South of Mombasa, across Likoni Creek, lies a magnificent sweep of silver sand, sapphire sea and waving palms. The southerly part of Kenya's stunning Indian Ocean coastline, which runs 700 km between the Tanzanian and Somali borders, it is renowned for its silken white sandy beaches, coconut palms, sheltered lagoons, pellucid blue waters, remote islands, uncharted mangrove swamps and mysterious Arab and Swahili ruins, many of which date back to the 8th Century AD. Boasting an idyllic climate, which is cooled by the monsoon, the Swahili coast offers a daily average of 8 hours of sunshine, and the hot steamy climate is tempered by the monsoon winds: the south-easterly Kaskazi, which blows from April to October; and the north-easterly Kazi which blows from November to March.
The barrier reef
Kenya's pristine and well-developed coral reef extends virtually without break from Shimoni in the south to Malindi in the north, some 230 Kms in total. The reef is broken only in a few places by river mouths and creeks; and of these the deepest and most sheltered safe channels through the reef are those that lie on either side of Mombasa Island.
The South Coast Beaches
Beaches extend from Mombasa to the Tanzanian border - but the best known is Diani Beach (25 kms south of Mombasa), which offers just about everything the visitor could wish for: restaurants, shops, golf course and night spots plus; the Colobus Trust, an area of indigenous forest that provides a sanctuary for the areas many colobus monkeys and the Kaya Kinondo, a cultural centre built around a sacred Kaya (grove) of the Digo people. The activities on offer include swimming, snorkelling, sea kayaking, diving, water sports, dhow trips, glass-bottom boat trips, nature trails, butterfly farms, places of historic interest, visits to the nearby Shimba Hills (a coastal national park with plentiful elephant) or to the world-famous Arabuko Sokoke Forest, one of the last of the rainforests.
The Wakuluzu Colobus Trust
Formed January 1997 to protect the Angolan black and white colobus (Colobus angolensis palliates ) whose numbers were severely threatened by the destruction of large areas of forest and the busy road traffic of the coastal strip, the Colobus Trust is based at Colobus Cottage, which also offers an information centre plus a nature trail and guided walk.
Location: 3.7km south of Diani. For opening times contact: Colobus Cottage tel +254 (0)127 3519 or email email@example.com
South of Diani
A small island about 35km south of Diani, Funzi features mangrove-fringed shores, extensive areas of forest, crocodile spotting trips up the Ramisi River and dolphin tours around the bay.
Wasini Island is just off the coast of the Shimoni Peninsula, and is totally undeveloped, unspoilt and untouched by civilisation, the perfect place to experience the Swahili culture. If offers Muslim ruins, coral gardens, wooded walks, snorkelling, dhow trips, limited accommodation and traditional Swahili cuisine.
The Shimoni Slave Caves
Shimoni means ‘place of the hole' a reference to the 5 km of silted-up caves, which are thought to have been used for storing slaves prior to shipment to Zanzibar. Tours of the caves demonstrate the metal rings in the rocks to which the slaves are thought to have been shackled and the now silted-up passage, which once led to the slave ships.
The caves are open daily 8,30 to 10.30 am and 1.30 to 6.30 pm entry fees are payable.
Location: Shimoni is at the end of a small peninsula 76 km south of Likoni and not far from Tanzanian border.
Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Park
Considered by many to be one of the best marine parks in Kenya the 28sq km Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park lies to the south east of Wasini Island and offers excellent diving and snorkelling. The Kisite coral reefs, one of the most complex eco-systems on the planet, are around 3-4km long and include staghorn, brain, mushroom and pencil species. There are also 250 recorded species of fish including colourful butterfly, parrot, rockcod and angelfish as well as a broad selection of sea urchins, cowrie, starfish and crabs. Dolphin are also common as are large shoals of bonito and frigate mackerel. Nearby Shimoni is also home to many families of porpoise. Best time to dive and snorkel is between October and March; avoid June July and August because of rough seas silt and poor visibility.
The Park is open 6am to 6pm and entry is payable in Kenya Shillings or US dollars. Contact : The Warden, PO Box 55, Ukunda. Tel +254 (0)127 52027.