We booked this hotel because it was all inclusive within our budget - and I must say, it was worth double what we paid!
Sorry this is a long review - but worth it!
Not a boutique hotel, but exceptionally clean, well maintained and comfortable - traditional African Swahili style, the first impression walking into reception is amazing, palm roofs, cool stone floors, colonial furniture and met with a cool glass of juice and a hibiscus flower! Gardens are fantastic with little streams running right from inside reception all the way through the gardens - the fish in the reception pools are hilarious and swim up to you with their mouths open for bread. Gardens are very well kept, lots of room for loungers so you didn't feel as if you were on top of each other - no need for a parasol, just pull your sunbed into the shade of a palm tree - but watch out for falling coconuts! Pool stewards soon get to know if you like to sit in the same place each day and have your sunbed ready for you. Clean poolside towels are provided, but limited to one per guest, per day so advise taking your own beach towel to lie on and use theirs for drying off after a swim. Plus you can't take their towels onto the beach. (Please have a swim in the sea - it is lovley and warm - if a bit sea-weedy in places!) Pool was gorgeous, a free-form pool with a swim up bar - well you just have to use it don't you! Get Johnson the barman to make you a Jambo cocktail (Lethal combination of huge measures of cocconut liquer, white rum and passionfruit juice, mmmm....) Beach bar was a nice place to spend the evening with entertainment laid on every night - don't be expecting spangly Cabaret - these are genuine, local, African people, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, musicians etc. and very entertaining none the less. (Take a few shillings down with you in the evening because you might want to throw a few 'in the hat') Disco til midnight - music is a bit dated, but Mambo one of the DJ's will have you on your feet - the DJ's motto seems to be: 'if in doubt put on some Abba!'
Breakfast lunch and afternoon tea are served in the lower restaurant by the pool (indoor or outdoor seating) and evening meal is upstairs on the terrace or in the restaurant. All buffet style. Clean, well staffed with genuinely friendly people who want to help you have a nice stay, plenty of choice (We worked out that if you had just one choice from your main meal each evening you could go for 12 nights without eating the same thing!). Breakfast is like a banquet - cereal, meat, fruit, full english, omlette, fish, danish, toast, rolls, pancakes, waffles and more! Lunch and dinner were another 6 course affair and you can return to the buffet as often as you like and if that isn't enough there is afternoon tea at 4pm with sandwiches and cakes! You would have to be really, really picky not to find something you liked. The buffets are nicely presented and replenished frequently. There were a couple of occasions where one or two desserts had run out later in the evening, but as there is usually a choice of about 7 different desserts it didn't matter! Friday night is BBQ night and is the best - can't describe the choice of fish, chicken, meat and vegetables cooked on the open charcoal grills. Local produced spirits, lager and spanish wine (red or white - thats your choice!) plus fanta, sprite, coke and lots of juices to choose from. The spirits are excellent - best G&T ever (probably because its a triple!!) There isn't really any need to go out to eat, but there is a restaurant nearby called Ali Barbours - its in a cave, there is a free bus there and back and it isn't too expensive - no more than you would pay in the UK, but really worth the trip for the atmosphere and lovely sea-food. If you want a 'proper' glass of wine, walk down the beach to Nomads where they have a nice wine list and sell marvellous ice-creams!
We upgraded to a beachfront room and it was worth every penny. Opening your eyes to paradise in the morning is bliss! Large room with big bed, air-con, fan and safe (small extra charge for the safe, but worth it for the peace of mind) clean, well kept - fresh towels etc every day. Traditional African colonial style bed and furniture - don't expect minimalism, everything is coloured and patterened! Our lovely room steward Saidi kept our room immaculately clean, placed fresh flowers on our bed every day and taught me a new Swahili word each morning! Monkeys on the balcony - which seems cute an delightful at first but, don't feed them, they are aggressive, they steal and they bite - and they are not afraid of you! There is 24 hour security patrols at the hotel which is to protect you from the monkeys as much as anything. The security guards have sling shots, but contrary to another alarmist review they don't actually kill the monkeys, just scare them off.
Not a bad word to say - without exception they are friendly, welcoming and genuine (it really didn't matter if you tip them or not!). Right from the Managers to the Gardeners and everyone in between. Kevin at reception, Julianna, Duncan and Patrick in the Restaurants, Johnson, and Fred, 2 of the barmen, George and Samuel in the animation team are all especially worth a mention! A word on tipping - its OK not to, but it is nice to give the staff a few shillings once a week or at the end of your stay (We gave 200/300 shillings each to our 'favourites' - bout £1.80/2.50 - in the first week and then about 400 each at the end of our stay.) Please note that the waiting staff dressed in black and white are on work experience and do not get paid a wage!
You will hear horror stories about the beach boys and going off the complex - please don't let this put you off. Be polite, buy a trinket or two, then tell them that you have done all your shopping (you will have to say it a lot, but they get the hint eventually) and we found that being friendly and having a chat got us a lot more freedom than some of the people who were trying to ignore or avoid eye contact (which is just plain rude!) - the beach sellers are persistant in trying to make a living - they will want to 'negotiate' which is fun - don't be afraid to haggle it is part of the game and expect to barter down to about a quarter of their initial asking price. Take socks, t-shirts, pens, soap, note pads, flip flops and football shirts (doesn't mtter which team and if they are old and used!) these will give you extra bargaining power! (500 shillings and a pair of socks will get you a nice little carving of a giraffe!) We also took sweets and crayons, balloons, hair bobbles, toy cars etc. as when we went out walking on the road we gave lots away to the children - but be sensible - if you leave the complex for a walk don't flaunt your wealth - leave the jewellery, cameras, handbags, wallets and purses in your safe, stuff your pockets with sweets and balloons and go off for a walk, you will meet some very interesting people on the way - as long as you tell them you are 'not shopping today, no money' they will just want to chat about the UK and Africa. We did find that being honeymooners (albeit aging ones!) gave us a bit of freedom too - we told them we were on our honeymoon and with knowing winks and nods they let us go off for 'romanitc walk' in peace! And although I am past my 'prime' I was wished 'good luck to bear many children' on more than one occasion!
There is a great Salon in the hotel with a pedicure (which looked lovely for 10 days!) costing about £6 and back massage (floating on air afterwards!) about £12, so would highly recommend going to see Rosalin if you can! Febrionah in the little boutique sells postcards, T-shirts and trinkets as well as sweets and cigarettes and it is a bit more expensive than the supermarket, but not over priced. (Take Febrionah some magazines as she has to sit in the shop for 10 hours a day!). Animation team are very good at getting you to play pool games, beach volleyball etc and there are pool tables, table tennis and darts - which are not well maintained unfortunately (Please Madame Melba - buy them some new pool cues!!) There is a childrens play area but it is very old and doesn't seem to be maintained so I would not recommend letting your children play on it. There is a badminton court in the grounds and a tennis court away at the back of the hotel which again are not maintained very well, so if you are looking for a sporty holiday this probably isn't the best place to come. Luckily all we wanted to do was relax so it didn't spoil anything for us. The snorkelling trip to the coral reef in the sea in front of the hotel is very good - you can book in the hotel, or with one of the beach boys - both the same - one is a bit cheaper than the other!
Biggest tip? Keep your balcony door shut - the monkeys will steal everything - and lock it if you are not in the room - they know how to use door handles!
All in all a fantastic place to stay, but please, keep in mind you are visiting a 3rd world country, the people are struggling to make a living as tourists have been few and far between in the last 2 or 3 years.
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- Also Known As:
- Papillon Lagoon Reef Diani
- Papillon Lagoon Reef Hotel Diani