About Diani Beach
‘Where there are breakers, there is also a door through the reef’ – Swahili Proverb
South of Mombasa, across Likoni Creek, lies a magnificent sweep of silver sand, sapphire sea and waving palms. The southerly part of Kenya’s stunning Indian Ocean coastline, which runs 700 km between the Tanzanian and Somali borders, it is renowned for its silken white sandy beaches, coconut palms, sheltered lagoons, pellucid blue waters, remote islands, uncharted mangrove swamps and mysterious Arab and Swahili ruins, many of which date back to the 8th Century AD. Boasting an idyllic climate, which is cooled by the monsoon, the Swahili coast offers a daily average of 8 hours of sunshine, and the hot steamy climate is tempered by the monsoon winds: the south-easterly Kaskazi, which blows from April to October; and the north-easterly Kuzi which blows from November to March.
“The barrier reef”
Kenya’s pristine and well-developed coral reef extends virtually without break from Shimoni in the south to Malindi in the north, some 230 Kms in total. The reef is broken only in a few places by river mouths and creeks; and of these the deepest and most sheltered safe channels through the reef are those that lie on either side of Mombasa Island.
“The South Coast Beaches”
Beaches extend from Mombasa to the Tanzanian border – but the best known is Diani Beach (25 kms south of Mombasa), which offers just about everything the visitor could wish for: restaurants, shops, golf course and night spots plus; the Colobus Trust, an area of indigenous forest that provides a sanctuary for the areas many colobus monkeys and the Kaya Kinondo, a cultural centre built around a sacred Kaya (grove) of the Digo people. The activities on offer include swimming, snorkelling, sea kayaking, diving, water sports, dhow trips, glass-bottom boat trips, nature trails, butterfly farms, places of historic interest, visits to the nearby Shimba Hills (a coastal national park with plentiful elephant) or to the world-famous Arabuko Sokoke Forest, one of the last of the rainforests.
“The history of the coast”
The Kenyan coast offers a colourful history. From the 9th century onwards, Indian and Arab traders mingled with the indigenous population to create the unique Swahili culture, much of which still survives until this day. During the 15th century, the Portuguese stamped their mark on the coast, fighting with the Omani Arabs, their main legacy being Fort Jesus in Mombasa’ Old Town. The coast then remained an entity in itself with little connection to the interior, apart from that forged by the Arab caravans, which trekked inland for ivory and slaves. At the turn of the 19th century, the British established a foothold and declared the coast, which at the time was in the hands of the Omani Arabs, a British Protectorate.
Subsequently, Mombasa became pivotal in the development of Kenya as a British colony, being the starting point for the building of the Uganda railway. Today it still plays a vital role as the hub of commodity transportation inland. Mombasa is also a strategic port on the East African coastline.
“About The Swahili Culture ”
The most prominent of the coastal people, the Swahili are not a ‘tribe’ but the product of centuries of inter- marriage between indigenous Kenyans and incoming waves of Persian, Portuguese and Omani conquerors. First, around the 7th century, came Arab traders from the Persian Gulf, who plied the Kenyan coast in their dhows and gradually intermarried with the local people. Next, in the 16th Century, the conquering Portuguese arrived, establishing an empire, and intermarrying with the locals. Finally, in the 18th century, the Sultans of Oman took over as rulers, and their people intermarried with the locals just as their predecessors had done. The result was a colourful mix of ethnicity and language, which came to be known as ‘Swahili’, which literally translates as ‘of the coast’. Although the majority of Kenya’s coastal people are Muslims, their relaxed way of life is worlds away from the stricter Islamic practices of the Middle East. Enjoying a colourful culture, they excel in literature, art, and architecture while the Swahili craftsmen are famous for their beautiful triangular-sailed dhows. Swahili cuisine, meanwhile, is a glorious mix of cultural influences; exuberantly spiced, steeped in coconut and cooked with fresh lime and coriander.