The Kenyan coast is lined with pristine white sand beaches fringing the warm inviting waters of the Indian Ocean. Here the wilderness meets the sea, and the ocean itself holds a world of spectacular coral reefs teeming with life and colour. The coast is a place with a long and exotic history, its calm blue waters the traditional passage of the Arabian Spice Trade. Along the length of this coast, Arab and Portuguese forts, Old Towns and the overgrown, deserted ruins of Swahili outposts bear witness to this fascinating history. In the winding medieval streets and bustling markets of Lamu and Mombasa Old Town, life has continued unhurried and unchanged for more than 400 years. This blend of natural beauty and living history creates an exotic paradise unlike anywhere else on earth.
CNN Travel has named Watamu and Diani among the best 25 Top Beach destination in Africa. Kenya’s pristine Watamu and Diani beaches in the Kenya’s coastal region scooped the second and third places respectively as best Beach attraction in Africa.
Kenya’s South Coast – a tropical paradise: 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. Days are filled with sunshine and nights are balmy and warm with gentle sea breezes. The offshore reefs are alive with coral, myriad fish, sea turtles and dolphins. Both outer and inner reef walls offer world class diving with spectacular coral gardens and drop offs. At Kisite-Mpunguti, a Marine Reserve has been established around beautiful Wasini Island, an ideal day trip for divers and snorkelers. The beaches are bordered by lush green coastal rainforests with prolific birdlife and variety of wildlife including baboons, rare Columbus monkeys and even leopard.
The south coast also has many smaller quiet getaways such as Tiwi Beach, ideal for travellers 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. Whether you are looking for a base to actively explore this fascinating region, or just somewhere to unwind and find peace, Kenya’s south coast has everything you could wish for.
How to get to South Coast: The gateway to the South Coast is Mombasa. There are no bridges from Mombasa island to the South Coast, and a vehicular ferry is used to cross the Likoni channel. Mombasa is just 1 hr flight from Nairobi Airport. Kenya Airways and other domestic airlines like Air Kenya, Safarilink, Fly 540 provide seamless connectivity between Mombasa and Nairobi.
Other option to reach Kenya coast is by charter flights or a long road drive of over 7 to 8 hr from Nairobi.
What to Do in South Coast:
Water Sports: Water sports enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice on the South Coast. Most of the resorts and hotels ranged along the beaches offer a wide range of water sports. Water-skiing, Sailing, Jet-skiing, parasailing and much more can all be arranged easily at most of the hotels.
Boating and Yachting: A range of boats can be hired to explore the coast, including Hobie cats and sailing skiffs. Sea Kayaks are also widely available, and are ideal for exploring remote coves and sheltered bays. Shimoni is a good place for those looking to charter yachts. Both yachts and crews are available for private charter. The coast of Kenya is a great place to explore by yacht.
SCUBA Diving and Snorkeling: Beneath the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean lies a world of undersea wonders. There are plenty of excellent dive sites all along the South Coast. Diving is generally good all year round, although visibility lessens during July and August due to silting. There are dive sites ranged along the coast from Tiwi south to Shimoni.
Swim with Dolphins: If you would like to see or swim with Dolphins, there are large populations found around the South Coast. Diving and snorkeling boats on day trips to Wasini Islands or Dive sites often encounter dolphins along the way. These are bottlenose dolphins, and they are often seen in large family groups. They will often follow passing boats and swim into the breaking bow wave, using the slipstream created to coast along the side of the boat.
Dhow Trips: A day dhow trip to Wasini Island, within the reserve, is easily arranged from Diani or Shimoni. This usually includes snorkeling and/or diving, and a seafood lunch on the island. This is an ideal way to spend the day. Dolphins often accompany the dhows through the reserve, and the island itself is well worth exploring.
Fishing: Shimoni has a long standing reputation for big game fishing. The Pemba Channel is the best fishing destination, and there are many highly skilled local operators. Fully equipped and stocked boats with the best available equipment and tackle are available for full and half day charters. The main game fish include Sailfish and Marlin, Kingfish, Wahoo, Horse Mackerel and others. Big game fishing can be arranged in season (December-March).
Bird Watching: The South Coast is a perfect destination for coastal birding. The forest at Diani is a refuge for Fischer’s Turaco, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Little Yellow Flycatcher and the Uluguru Violet Backed Sunbird. Nearby Dzombo Hill is home to a Digo Kaya (see Cultural Safari) and is also home for the rare Sokoke Pipit, the African Crowned eagle and around 33 other forest dependent species. Offshore, the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park has an important population of rare Roseate Terns, among other pelagic birds, centred on Kisite Island.
