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“Perfect Honeymoon”

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Papillon Lagoon Reef
Ranked #14 of 29 Hotels in Diani Beach
Leicestershire
Level Contributor
15 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
“Perfect Honeymoon”
Reviewed September 6, 2009

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!

Hotel:
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!'

Restaurants:
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!

Rooms:
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.

Staff:
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!

Beach boys/locals:
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!

Facilities:
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.

  • Stayed July 2009, traveled as a couple
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9 Thank TheakstonCat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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england
Level Contributor
24 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
Reviewed September 2, 2009

How does one begin?
The begining I guess. I was a little worried at first about travelling to Kenya alone( treat for my 50th) but i didnt have to worry one little bit. After a fantastic 4 day safari with Madukha safaris (thnx charles ur a star) I was wondering how the Papilion would match up to my expectations.
The start was not good as I was given a room away from the main area and being a lone traveller I was a little upset to say the least. The room was simply basic with a bed and silly shower. However once i had spoken with the managment and told them of my expectations i was told i could upgreade to a ocean view room for around 150USD. Trust me when I say that these are the rooms you want. TV,Mini bar(stocked daily with beer and pop. Huge bed and the most wonderful sight to wake up to every morning The Beach.
Once settled I was happy. Food lovely, staff wonderful especailly Bosco and George.Drinks and entertainment also good.
Now onto the beach. Please dont believe everything you read about the Beach boys. I met 2 wonderful guys who loked after me evertime they saw me and they really only want to improve their English. I even ventured down the beachmost afternoons to a wonderful plac called The kim4love well worth a visit to see how Kenyans enjoy themselves and makes a lovely change from the sun loungers at Hotel. Overall i would say that The Papillion was a great choice and had a ball.

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled solo
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Helpful?
3 Thank scattylass
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
England
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed August 30, 2009

We spent a week at the Papillon Lagoon Reef after a week on Safari. After a difficult journey down to Mombasa (due to the Kenyan Airways strike!) we had a very warm welcome from the duty manager and were ushered into the restaurant for our evening meal straight away. The only downside to the welcome was that our luggage that we had left in Mombasa while we were on Safari had gone 'missing'. Porters carried the little luggage we had to our rooms but do be aware that tips are expected!

We stayed in one of the Garden Rooms. It was very clean and the view was lovely despite not being able to see the ocean. Fresh towels were provided daily. Little extra touches such as flowers on the bed and having the air conditioning put on for us so we came back to a cool room were lovely. I had been worried about the beds as some reviews mentioned how soft the mattresses were but ours was firm and very comfortable. It also seemed larger than a normal double bed and a mosquito net was provided in the room. Possibly the only downside regarding the room was that a certain times there was no hot water (usually around 6pm) when it felt like everyone in the hotel was taking a shower. At other times of the day though there was plenty so I would recommend you make sure you miss the 6pm shower rush! Hairdryer was provided in the bathroom.

The location of the hotel was about an hour south of Mombasa using the ferry crossing. Set right on the beach front the views from the beach bar and pool area are like paradise, spoilt only slightly by the beach boys. We only went onto the beach once in the day and were trailed the entire time by one beach boy named Ali. Although friendly and non threatening they are slightly annoying. Even when you are sitting in the hotel grounds they call over the wall to ask you to buy things.

Food served was of a very good standard and always plenty of it. Breakfast served from 7.30-10, lunch 12.30-2.30, afternoon tea 4-5 and evening meal 7.30-10pm. The all inclusive status lets you get free local drinks from the bar when open - this includes water from a bottle if you have it by the cup but not if you want an actual bottle to take out for the day. No snacks at the bars, you have to go to the restaurant at the set times to get food or buy it from the shop. Possibly the only draw back was that only one bar was open at a time, which started to get a little repetitive, so during the day you had to go to the pool bar and then at night you had to go to the beach bar where the evening entertainment was on. (drinks also available in the restaurants when eating!)

Swimming pool was nice and clean, although rather cold. At regular times during the day the animations team organised beach volleyball / waterpolo sessions and there was also table tennis and pool for people over 16. Although I don't have children I didn't really see any organised entertainment for children under 16 so this may not be a very good hotel if you want a kids club or anything like that.

Although I did not use them myself the hotel does have a hairdressers, doctors surgery, massage facilities etc.

The monkeys can be quite problematic and are kept under control by the security guards but you are advised not to take food out of the restaurants as they will steal it and can become quite agressive.

About 10 minutes drive away is the Ali Barbours Cave Restaurant. I would really recommend this as it is a gorgeous environment with delicious food and gives you a chance to 'escape' the hotel compound for a night or two. Be warned that you do need to book in advance though as it gets very busy but the hotel reception will do this for you and then the transport is free. In the day there are also several shopping centres nearby to go to, as well as the local village.

When talking to other people about their hotels the Papillon certainly sounds like one of the best on Diani Beach. Perhaps the only draw back and one that is not limited to this hotel is that you are restricted to where you can go out of the hotel grounds at night for your own safety. Overall a friendly and relaxed environment with gorgeous scenary and the worlds oldest Baobab tree in its grounds!

