Diani Beach, Mombasa, Kenya. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Down at Diani Beach

When it comes to wonderful beaches around the world, Diani Beach doesn’t immediately spring to mind, yet we quickly discovered that the place is popular with travellers looking to top or tail their safari trip with some sun, sea and sand.

Being Australian, I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to beaches. I love the breathtakingly beautiful beaches we have in Oz, from the rugged, desolate stretches of sand of Western Australia to the laidback atmosphere of the beaches around Adelaide, from the endless sandy beaches of Broome and Fraser Island, to the tranquil tropical havens in Northern Queensland.

Diani Beach, Mombasa, Kenya. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

While my preference is for peaceful beaches that are off-the-beaten-track, this year I’ve really enjoyed the energy and exuberance of Rio’s Ipanema in Brazil, and in Costa Rica the off-season appeal of Manuel Antonio’s wildly bent palms and crazy monkeys. Windy Essaouria in Morocco charmed us once again with it’s vigorous beach football matches and fish restaurants within splashing distance of the sea.

For a sporadic surfer, Bali’s Kuta Beach is one of the world’s best destinations for getting your toes into your board wax, although everything else about the beach rankled. No, I don’t need a massage, sun cream, sarong, souvenirs, sunbed, beer, umbrella, braids, temporary tattoo, flyer for a nightclub, or new friends.

Diani Beach, Mombasa, Kenya. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

All of which I was offered within five minutes of stepping onto the sand at Kuta. While Aussie accents are as common as Bintang singlets (not a coincidence), Kuta’s busyness goes against everything that makes an Australian beach great – apart from the surf of course.

If the description in the last paragraph appeals to you and the constant attention of Kuta’s myriad hawkers is your idea of a fun beach experience, then you’re probably going to enjoy Diani Beach too. The beach vendors here in Kenya make Bali’s appear positively lazy.

Diani Beach, Mombasa, Kenya. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

You’d better hurry, however, as it appears it’s not just me who finds Diani’s ‘beach boys’  incredibly exasperating. The Kenyan Minister for Tourism recently revealed a plan to regulate beach vendors and hawkers on the country’s beaches, as their irritating behaviour, which can verge on intimidation and harassment, has been affecting the number of tourists visiting the coast. The initiative includes funding to get them off the sand by building beachside markets where they can sell their souvenirs and other, ahem, ‘services’.

Let’s hope it works out, because Diani Beach does appear to be lovely. I just wish we could have enjoyed it. In peace.


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Terence Carter is an editorial food and travel photographer and infrequent travel writer with a love of photographing people, places and plates of food. After living in the Middle East for a dozen years, he settled in South-East Asia a dozen years ago with his wife, travel and food writer and sometime magazine editor Lara Dunston.

13 thoughts on “Down at Diani Beach”

  1. From the photos you took, it seems like the beach is very “local” and “relaxed” and not at all plagued by hawkers…

  2. I don’t think it is going to work out … the Kenya Govt. said it was going to regulate the beach boys back in 1994! :D

  3. That’s great to hear! We tried hard to avoid taking photos of the hawkers, who were in our faces for the whole of our walk along the beach. I was furious actually as I constantly had guys hassling me and it was impossible to just enjoy our walk and the beach. The only way to get rid of them was to threaten to call the police and that became tedious after a few dozen times.

    Terry did include one photo (#9) to give people an idea of what the experience is like, and obviously all the signs for massages etc, hint at how bad it is. #6 is actually a pic of two security guys employed to keep the hawkers from harassing the guests! We didn’t see the point in including more photos. We don’t want to scare people away, just prepare them.

    The first few pics were shot down the very end of Diani Beach ( *our* end), a relatively quiet part, though there are still beach boys permanently stationed there. Terry shot those with a telephoto lens pointing towards a rivermouth that you can’t cross – hence the apparent emptiness.

    Apart from how irritating these guys are, what’s more disturbing is knowing that many of them aren’t just selling trinkets – they are pimping other men or young (often under-age) girls. Sex tourism is a big industry here and something the govt is also cracking down on.

  4. Keith, we’re eternal optimists ;) And they’re throwing real money at the problem, because the fact is that now beach tourism has dropped 20% compared to safari visits according to the tourism minister in a speech earlier this month.

  5. We looked at safari holidays in Kenya last year, but couldn’t find any reasonably priced ones that didn’t include a ‘beach extension’, which rather put us off.

    It’s a pity, because those trips out to the reef were really something.

  6. That’s interesting. I don’t really think there is anything essentially unique about the reefs or the beaches – I’d rather spend all my time on safari, personally. The most unique thing about the Diani Beach area was the troops of Angolan Colobus Monkeys. More on that soon!

  7. Hi, i think you should have gone to a private beach if you were so unhappy!

    There are numerous of those. just take the ferry and you are good to go. Next time please tell you hotel to give you an escort(just a normal kenyan not a guard at all) I go there all the time and it doesnt bother me. Just do not expose your cash, expensive cameras etc coz this gives an impression that you have lots of money you want to spend hence the ‘harrassment’. Also, this is peak season, schools are closed, you are bound to find more idle youths on a public beach.

    My advice, do more research next time, if you are going to a public beach, ask your driver to accompany you. i see that tourists with local guides do not get that much attention as they look like they have an objective to their leisure as opposed to strolling tourists. (Not a good thing but its common)

  8. Thanks for your comment, I guess.
    In terms of ‘research’, this trip was organised with HomeAway and really, Diani Beach was only on the agenda because it made it easy to get to the safari destinations. We spent several months planning this year-long trip and Diani Beach turned out to be the biggest disappointment.
    We just wanted to go to the beach near where we’re staying. We’re not staying in hotels and we don’t see why you need an escort to go to a beach – that’s the fundamental problem.
    All tourists look like they have money to spend. These weren’t idle youths, by the way, all way too old to be at school, nor was it holidays when we were there, so you’re wrong on that point.
    If I need to go to the beach accompanied by a driver, I don’t want to go to that beach. If a private beach is the only answer, I’m simply not interested in visiting that destination again. Remember, people are choosing to go to Kenya over other countries and visits to your beaches are down 20% compared to safaris according to your tourism ministry. Visitors are voting with their feet, so instead of blaming the visitor for poor ‘research’, why not accept it as a problem like your government has? Telling visitors they’re visiting the wrong way doesn’t solve anything.

  9. I couldn’t enjoy myself at a beach like you described. When i think of heading to the beach it is more about relaxation and being able to take in the sights. I don’t want to be hustled or pitched while I’m trying to enjoy myself. I mean I do understand they do what they do because they obviously have to or because it works but thats not why people go to the beach. That could get annoying really fast.

  10. You’re right! They do get annoying very quickly. Yes, we’re with you – beaches are for relaxing, swimming, surfing, etc, nobody wants to be hassled. There’s always a lot of activity on beaches in Thailand, Bali and Costa Rica, but for whatever reason the people, while still a bit annoying, are nowhere near as hassly and not as persistent as they were at Diani Beach. And, sure, we understand these people are poor and are just trying to make a living, but the authorities should erect a small outdoor market for them beside the beach and let them operate there. People can then browse the stalls on their way to or from the beach.

  11. Hi Tobius – we loved the Colobus Monkey Trust and the people we met were amazing; we also loved the safaris we did to the Masai Mara and Tsavo West. If they get the boys off the beach and set up a market area near the beach where people can go and shop and get massages etc, then I think it would be wonderful. Let us know when that happens and we’ll be back :)

  12. Loved the piece and pics though disappointed you did not enjoy the beach as much as you wanted. Hopefully, next time there’ll be less beach boys and more peace :-)

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