Manda Island, Kenya

Photo: Diamond Beach Village
Photo: Diamond Beach Village

The last 30-plus hours feel like a blur. You flew to Doha, connected to Nairobi, and got a few hours of sleep at a hotel near the airport after your very late arrival. You boarded two propeller planes. The first was bound for Malindi on the Kenyan coast; the second landed at little Manda Airport in the Lamu Archipelago. Then you sailed down Manda Island’s coast in a dhow to finally reach your destination.

That destination is an empty, gorgeous beach. Manda Beach, on the southwest coast of Manda Island, has soft white sand that borders calm, clear water. Diamond Beach Village stands in the background. White-cushioned sun loungers sit under a long, thatched-roof palapa. They overlook the Indian Ocean, with Lamu Island and Shela village in the distance. Tonight’s sunset is sure to be brilliant.

Hopefully you can stay awake that long. The seemingly endless travel time has left you completely exhausted. The sun loungers on the beach, the bed in your banda, and the swinging daybed on your front porch are all inviting you to take a long nap or, better yet, an extremely early night’s sleep. You resist the urge and head to the hotel’s restaurant for a late lunch instead.

Photo: Diamond Beach Village
Photo: Diamond Beach Village

From an outside wooden table, you have a perfect view of the beach again. A palm-thatched umbrella shades you from the hot sun. The catch of the day is listed on a propped blackboard. Plus a cold beer has already been set in front of you. After picking at airplane and airport food, you’re starving. A wood-fired pizza from the large stone oven sounds tempting, but the smell of cooking seafood ultimately changes your mind. Your mangrove crab sandwich, with homemade tomato chutney, doesn’t disappoint.

Once the food has filled you up and the beer has cooled you off, you’re finally able to really take in your surroundings. Diamond Beach Village has a rustic, almost hippie, vibe. It’s open-air yoga studio doubles as a library with a spacious sitting area and swinging chairs. The garden is dotted with acacia trees, giant clam shells that act as baths for colorful birds, and hammocks. The Blue Moon Bar is known for its afternoon fruit smoothies and evening caipirinhas. While rusty cannons, the Takwa Ruins, and small Swahili villages are only a bike or boat ride away.

You can’t wait to start exploring Manda Island tomorrow. But first you’re going to walk down the deserted beach in front of you, try jumbo prawns or stuffed calamari or a barracuda steak for dinner, and watch that amazing sunset. At this point, sleep can wait just a little while longer.

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