The Kenyan Coast

The Kenya Coast has charmed many visitors to its shores, where the warm Indian Ocean meets equatorial East Africa. Views of dhows sailing beyond the reef evoke images of trader’s centuries old. With the arrival of foreign influence came promise of prosperity, goods and charms as well as hardships and war. Kenya’s coast has an immensely interesting and rich history

The Kenya Coast is an area of outstanding natural beauty, with brilliant sandy white beaches, coral atolls, mangrove forests, lagoons, creeks, remote islands, and secluded bays. It is also home to a vast array of marine and land flora and fauna. The coast is a great tourism destination, in addition to the idyllic beach life; the coast also offers world class entertainment, activities and accommodation facilities catering to a wide variety of tastes from the young and adventurous, to those seeking sun and relaxation or others keen on delving into the culture and history.

The Kenyan coastline stretches some 536 kilometers from the Lamu archipelago in the North Coast, Malindi, Watamu, Kilifi then into the city of Mombasa and then further down to the South Coast including the beaches of Diani and Galu, Shimoni, Wasini Island and numerous other locations along the Kenyan coast.

The perfect place to unwind!

Mombasa is the second biggest city in Kenya, lying on the Indian Ocean. It has a chief port and an international airport. Located on Kenya’s Eastern coastline adjacent to the Indian Ocean, Mombasa has developed into a popular attraction for its exotic beaches, diverse marine life, first-class hotels and welcoming people.

Mombasa city is the place to visit to crown your Safari while in Kenya. The ocean has crystal blue waters virtually ablaze with a fantastic display of multi-colored tropical fish at the Mombasa Marine Park. Beautiful hotels lined up along the coast next to the Indian Ocean give color and glamour to the sandy beaches. The beaches are smooth and walking bare footed is common. Mombasa old town and its environs offer memorable excursions.

Any excursion to the coast will likely include a stopover at the Fort Jesus, which has a long and rich history dating back over 1,500 years when it started as a trading port. The Portuguese explorer, Vasco Da Gama, landed here in 1498 and established a colony. Arabs from Oman later took over the city, leaving their mark on the region and the city is now noted for its Swahili culture – a mixture of Arab and African traditions.

You can visit exciting places within the city like the Haller Park, Mombasa Hindu Temple and Mamba Village or into villages like Ngomongo Village, Bombolulu workshop on the mainland. These places coupled with the beach experience make your stay in Mombasa memorable.

  1. Haller park (Formerly Bamburi Nature Trail)

 Located in Bamburi next to the Cement Factory, the Nature Trail boasts an enormous variety of animals, reptiles, insects and botanical gardens. Walking along the trail is the ideal way to look at the various animals. During your visit to Haller Park, you will see the mammal species such as hippos, giraffes, buffalos, zebras, waterbucks, elands and Oryx. There are also crocodiles, Aldabra tortoises (with the oldest being 100 years), monkeys; green vervet Monkey, Sykes Monkey and Mona Monkey. There are many species of birds.

  1. Fort Jesus.

The site is located in Mombasa Island which is in the Coast province of Kenya. The Portuguese built Fort Jesus in 1593. The site chosen was a coral ridge at the entrance to the harbor. Fort Jesus was built to secure the safety of Portuguese living on the East Coast of Africa. It has had a long history of hostilities of the interested parties that used to live in Mombasa. Perhaps no Fort in Africa has experienced such turbulence as Fort Jesus. Omani Arabs attacked the Fort from 1696 to 1698. Its interior comprises of torture rooms and prison cells where slaves were kept in captivity before being traded. Weapons such as canons, which were used to defend the fort from invading foreigners as well as rioting locals, can be seen both inside and outside of the fort. The fort opens its gates for viewing in the morning at 0800hrs and closes in the evening at 1800hrs.

