted to eat and he’d sort us out. We grilled lobsters 3 days in a row (we were clearly obsessed), stuffed our faces with ginger crab, coconut chilli prawns, pan seared yellow fin tuna and red snapper and more prawns. I love food and I love great seafood even more. And seafood is generally so much more affordable (and fresh!) at the beach compared to Nairobi so WHY NOT!
There’s a supermarket just down the road from the villa, Shan-E-Punjab, where we got breakfast supplies (eggs, bacon, bread, tea etc) and other necessities so that was pretty convenient.
The only downside was that it seemed like the chef was double booked and working at another villa so occasionally he would send what I assumed were chefs in training. They did the job but obviously were not as good as Chef Daniel.
- Eunice.She was great, she got the rooms cleaned up, laundry done, lounge cleaned and new pool towels out every day. Seriously, it’s better than a hotel. I was expecting to have dirty clothes all trip but I was wrong! And when we would wake up, which was usually fairly early, it was like we were in an unused villa all over again. There was also Dorothy who helped with the dishes and cleaning.
- Beach access and proximity to the estuary. The beach is right across the road from Maisha Maridadi, I’d say a 4-minute walk. And in another 4 minutes you’d be at the estuary, where many flock to witness day turn to night. On the first day of the New Year, we made our way here to watch the sun peek out the ocean and boy was it beautiful. We were the only people at the estuary at this time and graced in the New Year in total peace and calmness.
P.S. If you are someone who needs air conditioning while at the beach then Maisha Maridadi isn’t for you (the blue room is the only one with an AC). The fans were sufficient for me but it did get pretty hot occasionally. Luckily the pool is right there for a quick dip to cool off.
Costs & Info
Maisha Maridadi is 35,000/- per night for the whole place in peak season. This includes the chef, cleaner and wifi. If there’s 8 of you then you’ll be paying 4375/- each per night.
Off peak the place goes for 15,000/- a night and 20,000/- over Easter.
You’ll just have to budget in food and drinks daily but with a chef on hand that can be pretty cost effective as you don’t need to eat out every day.
I booked the place through Kate (you can find her on facebook as @kate) or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also manages Maisha Marefu and Maisha Tabasamu there if you want to book any of those and lots of other properties in Diani. Check out her Facebook page to see them all. She’s super easy to get a hold of and really helpful throughout the process.
Things to do in Diani
Diani Beach is just one strip of long road i.e. Diani Road. On this strip you’ll find plenty of bars, restaurants, hotels, resorts, camp sites, supermarkets, beach sports etc. Every time I’m in Diani there are a few places I MUST go to (mostly restaurants & bars). My top picks are:
- Sails Restaurant at Almanara Villas. It’s a fairly long drive down from Maisha Maridadi (15mins) but the seafood platter there is to die for. And the beach there is super sandy and blue compared to the rest so a post lunch dip in the ocean is mandatory.
- Blue Marlin Restaurant. It’s right next to Sails and serves up lots of delicious seafood at pocket friendly prices. 100g for Lobster goes for 450/- while most places sell it for no less than 700/-.. bargain right?
- Nomad beach bar & restaurant. Another one of my faves! Their restaurant has constantly changed over the years (they don’t serve oysters anymore which I’m really sad about) but quality never has. Again, the beach here is fantastic! They also have a diving and water sports centre here if you’re keen to go down deep blue.
- Forty Thieves beach bar. Okay if you’ve been to Diani beach then you must have pretty great memories from here. The 40’s shooter bar is lots of fun but can be a recipe for disaster if you get carried away (because, trust me, the shots go down super easy). My fondest memories from here are the numerous midnight swims in the Indian Ocean with close friends.
- Ice Cream from Leonardo’s. Were you even at the beach if you didn’t have some delicious creamy authentic Italian ice-cream?
- If you’re up for a full day excursion then book yourself the Wasini Island Tour from the tour agency at Diani Shopping Centre. Costs are 4000/- for Kenyan Citizens and 6000/- for non-residents. This includes dolphin spotting, snorkeling at the reef, lunch on Wasini Island and transport back and forth. The drive there is about 1hr 30mins then you’ve got a dhow ride to the marine park which is another 1hr (you spot the dolphins on this journey).
Anyways, that’s all folks. I love my Diani Beach and always look forward to my yearly trips there!