Diani: Paradise Lost?

My feet have taken me homeward. I’ve been away for a little while now, working on a biography in Naivasha and a ’48 hours in Nairobi’ piece for this fine publication. It always gives you a warm feeling to be returning home, but this is especially the case if home happens to be Diani Beach, Kenya.

My grandparents cleverly bought a plot here in 1965. It was called Four° Twenty’ South, named after the latitude because you had to use a compass to find it in amongst the dense forest. My mother rents holiday cottages here, and with the view of the palm framed turquoise waters and pristine white sand, it is a pretty tight fit with the notion of paradise.

However it is a constant battle to stop it becoming a paradise lost. The area is a perfect microcosm of the human-wildlife conflict that plagues most of Africa. Excessive development is putting strain on all resources: especially water and electricity, and is causing too much waste for the undeveloped system to handle.

You can imagine the effect on the wildlife. Back in the 60s, there were lion pugmarks imprinted in the sand, and leopard used to be nightly visitors. Now, the Colobus Trust have to make ‘colo-bridges’ – ladders that hang over the road, linking the fast-diminishing forest on either side, to try to reduce primate casualties. Any big game is now a long lost dream.

The South Coast Residents’ Association have, however been pushing for proper planning regulations, and have even enlisted the help of a Dutch town planner called Bart De Maar. He was in charge of the designs for Amersfoort, a town in the Netherlands that underwent an eco transformation and then won awards for being the greenest town in the Netherlands and in Europe. They’re hoping he will be able to work his magic here.

Obviously, it requires the support and cooperation of all residents, and needs to override corrupt officials – neither of which is easy in Kenya, but that being said, it is good to report that it is not all doom and gloom! Let’s just hope we can keep paradise intact for the next generation…


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Isabella Monson

Isabella Monson is a freelance journalist who writes travel pieces for newspapers and magazines in Nairobi. More recently she has begun writing a biography in Naivasha. After completing an Anthropology degree in London, Isabella returned to Kenya where her mother was raised. Following in her father’s footsteps, she decided to pursue a career in writing. Although she loves nothing more than to follow her globally nomadic tendencies, she finds there is always something to scribble about in Kenya. Nairobi especially supplies a torrent of fuel for the writing fire, and she recommends this dynamic city to any wayward traveler.

  • http://blog.villasdiani.com diani beach guy

    Very, very true! Thanks for a very good post. The initiative of the south coast resident association is late but never too late. to allow building complexes such as the new Lantana Resort which can be seen even all the way from the shimba hills has already been proven a wrong investment decades ago. If one travels through former tourism hot spots in Europe like Greece or Spain, entire ghost-towns of such hotel complexes can be admired… Tourists do not come here to see concrete, they come here to see what they don’t get at home: pristine nature and unspoiled beaches, if that is destroyed there will no longer be cash flow either. Keeping Diani Beach green is the true investment, lets hope Bart de Maar does a good job and get some support!

  • Linzi

    Absolutely agree, makes it sad to see development in Diani and anyone who has not been born and brought up in this area is completely oblivious to what is happening. All they care about is their swimming pools and palm trees in the garden, without any regard for what used to be and how to preserve it! infuriating. nice piece Dizzy.

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