  1. Mombasa Old Town.

Enjoy a tasty city walk by visiting Mombasa Market with its variety of spices, Kangas, fruits, hand craft. Next appreciate the talent of the Akamba carvers and get the opportunity to acquire some souvenirs. The tour then takes you to the Old Town, your mind swings back to hundreds of years to see old beautiful carved doors and balconies, mosques and shops selling antiques and all sorts of craftwork. Next is a tour of Fort Jesus, old fortress built by the Portuguese to protect their trade with India, today is a National Museum. Down the Old Port, you might see the Arab dhows that have sailed from Arabia by Monsoon Winds carrying their wares of trade hundreds of years ago. Then drive past the Mombasa State House, proceed through Mwembe Tayari, to the Kilindini Harbor. During the tour, you will drive through the giant “elephant tusks”, the tusks are symbolic representations of entrance into the heart of Mombasa town. The tusks were built to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth to the town in 1952, as they lay directly on the path from the port to the town. Ivory was considered to be an exquisite commodity during the time, and in essence the tusks were meant to embrace the Queen and the British Empire into the town and within its social structure. Coincidentally the tusks also spell the letter “M” for Mombasa.

  1. Mamba Village (Crocodile Farm).

Mamba Village is the greatest Crocodile Farm in Kenya. It is situated in Nyali, Mombasa and visitors flock into this farm every day to see the rare spectacle of hundreds of these thick-scaled reptiles. These crocodiles are at different stages of maturity from eggs, hatching, baby crocodiles, to maturity. The Farm is partitioned into small compartments where different age groups are reared. They are fed on meat daily by the farm attendants. It is thrilling to see them jump high in the air to snap the meat. They also have beautiful collection of plants and flowers specializing in orchids and aquatic flora. On display are carnivorous species, marine aquarium and snakes. If you want a taste of crocodile meat, the Mamba Village has a restaurant that serves game meat including ostrich. Other enjoyable activities in this place include camel riding and horse riding.

  1. Mombasa Marine Park.

The marine park is located in Mombasa town along the Kenyan coast. The park comprises of the sea waters, mangroves, sea grasses, and sea weeds. The park is home to variety of marine life e.g. Crabs, Sea urchins, Sea cucumbers, Sea Stars/Starfish, Sea Jellies. Other spectacular attractions include the sand beach and coral gardens. The park is a popular snorkeling and diving location.

  1. Ngomongo Village.

Ngomongo Villages was born in 1991.  At that time it was a sun baked and barren rocky base of an exhausted limestone mine.  The floor of this quarry is barely five feet above the slightly salty water table. The village has a collection of 9 diverse rural Kenya tribal homesteads, complete with hut, cultivated crops, domestic and even a village witch doctor. When you arrive, you are warmly received and shown around. Watch or participate in numerous village activities such as archery, boating, rafting, tasting tribal foods, trekking, hook fishing, grinding and pounding maize. Visitors are encouraged to participate and enjoy in the various tribal dances and activities so that you may appreciate the African culture. There are also various local brews and traditional dances.

  1. Bombolulu Workshops

This nonprofit organization was founded in 1969, as vocational training to hundreds of physically disabled people. You can visit the workshops and showroom for free to buy jewelers, clothes, carvings and other crafts, or enter the cultural centre to tour mock-ups of traditional homesteads in the grounds, where various activities take place.

  1. Mombasa Hindu Temple.

The Hindu temple in Mombasa is a one of the many symbols of cultural diversity. The temple is a popular tourist spot and a tour can be taken inside the temple, with a historical background of the temple given by one of the temple gurus. Extravagant idols and stone carvings of the various religious beliefs are displayed within the temple and on its walls. It is located near the Railway Station just outside the perimeter of the downtown area.
The Kenyan North Coast.

The coastline North of Mombasa is a world of enthralling history and natural beauty. The coast is lined with pristine palm fringed beaches and the calm inviting waters of the Indian Ocean. The northern coastline stretches all the way from the Lamu archipelago to Malindi, Watamu, Kilifi and then into the island of Mombasa.

The beaches of Nyali, Vipingo, Kikambala and Shanzu are home to a wide range of World Class resorts with fine cuisine and services. The peaceful beach havens of Mtwapa and Takaungu offer an ideal escape from the outside world, with endless deserted beaches.

