Am in Diani and I thought of a nice way to start my year in an eventful way.The Diani Ngalawa regatta festival pops up into my mind.So what is a Ngalawa? I asked myself, not being ignorant but well am not a Mijikenda no?

Ngalawa is a native name given to canoes and are made out of giant mangoe trees while regatta is a series of boat races competing for a price. With these naturally made boats by the area fishermen, a festival was born and it is the Diani Regatta Ngalawa festival. The festival which was first initiated in 2012, is on its 6th year and it is the only one in the south coast which gives the locals an opportunity to showcase to the world their rich culture.

Now what after the boat races? It is carnival time. The event which has been growing exponentially was abuzz with tourists from all over world coming to experience how is it like to be a Digo or a Duruma . Among the activities that the festival boasts of apart from the competitive boat races in the ocean includes vendors from the local community showcasing and selling their products to the discerning tourists. Food items prepared by native women of the highland come in handy as well with produce from the area community getting a chance to be featured and portrayed to guests.

One observation that really makes the event more glamorous is the Mama Leso fashion show, a typical coast residents’ way of expressing themselves through the compelling messages embroidered in their Lesos. Having attended several cultural shows across the country like the Rusinga festival in the lakeside and the ever blazing Lamu cultural festival, it was an honor to finally find an event that showcases the Mjikenda cultural way of living. Talk of their community dances and their sacred rituals that still to date guides them in their way of living.

The 6th edition which happened at Safari Beach Hotel on the 13th of January 2019 had a record 14 sponsors coming on board each sponsoring a boat at this festival. Baobab Beach Resort being the latest entry into the list of Sponsors was among the elite sponsors besides:

1.Base Titanium

2.D.M. Tours & Safaris, Diani Beach, Kenya

3.Fly Safarilink

4.Four Twenty South

5.Kinondo Kwetu

6.Lantana Galu Beach

7.Leisure Lodge Beach & Golf Resort

8.The South Coast Residents' Association - Kenya

9.Swahili Beach Resort

10.The Ocean SPA Lodge

11.The Sands at Nomad Diani Beach

“Coming into an event so rich with corporate entities can only mean that the community has taken initiative and owned it as their own” says Gerald Gumo one of the organizers of the event. Diani being world best beach destination, having the Ngalawa festival acts as a booster in promoting tourism hence the big players can’t afford to ignore. Makes sense. Hillary Martin who is the patron of South coast eco-tourism society a body which integrates tourism with the local community challenged the area hotels to be in the forefront of promoting the locals by buying and sourcing locally made products. This which will help in spreading the culture beyond borders. She stressed the need to have South coast residents culture promoted as opposed to only Maasai’s.

Among the dignitaries invited included Mohammed Hersi who is the chairman of Kenya tourism federation, with Kenya tourism board and Kwale county government representatives both gracing the occasion.

In January, most of the guests staying with us in the coastal hotels are mainly foreigners with a few locals to be counted. It doesn’t however mean that it is an event purely organized for outsiders trust me.

Ngalawa festival is organized by the South Coast Eco-Tourism Association and supported by the South Coast Residents Association.

Photo credits goes to my good friend Andras Porrfy who remains the official photographer for Diani Ngalawa regatta festival.