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…