“Basic, budget holiday. No luxury but decent value”
I booked a one week all-inclusive holiday through Firstchoice to stay at Diani Sea lodge (not to be confused with Diani Sea resort). It is a cheap/basic/budget option and if your needs/standards are more than average, you'd be better off paying a few hundred pounds more to stay elsewhere. That said, in hindsight I'd personally still have gone with this option.
Upon arrival at Mombassa airport, there was a tedious wait through customs, followed by a coach transfer (including a short ferry crossing) which took about 1 hour 40minutes in total.
Diani sea lodge was perhaps the least luxurious of the hotel stops. However check in was efficient (passports were retained to be photocopied) and my party of 2 were given 1 room key.
Our room was basic but clean. I believe all rooms have the same layout - 2 twin beds next to each other which form a double bed, with a 4 poster frame which holds a fully enclosed mosquito net. A wardrobe, drawers, and bathroom with shower, toilet and bidet. There was a balcony with table and 2 chairs which looked out onto the landscaped pathways with trees, flowers, monkeys, lizards and creepy crawlies galore.
In the room there was no fridge, no minibar, no kettle, no telephone and no source of fresh water. The tap water is absolutely undrinkable (salty sea water) though an old flask is provided which is filled daily with fresh water, and which you can refill yourself at the main hotel. Glasses of fresh water are available on request at the bar, but bottles of water must be paid for. There are frequent powercuts and the back up generators do not power the Air Con or plugs in the room. Water pressure often goes too so there may be hours with no running water.
Food in the hotel is fine, I'm fairly fussy and there was enough variety for me. It was nice to have fresh fruits like watermelon, mango, papaya, little bananas and passion fruits available to eat at mealtimes. There were generally meat and fish options with variations of rice and potatoes. If one stayed more than a week, options might get a bit repetitive, but I had no problems with the choice. Food portions were naturally small (you are generally served at each station rather than being able to get your own food). However you can either ask for more or go back for more later.
Drink choices were standard all-inclusive fare -cheap tasting red or white wine (red wine often chilled unless you specify), Tusk lager, a few cocktails. Juices, cola, diet cola, fanta, etc. A snack bar is available daily between midday to 4pm with sandwiches, pizza, burgers, chips, salad, etc.
It is worth noting that all-inclusive is not 24/7 and there are many times of the day when there is no food available at all (e.g, between 4pm and 7.30pm. Also like all hot countries there are flies about when you are eating/drinking though this is not hotel specific.
It was low season when I was there (perhaps due to the looming threat of showers/rainy season) so there were enough loungers for all. There was a small pool, massages (cheap) and pretty and scenic beach available at the hotel, though as other reviewers have said, beach sellers can be irritating (however I generally kept my headphones on and ignored them entirely). The security guards will generally tell the beach sellers to bog off but it depends how close you are to the hotel.
All the staff are constantly angling for tips, the lengths they will go to are pretty ridiculous, including one security guard who knocked our door at 11pm to collect his tip as he wasn't going to be working the next day. They will keep tabs of when you are leaving to ensure they don't miss a Big tip at the end and they will make sure you know their day off in case you miss the chance to give them their tip. There are lots and lots of staff there and if you were to tip every single time you get a drink, or meal or have someone pull out your chair or answer a question, you'll need to budget extra for the holiday. They think everyone from abroad is rich. I personally only tip when I feel like, not through obligation so I only tipped one person the entire holiday and instead chose to make a donation to the Diani children's village up the road which is a children's home I visited (they appreciate foodstuffs such as maize, sugar, oil, as well as stationary -less so sweets!). My biggest tip to some of the male staff is DEODORANT and SOAP. I know it's hot but at least 4 staff had severe Body Odour/B.O./sweat issues which is especially off putting if you are eating and they stop at your table to offer another drink.
Everyone including hotel staff is OBSESSED with getting you to do a safari (so they can get commission). You'll get asked a hundred times if you've booked your safari yet. Every single trip through Thomsons/firstchoice is extortionately priced, I have never before seen such ridiculous pricing, particularly considering the low low costs in the country so I refused to book a single trip with them. Instead I arranged a days excursion through JT Safaris. The hotel or most people know JT (Julius) and he will send a driver to collect you from the hotel gate at an appointed time and talk over tour options with you. His tour options are good too because you are not forced to do parts of the tour you might find boring and can specify what you want to see. His prices are far fairer than Thomson ones so certainly worth getting a quote. He is online too if you wish to email before you go.
There are 3 hotel shops, one selling clothes which I rarely saw open. Another selling just wood carvings or wifi at 5 shillings a minute, and the other selling a tiny selection of overpriced food items, souvenir bits and wifi at 5 shillings a minute. The wifi was reliable and quick when I used it but only available right near the shops (in the reception area). It would not allow me to download ebooks, epapers, etc though.
Everything aimed at tourists is overpriced so beware. They'll charge you 6 times what they charge locals.There is a supermarket (not cheap) if you leave the hotel, turn right and walk 10 minutes straight down the road. The hotel is located in a rural area though, primed for its beach, so there is little to do.
Entertainment is provided each evening to varying standards.
My travel companion (and others) had a belly ache by the end of the holiday, but I was fine. Would I stay there again? Only if it was really really bargainously cheap.
If you're not happy with your room, ask for a different one
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.