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The coast south of Mombasa.
  The Kenya coast
Getting there
The most convenient way to get to the Kenyan coast is by air. Mombasa's international airport has connections with Nairobi and Europe, and there are also domestic air services to smaller airports along the coast.
The flight from Nairobi is about one hour. The same route by road is a full day.
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The coast:
The Kenyan coast
The coast of Kenya faces the Indian Ocean. Many parts of the coast have nice white beaches and very pleasant water temperatures. Much of the coastline is sheltered by coral reefs, offering good diving and snorkelling. There are also plenty of opportunities for big game fishing, and the inland has a number of parks and nature areas, some of these of high interest to birders. The climate is warm and humid. Map of Africa Namibia Botswana South Africa Zambia Mozambique Malawi Rwanda Tanzania Kenya Uganda
Beach areas
Kenya's most popular areas for beach holidays are around Mombasa, around Malindi and on Lamu Island further north. These areas have high concentrations of beach hotels and resorts. Other areas are less developed.

The coast is some 700 km/430 mi long, and doesn't only have sandy beaches, but also mangroves, mud bank areas and river deltas, especially to the north. Many beaches are not very swimable during low tide. Most beach hotels therefore have a swimming pool.

Other coastal destinations
An option to combining your Kenyan safari with a beach holiday in Kenya is flying to the Seychelles, situated in the ocean east of Kenya, or to Zanzibar Island off the Tanzanian coast.

Map of the Kenyan coast.
Mida CreekShimba Hills National ReserveMombasa Marine ReserveArabuko Sokoke National ParkLamu IslandBoni, Dodori & Kiunga Marine National ReserveArawale National ReserveTana River Primate National ReserveMoi International Airport (MBA/HKMO)Tsavo East National ParkMalindi & Watamu Biosphere ReserveKisite Mpunguti Marine ParkGede Ruins National Monument The Kenyan coast.

Mombasa is the scond largest city in Kenya. It's situated on the coast and has East Africa's largest harbour. As most hotels are located outside Mombasa, you don't get to see much of the city unless you go there for a day tour. Its main attractions are the Old Town, where you can see old buildings and architecture, including Fort Jesus from the late 1500's. There are also mosques, markets and many small shops, where you may look for spices, textiles, carpets etc. There are boat tours around Mombasa, which lies on an island.

The southern coast
The southern coast, from Mombasa and south to the Tanzanian border, is about 150 km/90 mi long. Just south of Mombasa are Tiwi Beach and Diani Beach, which together have some 20 hotels. Diani, which like Tiwi is sheltered by a coral reef, is Kenya's most popular beach area. There's white sand, palm trees and warm water. During low tide, you may find your way out to the reef on foot.

Beach boys
These beaches have a major drawback, though: the beach boys. There are many of them, trying to sell you anything from souvenirs to drugs. And they won't let you alone. Tourists tend to stay in their hotel areas, where the beach boys can't enter, and set foot upon the beach only to dash for the water.

Further south is Gazi, which has a nice beach and some hotels, and even further south is Shimoni, the game fishing centre of the southern coast. From there you can go to nearby Wasini Island to visit Mpunguti Marine National Reserve or Kisite Marine National Park to snorkel.

Sunrise off the Kenyan coast.

The northern coast
The northern coast reaches from Mombasa and some 100 km/60 mi north to Malindi. The first 25 km/15 mi north from Mombasa has about 20 tourist resorts, and here you'll find Mombasa Marine National Reserve and Mombasa Marine National Park. Going further north, the hotels thin out, to increase in numbers again when you reach the Malindi area. Kilifi, situated in the middle of this coast, is a popular destination with wind surfers.

Malindi still reminds of those times when the town was an Arabian trading post; Vasco da Gama landed here in 1498, on his journey sailing from Europe to India. Today, the beaches are home to hotels, while the reefs off the shore are home to fish and snorkellers. Malindi has a game fishing club, which you may contact to arrange fishing tours for marlin, tuna or sailfish.

More about hotels around Mombasa

Parks and birds
Malindi Marine National Reserve
, bordered by three smaller marine national parks and national reserves, lies just south of Malindi and has a rich life below the surface and good birding. Slightly inland is Lake Jilore bird reserve and Arabuko Sokoke Forest, which is a prime birding area, and a place to find a rare antelope, Ader's duiker. The mud banks of Mida Creek are fine for birding during low tide. Gede, one of Kenya's most important archeological sites, is found 20 km/12 mi south of Malindi.

The mouth of the Sabaki River, 15 km/9 mi north of Malindi, is another good place for birding, especially for wading birds.

The 250 km/150 mi long coast north of Malindi to Lamu and Manda is mainly unexploited as to tourism, and also Lamu and Manda Islands are by far less exploited than the tourist beaches in the south. Many of the Afro-Arabian buildings have been preserved, and the atmosphere is slow and peaceful.

The shores of these islands are not sheltered by reefs. A few beach boys may be found, but they are not at all as pushy as their colleagues further south.

The most convenient way to get here is by air from Nairobi or Mombasa.

Baboons in beach hotel garden.

Beach hotels
There are many hotels and resorts along the Kenyan coast, ranging from basic to luxury. You may want to book a hotel that has a swimming pool, as some beaches may not be very swimable during low tide, and as you may not want to face the beach boys every time you want a swim.

Most of the better hotels have sports and water sports centres, and activities such as tennis, wind surfing, snorkelling and diving. Hotels in some areas also offer golf.

Safaris from the Kenyan coast
There isn't much wildlife right on the coast. Monkeys feeding in the trees may be seen during early morning walks along the beach, and baboons and black-faced vervet monkeys are often seen in hotel gardens.

There are parks offering wildlife not too far from the coast. Shimba Hills is a one-hour drive inland from Diani and Tiwi on the southern coast. It has giraffes, buffalos and elephants, and Kenya's only population of the beautiful sable antelope. It's a pretty park, and you may go there by taxi or ask in your hotel reception for day tours.

Kiunga, Dodori and Boni are situated 100 km/60 mi north of Lamu, close to the border to Somalia, while Tana River Primate Reserve, home to seven species of monkeys, is 100 km/60 mi inland. Further inland lies Arawale, which is the only park in Kenya that has a population of Hunters hartebeest. These parks are off the beaten track, and may be less safe if you are travelling on your own.

Two major parks, Tsavo and Amboseli, are found inland from Mombasa. Both can be accessed by road or air, and it's even possible to reach Masai Mara by air from the coast.

The deep sea fishing for marlin, tuna, sailfish etc along the Kenyan coast is considered good. Fishing clubs offer professional services. There are also local boats along the coast to be hired.

More about deep sea fishing

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Page updated 27 April 2013