The 480km of soft white sand beaches of Kenya’s coastline stretch from Tanzania in the south to Somalia in the north. Edged by palms trees in the north and coastal rainforest in the south, these beautiful beaches and the idyllic laidback lifestyle found here provide the perfect contrast to the inland African safari experience.
The entire coastline offers an unbeatable combination of cultural experiences, historical sites, superb beaches, natural beauty and outdoor activities. Ernest Hemingway once wrote that the coral reefs found in this area “are completely unmatched in the world”.
Mombasa, set on an island just off of the coast, is the popular entrance point to exploring the coastline and this nearly 2 000 year-old city is worth exploring in itself. Offering up an evocative blend of cultures, cuisine and architecture, Mombasa is East Africa’s leading port and the second largest city in Kenya. Boasting a rich history, the town has been occupied by the Arabs, the Portuguese and the British in its time.
To reach the north coast you will cross over the Nyali Bridge from Mombasa to discover long stretches of idyllic beaches fringed by swaying palm trees. Choose luxury accommodation in this region and settle back into a very laidback vacation experience. Watamu National Park centred round the sleepy town of Watamu has an exceptional shoreline with stunning coral reefs and an abundance of colourful marine life. This region is known for its superb diving options and deep sea fishing. A little further down the coast are arguably the finest coral reefs on the planet known as the Coral Gardens, great for snorkelling and diving.
From Mombasa you will need to travel by ferry to reach Kenya’s south coast and the famous Diani beach. White sands stretch for 10km along a crystal clear ocean at this destination. Snorkel or dive among beautiful coral reefs amidst shoals of fish and the occasional sea turtle and dolphin. Sink into absolute holiday spirit on the long stretches of beautiful beaches bordered by lush rainforests alive with birds and smaller wildlife such as the rare colobus monkey and baboons. You should stay in this area a while to fully explore the playground of stunning coral reefs and the beautiful archipelagos found on Kenya’s south coast.
If it is beach time you are looking for then head to the north Kenyan coast in the summer months from November to February and in the south anytime from August onwards; snorkelling conditions are ideal from January to March although the weather starts to act up during March with increased humidity. August is the most popular month to visit the Kenyan coastline. Make sure that you get the most out of a Kenyan holiday by combining a safari with a luxury beach break!
Diving and Snorkelling
The ocean water is warm all year round so you can dive without a wetsuit and if you are really keen, you can even take PADI training courses here. The best dive sites are at Watamu, Malindi and Diani Beach. The immense coral reefs are a big draw card for both divers and underwater photographers. Even with just a snorkel and a mask this is a spectacular experience.
Big Game Fishing
The entire coastline of Kenya offers anglers looking for big game fishing a real treat. Destinations such as Watamu, Malindi and Shimoni are internationally known as great fishing destinations. Expect to see giant fish predators such as kingfish, massive tiger sharks and the very elusive nocturnal broadbill sword fish. Ernest Hemingway visited Malindi in the 1930s to perfect his game fishing techniques!
Marafa Depression (also known as Hell’s Kitchen)
Near to Malindi you will find the Marafa Depression, a geological irregularity where over time wind and rain have eroded a ridge of sandstone into a set of gorges. Locals call it ‘Nyari’ – the place broken by itself. The colour of the sandstone ranges from off-white to pale pink and from orange to deep crimson; visit at sunset for the most spectacular views and remember to wear comfortable walking shoes.
Mombasa’s Old City
One of the most interesting places to visit in Mombasa is the old town quarter with its maze of narrow streets, traditionally clad people, busy markets and the overriding smell of spices in the air. You should also head to the busy docks filled with both commercial fishing vessels and traditional sailing dhows to watch the fresh goods and fish being brought in.
The Ghost City of Gedi
The forest also hides the mysterious city of Gedi, abandoned in the 17th century for no apparent cause. Today the houses, mansions, mosques and tombs of this once thriving city are being reclaimed by jungle vines and you will be accompanied by hundreds of birds and butterflies as you make your way through it. The ancient town of Malindi is also worth a visit for its colourful markets and its proximity to Mida, a tidal lagoon of mangrove creeks.
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