Some of the places to visit here include:

  • Gede Ruins.
  • Kipepeo Butterfly Project.
  • Arabuko Sokoke.
  • Malindi Marine Park.
  • Watamu Marine Park
  • Kiunga Marine Reserve.
  • Tana River Primate Reserve.
  • Jumba La Mtwana.
  • Mnarani Ruins.
  • Siyu Fort.
  • Takwa Ruins.
  • Lamu Museums.
  • Malindi Museum.
  • Rabai Musuem.
  1. Gede Ruins.

Gede ruins are the remains of a Swahili town, typical of most towns along the East African Coast. The Ruins is a 12th Century Swahili village that was mysteriously abandoned some 600 years ago due to unknown causes. It is now a National Museum, and the ruins are heavily overgrown with beautiful indigenous forest trees, baobabs and tamarind. Well worth a walk and a visit. Look out for Sykes Monkeys, and the Golden Rumped Elephant Shrew can also be seen here. A quiet, careful look in some of the old wells can turn out the odd owl, too.

  1. Kipepeo Butterfly Project.

Right at the entrance to Gedi Ruins is the Kipepeo Butterfly Project. This innovative project is aimed at giving the forest edge communities opportunities to get an income directly from the forest, by live breeding the unique butterflies of the Arabuko-Sokoke forest, and sending them to live butterfly display centers around the world. The project has led to a large increase in household incomes in those households participating in the project, and since butterflies are short lived and hard to breed abroad, the market is quite reliable.

  1. Arabuko Sokoke.

Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is the largest stretch of coastal dry forest remaining in Eastern Africa. It is second in Africa in birdlife conservation from Congo. This forest covers an area of over 400 square kilometers; it is the last large piece of indigenous coastal forest left in Kenya. It is a key site for the global survival of six bird species and three mammal species. The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest has expert ornithologists and can help visitors find and see some of the rare and unique birds of the forest. Over 260 species of birds have been recorded in the forest including the six globally threatened ones. For those less keen on “twitching” and ornithology the forest is also lovely and exciting for the nature lovers.

  1. Malindi Marine Park.

Malindi Marine Park and Reserve is located to the south of Malindi town. The marine park is endowed with magnificent resources such as fringing reefs, coral gardens in the lagoons, sea grass beds, mangroves, mudflats, and high fish diversity, marine mammals (e.g. dolphins), turtles and various species of shorebirds. Some of activities to take while there are; Snorkeling at coral gardens, Sunbathing, Glass bottom boat rides, Picnicking  and barbeque in the magical islands, Boat Excursion rides, Sea Bird watching, Diving, Visits to the coral gardens  to see tropical fish in their habitats among other activities. The Malindi Marine National Park is a 213 sq km reserve, together with the Watamu Marine National Park jointly comprises a protected biosphere reserve.

  1. Watamu Marine Park.

Watamu National Park is part of a complex of marine and tidal habitats along the Kenya’s north coast.  It is enclosed by the Malindi Marine National Reserve which also encloses Malindi Marine National Park. Habitats include intertidal rock, sand and mud, fringing reefs and coral gardens, coral cliffs, sandy beaches and the Mida Creek mangrove forest. Marine life attractions include fish, turtles, dugongs and crabs. The Mida Creek forest has a high diversity of mangrove species which provides refuge to a variety of both resident and migrant bird species. Activities that you can undertake here include; Wind surfing, Snorkeling, Water skiing, Sunbathing, Diving and glass bottom boat rides.

  1. Kiunga Marine Reserve.

The marine ecosystem incorporates a chain of about 50 calcareous offshore islands and coral reefs in the Lamu Archipelago, running for some 60km parallel to the coastline and adjacent to Dodori and Boni National Reserves on the mainland.

The larger and more sheltered inner islands are covered with tangled thorny vegetation including grass, aloes and creepers. The small outer islands provide nesting sites for migratory seabirds. The reserve conserves valuable coral reefs, sea grass and extensive mangrove forests and is also a refuge for sea turtles and dugongs.
Major wildlife attractions include reptiles such as Sea turtles, Olive ridley, and Reef fish. Lobsters, Sea urchins, Sea star and also frequent sightings in the reserve. It is an important site for wind surfing, diving and snorkeling, water skiing and sunbathing.

