I had never heard of Chale up until last year, but once I heard about it I could not wait to visit. Chale is a small island (about 1km from north to south and 400m from east to west) located about 600 m from the mainland and 10km from Diani. The Sands At Chale is the only hotel in the Island, and the hotel guests and staff are its only inhabitants. If you want to take a virtual tour of the island you can watch this video.
I took way too many photos during my short (only 2 nights) stay and they’re too many to share in a single post so I will do a two part post.
I travelled to Chale from Diani. I expected that we would travel via boat from Diani so I was a bit disappointed yet intrigued to find out that we would be driving. It is about 30-40 min drive from Diani, the road is unpaved so it is not the most comfortable ride. At the end of the road there is a little guard’s station. This is where I was dropped off by the taxi and the guard there radioed the hotel to notify them of my arrival.
The level of the tide determines the mode of transport to the hotel. During the high tide you will go there via boat and during the low tide via tractor. I arrived when the tide was high so I finally got my boat ride. This was all very exciting for me; certainly a unique experience.
Two thirds of Chale Island is an ancient mangrove forest, which boasts the tallest mangrove trees in East Africa.
The minute you step onto the island you will feel like you have been transported into some extraordinary place. That was my immediate reaction I suppose because my phone lost network. Network coverage on the island is patchy but thankfully not completely absent.
I was ushered into the reception and the manager Andreas sat down with me and gave me a rundown of what to expect on the island. The biggest surprise was Chale time. It is not an official time zone but clocks in Chale run an hour ahead of those in the mainland i.e GMT+4. I asked why this is so and I was told it is so as to give guests more time to spend on the beach.
From the reception I was then directed to my banda (swahili for shed or hut). The banda is thatched and there is a fan hanging from the high ceiling. There is also an AC unit to keep you cool in the tropical Coastal weather. My room was very spacious and the décor was similar to that of their sister property The Sands at Nomad. The one thing I took exception to was the curtains around my bed, the yellow was hideous and white could have suited the simple décor so much better.
The bathroom was very much a his and hers affair. There are two separate sinks and a large shower. The toiletries provided are the same as those at Sands at Nomad. I was not a huge fan of the shower, the water never became hot, it was always lukewarm. However, given the warm weather this was not a big deal.
There is a glass door facing the front of the banda and if you feel the need for some extra privacy there are curtains you can draw. The banda is was very secluded. If you like prancing around in the nude then you need not worry about being spotted by a fellow guest. There is a wall around the front of the banda and at the back the foliage provides enough privacy.
There is also an outdoor shower which is perfect for cooling down especially during the day.
At the back of the banda there is a veranda with a Swahili style day bed, it was the perfect spot to laze about. From the banda, the beach is literally at your doorstep. All you have to do is go down some steps and it is right there.
If you want to explore during low tide you need to wear appropriate footwear. Pasty the sandy section it is very rocky and the coral can cut your feet. The beach is pristine as it is cleaned daily, there is no unsightly sea weed.
There is no safe in the room but there is a community safe at the reception. The hotel advises all guests to store their valuables there; you get unlimited access to it during the day.
Power on the island is provided by a generator. In order to conserve energy it is switched off every day 10:30 am to 6pm Chale time. This also means that you cannot have a hot shower or use the air conditioning during that time. If you want to charge any of your devices you can do at the reception. The good thing is Chale does not get as hot as Mombasa so AC during the day is not a necessity. There is free wi-fi available but only at the reception and restaurant.
I had departed from Diani before having lunch therefore I was starving. There is tea time every day at 4pm with a wide variety of teas; you could call it tea heaven. To accompany your tea you can choose to either have bread or cake, both are provided. This was enough to tide me over until dinner
Thankfully my banda was very close to the restaurant. I have a horrible sense of direction and I got lost more than once. It would be nice if they could provide maps for guests. I have to say that the food was a bit of a disappointment. Having just come from Sands at nomad (the sister property) where the food had been nothing but amazing I had expected Chale to be at par if not better.
I had no complaints about breakfast; the set up was similar to that at Sands at Nomad. There was a wide array of fruits and for drinks on offer was coffee, tea, water, yoghurt and juice . If you wanted anything cooked there was a chef at hand. All cold buffet items are kept in refrigerated cabinets which I liked.
If you have a sweet tooth then you’re better off staying away from the fresh juice I found it to be undrinkable. All the juice tasted sour. I do not know how they managed this because by nature the fruits they use to make the juice are sweet. I was told that most of the guests prefer it this way. The only time I served myself some I had to add some honey to it. They should really consider offering their guests both sweetened and unsweetened juice.
Due to Chale time all meal times are earlier than usual so do keep that mind especially at breakfast. The waiters were attentive but unfortunately the service was very slow.
Lunch and dinner were a la carte, there was no main menu to choose from instead you’d be provided with a short menu specifically for that meal. The menu changed daily so I have no complaints about the variety.
If you are a fan of pasta you would probably enjoy dining at the restaurant there was always a pasta option in the menu. One thing I liked is that there was always a Kenyan option on the menu. There is a carafe of water available with every meal but if you order any other drinks you will be charged extra. There was a selection of fresh salads, dressing and desserts at the buffet.
The waiters were attentive and helpful but the service was a tad bit slow.
Guests are advised not to leave any food in their rooms and I learnt the reason for this first-hand the next morning. I had been lying outside on the daybed when I heard some commotion. Next thing I know there was a baboon watching me. I quickly went into my room and watched it from the safety of my bed. I could see it peeking through the glass doors presumably looking for food, its cheeks stuffed with fruits. Later on I learnt that the troop on the island is friendly and harmless except for this one female who steals food from the kitchen.
Have you been to The Sands at Chale? How was your experience?
Disclosure: The management at Sands at Chale were gracious enough to host me; however all opinions are mine
How to get there:
The resort is 12 km away from Diani Beach and 65 km from Moi Airport. There is no public transport available so you have to take a taxi from either Ukunda or Diani.
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