The Kenyan coast is roughly divided into ‘North and ‘South' of the island city of Mombasa.To reach the south coast, it is necessary to cross from the island of Mombasa via the Likoni Ferry (10 minutes) to the start of the south coast beaches. The link to the north coast is via the Nyali Bridge, which leads from the island (via the suburb of Nyali) to the north coast.
Coastal temperatures average 28 centigrade tempered by the monsoon winds (the southeast monsoon, the Kaskazi blows from April to October, while the northeast monsoon, the Kazi blows from November to March - a daily average of eight hours of sunshine.
The north coast features:
• Nyali Beach
• Kenyatta and Bamburi Beach
• Shanzu beach
• Watamu & Malindi Beach
Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya, lying on the Indian Ocean. It has a major port and an international airport. The city is the centre of the coastal tourism industry. The original Arabic name is Manbasa; in Swahili it is called Kisiwa Cha Mvita (or Mvita for short), which means "Island of War", due to the many changes in its ownership. The town is also the headquarters of Mombasa District which, like most other districts in Kenya, is named after its chief town.
The city has a population of 727,842 and is located on Mombasa Island, which is separated from the mainland by two creeks; Tudor Creek and Kilindini Harbour. The island is connected to the mainland to the north by the Nyali Bridge, to the south by the Likoni Ferry and to the west by the Makupa Causeway, alongside which runs the Uganda Railway. The port serves both Kenya and countries of the interior, linking them to the Ocean. The town is served by Moi International Airport.
Mombasa Old Town
Dating from the 13th century it's easy to be transported back in time when wandering around the Old won in Mombasa, which has similarities to Lamu and stone town in Zanzibar. The narrow winding streets are overhung by filigree timber balconies and houses have intricately carved wooden doors, a symbol of status for the merchant residents whom commissioned them. Alongside the more recent Indian and colonial styles of architecture. Within the Old Town there are more than 20 mosques. During the 1800s slaves were shipped from the harbour as well as spices and mangrove poles. The Old Town has protected status as a result of a 1985 conservation project.
This Portuguese fort, built in 1593 is a huge bastion with a key position overlooking the old port of Mombassa. One of he oldest European buildings in Africa, it is surrounded by a deep moat. Designed by Joao Batisto Cairato, to protect Portuguese interests in East Africa, it is considered one of the finest examples of 16-century Portuguese military architecture. During the ferocious battles between the Portuguese and the Omani Arabs between the 16th and 18th centuries, the fort changed hands nine times. Subsequently, when Kenya became a British protectorate, in 1895, the fort was turned into a prison and remained so until 1958. Thereafter it was declared a national monument and made into museum. The museum houses artifacts from other coastal historical sites and the shipwreck of the San Antoni de Tana which sank off Fort Jesus in 1697. In the evening the fort hosts a son et lumière show Men baring fire torches mark the entrance to the fort as visitors are given a presentation of the coasts turbulent history followed by dinner served in Portuguese attire.
Other places of interest include:
Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve
The Baobab Adventure
Haller Park - a magnificent example of land reclamation by the Bamburi Cement Company named in order of Rene Haller who instigated the project over the past 30 years. Leafy oasis, game sanctuary, nature trail commercial fish farm - antelope, hippo, giant tortoise and Rothschild's giraffe, crocodile, snake park and palmetium. Bamburi Forest rails - picnicking BBQ Butterfly Pavilion,
Nguuni Wildlife Sanctuary, 5km from Haller Park reclaimed park Masai ostrich eland and oryx and bird life (260 species).
Mamba Village - crocodile farm with 10, 00 crocodiles, camel rides and horse riding.
Ngomongo villages - representation of ten of Kenya tribes illustrating traditional homesteads, dress and activities.
Jumba la Mtwana (Mansion of the Slave)
2kms north of Mtwapa Creek (10 minutes from the Serena Beach Hotel) this national monument contains the remains of a 15th century Swahili slaving settlement and three ruined mosques.
Jumba la Mtwana is open daily 8am to 6pm and fees are payable upon entry.
Location: The site is signposted 1 km north of Mtwapa Bridge.
Just south of Kilifi creek the remains of a 15th century Swahili settlement including a magnificent pillar tomb and Friday mosque.