  1. Tana River Primate Reserve.

The primate reserve is located 240km north of Mombasa in Tana River district of coast province. The ecosystem consists of riparian forests, dry woodlands and savannah habitats on the east and west of the lower Tana River. The reserve was established to protect the Tana riverine forest and the two endangered primates, Mangabey and the red colobus monkey. The two primate species are the major wildlife attraction in the reserve.

The ecosystem is also a stronghold for birdlife with over 200 species recorded in the area.  These include the White-winged Apalis, African Open-bill Stork, Martial Eagle, Bat Hawk, African Pygmy-falcon, African Barred Owlet, Scaly Babbler, Black-bellied Glossy-starling, and the Golden Pipit.

  1. Jumba La Mtwana

Jumba la Mtwana a picturesque ruined village is situated in Kilifi district, Coast province. The site lies some 15 kilometers north of Mombasa on and above the beach some 1000 meters north of the mouth of Mtwapa creek.

The full name Jumba la Mtwana means in Swahili “the large house of the slave”. Within these area are four mosques, a tomb and four houses have survived and in condition. These houses include the House of the Cylinder, The House of the Kitchen, The House of the Many Pools, which had three phases, and the Great Mosque. The inhabitants of this town were mainly Muslims as evidence by a number of ruined mosques.

  1. Mnarani Ruins.

Mnarani ruins are located in Kilifi District, Coast province. It overlooks Kilifi creek from the southern side, some 200 meters from the Mombasa – Malindi road. The ruins consist of two Mosques and a group of tombs.

The site was first occupied in the early 14th century but the first mosque; the Great Mosque was not built until AD 1425. Enlargements wereundertaken soon thereafter, followed by major reconstruction efforts later in the 15th century following the collapse of the earlier building.

The original mosque was built around 1475, while the later mosque in about 1500; this is evident by the presence of a Portuguese dish in the cistern thus indicating that the final alterations to the mosques were probably not completed before the 16th century. Mnarani is a scenic, peaceful spot well worth a visit and makes an excellent picnic site.

  1. Siyu Fort.

Siyu Fort is located in Lamu district, Coast province in Pate Island, at a point opposite Siyu town, across the tidal channel, which bisects the island at high water. It lies some 25 km to the North East of Lamu town and can be reached by boat from Lamu, up a long mangrove lined creek.

Siyu is the only town that built a fort of its own, unlike Mombasa and Lamu where the forts were put up by foreigners. It was built in the 19th century to safeguard Siyu residents from Omani Arabs domination. Apart from the impressive fort, Siyu is host to the remains of magnificent tombs and mosques, while the present village is still known for its well-established leather craft, including sandals, belts and stools.

  1. Takwa Ruins.

The ruins of Takwa are located on the south eastern corner of Manda Island Lamu District in Coast province. Takwa ruins are the remains of a thriving 15th and 16th century Swahili trading town before it was abandoned in the seventeenth century.
Takwa eventual abandonment in the 17th century was due to salination of the once fresh water and endless fighting between Takwa and Pate people. These ruins were gazetted as a National Monument in 1982.

  1. Lamu Museums.

Lamu Museums are located in the Lamu Archipelago on the North Coast, one of the most beautiful and serene locations on the African continent and is a World Heritage Site. The isolated island, with streets so narrow such that donkeys provide almost the only mode of transport makes the town quite unique.

The construction of Lamu Fort commenced in 1813, shortly after Lamu’s victory over Pate and Mombasa in the battle of Shela. It served as a prison from 1910 to 1984 to both the British colonial regime and the Kenya government, before it was handed over to the National Museums of Kenya in 1984. Efforts to turn the Fort into a museum were started with technical and financial assistance from Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

  1. Malindi Museum.

The building was bought from the Bohra community for 2,000 English Pounds after a longer period of occupation by the Medical Department who had used the building to serve as the Malindi Native Civil Hospital.

