An all-inclusive package holiday? I’ll admit it: I was sceptical. I had imagined the worst-case scenario of being stuck inside the hotel compound and subject to meals of burgers and chips, stereotypical scenes of package beach deals filling my head.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My (almost) two week stay at Diani Sea Resort, on the idyllic Kenyan coast, was nothing short of perfect. While there were plenty of adventures to be had outside the hotel gates – and my Mum and I made the most of them, from spotting zebras on safari to exploring the old streets of Mombasa – there was a lot to be said for indulging in the amenities at the resort.
From the moment we arrived, welcomed by the ever-energetic Colobus entertainment team, everything was perfect. First, there was the setting. Diani Sea Resort is set on the edge of Diani Beach, quite possibly the whitest, softest, sandiest beach I’ve ever laid eyes on. The Indian Ocean sparkled even on a cloudy day, and framing the scene were lines of swaying palm trees. Imagine the images in honeymoon holiday brochures: this was it.
Relaxing on the sun beds at the edge of the beach one morning, we watched as fishermen stood waist-deep in the water, hauling in their fishing nets before transferring the catch, small slippery silver fish, into a traditional boat carved from a mango tree. There were a trio of camels that sauntered up and down the stretch of sand, and Diani locals hawking handmade souvenirs to the newest arrivals, their un-sunburnt skin a giveaway.
The grounds of the whitewashed hotel were lush. A circular blue pool was surrounded by palm trees and beautiful tropical plants (I fell in love with the blooming bougainvillea), which attracted all sorts of wildlife. Beautiful butterflies the size of small birds fluttered past. Proud, attractive exotic birds perched in the trees. And then there were the monkeys.
Diani Beach is home to a few breeds of monkey, and they were often seen in the late afternoon jumping from tree to tree in the hotel grounds. Everyone was warned not to feed them, but the monkeys didn’t need human help – they were quite able without it.
Case in point: a group of guests were sitting at an outdoor table at the snack bar one afternoon when a monkey made itself comfortable in a recently vacated seat, grabbed the cocktail glass by both hands, and started drinking through the straw. It was clear why they were affectionately referred to as the drunken monkeys.
Another adventurous monkey paid us a visit after we left our balcony door open on our first day. Enjoying a short nap to combat travel tiredness, I opened my eyes to be faced with a monkey on my bedside table, staring right at me. I screamed, and it scarpered; my first encounter with Kenyan wildlife was a little closer than I expected!
As if the gorgeous surroundings weren’t enough, the service and staff at Diani Sea Resort only added to the experience. One of my overriding impressions of Kenya is one of a welcoming, friendly, country and the staff were this to a tee, as was our lovely Thomson Holiday Rep, Stacey. You couldn’t move without being greeted by a hearty ‘Jambo!’ or being stopped for a chat by a cheerful member of staff, not to mention being invited to join in the many activities on offer, from beach volleyball to aqua aerobics.
On top of that, my pre-departure reservations about the food were completely unfounded. Yes, I could have pizza and chips at the snack bar for lunch if I wanted, but there was always a rotating selection of freshly cooked meals available too. Whether Italian, English, or Kenyan cuisine, there was plenty to choose from.
I gorged on fresh grilled local fish, buttered rice, chapatis and stir-fried vegetables nearly every day: it was simply too good to resist. At the evening ‘Swahili buffet’, I filled my plate with roast goat, garlic naan, chapattis, cassava, chicken stew, and yes, more grilled fish. Our meals were frequently accompanied by a very refreshing Tusker beer, the national favourite.
Food was one aspect of the all-inclusive deal that really made all the difference. Not having to deliberate over when and where to eat, and how much to spend, meant that you could truly relax without a care. Drinks could be delivered to your table or your sun lounger by the beach, and there was always something delicious to eat, whether a hot breakfast, reviving lunch, afternoon tea, or formal evening meal.
Another all-inclusive advantage was meeting fellow travellers. While I was almost certainly one of the youngest guests, it was lovely getting to know other holidaymakers and share stories of previous travels. It proved that the oft-quoted ‘I’m a traveller, not a tourist’ claim is as ridiculous as it sounds – backpackers and solo explorers certainly don’t hold the monopoly on experiencing other countries and cultures.
Above all, the all-inclusive package meant that our stay at Diani Sea Resort really did feel like a holiday. There was no sense of feeling rushed to see and do everything that can come with city breaks: our stay at Diani Sea Resort truly was an escape from daily life, a wonderful two weeks of complete and utter relaxation. My prejudices were turned on their head, and I would definitely consider an all-inclusive holiday again – especially if it was somewhere as special as Diani Sea Resort, and the incredible Kenyan coast.