Diamond Beach Village is aptly named.
Diamond Beach Village: Our full report
This rustic, eco-friendly beach lodge, owned and run by an English woman and her mother, nestles on the sands under shady acacias and the odd baobab tree on the beach at the southern end of Manda island. The lodge faces Shela village on Lamu island, 700m across the mouth of the Lamu channel. Unfortunately, as of 12 July 2014 we cannot recommend this property because the UK's foreign office has advised against travel to this area – the Lamu archipelago.
You’ll probably arrive at Diamond Beach in a boat from Lamu airport jetty, a 10-to-15-minute ride away. The lodge, positioned directly behind the beach, has a simple layout. On the left is the bar and pizza oven, on the right the restaurant/dining area and a small shop. Straight ahead is the kitchen, with the library/yoga/chillout area behind it.
Radiating around the central area, in a horseshoe formation, are the nine rooms and houses, all named after fruit and trees. The rooms are mangrove pole and palm mat constructions. Mango, Palm, Lime and Papaya are doubles; Coconut is a twin; and Orange and Melon are singles. The Treehouse and Frangipani are larger, more solid structures for bigger groups. These were undergoing some refurbishment when we visited: ask us about booking them if you’re in a larger group.
The rooms are simple and have a back-to-nature, Robinson Crusoe feel about them. The main rooms have a basic amount of limited furniture, square-hanging mosquito nets over the beds and chairs and tables outside on a little porch area. The bathrooms include standard flushing toilets, single wash basins and a bar of soap, but no other toiletries. The showers are elementary, with water at ambient temperature (usually as warm as most guests want). Diamond Beach, which relies on rainwater, aims to conserve all it can. They also recycle all their waste.
Diamond Beach won’t appeal if you’re uncomfortable with a real degree of simplicity in furnishings, fixtures and fittings. But for most guests, happy to be released from the rat race for a few days, this isn’t a problem. The lodge has fans who return year after year and also attracts day and evening visitors from Shela and Lamu town. The Blue Moon Bar, focus of regular Saturday night film and pizza evenings, and occasional dances, is a bit of a local institution and in high season can be noisy until the wee hours.
As for activities here, most guests are very content to hang out, making full use of the various swing beds and hammocks around the site, stroll on the beach (there are no beach boys on Manda) and have a dip in the sea. You might want to do some yoga with Rachael. For a change of scene, Shela is 5 minutes across the channel and Diamond Beach’s boatmen will take you there (Ksh400, about US$5), or to Lamu town (15-20 minutes; Ksh1000, about US$12), day or night. The ruins of Takwa, an old Swahili town on Manda island, are fairly accessible and make a good early morning or late afternoon trip. For more ambitious excursions, Diamond Beach contracts out to the owner of a wide and flat-bottomed Mozambique dhow who can run snorkeling and fishing day trips or longer cruises in the Lamu archipelago.
Our viewDiamond Beach is the perfect choice for people who are looking for a very simple, good-value base on the beach within easy reach of Shela and Lamu town. Although we haven’t stayed yet, we’ve known the owners for some years and their commitment to the lodge and its environmental principles, and the lodge’s increasingly global reputation, are impressive.
Ideal length of stay: 3 days-plus
Directions: Diamond Beach Village is a 20-minute boat ride from Lamu airport jetty or from Lamu town. The small town of Shela, with several places to eat and drink, is five minutes from the lodge across the Lamu channel.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Rachael and Helen Feiler
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food is good and there’s always a nice choice of options – except possibly on Saturday evening, which is film and pizza night. Almost everything consumed at Diamond Beach is locally produced. Breakfast includes fruit, homemade bread and jam, and eggs cooked to order (no bacon or sausages, which would have to be flown in). Lunch includes various seafood and salad options. We had superb seafood platter when we visited. Dinner is a 3-course menu with a choice of starters and main courses. As you’d expect, dietary requirements can be dealt with.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £10-15
Drinks included: Drinks are reasonably priced: beers Ksh300 (about £2.50, glass or house wine about £3, bottle of wine about £15 and sodas about £0.50p. Most guests spend around £30 per person per day on meals and drinks.
Further dining info: Guests tend to gather by the bar and groups either eat at individual tables or eat together. There is no room service as such, but rooms are all within about 20 seconds walk from the bar and dining area.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: Bucket and spade activities are available and the beach is there for exploring. There is no pool.
Equipment: Baby cots and high chairs are available.
Generally recommended for children: With its lovely beach and safe sea, we think Diamond Beach is ideal for adventurous older children who don't mind the lack of a pool. Parents may find the lodge a little too basic and possibly too much of a party base if they have very young children.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There’s a backup generator. There are no power sockets in the rooms but you can charge batteries in the library and at the bar.
Communications: There is good, free Wi-fi around the bar area and mobile network is generally good.
TV & radio: There’s no TV. Guests walk along the beach to The Majlis if they want to watch a big match.
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: Diamond Beach is entirely reliant on rainwater capture. The bathrooms are plumbed in and there are standard flush toilets.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There’s a first-aid kit, but no first-aid training has been done. A doctor will come out from Lamu by speedboat if requested. In an emergency, a patient would be taken to the airport jetty by speedboat. Or a helicopter could land on the beach.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: Diamond Beach has a askaris.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers around the camp.
Laundry facilities: Laundry costs Ksh50 (about £0.40) per item, hand-washed and line-dried.
Money: There is a safe in the owner’s house. Foreign exchange is not available.
Accepted payment on location: All major currencies (US dollars, Euros, Kenyan shillings, Pounds sterling) are accepted in payment. MasterCard and Visa cards can be accepted with a 5% surcharge.