Where to Stay: A wide range of World Class resorts, centered around Diani Beach allow visitors to relax and enjoy this natural paradise with the best standards of accommodation, service and cuisine. There are five star International resort hotels with casinos, nightclubs and international restaurants, basic campsites, private guesthouses and rental apartments and villas. Dolphins are also known to join divers and snorkelers, and to surround and swim with people. This magical experience is a common occurrence on day trips in this area.
Kenya’s North Coast – North of Mombasa – 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 beaches are broken by the wide mouth of Kilifi Creek, whose waters are a popular port of call on the international yachting circuit. The beaches of Nyali, Vipingo, Kikambala and Shanzu are home to a widerange 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.
How to get to North Coast: Mombasa is just 1 hr flight from Nairobi Airport. Kenya Airways and other domestic airlines like Air Kenya, Safarilink, Fly 540 provide seamless connectivity between Mombasa and Nairobi. From Mombasa one can take a road drive to and from Malindi or Watamu the exotic coastal town of Kenya.
What to Do in North Coast:
Water Sports: The coastal resorts of the North Coast offer a full range of water sports including sailing, waterskiing, jet skiing, parasailing and more. Nyali, Vipingo, Kikambala and Shanzu are home to a wide range of World Class resorts with fine cuisine and services.
SCUBA Diving and Snorkeling: There are several world class dive sites. Diving is generally good all year round, although visibility lessens during July and August due to silting and high seas. Best sites are at Mtwapa and Barracuda Reef.
Wreck Diving: Africa’s best wreck dive is found off Nyali Beach, just a short distance from Mombasa. The 80 metre MV Dania was scuttled by Buccaneer Diving offshore in 2002. Lying in around 40 metres of water, the 3 storey former cattle carrier is an ideal place for anyone wanting to try wreck diving for the first time, with the upper deck housing a purpose built obstacle course that serves as a training area for wreck diving students.
For a unique dive, the Vuma Caves should not be missed. This series of caves are found near Kilifi Creek, about 20 meters beneath the surface on the face of some seaside cliffs. The open sea here is a good place to spot dolphins, while the interior of the caves is a refuge for very large grouper and barracuda. After exploring the caves, divers exit through a 10 meter chimney to emerge into the reef above.
Fishing: Big game fishing is widely available on the North coast. There are plenty of qualified operators in Bamburi, Mtwapa and Kilifi. Excellent boats with state of the art equipment are available for full and half day charter. The main game fish include Sailfish and Marlin, Kingfish, Wahoo, Horse Mackerel and others. A tag and release program ensures eco-friendly fishing. Big game fishing can be arranged in season (December-March).
Trekking: The Bamburi Nature Trail has nature trails that are good for shorter walks. Bamburi is easily accessible from the Nyali area or Mombasa.
Where to Stay: There is a very wide range of accommodation for all kind of budget available on the North Coast. There are five star International resort hotels with casinos, nightclubs and international restaurants, basic campsites, private guesthouses and rental apartments and villas.
Lamu – a peaceful tropical island: Lamu a UNESCO World Heritage site is a place like no other, a peaceful tropical island where life is lived at it’s own relaxed rhythm, but a place whose history is as mysterious and fascinating as the winding streets of it’s medieval stone town. The island itself is a beautiful place of rolling dunes and endless beaches, where tiny villages nestle among coconut and mango plantations and lateen sailed dhows ply the waters.
How to get to Lamu: Lamu is just 45 min flight from Nairobi Wilson Airport. Domestic airlines like Air Kenya, Safarilink, Fly 540 provide seamless connectivity between Lamu and Nairobi or Mombasa.
There are no vehicles on Lamu Island. The winding streets of the towns are best explored on foot. Shela village and the beaches are also accessible by foot. Alternatively dhows or boats regularly carry paying passengers back and forth from Lamu town to Shela.
What to Do in Lamu:
Dhow Safari: The waters of Lamu are plied by great numbers of traditional lateen sailed Dhows. These craft are an integral part of life on the island. A day spent at sea on a Dhow is a wonderful experience and a fantastic way to explore the area. The calm waters around Lamu are perfect for sailing, and the neighbouring islands are well worth visiting for their small fishing villages, ancient ruins and deserted beaches.
Big Game Fishing: Big game fishing can also be arranged from Manda Island or by some hotels in Lamu in season (December – March). Kenya’s main coastal game fish include Sailfish and Marlin, Kingfish, Wahoo, Horse Mackerel and others. A tag and release program ensures eco-friendly fishing. Bookings for these trips can be made through some hotels in Lamu.
