Diani Regatta is the epitome of local culture showcasing tradition through canoe races commonly referred to as ngalawas. Local Hotels and brands sponsor canoe races, therefore, giving opportunities to Diani fishermen to flaunt their ocean manoeuvring skills on the ngalawas.
The festival not only showcases traditional ocean racing skills but also facilitates the fishermen acquire tools to enhance their trade and support families, that is beside the huge market of spectators that locals cultural entrepreneurs access to market locally designed traditional regalia ranging from kiondos to sandals, to lesos, bids and much more.
The event draws spectators from across the globe but it is largely dominated by foreign residents and locals.
At its inception, the Regatta festival was a small local affair drawing few local brands, residents and some tourists. As time went by, the event’s embrace got deeper and as of now, it goes without saying that it has anchored its relevance to the local community and beyond.
Besides finding traction beyond Diani, organization and sponsorship of the Regatta largely remain a local affair, this is how Diani takes herself to the world bringing her people with her to enjoy the benefits that come with global exchanges.
The festival is organized by the South Coast Community Ecotourism Association (SCCEA) in partnership with South Coast Residents Association (SCRA) and has been ongoing for the last 8 years straight.
The 8th Regatta Event – 2020
As the Sun rose to illuminate the sandy beaches of Diani so was the beauty of the branded canoes dancing majestically to the sea breeze, the kinda dances you pull on taarab music, polite and easy but deep to the soul.
Held at its usual location, the Safari Beach Hotel, the festival attracted 22 brands with each sponsoring a ngalawa which then gets branded by the sponsor’s colors, despite the growing culture in the social space to hide sponsors, Diani still takes pride in flaunting brands that do well by it.
Humans from all walks start streaming in as early as 1000hrs for the days’ event, to most, especially the locals this is their way of belonging to the local tradition and culture. As you can imagine, Diani has her way of bonding her people, tourists, and nature through events and culture.
It’s amazing how through such bonding, diversity is allowed to flourish as it can be seen through the different age groups and fashion tastes gracing the event. From fashion non-starters to those flaunting the pride colors to the urban fashionistas all effortlessly comfortable in their skins and wear.
Between the drinks and catching up time for the actual race came and it was time for the ngalawas to reel across the waters competing in groups with the fastest advancing to a next level bidding for the top prize.
It is amazing how the ngalawa race combines extreme emotions, one moment your adrenaline has shot to the skies as you worry for your bet on your favorite ngalawa hoping it won’t fail your desire to win or worse yet lose control and fall off the race, the other moment your smile smarks across your mouth painting joy across your face as you get amused by the skilled art displayed on the ngalawa race and cultural beauty that surrounds you.
After several races time for the finals came, time for each crew to unleash their best skills, see each stage calls for a different game, what got them here, won’t get them to the top prize. Across the sponsors and the spectators, the silent anticipation gets louder, bets are placed among friends and strangers alike each vouching for their crew because, at this stage, it is the expertise of the crews that matters when wood hits the waters.
Within no time the ngalawas hit the rails, sailing across gentle ocean waves, from far it looks like all they are doing is outmaneuver each other navigate the winds and sea breeze since ngalawas don’t have engines to row them across the ocean. It goes without saying that their speeds are amazing as within moments they cover quite a lot of distance by the end of which the champs emerge, below is a list of the top 3:
- Baobab Beach Resort & Spa
- The Kenyaways Kite Village
- Leisure Lodge Beach & Golf Resort
After the awards session comes to the partying and boy! Won’t you die to print these moments to your life story! The next Regatta will probably go down in 2021 and there won’t be a better place to be.