Back again with another in our Meet the Members series, where we let our muchbetter members introduce themselves. Its Diamond Beach Village’s turn today!
Who are you and your team?
Rachael Feiler 31, from Cornwall, England and my Mum Helen Feiler and my boyfriend Hassan Ali Said 28 from Mombasa and 16 staff all from the Kenyan Coast.
What inspired you to start, and how long have you been doing it?
My Mum started Diamond Beach Village in 2001, she fell in love with Manda, back then there was nothing on the beach front. She purchased the land from a local family and stayed for 6 months building the simple bandas and beach bar. I visited her for 2 weeks in the Christmas holidays, I was in my 3rd year at university. I fell in love with the place too. I have been here running Diamond since 2003 and my Mum now comes out for the winters to paint and relax.It was a huge struggle to get the place running, there was no fresh water on the island, no other buildings, no power, no mobile phones, no internet and also no guests as no one knew we existed. Travel agencies I contacted in the early days liked the look of the place but why risk sending clients to a new place when there were other established hotels they could trust?
Why did you choose Manda?
There was no reason to choose Manda over Zanzibar for example, there was not a rational decision that we were going to move to Africa and set up a lodge somewhere. It just happened and was all a bit back to front. My Mum jumped right in on her first 2 week holiday and it started from there. Nine years later and a lot of laughter and a lot of tears I think we can say we have succeeded in making Diamond Beach a very special retreat. In December we shifted from the very small bar at the front of the kitchen to the Blue Moon Bar which we built (in the Blue Moon) and this has been a huge asset to the business.
What makes you muchbetter?
Diamond started small and we have stayed small and discrete as the beach has filled up with large houses along the coast line. Things have changed a lot on the island, we have desalinated water piped in, wireless internet and mobile phones but the ethos that we started with has remained the same. Local food, local staff, local materials. The main thing is people sleep well and eat well and feel looked after. We now have solar power, all water is recycled and I think that the local islanders feel that Diamond is their first stop if there is a problem in terms of medical help, a boat to cross to Lamu, a jerry can of water or some paraffin if the shop (Manda has a shop!) is out. It really does feel like a village and the atmosphere is perfect.
Insider tip for your area
In November Lamu has its own Culture festival but what people ususally don’t know about is the Maulid festival which is earlier by 2 weeks every year and in 2012 will be the middle of March. It is a celebration of the birth of Mohamed and is a wonderful sight to see the perade thorough the streets ending at the Mosque with music and local dance.
What is the view from your office?
The view from my office is slightly boring, I have kept the Indian Ocean and the sand dunes for those who need it more while sipping on a cold Tusker. I can see our charcoal fridge, the water catchment, store room and the only cement house on Diamond.
The last bit of news from Manda is that Diamond is getting a new edition in November, our first Diamond baby! Hassan and I are over the moon and I can’t think of a better place to bring up our child!
Sounds like a beautiful place to visit! You can see their listings on Diamond Beach Villages profile.