Diani by Night: Of Roadside Bars and a Beach House

Wewe ni Jan?’, our Uber driver asked, as we approached his tinted Toyota Corolla. My friend and I had a plane to catch to Diani, where we had organised an eventful weekend for my Stag Do. As my friend was clambering into the backseat, the car began to move, knocking him to the ground and crushing his feet beneath the back wheel. It was only when he heard cries of ‘ARGHH REVERSE REVERSE!’, that the driver realised what he’d done. Five minutes into my stag, and my Best Man had been run over.

Now, Stag Dos, or bachelor parties as they are also known, haven’t always been raucous, uncivilised affairs. Traditionally, the humble stag night took place the evening before a wedding, when the groom-to-be had a few drinks with his close friends. Sensibly, the stag is nowadays rarely drunk the night before he gets married. And stag nights have also mutated into stag weekends, and even stag holidays, usually involving fancy dress and heavy drinking. With cheap flights from Nairobi and the SGR, and a strip of lively bars along the beach road, Diani was an obvious choice for my stag weekend.

Although it’s high season at the coast, there were still plenty of good value house rental options. We found an ideal place for the five of us in our group through www.booking.com, called Desert Rose Beach House. It was one of the only beachfront properties available in central Diani, right next door to the Forty Thieves Beach Bar – which was sadly closed – and a short tuk-tuk ride away from the shopping complex.

The three-bedroom house was airy and spacious, with an open plan living area and distressed, nautical-inspired furniture. Beside the patio was a striking pink desert rose bush, from which the house derives its name, and a commanding baobab tree, which over the course of the weekend was visited by very bold Sykes’, vervet and colobus monkeys. And a hundred yards or so across a lush lawn was the turquoise tint of the ocean.

The house is best suited to peaceful getaways for families and small groups of friends. Less so to rowdy louts like ourselves. In fact, I read the T&Cs after I’d booked, which stressed that the property would not accommodate ‘hen, stag or similar parties’. So you’ll forgive me for providing a very sanitised version of events. Although to be fair, we did spend the majority of the weekend out of the house, hopping around Diani’s many restaurants and watering holes.

We enjoyed a lazy afternoon beneath the Kitenge canopy of the Nomad Beach Bar, and an indulgent evening beneath the canvas canopy of the Sails Restaurant. These were the more sophisticated pit stops of the weekend. As the evenings waned, so too did our standards, as we zipped between Diani’s many after-hours establishments.

‘Don’t go to Manyatta’, one of our boda riders advised, ‘it’s just full of old mzungus’. And so it was – older mzungu men lapping up the attention of short-skirted ‘ladies of the night’. There were plenty of older mzungu women, too, gazing into the eyes of obliging young men. It wasn’t really our scene.

But we did find a home nearby, the misleadingly-named Tandoori Bar. What gives the impression of a roadside Indian restaurant was actually one of Diani’s most popular bars, next door to the luminous lights of the Shakatak Disco. With its makuti roof, pool tables, cheesy music and the odd prostitute, it was like a mini fusion of Nairobi’s K1 Klubhouse and Gypsys.

With the right crowd thrown into the mix – a blurry blend of Diani locals, tourists and holidaying Nairobians – it was the ideal venue for our stag party. While we may not have emerged fully unscathed, as my Best Man will attest to, it was certainly a weekend fit for the occasion.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation