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“Loved every minute of it!”

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Papillon Lagoon Reef
Ranked #13 of 29 Hotels in Diani Beach
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed March 21, 2013

From start to finish, just had one of the best holidays.

Having travelled through the night, arriving mid morning, was delighted that the room was available to check straight in. The friendly and warm welcome was great, explaining everything about the hotel, restaurants, bars and when the holiday rep would be at the hotel. The Hotel is set over several blocks in beautiful gardens with it's own enormous 500 year old boabab tree. I had gone for a sea view room, which was great and the view, stunning. The room was spotlessly clean and a lovely size with 4 poster bed with mosquito net, decent bathroom with shower and bath. The fridge with drinks was a nice a touch. The room got the sun in the morning and then was shaded in the afternoon heat, so when the sun got a little too hot to sit out, the breeze was lovely on the balcony and you could still see everything going on.

In the evening, they ask you to observe the dress code which was a nice change, if a little hot, but even though it is advertised on all the websites I saw of the hotel, at the hotel and guests told on arrival, it's a shame more guests ignored it! The food is great and plenty of choice and the staff are so friendly and attentive in their service. Following dinner there is nightly entertainment which is worth a watch, ranging from a gheko and reptile display to acrobats and Maasai Dancers.

Breakfast is served the other restaurant by the pool and you can choose to sit inside or out. Again plenty of good food to choose from and attentive service.

There is a colony of Colobus monkeys living in the grounds which keep you entertained. Didn't see them pinching anything, other than your drinks when you weren't watching! You are asked not to feed them, but of course people did, which then encourages them even more, but I didn't have a problem with them at all and only had a visit from one on the balcony, but he soon left and went upstairs! There is also a daily visit from two baboons, which were a bit more scary, but staff are always on hand to shoo them away.

A "must do" is the safari excursion organised with the rep and leaves early morning from the hotel. I did the East Tsavo safari which includes an overnight stay at the Ngutuni Lodge which is as good as the Papillon. A great experience, saw plenty of wildlife and loved every minute of it. Our guide was great, very friendly and knowledgable about everything we saw and local history.

Another "must do" is the Pilli Pipa boat safari. A great day out from a village called Shimoni. We saw the dolphins swimming round the dhow before reaching the reef for some great snorkeling with the turtles. You can hire an underwater camera for 2000 shillings, which is quite expensive, but I've got some great pics to show for it! Then it was on to Wasini Island for an African lunch of fresh crab, rice, fish etc in the most beautiful surroundings.

Be prepared to drive through some deprived areas, which can be quite upsetting, but all the people I met were so happy and friendly and the children always had a beautiful smile and a wave as we passed, shouting "Jambo, give me sweets!"

The hotel is set on the gorgeous beach and a swim in the warm ocean is a must. As previously stated there are the Beach Boys hanging around, but they are not as bad as some have made out and no where near as bad as other countries like Morocco. A polite "no" suficed and they left me alone.

As others have stated in previous reviews, I left summer clothes and unused toiletries for the room attendant to make use of, they are greatly received.

As I had a late flight home, the drive back to the airport was an eye opener as we hit Mombassa at rush hour, so be prepared for a slow journey, but absolutely fascinating watching the city move "en masse".

Overall an amazing holiday in a great hotel in an amazing country and can't wait to return some day.

Room Tip: Pay the little extra and go for the sea view rooms, well worth it.
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  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled solo
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3  Thank Rix2005
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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105 - 111 of 613 reviews

Reviewed March 18, 2013

This holiday and hotel has exceeded our expectations so here is my review.

Hotel and surroundings - the hotel is spread around beautifully kept gardens that are tended from early in the morning by pleasant and chatty gardeners, always a cheerful "Jambo, jambo", (hello). They were always happy to tell you about plants, about the resident gheko or the naughty monkeys. The whole area is very clean and tidy. Fallen leaves are gathered frequently. There is a huge Baobab tree in the gardens that is said to be the oldest tree in Kenya, at about 600 years old. The reception area is well kept and the staff gave a very warm welcome on arrival, and we were shown to our room which was very clean to the point of being able to see you face in the tiles. The furniture and curtains were of a high standard too. The big bed was surrounded by a good quality mosquito net. There is a fan in the room and air conditioning. The only criticism would be that the shower was a bit dated but adequate for our needs, with scorching hot water all day long.

Dining - the dining areas are well maintained and very clean and the food was of a high standard with plenty of variety to suit most tastes. The waiters were always very attentive and served drinks and cleared tables very efficiently.

Pool - the pool and sun bathing gardens overlook the sea and again are clean and tidy, although some of the sun beds could do with some maintenance attention but it is the end of the season so they may well be given an overhaul soon. The pool is attended by several lads, all of whom like a joke. They all speak a bit of several languages with English being the main language. Once they get to know you and your likes, you will find your bed ready with the towel already waiting. We really enjoyed the pool which was cleaned early morning and most of the day leaves were cleared.

Staff - the staff were amazing! We cannot give them high enough praise. We did not encounter one that was not happy in his job. From the gardeners to the room cleaning boys, the bar attendants and the animation team! George is one of the best and a really top bloke! He organises beach volley ball, or pool volley ball and water polo, always very well attended and hilarious to watch. Another of the animation team organises aerobics and to listen to him was very entertaining!

The monkeys - one must realise you are in a country that is populated with animals and monkeys were the first native creatures and occupying a space that is now shared with people. The monkeys are very naughty, but guests are creating little monsters! There are signs everywhere about not feeding the monkeys and people still do. This causes the monkeys to go in search of food and they became a bit of a nuisance with guests leaving their drinks unattended or cakes on plates which they then steal. On the whole they are very amusing and entertaining. Because the people who occupied our room before fed them, they thought that we would also and the first day we had about 10 monkeys on our balcony, peering through the window and trying to open the door - KEEP IT LOCKED!! There some baboons and some colobus which are no problem.

The beach - the beach is beautiful and the sea warm, but you will encounter the beach boys who are touting for business, anything from carvings, to beach safaris (which is basically a walk along the small reef), boat trips etc. If you don't want to engage with them, be polite and just tell them this is your forth visit (or similar!). They should then leave you alone. They are pretty poor but there are many that are much poorer. Bearing in mind some of these lads support whole families and there is a lot of unemployment and no benefits, so they have to find a way to make a living. We made friends with several of them and they are really very interested to hear about where you live. They also try and get any soaps, shower gels, shampoo, sun cream at the end of your holiday or tshirts or anything you don't like, so if you want to get rid of some old clothes they are very grateful!

Pilli Pippa - this is a snorkling trip and well worth it! We saw two different pods of dolphin, plus plenty of sea life. The lunch was a traditional Kenyan affair and beautiful.

All in all we had a great holiday which included a two day safari - on hindsight we would have liked longer on safari, which was great but on a longer one your will see the big 5, we saw 3 of the big 5. The lodge was a very high standard too.

We drove through some very deprived areas which to some might seem quick shocking. What shocked us most was on the way home, the new president was out with his cavalcade of some thirty vehicles, taking up the whole road - considering the extreme poverty he was driving through, seemed quite obscene.

One last thing, I took pens, pencils and notebooks which I took to the local orphanage, accompanied by one of the animation team, Diani Childrens Village. A small gesture.

Go and enjoy!

Room Tip: The rooms that over look the sea, garden and pool.
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  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank Brightskies56
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 25, 2013

We stayed overall for 8 nights at the Papillon, Both rooms were situated on the 2nd floor at the front of the complex (rear being the beach).

We booked a safari half way through our stay, as part of the holiday package we were required to check out of the Papillon while on safari and check back in when we returned. Although this is slightly inconvenient (un-packing and re-packing) it didn’t ruin our trip.

Our rooms were basic but clean. The rooms were cleaned and fresh towels and purified water provided (for brushing teeth) every day.

We enjoyed all meal options and found the food to be of a good standard. No complaints there!

The staff are wonderful!

The beach is public, therefore expect to be approached by locals wanting to sell you their wares. TIP: before purchasing, check out the hotel gift shop for an idea on how much to pay. I would recommend buying from the beach to support the locals, however it is best to be prepared to haggle to ensure you are not paying over the odds! (Example: Hand carved wooden salad forks were 450Shillings in the gift shop, the beach sellers were haggling for around 3-4,000 shillings for the exact same thing!!)

Toiletries are especially expensive in Kenya, when we left we gave all our un-used toiletries, summer clothing, shoes etc to a member of staff (He was extremely attentive, chatty and all round nice throughout our stay so we wanted to leave what we could) If I returned, I would take extra!

  • Stayed: January 2013, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Samso_DH
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 12, 2013

We have just returned from our second visit to this hotel, not normally going to places a second time. So glad that we did, this place has such a friendly and calming atmosphere that we found ourselves in holiday mode within minutes of arrival.. For the money paid the food, service etc is exceptional. I am fortunate in that I travel a great deal for work and am therefore comfortable in dealing with the likes of " Beach Boys" . Do not be afraid to be firm but polite with them and having said no thanks ignore further advances. You can be certain that there are people alot poorer than them. It was noticable that this year they treated everyones wishes with alittle more respect and I suspect that they either have realised or have beened warned that people can be put off by their pushyness. As for the monkeys they are harmless if you treat them with respect and give them room, especially the females with young ones. We did see a young girl get into a spot of bother but she was trying to treat it as a family pet! Looking forward to returning in 2014!!!

  • Stayed: January 2013, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank PaulRead
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 10, 2013

We spent a week recouperating at the Papillon Reef after a thrilling and wonderful week on safari with JT Safaris (highly recommended safari company).

We had a pool view room, which was in a wonderful position near the Boabab Tree, with vervet and columbus monkies to keep us entertained late afternoon. The rooms are comfortable with adequate facilites. As a hint take some mosquito spray and before you leave for dinner, pull the mosquito net around the bed and spray the area. We saw this done each night on safari for us and it works brilliantly.

The hotel grounds are well kept and clean. As always we found some guests getting up early to claim the best sunbeds, however we did not bother with the sunbed until after lunch and never had a problem finding a nice shady area under a coconut palm.

The pool area is very inviting, and nice and quiet with no forced music being played. The animation team worked hard and there was a variety of activities to choose from.

The food was generally good and we always found something we liked to eat. The staff were attentive and helpful in all departments of the hotel. The evening restaurant was a lovely pleasant outside area, with strings of lights lighting the area and candles on the table. We even had a Bushbaby as a regular visitor.

The evening entertainment was very good, and being outside next to the ocean meant you were comfortable in the evening heat. The drinks were generally good although you have to be quite specific in asking for 'white' rum and even then on occasions dark rum was poured.

The beautician service was very good value and the pedicure as good as any at home.

The negatives of this hotel are: the 18 sea view rooms with TV and mini bar are very expensive. We also found the exchange rate at the hotel was not at all competive. There is no wifi and the hotel computor room (payable) is far too hot. The hotel also charges for water which is appalling. The water in Kenya cannot even be used to brush your teeth and on an all inclusive deal water should be standard.

The hotel is also 5km from the shopping area which we did find to be a negative. It would have been nice to be able to take a walk to them but it was too far along a dusty fairly busy road.

However, the positives of this hotel definately outweigh the negatives and we were not disappointed with our choice. The beach is beautiful (although the beach boys can be a pest), the water a clear turquoise and because its tidal there is a lovely breeze to keep you cool

If you are looking for a quiet beach holiday, with a good general standard of accomodation and food then i would recommend the Papillon Lagoon Reef.

Room Tip: Ask for a pool view room, you can see the sea, gardens and boabab tree
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  • Stayed: January 2013, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank sharonhaden
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 10, 2013

We booked this hotel as part of a safari/beach package and somewhat staggerd as to the contrast in accomodation.
I did read a few of the reviews before we committed to the booking albeit there was a contrast there too!
We were initially disgruntled with our operater in the UK as when booking the holiday we requested first floor or above (not ground) this was not relayed on and therfore for the first night we had to stay in not only a ground floor room but what we thought was the grottest, dirtiest room in the hotel-
Unfortunately the hotel were unable to deal with the query that night and were only able to offer us 2 alternative ground floor rooms the following day one of which bordered on satisfactory.
The cleanliness in general could have been better, the food was OK, the wine wasn't! The hotel entertainment not that we are usually in to that sort of thing, but found it very good. we warmed to the staff as they did what they could within the realms of their capabilities.
It was a serious shame we had to fight for sunbeds with the towel business, but boy those sun beds had lovely thick mattresses and the beds were comfy too!
The Gardens were fab complete with a 500 year old tree! and full of monkeys that were funny but at times menacing!
The beach - no sunbeds, such a shame no one seems to use it due to hassle from the guys on the beach wanting to sell you trips or wares. Oh and signs saying not advisable to swim.Although we had some nice walks.
We felt our stay here was OK although not up to our usual standards, you can tell the area is struggling and cant help but feel for the staff and the inhabitants of the area.

There were flasks of water in the bathrooms that were there for us to use to brush our teeth with which I found a little strange, its a shame they couldn't run to sealed bottles of water.
A note to the hotel.. clean beach and bathroom towels were issued everday - that really did seem to be over the top especially as the beach towels weren't used on the beach! surely you could save a great deal here financially!! and put notices in the rooms to say if clean towels needed please leave in shower or bath like they tend to do elsewhere these days.

Although the hotel was busy -We really wish the hotel and it's staff all the best and hope the tourist situations improves in general for the area and kenya itself.

Room Tip: Room 117 has got to be the worst. Make sure you get first floor or above. Give Ali Barbours a try, a...
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  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank SooziHythe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 30, 2013

We started our Kenyan travels with four days in Diani Beach. The Pappillon far exceeded our expectations and allowed us to unwind and rest up for the upcoming busy days of travel. The staff welcomed us and took great care of us during our stay. They even helped us to contact our safari provider and we were able to arrange our private safari, driver and itinerary from there. The food was fine, we actually enjoyed the lunches the most with lots of fresh grilling and veggies. The all inclusive was a treat for us and swimming up to the bar for cocktails is always fun. The beach is terrific and all in all I'd go back in a heartbeat:)

  • Stayed: January 2013, traveled with friends
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2  Thank sbeadle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Papillon Lagoon Reef

Address: Diani Beach Road, Diani Beach, Ukunda, Kenya
Location: Kenya > Coast Province > Ukunda > Diani Beach
Amenities:
Restaurant Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#10 Romantic Hotel in Diani Beach
Price Range: $100 - $292 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Papillon Lagoon Reef 3*
Number of rooms: 119
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Also Known As:
Papillon Lagoon Reef Diani
Papillon Lagoon Reef Hotel Diani

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