Kenya Coast Attractions

Kenya Coast attractions include many historical sites, marine parks, and national parks and an amazing paradise of sun and sand.

Mombasa Marine Park

Established to protect the coral reef, a safari to Mombasa marine park gives you the opportunity for a breath taking view of beautiful coral gardens. The safari enthusiast can enjoy sunbathing in the pristine Mombasa beaches, or enjoy a variety of water sports such as scuba diving or snorkeling. There is a variety of sea grasses and marine algae, as well as crabs, corals, sea urchins, jellyfish, sea stars and sea cucumbers. The coastal waters are warm all year round and even without a swim suit, diving is quite interesting.

Watamu Marine Park

Watamu marine park is an amazing paradise of sun and sand with an international reputation of reef-protected beaches and a sunbathing paradise for tourists. Safari adventures uncover scores of coral reef, isolated holes running up to 12 meters, waiting to be explored. However, fishing is totally banned within the park.

As an ornithologist’s paradise, safaris through Watamu marine park unveils over 100 species of birds found in the bush and cultivated gardens and is also a haven for community based butterfly farming. Commonly seen overhead is the black kite, bright yellow canaries and the golden palm weavers.

Ocean safari ventures will also reward visitors with the sighting of a vast array of tropical fish including the parrotfish, surgeonfish, snappers, angelfish, puffer fish, butterfly fish and rays swimming through the water in a graceful flying motion. Tourists to Watamu marine park may indulge in a wide variety of activities such as water sports, boating in glass-bottomed boats, and snorkeling, with an awesome spectacle of variety and color.

Gede Ruins, one of the ancient Arab towns which dot the East African coastline is found in Watamu, Kenya. It was abandoned in the early 17th Century. Surviving ruins at Gede include the Great Mosque, the Palace, residential houses and several pillar tombs. Between the inner and outer wall is a nature trail which is probably the best indication of vegetation of a dry forest which existed on the raised coral reef before human habitation.

Malindi Marine Park

Malindi Marine Park is the oldest and the first marine park to be protected in Kenya. Safari expeditions in the sandy beaches of the park allows you to interact with it’s rich variety of unique resources such as coral gardens in the lagoons, sea grass beds, fringing reefs, mangroves, mudflats and a high diversity of fish and marine life, e.g. dolphins, turtles and shore birds.

Malindi marine park safaris uncover different species of fish found in the park such as the coral reef fish, zebra fish, sweet lips, surgeon fish, butterfly fish, damsels and the parrot fish. Whether snorkeling or scuba diving, tourists are sure to marvel at the under water beauty and may just bump into other regular visitors like the sea turtle and dolphins feeding on schools of sardine.

Safari tourists to the park get spoilt for choice as there is a wide variety of activities to be explored including, swimming in the ocean water, snorkeling, boat riding, diving, dhow riding, sun bathing, picnicking and barbecuing on the island as well as wind surfing in the reserve. Safaris to Malindi marine park also present an opportunity to the visitors to ride on a hired glass bottom boat which gives a unique experience for those who do not prefer to swim or snorkel, as they can view the diversity of coral reef from the boat.

Malindi marine park is also favorable for business travelers as it has a wide variety of conferencing facilities. A library is available and research is made possible with the availability of an educational center with audio-visual equipment and colorful, informative posters displayed for visitor’s free access.

There are over 300 recorded species of fish at the park including angelfish, barracuda, butterfly fish, goatfish, emperors, jacks, rabbit fish, sharks, snappers and triggerfish. Common invertebrates found include, lobsters, octopus, sea anemone, sea cucumber, sea stars, sea urchins, crabs and shells.

A wide variety of plant life surround Malindi marine park making it a spectacular attraction for botanists. Different species of algae, corals, and migrant terrestrial birds are also found in the park.On some of these plants, you will find different species of insects such as butterflies, moths, bees, ants and wasps.

Shimba Hills National Reserve

Shimba Hills National Reserve is a small national park located in the coast of Kenya. The jungle is the last of the coastal rainforests and an important area of plant biodiversity in Kenya where rare plants of some endangered species of cycad and orchids are found.

Safari adventures to the park uncover a gorgeous array of butterflies, birds and a large number of elephants. The elephant herds cause significant damage to vegetation, threatening the endangered plant life in the jungle. Human-wildlife conflicts are also very high in the area and have prompted an elephant sanctuary to be established to provide a route for elephants leaving the park.

Shimba Hills National Reserve contains Kenya’s only population of the Sable antelope. Other safari attractions in the park include scenic landscape comprising of hills and valleys and the Sheldricks Falls.

