On the South Coast there are beaches to suit any travellers tastes and
interest. There are busy resorts with plenty of organized activities
and non- stop nightlife. And quiet beach destinations offering the
chance to relax and experience nature.
The Beaches south of Mombasa are an earthly paradise of tropical
forests, white sand beaches and coral reefs. On the South Coast there are beaches to suit any travellers tastes and
interest. There are busy resorts with plenty of organized activities and
non- stop nightlife. And quiet beach destinations offering the chance
to relax and experience nature.
Whether you are looking for a base to actively explore this fascinating
region, or just somewhere to unwind and find peace, Kenya’s south coast
has everything you could wish for.
The area is serviced by World Class resorts, centred around Diani Beach,
letting the visitor relax in style and comfort. The beaches here are
broad expanses of pure white sand, while the ocean is warm and inviting,
with protective reefs creating perfect calm havens for swimming.
Watersports enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice on the South Coast.
Most of the resorts and hotels ranged along the beaches offer a wide
range of watersports. Water-skiing, Sailing, Jetskiing, parasailing and
much more can all be arranged easily at most of the hotels.
A range of boats can be hired to explore the coast, including Hobie cats and sailing skiffs. Sea Kayaks are also widely available, and are ideal for exploring remote coves and sheltered bays.
Shimoni is a good place for those looking to charter yachts. Both yachts and crews are available for private charter. The coast of Kenya is a great place to explore by yacht, or the perfect base from which to set sail for Zanzibar to the South or the Red Sea to the North.
SCUBA Diving and Snorkelling
Beneath the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean lies a world of undersea wonders. There are plenty of excellent dive sites all along the South Coast.
Diving is generally good all year round, although visibility lessens during July and August due to silting. There are dive sites ranged along the coast from Tiwi south to Shimoni.
Some of the best sites are centred around Kisiite Mpunguti Marine Reserve. This area is home to large Manta Rays which are occasionally encountered on dive expeditions.
Swimming with Whale Sharks
In February-March each year, there are almost guaranteed sightings of Whale Sharks on outer reef dives along the Kenyan Coast. The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, measuring up to 18 metres and weigh up to 20 tons. It feeds on platonic creatures and small fish, and has only tiny teeth.
In Kiswahili, the whale shark is called “papa shillingi” translating as “shark covered in shillings.” There is a local legend that God was so pleased when he created this beautiful fish that he gave his angels handfuls of gold and silver coins to throw down from heaven onto its back. So it goes that whale sharks have their magical markings and swim near the surface catching the sun on their backs as a way of saying thank you to their Maker.
Based in Diani beach, the East African Whale Shark Trust (EAWST) was founded in 2005 in response to the increase in the whale shark population along the Kenyan coast as well as increased interest from the tourist sector.
One of the best dive sites is Nyulli Reef. A good deep dive site with strong tidal currents, this dive is best suited to experienced divers. Spectacular coral and plunging drop offs are home to excellent sealife, including snapper, barracuda, rare zebra sharks and massive Napoleon wrasse.
An easier dive is Kisite Point. There is plenty of large, tame shoals
to be found here, with average dive depth at around 12 metres. Divers
at the point often encounter hawksbill turtles and bottlenose dolphins.
Swim with Dolphins
If you would like to see or swim with Dolphins, there are large populations found around the South Coast.
Diving and snorkeling boats on day trips to Wasini Islands or Dive
sites often encounter dolphins along the way. These are bottlenose
dolphins, and they are often seen in large family groups. The dolphins
usually follow and feed on schools of fish.
They will often follow passing boats and swim into the breaking bow
wave, using the slipstream created to coast along the side of the boat.
This playful behaviour is very common among dolphins, who seem to take
great pleasure in streaming from side to side of the bow, often
breaking water and leaping into the air of the boat.
Dolphins are also known to join divers and snorkelers, and to surround
and swim with people. This magical experience is a common occurrence on
day trips in this area.
