il 12, 2011 – A mini castle in a forest is one of the last things you expect to find in Diani, especially a castle that opens into miles and miles of beach.
The Sands at Nomad is a fort-like structure that comes out of a corner of more than 26 acres of conserved forest. Among the weaving and wavy pale yellow branches stands a light brown formation, almost shy to come out and greet you.
A mini-car park that can accommodate at most 11 cars fools you into believing that the cottage you read about in the brochure might just be a cosy looking well designed room. It’s after you walk past the reception that you see a huge space opening up – inviting you to explore it.
It was dark when I got there, so I could only hear the ocean waves lapping up the breeze as they moved in and moved out on the sand.
Cottage number 30 was circular and had a thatch roof. It came low on the step leading into the cottage, meaning anyone past 5ft 6inches would have to bend a little to avoid hitting their heads on the roof.
Walls painted with faint blue strokes, white curtains, sheets and mosquito net blended well with the four poster dark wood Lamu bed with painted glass on the foot, was inviting. The high ceiling made it feel like a vacuum, and the kikoy robes in the bathroom could convince you to stay indoors – for various reasons.
But there were other forces at work. I almost ran out of the cottage after opening the curtains the next morning. The fantastic blue ocean and sizzling white beach were like master hypnotists. Such was my desire that despite being a victim of bad packing and carrying my swimsuit from five kilograms ago, I still made it into the warm salty water.
Because of an agreement with the management, the beach boys wait to catch your eyes for many a minute before slowly approaching you. On offer is a deep sea dive, a look at fish from a glass bottom boat, surfing, jet skiing and just a ride on a speed boat.
For some reason, all the guests in the hotel are friendly. The ones I didn’t know had that look that said ‘I know you paid as much as I did to enjoy this spot, so let’s be friends shall we’.
The Sands at Nomad is a boutique hotel, meaning it is cosy, exclusive and very good looking. The staff go to extra lengths to give you a personal experience whether you are in the beach cottages, forest view cottages, or ocean view rooms.
A strict hotel policy allows no idlers in the establishment, and bars any outsider from even accessing the pool.
“The owners of the hotel are deep sea divers. They designed this pool. That’s why it has a pillar in the middle with a hole you can swim through. Guests love it! The reason we don’t allow outsiders to swim here is because we want the guests who’ve paid to be at the hotel, to enjoy themselves with as little interference as possible,” says the General Manager.
Not all the guests were nice though. Some of the white tourists, waited for us black tourists to get out of the pool before they got in, and got back out when we went back in. I think I’m still in denial that it actually happened.
The Sands at Nomad has been feted for helping to protect the Colobus monkey, which is easy to spot on the premises. The Colobus Trust taking care of them has also built foot bridges between trees on opposite sides of the road for them, so that they don’t get run over by cars.
The hotel is just a stone throw away from nightspots Forty Thieves and Shakatak should you want to get jiggy with it and make a whole lot of noise. Here you will also get to meet a lot of locals hidden among the constant flow of tourists to this exquisite part of Kenya.
The damage to your pockets ranges between Sh8,800 and Sh50,000 depending on where you are sleeping and how many you are. You can fly down or drive down, giving yourself a little time to queue in line for the ferry which will take you from Mombasa to Diani. Make sure you know exactly where you’re going because if you ask for directions everybody seems to say “nenda (go) straight…!”