Bombolulu is a crafts training school and manufacturing centre that employs over 260 disabled people, mostly polio victims. It features five handicraft workshops, all of which you can visit and the most famous of which is the jewellery workshop offering a wide variety of designs in metal and local materials such as old coins and seeds. There is also a cultural centre displaying six traditional homesteads, a central restaurant and dance floor where traditional crafts, cooking and farming are demonstrated.
The Bombolulu workshops are open Monday to Friday 8am to 12.45pm and 2-5pm. Entry is free. There is also a cultural centre and craft showrooms. For further information contact PO Box 83988 Mombasa. Tel +254 (0)11 473571
Location: Bombolulu is 3km north of Nyali Bridge.
The history of the coast
The Kenyan coast offers a colourful history. From the 9th century onwards, Indian and Arab traders mingled with the indigenous population to create the unique Swahili culture, much of which still survives until this day. During the 15th century, the Portuguese stamped their mark on the coast, fighting with the Omani Arabs, their main legacy being Fort Jesus in Mombasa' Old Town.
The coast then remained an entity in itself with little connection to the interior, apart from that forged by the Arab caravans, which trekked inland for ivory and slaves. At the turn of the 19th century, the British established a foothold and declared the coast, which at the time was in the hands of the Omani Arabs, a British Protectorate.
Subsequently, Mombasa became pivotal in the development of Kenya as a British colony, being the starting point for the building of the Uganda railway. Today it still plays a vital role as the hub of commodity transportation inland. Mombasa is also a strategic port on the East African coastline.
The remains of many early Swahili settlements dot the coastline, the most significant being the 15th century Gedi ruins south of Malindi, while Lamu town has been designated a World Heritage Site due to its significance as a Swahili Centre. The coast also boasts unique and diverse habitats, both in maritime and terrestrial national parks and reserves. Highlights include: Mombasa Old Town, Lamu, Gedi, the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Resave, Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary and the Shimba Hills National Park.
The popular coastal resort of Watamu (20 minutes/24 kms from Malindi) centers around the small town of Watamu, home to an exotic mix of local residents, visiting Maasai warriors, Italians, Germans and the remains of the old British settlers. The 8km white sandy beach, fringed by palm trees, and lapped by the sapphire-clear waters of the Indian Ocean, has been voted one of the top ten beaches in the world.
Here the coast is broken into three separate coves, each divided by a rocky headland. Between each headland is a broad white sandy beach - ideal for swimming, snorkelling and water-sports. To the north, lies Mida Creek, an unspoilt area of mangrove forests, ideal for birdwatching.
Gedi ruins, the ‘precious' place
Founded in the late 13th or early 14th century, the ruined Swahili town of Gedi is located about 4km north of Watamu. Meaning ‘precious' in the language of the local Galla people, it is thought to have flourished in the mid-15th century. Obviously a prosperous town at that time, it hosted sultan's palaces, sunken gardens, a fabulous selection of grand merchant's houses, a large Friday mosque and some exquisite examples of Islamic pillar tombs. Then, in the 17th century, it was abandoned, some think quite suddenly. Theories abound as to why this happened, one being that the residents fled in the face of an imminent invasion by the Galla - who were known to be cannibals.
Today, the picturesque ruins are spread over several acres, dotted with ancient baobab trees and surrounded in dense coastal forest in which monkeys swing. Believed to be haunted by a strange ‘beast' which stalks visitors as dusk falls, excavations in the ruins during the 1940-50s revealed an extensive array of domestic, religious and commercial structures including a palace with sunken courts, fortified walls and a deep well. Finds included glass and shell beads, gold and silver jewellery, coins, porcelain and local pottery. Within the inner and outer wall is a nature tail with some 30 indigenous trees.
Gedi Ruins are open daily 7am to 6pm and fees are payable upon entry. Contact: Warden, PO Box 5067 Malindi. Tel +254 (0)122 32065 email: email@example.com .
Kipepeo Project Butterfly Farm
Close to Gedi is Kenya's first working butterfly farm, a project designed to help local residents benefit from the proximity of the forest by exploiting the overseas markets for exotic butterflies. Visitors can see the butterflies at various stages of development from larva to wing and there is also an informative Visitor Centre and shop selling local handicrafts and honey.
The Project is open 8.30am to 5pm daily and entry fees are payable. Contact PO Box 58 Gedi. Tel +254 (0)122 32380