Chyulu Hills National Reserve

Chyulu Hills National Park, considered to be among the youngest volcanic mountains in the world, is a spectacular jungle paradise in Kenya situated on the boundary of Tsavo and the Amboseli plains. The 150km long mountain range rises to an altitude of 2188m at its highest and is situated 200km south east of Nairobi. Safari adventures in the park uncover spectacular landscape views including a fantastic view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, great blue skies and abundant rolling hills of endless green.

Chyulu Hills National park is also a jungle paradise of large mammals that include buffalo, bushbucks, elands, elephants, leopards, giant forest hogs, bush pigs, reedbucks and giraffes along with various reptiles and insects. Some adventure activities that can be enjoyed include cave walking and exploration, horse riding, camping, mountain climbing and bird watching.

Chyulu Hills are mainly of volcanic origin bordered by an expanse of black lava flow known as “Shetani”. Shetani lava flows got its name from molten lava that spewed from the earth just over 200 years ago. The fiery fury was thought by the local people to be the work of the devil, hence the name ‘Shetani’, which means ‘Devil’ in Swahili. It is made up of volcanic cinder cones that form spectacular caves and are home to the world’s longest lava tube, the leviathan. Rainfall percolating through the porous rock feeds many permanent fresh water sources in the surrounding plains and keep the surrounding areas abundant with fresh water for use by wild animals.

Lamu Island

Lamu Island is part of the Lamu Archipelago of Kenya. The archipelago is a chain of islands separated from the mainland by a narrow channel bordered with dense mangrove forest and protected from the Indian Ocean by coral reefs and large sand dunes. In December 2001 Lamu Town was declared a world heritage site to protect the oldest inhabited Swahili settlement south of the Sahara.

Lamu Island has been a port of call for travelers for centuries and many historical sites on the island capture the area’s long and rich history. One of the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa, Lamu Old Town is built in coral stone and mangrove timber. Travelers to the town will be amazed by the characteristic simplicity of structural forms enriched by such features as inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors.

Lamu has hosted major Muslim religious festivals since the 19th century, and has become a significant center for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures. The island is linked by boat to Mkorwe on the mainland and to Manda Island, where there is an airport. There are no roads on the island, just alleyways and footpaths, and therefore, there are few motorized vehicles on the island. Residents move about on foot or by boat, and donkeys are used to transport goods and materials.

Safari adventures will take you to villages that neighbor Lamu such as Shela Village, which was settled by people from Manda Island and Pate Island which is now a major tourist town; Matondoni village well known for the building and repairing of dhows; and Kipungani Island.[/Section]A safari to the Kenyan Coast uncovers a lining of over 300 miles of extensive sandy beaches fringed with coconut palms lapped by the warm Indian Ocean. The beaches give opportunities for blissful relaxation, swimming in the balmy ocean, sailing in a variety of boats, exploring the protective coral reefs which stretch offshore, fishing afloat fleets of deep sea fishing boats equipped with the latest modern equipment, water skiing and other water sports for the holiday maker. Many hotels found along the beaches offer excellent and varied cuisine and sea food while enjoying a variety of entertainment.

The Tsavo west and east National Park

The Tsavo jungle is a vast ecosystem where the relationship between wildlife and environment has been allowed a natural course. Established in 1948, Tsavo west and Tsavo east national parks are separated by the Mombasa/Nairobi highway and form one of the largest National Parks in the world covering a massive 4% of Kenya’s total land. The park supports all the “Big Five” and is home to the country’s largest herd of elephant population, buffallo, lion, leopard and rhino making safari expeditions quite exciting. The Kenya Wildlife Service maintains the parks and protect wildlife especially from poachers. The jungle is made up of diverse habitats including mountains, rivers, forests, plains, lakes and wooded grassland and safari adventures unveil a beautiful, rugged wilderness.

Tsavo West National Park is a 9,000 sq km game park in southern Kenya, located about 200 km south-east of Nairobi. Safari adventures in the park uncover a painting on a sprawling canvas of endless skies, hills, liquid lava flows, rivers, sparkling oases and a cloud shadowed African savanna. The magic Mzima Springs that supply water to Mombasa found in the park is fed by over 250 million litres of crystal clear water gushing from under parched lava flows into palm fringed pools filled with hippos and crocodiles. Mzima Springs has a unique underwater hippo observatory for visitors, two nature trails and some scenic picnic spots that provide a refreshing and rewarding safari adventure.