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
4 Thank Sydnee080808
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bath
Level Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed August 27, 2009

We really found paradise at this hotel. we stayed in a garden view room and it was fantasic. The staff, the food, the room, the pool - all amazing and really couldn't fault them. The beach boys are slightly annoying but just be freindly and firm when you say no and they are fine - if you walk for about 10 minutes along the beach it gets really quiet any way. One thing we would say - take the time to learn the basic proper swahili - Jambo is tourist swahili. Hu jambo is acurate swahili. I know its not much but it makes a huge difference. Habari Yako is Proper Swahili slang for how are you! Enjoy - this place is gorgeous. Ps - barter for everything in the markets - they will always double the price to start with.

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank BathBella
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
hove
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed August 27, 2009

All that I read about the Papillon Lagoon Reef hotel was true, I would rate it as a 4 star hotel as I believe it deserved more than its 3 star status.We stayed here after a safari at the Ashni Aruba Lodge. We felt immediately at home in this hotel with its beautiful setting with rooms that were clean and staff who were friendly, You need to make sure that you keep the door to your room closed or you may find yourselves sharing it with the resident monkeys who can also try to pinch your food when eating outside. I have never met such friendly staff but they rely heavily on tips.Our only crticism is that there is not much to do outside the hotel and the evening entertainment can become repetitive. The beach boys selling goods are a pain and the beach is not set up for lying on. There is hard sell going on here and I was asked to part with my flipflops in return for a wooden carving of a turtle!!!I didn't accept the offer!! Whatever price they give you when shopping, halve it first and then negotiate from there. If you have booked to go here I won't wish you luck as I know you 'll have a great time!

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank safariHove
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
devon england
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed August 22, 2009

We were not sure what to expect, but had read lots of reviews on TA, but nothing had really prepared us for what we found. Right from the day of our arrival, staff were fantastic, they simply could not do enough for us, they are really badly paid so do tip them well when you leave. particularly good waiters, Dickson and Duncan, who is on work experience and doesn't get paid a penny! Food was plentiful, varied and delicious, suitable for all pallets and ages. As much free drink as you want, as long as it comes in a glass!
bedrooms were very comfy and nicely furnished, our room had a large doluble bed and one single, and a very adequate mossie net, although we did not see ONE single mossie on the whole trip. my girls had an adjoininbg room with the same bed arrangement. Gardens were lovely and very well cared for. Monkeys were not a problem! Swimming pool was lovely and never that many people in it. hotel backs onto the beach, lovely white sand and blue sea looking out on the reef, which if you are strong swimmer is swimming distance, or lots of boats available to take you out there at low tide. (watch out for the sea urchins at low tide when you ar swimming, swimming shoes are a good idea). Beach boys were not in any way a problem, in fact i quite enjoyed chatting to them, they just like to walk down the beach with you, most of them just want to practice their english. Hotel entertainment was ok some of it was very good, like the acrobats, and some of it was questionable, the singers!!! but it was all good fun. remember to take some change down with you as they go round with a hat at the end of their performance, as they do not get paid by the hotel. Lots of outdoor sspsorts during the day, water polo, water arobics, beach volley ball, badminton, table tennis, pool.
Lovely eating areas, you have your lunch and breakfast down by the pool, and dinner up in the mmain building. Delicious breakfast, try the frreshly cooked pancakes!!
Only a couple of niggly negatives, although i would not really call them negatives, there is no internet access for guests, but there is an internet cafe in Diani Beach shopping centre. And my husband thought the coffee was not as good as it could be, seeing as they grow coffee in Kenya. Also if you go down to the shopping centre, take the bus (Matatu) only costs 20 KS, and the taxi costs 1,200 KS, but i am a bit of a one for a bargain, ALSO have posted a forum post about the fact that you can now buy Malarone in Kenya for £1.35 per tablet, wish i had know that before we travelled could have saved my self about £100.
Went on a 3 day safari with First African Dream Tours and Safaris, owned by Mike Musyoka, he was brilliant met me at the hotel gate on our first day, having answered all my e-mails whilst we were in UK, very good communicator, also very good and competative price, our driver was called Joseph, and he was fantastic, very patient and stopping and turning off the engine every time we wanted to take a photo, saw everything except Rhino!!
All in all a wonderful holiday, and would not hesitate to go back to the Papillon Lagoon Reef again.
took masses of photos so will try and put some on TA
anyone got any questions would be happy to answer them.

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
3 Thank alexarevel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oxford, UK
Level Contributor
41 reviews
16 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
Reviewed August 21, 2009

We've just come back from 2 weeks in Kenya, ending at Papillon which we booked at a very reasonable rate. I was with my brother, sister and her 3 teenagers aged 12-16. I used to live in Kenya, but it was the first time for the rest of the family. Everyone had a great time. Comfortable clean rooms, each with double and a single bed, mosi net, air con, fan. Very clean and excellent room stewards. We all loved the food- well cooked and good variety, plus excellent service again. Pool great and the kids loved the 'animation team who organised beach volleyball, water aerobics, water polo etc. Good range of ages took part from adult to young kids. Pool attendant very helpful setting out our sunbeds and very friendly/fun staff for the evening entertainment (which was OK but no more). Monkeys were a pain, so we liked the guards trying to get rid of them. Beach boys a pain too, but mostly friendly and you just say 'no' but be prepared to have a chat. We really did have a great time. Quiet, yet lots going on in the day if you wanted to take part. We would all go back again. Wonderful.

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Oxford_UKRichard
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

Property: 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 (Based on Average Rates): $
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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