Renowned as the best spot on the Kenyan coast for surfing and a key spot for deep sea fishing and kite surfing, the small town of Malindi revolves around the sea. With the Marine National Park on its doorstep take a glass bottom boat out to the coral reefs and marvel at the array of marine life of this region. Barracuda, marlin, tuna and hammerhead sharks are all caught here and are major draw cards for both a local and international fishing fraternity who descend on Malindi in October for one of East Africas major fishing tournaments. Northwest of the town is the unique series of spectacular sandstone gorges that form the Marafa Depression, popularly known as Hell’s Kitchen.
Just south of Malindi, an 8 kilometre beach of the unspoilt village of Watamu, has been voted one of the top ten beaches in the world, and one glance at its pure white sand, crystal waters and coral reef you’ll know why. A boat trip into the winding channels of the mangroves and estuaries of Mida Creek is a fascinating way to spend half a day, and a visit to the crocodile farm or snake farm also entertains. Watamu is close to Sokoke Forest, home to 260 recorded bird species, visiting herds of elephant and the ruins of the lost town of Gedi.
The gateway to the Kenyan coast is the island city of Mombasa. Connected to the mainland by bridges and ferries, the town is set on a busy harbour. The massive 16th century Fort Jesus, with its gun turrets and battlements stands over the harbour. Mombasa is a fascinating mix of ancient and modern – the historic buildings and traditions have been preserved, but modern life is also much in evidence. The ancient heart of Mombasa has narrow winding alleyways and striking Arab architecture. Its a bustling, multi-cultural city, where mosques, Hindu temples and Christian churches have stood side by side for hundreds of years.
In the north roughly between Malindi and Lamu is the Tana River Delta. Idealic in setting, this pristine wilderness is home to only one lodge, the Delta Dunes Lodge. A must for birders, adventure seekers or those of you who just want nothing more than relax. in the far south, near Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Reserve which is close to the Tanzanian border, Funzi Island is another quiet spot where you really can get away from crowds. On the mainland just further north from Funzi, a lovely lodge called Msambweni might also be ideal for you. It’s not quite as far out but certainly not on the main beaches.
The wide grasslands, hills and valleys and thick rainforests of the Shimba Hills National Reserve are a sharp contrast to the arid, flat plains of many other of the Kenyan parks. Much of the Reserve has beautiful views over the Indian Ocean, as Shimba Hills lies less than 50 kms from Kenya’s coast. In spite of this proximity to the ocean, it lacks the coastal region’s tropical climate; at up to 500m above sea-level, the air is cool and refreshing.
Elephant, giraffe and buffalo all live in this tranquil spot, along with rare roan and sable antelope, black and white colobus monkeys, warthogs, and serval cats. Birdlovers can spot a wealth of species, including woodpeckers, sunbirds, honey guides and turacos. The area is also botanically rich, with two of most beautiful types of orchid in Kenya found here, and more than 250 different species of butterflies live in the rainforest. Also found within the forest are the spectacular Sheldrick Falls, which are over 25m high. The Shimba Hills are home to the Mijikenda, including members of the Giriama, Duruma and Digo tribes. Central to these peoples’ fascinating culture are Kayas – elevated forest glades that once held sacred objects – and two of these are located within the Reserve.Adjoining Shimba Hills is the Mwalugange Elephant Sanctury, linked by a game corridor and run by the local Duruma people this is a fine example of wildlife and people working together. The Duruma whose small holdings used to suffer destruction by elephants now receive income from the sanctuary (which is partly fenced, so protects their crops). The Mwaluganje River runs through the sanctuary and though small, this is a very scenic area with the Golini escarpment in the background and large baobab trees dotting the landscape.