Bird Watching: The Kiunga Marine Reserve near Lamu is an important sanctuary for shorebirds and pelagics, including the Sooty Gull, White Cheeked Tern, Bridled Tern, Brown Noddy, and many Crab Plovers and Roseate Terns.
Culture and History: In the 14th Century, Lamu was established as a Swahili trading outpost and settlement. The town became an important landmark on the Northern sea trade route, and one of the great centers of Swahili culture. The island’s history is long and colourful. Lamu is one of the most historically important Swahili towns. On nearby Manda Island are found the ruins of Takwa, a civilization razed in the 17th Century. These ruins, now overgrown and overshadowed by baobab trees, show that Takwa was a holy city, where all doors faced Mecca.
There is an excellent Museum in Lamu town with good exhibits on Swahili culture in general and Lamu culture in particular. At the centre of town is the impressive Sultan’s Fort, built by the Omanis in 1808. The Fort has been through various changes over the years.
The Old Town was declared a World Heritage site, and exploring the town on foot is a wonderful way to soak up the atmosphere of the living, breathing history of Lamu.
Where to Stay: Lamu has a varied range of accommodation, both within town and out, and on neighboring Manda and Kiwaayu islands. There are modern hotels, beautifully decorated old Swahili guesthouses, basic inns, isolated resorts and private homes to rent. Lamu is frequently visited by who’s who of the world and one of the preferred holiday place for Hollywood celebrities.
Malindi and Watamu: The small town of Malindi is at the centre of a strip of idyllic tropical beaches offering the visitor a range of world class resorts and quiet relaxing hideaways. Northwest of Malindi is the spectacular Marafa Depression, locally known as Nyari and popularly known as Hell’s Kitchen. An extensive series of sandstone gorges and sheer gullies, this unique and otherworldly landscape has become part of local folklore. The thick jungles of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest reserve hide a world of wonders. In the cool of the forest winding paths will take you in search of rare endemic birds and mammals, and visiting herds of Elephant.
The forest holds another secret, the lost town of Gedi, a deserted trading Swahili town hidden deep in the forests, whose winding passages and crumbling walls tell of a long and mysterious past.
Further south, the sleepy village of Watamu is fronted by wide white beaches. This tranquil haven is home to several well established resorts, and many private guesthouses scattered through the forest along the deserted shore. At Watamu a Marine National Park has been established, an ideal day trip for divers and snorkelers alike.
How to get to Malindi and Watamu: The gateway to the North Coast is Mombasa, although some visitors fly directly to Malindi. The Coastal highway runs north of Mombasa all the way to Kenya’s northern frontier. Driving your own car or hired car as far as Malindi is very easy. Malindi airport has daily scheduled flights to Mombasa, Nairobi and Lamu. The airport also serves Private Charters.
Where to Stay: There are modern hotels, beach resorts, Swahili guesthouses, and private homes to rent.
Snow capped Mountain – Mount Kenya
Mt Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak is regarded as the realm of Ngai, god of the local Kikuyu people. The mountain is an awe-inspiring sight. Its ragged series of peaks are crowned with snow, and its slopes are thick with forest. The mountain is best seen at dawn, when the day early light silhouettes its impressive summit high over the surrounding plains.
How to get to Mount Kenya: Main road access to Mt Kenya is via Nanyuki or Naro Moru, both easily accessed from Nairobi. It takes 3 hrs to reach Mount Kenya from Nairobi by road. There is an airstrip in Nanyuki, with both scheduled and charter flights available.
What to Do: Trekking, Equator Crossing Ceremony, Mountain Climbing, Safaris at Ol-pejeta conservancy or Mount Kenya National Park, Horse Ride, Bi-cycle, Golf available here.
Where to Stay: There are hotels available or all budget categories. Beside modern hotels there are also lodges and tented accommodation option with all amenities.
City – Nairobi
Kenya’s capital city has risen in a single century from a brackish uninhabited swampland to a thriving modern capital. Modern Nairobi is still the safari capital of Africa, but the modern world has quickly caught up with the city. A frontier town no more, Nairobi has become one of Africa’s largest, and most interesting cities. Nairobi is a city that never seems to sleep. The entire town has a boundless energy, and is thriving place where all of human life can be found. This is a place of great contrasts where race, tribe and origin all become facets of a unique Nairobi character.
How to get to Nairobi: Kenya has good air connectivity from South Africa. Kenya Airways and South African Airways has daily flights from Johannesburg to Nairobi.
What to Do: It is recommended to have 2 nights stay in Nairobi to experience and explore the city. Nairobi has multiple attractions including vibrant Nightlife, Casino and unique shopping experience.