The museum currently houses temporary exhibitions. The museum also doubles as an information centre where visitors are able to find more information on attractions and happenings in Malindi. It is all about Malindi under one roof.

  1. Rabai Musuem.

Rabai is well known in the annals of history as the place where Christianity and modern learning in Kenya started well over 150 years ago.  In 1994 the Krapf Memorial Museum was founded to give formal and a perpetual reminder to monumental events during the advent of early missionaries. Stories about the first missionaries were passed on by word of mouth and are still told today. Built in 1846 as the first Church edifice in Kenya, Rabai is situated about 25 km north-west of Mombasa, off the Nairobi-Mombasa highway on Mazeras-Kaloleni road, about half an hour?s drive from Mombasa.

  1. Malindi town

Malindi is a resort town with many beach resorts is one the most popular beach holiday destination along the coast of Kenya. The resort town of Malindi is home to white sandy beaches in the midst of vast area of tropical forests and an intriguing local culture. You can enjoy a wide range of water sports that go to include sailing, water skiing, jet skiing, parasailing, fishing and more. While in Malindi, one can visit the famous Vasco Da Gama Pillar along the Silversands beach off Mnarani road which was built in 1498 as a present for the Malindi Sultan by Vasco Da Gama, and its one of the oldest remaining monuments in Africa, The Malindi Falconry of Kenya off Lamu road has a collections of unique birds; eagles, falcons, goshawks and owls.

Malindi has remained an important Swahili settlement since the 14th century and once rivaled Mombasa for dominance in this part of East Africa. Malindi has traditionally been a friendly port city for foreign powers.

In 1414, the King of Malindi initiated diplomatic relations with China during the voyages of the explorer Zheng He. The great Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, was welcomed by Malindi authorities in 1498. The following year East Africa’s doors to Europe opened officially as the Portuguese established a trading post.


The Kenyan South Coast.

The coastline south of Mombasa is a tropical paradise of palm fringed white sand beaches, where the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean meet beautiful coral reefs. The protective reefs have created ideal beaches with calm, inviting waters.

The south coast also has many smaller quiet getaways such as Tiwi Beach, ideal for travelers looking for a low key break. Inland, the fertile hinterland of Kwale District consists of small villages inhabited by the Wakamba, Digo and Duruma tribes. Further south, the small fishing village of Shimoni is home to a series of deep mysterious coastal caves that stretch from the sea to deep into the jungles.

Historically, these caves were long used as a refuge for Dhow Sailors, Arab slavers and explorers. Shimoni is also an excellent base for big game fishing in the waters of the Pemba Channel.

Some of the attractions to see here include;

  • Shimba Hills National Reserve.
  • Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary.
  • Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park
  1. Shimba Hills National Reserve.

Shimba Hills National Reserve is a small National reserve in the South Coast. There are estimated to be approximately 700 elephants in the reserve. This population is unsustainably high; it causes significant damage to vegetation, threatening the endangered plant life. Conflict between humans and elephants has also reached critical levels. The reserve is an area of coastal rainforest, woodland and grassland. It is an important area for plant biodiversity including some endangered species of cycad and orchids. It is also a nationally important site for birds and butterflies. This is also the home of the sable antelope.

  1. Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary.

Mwaluganje elephant sanctuary is adjacent to Shimba Hills National Reserve and covers an area of 36 km². The locality is perfectly suitable for the big-eared, ivory-tusked, long-trunked, overwhelmingly mighty animal, called the Elephant. The vegetation around is dry baobab bush land, palm, desert roses and other dry resistant plants. You will see a variety of birds and colorful butterflies.

  1. Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park

The marine park is located on the south coast, 40km from Ukunda town in Msambweni District of coast province.  The ecosystem covers a marine area with four small islands surrounded by coral-reef. Kisite Island is covered in low grass and herbs while Mpunguti Islands have dense coastal equatorial forest. Sea grasses cover a large area of the sub-littoral zone of the reef. Major attractions include the Dolphins, coral gardens and it is an important site for snorkeling, diving and bird watching. The beautiful sandy beach is good for environmental friendly recreational activities.

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