Msambweni Beach House

Ami Doshi Shah reflects on the true meaning of luxury after a blissful coastal family getaway.

I have a somewhat cynical relationship with the word ‘luxury’. It is a word that is thrown about with reckless abandon, used to describe things from handbags with stroke-worthy price tags to hotels and resorts that have more puffy bathroom accessories than is necessary. There is a genuine discomfort with just how fleeting and fickle everything that word represents can often be.

It is a word. A word so loaded with opportunity for subjective interpretation. I thought really hard about this when watching our two boys repeatedly cannonballing into the pool at Villa III, Msambweni Beach House. I was forced to count the number of knee-hugging dives my younger son made. Twenty minutes and around 30 cannonballs later, I gave up (but like any self-respecting parent, pretended I hadn’t).

We made the 25 minute drive from Ukunda Airport in Diani to this remote spot along Kenya’s south coast. Meandering sandy murrum roads led us to an imposing lyme-white two story house capped with a traditional Swahili makuti roof. Walking into the ornately carved and weather worn doors leading into the main resort, we were confronted by intense light. The sun reflected off the shimmering white terrazzo surrounding the infinity pool as well as every surface in the entrance, that is the bar and white walls, as though creating a gallery space to frame the most perfect picture of all. The palms fringed the view of the sea. The only concession to this were salt-tarnished brass vases stuffed with vibrant fuchsia bougainvillea and frangipani. A colourful punctuation to an unabbreviated space.

Our three bedroom villa boasted a private infinity pool and a four storey high makuti roof and much the same aesthetic fingerprint as the main house – white with hints of azure and shades of green. For two days and nights, we left our villa briefly to walk on the rocky coral pools at low tide, searching for sea urchins and seashells or to the main house for a drink at the bar and wood fired pizzas. Most meals were served in our villa and like little hermits, we feasted on tempura and line-caught grilled fish. Every dish was freshly made from local produce and served with warmth and discretion.

The remainder of our time at Msambweni Beach House was spent jumping and emerging from our pool like shriveled prunes. Days here were spent in almost perfect isolation. A time to reflect. To appreciate. To be patient with time and love. Strange how it is alway when things are stripped away and life is less distracting that you can focus. For us, it was two days of quiet, hysterical laughter, sublime nourishment and time with our growing boys – a real luxury.

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