The savanna ecosystem comprise of open grasslands, scrublands, and Acacia woodlands, belts of riverine vegetation and rocky ridges including the Poacher’s Lookout where visitors can see teeming herds in the plains below. Safari adventures to Tsavo West National Park offer some of the most magnificent game viewing in the world. Attractions include dust-red elephants, rhinos, hippos, lions, cheetah, leopards, buffalos, diverse plant and bird species including the threatened corncrake and near threatened Basra Reed Warbler. The park is famous for the numerous prides of maneless lions that patrol the plains and predate on herbivore herds.

“Shetani” lava flows are found in Tsavo West National Park and got the name from molten lava that spewed from the earth 200 years ago. The fiery fury was thought by the local people to be the work of the devil, hence the name ‘Shetani’, which means ‘Devil’ in Swahili.

The glorious Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary protects Tsavo’s growing population of the endangered black rhino which was a victim of poaching in the early 1960s. The beautiful Lake Jipe straddles the Kenya/Tanzania border and offers a memorable experience as it is abundant with aquatic and bird life. Boat rides are a sure way to blow your mind away as you sail through the clear waters watching different species of fish and aquatic animals enjoy the suns rays penetrating through the water. Bird watching is a major activity in the park. Over 1000 plant species are found here, being a mixed habitat of bush, grassland and acacia woodlands dotted with baobab, ivory palm, saltbush, fig trees and the tamarind. Animals that occupy the park include the leopard, cheetah, buffalo, giraffe, rhino, zebra, elephant, lion, crocodile, mongoose, hyrax dik dik, lesser kudu and the nocturnal porcupine. Don’t miss yellow baboons and vervet monkeys as they cavort noisly around acacia trees.

Fort Jesus

Fort Jesus was designed to protect the port of Mombasa by Giovanni Battista Cairati, an Italian architect and engineer who served as the Chief Architect for the Portuguese in East Africa. Construction of the property covering an area of 2.36 hectares including the fort’s moat and immediate surroundings lasted from 1593 to 1596.

The Portuguese recognized the strategic value of positioning the fort on a coral cliff to protect their trade route with India, as well as their East African interests. From this vantage point, the Portuguese were able to detect approaching ships well before the vessels entered the harbor, an advantage that ultimately led to the fort being under an almost constant state of attack for most of its history, including Omani Arabs from 1696 to 1698. Eventually, the Portuguese lost control of their prized Fort Jesus until 1728, only to lose it again a year later. In 1837, a type of peace was instilled upon the fort when it converted to a soldier barracks before being used as a prison by the British in 1895. On October 24, 1958, Fort Jesus was placed in the custody of the trustees of the National Museums of Kenya. The museum opened in 1962 and holds numerous relics recovered from the shipwreck of San Antonio de Tana that has been at the bottom of the Indian Ocean since 1697 as well as an intriguing collection of archaeological artifacts from the fort, as well as Manda, Ungwana, Gede and other sites, some of which have been donated by private individuals.

A guided tour of the fort grounds gives an insightful journey through Mombasa’s history. Fort Jesus symbolizes not only the history of Mombasa, but also the architectural prowess of the Portuguese in designing and building martial structures that are based on Renaissance era values of proportions and geometrical harmony.

The Gedi Ruins

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Gede ruins is one of Kenya’s great mysteries and the remains of a Swahili village thought to have been founded in the early 13th century and then mysteriously abandoned about 600years ago. It lies about 65 miles north of Mombasa and about 10 miles south of Malindi. Gede ruins, a National Museum, is heavily overgrown with beautiful indigenous forest trees, baobabs and tamarind. About 18ha of the site have been excavated and the remains of several mosques, a palace, residential houses and elaborate pillar tombs have been revealed. Safari adventures take you to this very atmospheric and mysterious treasure hidden in the deep forest.

A guided tour through the ruins opens you to the fascinating culture of the Swahili people and the ancient town they constructed. A quiet, careful look in some of the old wells can turn out the odd owl. A safari walk along the nature trail network with 40 different species of plants leads to lesser ruins throughout the forest. While walking, look out for Syke’s Monkeys, and the Golden Rumped Elephant Shrew!

Gede ruins provide a home to different species of animals such as monkeys, rare golden-humped elephant shrew, duikers and bushbucks. There is an amazing number of endemic birds such as Turacos, Malachite Kingfishers, Paradise flycatchers and African Harrier Hawks which can be seen from a tree platform built for the A Rocha’s Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Eco-tourism Scheme (ASSETS) programme. There is also a reasonable number of reptiles such as the green and black mamba, forest cobras and several other harmless snake species.