Wreck Diving is possible at the Northern end of this strip of coast, on the MV Unfunguo, a former trawler, which has now become a thriving artificial reef. Since the wreck split open some years ago, the inner hull has become a massive haven for sea life, and makes for a truly spectacular dive.
There are many dive operators in this area, both private and those attached to resorts. Equipment, boats, refills and dive guides are all provided. International PADI, NAUI and SSI standards of safety and quality are all maintained. Full courses with qualified instructors and international SCUBA certification are available.
Many operators offer Night Dives and specialist Nitrox Diving. The best option is a day trip on a diveboat, catamaran or dhow with one of the many dive companies operating in this area.
For non divers there are plenty of options for fantastic snorkelling, with plenty of shallow and accessible coral gardens, especially at the Kisite Mpunguti Marine Reserve.
A day dhow trip to Wasini Island, within the reserve, is easily arranged from Diani or Shimoni. This usually includes snorkelling and/or diving, and a seafood lunch on the island.This is an ideal way to spend the day. Dolphins often accompany the dhows through the reserve, and the island itself is well worth exploring.
Shimoni has a long standing reputation for big game fishing. The Pemba Channel is the best fishing destination, and there are many highly skilled local operators.
Fully equipped and stocked boats with the best available equipment and tackle are available for full and half day charters. The main game fish include Sailfish and Marlin, Kingfish, Wahoo, Horse Mackerel and others.
The best source of local information for fisherman is the Pemba Channel Fishing Club in Shimoni. A tag and release program ensures eco-friendly fishing. Big game fishing can be arranged in season (December-March).
The skies over Diani come alive with the annual SkyDive Boogie - a major event which attracts sky diving clubs from all over the world. This is the perfect place for a sky-diving festival- at sea level it is possible to experience a full one minute accelerated free fall from 14,000 feet.
Best of all, divers land directly on the beach outside their hotel, and after a short rest, can climb back aboard their plane at Ukunda airstrip, just 10 minutes away.
Novices are welcome to experience the thrill of tandem dives, or to participate in a full skydive course.
One of the best ways to explore the South coast and surrounding villages is by bicycle. This gives you the freedom to explore quiet village roads and trails. Cycling is a popular form of local transport in this area, and on most paths and roads you will encounter other cyclists.
Local people will always be willing to help out with directions and advice, and are often quite keen to meet and talk with visitors to Kenya. This is an ideal opportunity to get some fresh air and exercise, and get a new perspective on the area and local life.
Bicycles can be hired locally all along the coast either from hotels or private operators. Check the condition of the tyres, chain and frame before hiring a bike.
The South Coast is a perfect destination for coastal birding. The forest at Diani is a refuge for Fischer’s Turaco, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Little Yellow Flycatcher and the Uluguru Violet Backed Sunbird.
Nearby Dzombo Hill is home to a Digo Kaya (see Cultural Safari) and is also home for the rare Sokoke Pipit, the African Crowned eagle and around 33 other forest dependent species.
Offshore, the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park has an important population of rare Roseate Terns, among other pelagic birds, centred on Kisite Island.
The Jadini- Diani forest region is a refuge for the highly endangered Black and White Colobus Monkey. Both the Angolan and more common Guereza sub species are present here. A local group The Wakaluzu Trust is devoted to the conservation of these rare primates and their habitat.
The colobus and other primates of this area, including vervet monkeys and baboons are threatened both by traffic on the main coastal road, and by hand feeding by tourists which encourages anti-social and unnatural behaviour.
The Wakaluzu Trust works builds aerial bridges across the roads to prevent traffic casualties, and work to educate tourists against feeding monkeys.
They also have a program to sterilize male baboons to prevent over population problems that threaten the local eco-system.
They have set up a centre called Colobus Cottage at Diani that is base for their operations and provides information on local wildlife. It is possible to arrange to stay here and assist with this important work.