Hidden gem in Diani, where tourists pay thousands of shillings to see the sunset

Hidden gem in Diani where tourists pay thousands to see sunset

Ordinarily, sunset is a normal occurrence to many people which marks the end of the day and depending on their location, they can easily spot golden clear skies.

This is the reason why Pearl Barbara, a tourist in Diani, could not believe that she would have to pay up to 50 USD (Sh6,500) to watch the sunset when she visited the Kongo River in Kwale County.

Unknown to her, the cost would be worth it because at this site, the sunset is extraordinary.

Kongo River sits between Diani and Tiwi Beach. There is an estuary where the river water joins the Ocean water near the famous ancient Kongo Mosque. The beach area is now called Kongo.

“When I was told that this was the best place to watch the sunset in the world, I was curious only to learn that I have to pay. I am a lover of great scenes so I did," said Ms Pearl.

Diani Beach

A pricy sunset view in coastal beach in Diani.

Photo credit: Siago Cece| Nation Media Group

The trip for tourists begins when the dhow operators, popularly known as captains, collect the traveler at Kongo Beach, or at the hotel where they stay.

This only happens before 5.30 pm, since any time after that would mean the guest risks missing the sunset.

They then take a walk towards the river, where dhows and canoes have lined up, anchored and ready to board and sail towards the water.

The wooden dhow then wades into the water surrounded by mangroves on both sides, to a place where several other dhows have parked, quietly, with both locals and foreigners sitting in silence to watch the sun go down.

The serene moment also sees the golden sky creating its reflection on the calm waters.

The majority, hold their cameras or phones facing the horizon as they capture picturesque moments.

Mr Suleiman Said, a dhow operator, has been working on this river for ten years now, where he is familiar with the shallow waters and skilled in rowing the dhow at least a kilometre into the river to show his guests the breathtaking nature.

“I started working here 10 years ago with my dhow. Most of my guests were foreigners who needed to be taken around the mangroves to conduct their studies. In the evenings some of them would enjoy the sunset,” he said.

His interaction with international guests has also helped him learn foreign languages such as French, German and Italian.

He explained that things slowly changed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the globe, and Diani suddenly started having an influx of local tourists instead of foreigners.

According to him, it took a few guests capturing the sunset and sharing it on the internet and social media, so that more and more people would come seeking the same experience.

This made the boat operators start charging the tourists for the rides.

“We were forced to adjust our prices to fit the locals because initially, we would only charge the foreigners who would pay us in foreign currency,” he said.

For instance, a foreigner would pay 50 USD (Sh6,500) for a trip to the mangroves and to watch the sunset.

But locals are now paying between Sh1,000 and Sh3,000 per person for the same experience, making it one of the most expensive sunsets to watch. The costs depend on whether one does it individually or as a group. One dhow carries a maximum of eight passengers.

Since countries relaxed their travel restrictions and international tourism is now picking up on the Kenyan Coast, 'Captain Sule', as he prefers to be called, now attends to both local tourists and international ones chasing the magical moment.

“We cannot overcharge the locals, the majority of whom come from Nairobi. So we just agree on the amount and then take them on the trip. The time we take will depend on when they arrive,” he said.


Guests who arrive at the beach early have a longer time to sail and watch the magical moment when the sun slowly sets on the horizon. Those arriving late take as little as 20 minutes since some of them find the sun already down.

“One thing we insist on is being on time because there is no way the sun will wait. We therefore advise our customers to keep time to get the most out of the experience,” he explained.

However, it is not always a joyful moment since there are occasions when nature is unpredictable and therefore posing a challenge.

For instance, a client may have booked a dhow trip only for there to be a cloudy or rainy evening interrupting their experience.

This means that on some days, the sunset may not be as clear as others.

The influx of locals in Diani has also resulted in more youth taking up the business. The dhows have increased from five a few years ago to over 30.

“This is a lucrative business because I built my house through earning from these dhow tours. With the increased demand, the number of canoes and dhows operating here has also increased in number to more than 30,” said Mr Said.

Each one of them goes for at least one trip on a day.

Other than the sunset, guests also enjoy birdwatching, and a calm and tranquil environment that some use to meditate.

Visitors who are not lucky to take a dhow ride into the river also sit by the estuary's beach to watch the sunset from a distance.

Besides boat tours, tourists visiting Kongo Beach also enjoy other exclusive experiences such as candle-lit dinners at the estuary set up on sand, night beach bonfires, all full moon watching alongside some music.