25-08-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
In August when Kenya lost a lot of international tourists, when the national schools remained open and frustrated the holiday dreams of thousands of families, and when the economic crisis stranded many more residents, Kenya's most beloved beach still managed to hold its own and give its tourism business a sigh of relief in anticipation of better times.
Of course, the atmosphere is not comparable to that of the past years, until that unfortunate March 2020, nor is the influx of tourists similar to that of the past Christmas and New Year's holidays, but walking along the beach and enjoying temperatures that are not exactly summery, one can still appreciate moments of relaxation, fun and lots of sport by a varied humanity that includes Kenyans, Indians, many guests from Eastern Europe and a few Europeans from the community, especially French and Spanish. On the white expanse in front of the ocean, which is as blue as it gets, the kitesurfers take centre stage, and it can be seen that over the years the number of local instructors of this exciting sport has increased. Unfortunately, alongside the virtuous volutes of the "kiters", jet skis parade at distances from the shore that would be prohibited, polluting and above all posing a serious threat to rare species of fish and sea turtles.
It is a practice much enjoyed by Kenyans, and the long strip of calm sea between the shore and Diani's reef is an ideal runway for the jet skiers who experience the water world in this way. There is no control by the authorities and skyjet rentals have multiplied and are thriving happily.
Along the kilometres and kilometres of beach there are also many different situations for eating and drinking. They range from the historic Nomad, with its sofas overlooking the sea amidst the wavy patterns created by that Italian genius Mario Scianna and an international cuisine that favours fresh fish and an enviable wine cellar, to the fishermen's cooperative and their restaurant Mwaepe, where the octopus, caught at kilometre zero and pounded on the beach before the eyes of customers, ends up on the grill together with the fruit of the work of members of the same families who cook it and serve it to you, accompanied by coconut rice and kachumbari, the typical Kenyan salad. There are also other proposals, but as in Watamu and Nyali, a new type of tourism reigns, accentuated by the pandemic, that of private houses with swimming pools where groups of friends, families and groups of young people spend most of their holidays, in complete privacy and freedom, without curfews and social distances, breathalysers and drug-sniffing dogs, protected from those who dictate the rules and from those who may say something. What goes on in these 2.0 alcoves can be easily guessed from the videos that are all the rage on social networks such as TicToc and Instagram. Bumbling music, plenty of alcohol and a desire to escape.
The only way to do this, paradoxically, seems to be to lock oneself up in a gilded prison.
It's a pity because there are so many things to do in and around Diani: From swimming with dolphins off the coast of Shimoni, to strolling through the coral gardens and sampling the world's best crabs on Wasini Island, from paddling the traditional canoes of Funzi Island through the enchanted marine forests of the mangroves to diving in the natural paradise of the Shimba Hills, with its waterfalls, panoramic viewpoints and wild animals, from visiting the centre that safeguards the splendid colobus trees to the sacred forest of the Digo tribe, Kaya Kinondo, with its healing plants and local legends.
The hope is that when travel returns with fewer restrictions, many of these attractions will still be available and that there will always be a good number of travellers willing to seek them out and appreciate them.
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