Nairobi National Park: This is not a modern capital separated from the great wilderness that surrounds it. Just outside the city is Nairobi National Park, 113 sq kms of plains, cliffs and forest. The park is home to large herds of Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Giraffe and more. Rhino, Cheetah, and a large number of Lions are all found here, living wild within 20 minutes of the centre of town.
Nairobi National Museum: Is a good place to learn more about Kenya’s history and culture. The Museum was officially opened on September 22, 1930, and named Coryndon Museum, in honour of Sir Robert Coryndon, one time governor of Kenya and a staunch supporter of the Uganda Natural History Society. The Snake Park continues to be a big attraction in the Museum. One can also find the Mahatma Gandhi Hall here.
The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage: Located near Nairobi National Park, this orphanage for Elephant Calves and Rhinos from all over Kenya was founded and still managed by Daphne Sheldrick, the widow of one of Kenya’s best known Game Wardens David Sheldrick. Elephant calves orphaned by poaching are brought here from all over the country. They receive extremely specialized treatment here, and literally receive personal care 24 hours a day from highly dedicated staff who becomes surrogate mothers to the calves. Eventually the calves are moved to Tsavo, where they are carefully reintroduced into wild herds. The centre is open to the public each morning (11am-12pm)
Giraffe Center: Giraffe Centre is located in Langata, just outside Nairobi. The centre has been ostensibly set up as a breeding centre for the endangered Rothschild giraffe, but now operates conservation/education programs for Kenyan school children. There is good information on giraffes available here, and an elevated feeding platform where visitors meet the resident giraffes face to face. Hand feeding giraffes is an unique experience and learning here. You will see, close at hand, how they use their long, prehensile tongues to remove leaves from prickly acacia branches.
Karen Blixen Museum: For anyone with an interest in Karen Blixen’s book Out of Africa or the subsequent film, this museum is a must see. The author lived on a coffee estate in a house known as Bogani from 1914 until 1931. This area has now developed into the modern suburb of Karen on the outskirts of Nairobi.
The house is now a National Museum, and is maintained for visitors in its original condition. Those who have read the book, or seen the film (which was filmed on location here) will recognize the house with its sprawling tropical garden and views of the nearby Ngong Hills.
The Village Market: The Village Market Nairobi is one of the Kenya attractions in Nairobi that you should check out. With over 150 stores offering a variety of products and services, it is a place to visit for your shopping while in Kenya. Every Friday, they hold an open air Maasai market where you will find colorful and lively artifacts and Kenya crafts from over 300 traditional artists and vendors.
Q and A for Module 3
- CNN Travel has named _______________ 2nd and 3rd best Beach destination in Africa
- Watamu and Diani
- Mombasa and Malindi
- Lamu and Kilifi
- None of the above
- Diani is situated on
- North Coast
- South Coast
- Near Watamu
- Near Malinidi
- Kisite-Mpunguti is a
- Marine Reserve
- Beach Resort
- None of the above
- Pemba Channel a place for Big game fishing is near
- To reach Diani from Mombasa one has to cross ________________ by ferry
- Pemba Channel
- English Channel
- Likoni Channel
- All of the above
- Swim with Dolphins can be experienced
- On dhow trips to Wasini Islands
- At Lake Navasha
- At Lake Nakuru
- At Lake Turkana
- Name poplar beaches on North Coast of Mombasa
- All of above
- Season for Big game Fishing is
- July to October
- December to March
- April to June
- None of the above
- Africa’s best wreck dive is found off
- Nyali Beach
- There are novehicles on
- Lamu Island
- South Coast
- Lamu was established as a Swahili trading outpost and settlement
- In the 12th Century
- In the 14th Century
- In the 11th Century
- In the 15th Century
- Arabuko Sokoke Forest reserve is located near
- Mount Kenya
- The second highest Mountain of Africa
- Mount Kilimanjaro
- Mount Kenya
- Mount Longonot
- Mount Elgon
- Equator Crossing Ceremony can be done at
- Mount Kenya
- The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage is open to public
- 9 to 10 am
- 8 am to 12 pm
- 11 am to 12 pm
- 6 am to 12 pm
- The Area of Nairobi National Park is
- 113 sq Kms
- 115 sq Kms
- 200 sq Kms
- 111 sq Kms
- Giraffe Centre is located in
- Langata, just outside Nairobi
- Karen Blixen Museum is famous for
- The author of Out of Africa
- Coffee estate
- Ngong Hills
- All above
- The Village Market is in
- There are Casinos in Nairobi