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Kenyas Coast

Arabic, Portuguese, Indian, Greek and of course African – Kenya’s exotic coastline is all of these. Its fascinating history of trade, settlement, unrest and colonial upheaval have made it into the unique region it is today. Nowhere else can you emerge from diving in the warm Indian Ocean, stroll along a pristine white beach, past a massive coral castle, through a coconut plantation and an abandoned town to reach an elephant sanctuary, a neo-Gothic cathedral or a huge temple.

A tropical fish in the coral reefThe beaches of the mainland are a sight to behold. The southern coastline has sugary-white sands met by clear, pale-blue waters, home to bright coral reefs and tropical fish. The diving and snorkelling here is fantastic. The northern beaches are fringed with palms, and the region is popular with sailors taking advantage of the calm, undulating waters of the Indian Ocean. You can partake in virtually any water-sport you can think of on Kenya’s vibrant coastline, and the coral reefs here are amongst the best in the world – beaten only by the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea, according to experienced divers.

Malindi, on the northern coast is a very popular tourist destination, due to it’s fabulous resorts, stunning beaches and the fact that Italian settlers left their famous gastronomic legacy in the form of some great Italian restaurants. The Malindi Marine park, where you can snorkel or even take a glass-bottom boat tour, is also well worth a visit.

A sea turtle swimming through the coral reefThe Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park is another gem. You can snorkel and dive here too, and marine life to be spotted included turtles, angelfish, snappers, and sometimes even dolphins or whales! If that doesn’t appeal, you can also spot birds and butterflies.

Almost everyone visiting this area will also visit Mombasa. It is a tropical city par excellence; at once steamy and slow-paced, yet still exciting and dynamic. Mombasa’s landmark, is the centuries-old coral-carved Fort Jesus, dominating the harbour with its metre-thick walls and Arabic inscriptions. Today, the fort houses a museum dedicated to the Swahili lifestyle and culture which emerged on these shores so many years ago. The whole of Mombasa’s coastline is dotted with more of these impressive coral buildings, mainly castles and mosques.

Heading a little further inland from Fort Jesus, you’ll find yourself in the historic Old Town. Here, you can wander the labyrinth of twisting alleys, finding beautiful carved doors, ornate balconies, Arab verandas, curio markets and antique shops. The spice market, stretching along Langoni Road, is an explosion of jostling customers, shouting stall-owners, and the thick, unctuous aroma of cardamom, turmeric, cloves and many other exotic spices.

A sea view from a Kenya beachJust off Kenya’s beautiful coast there’s even more to discover, with a belt of paradise islands including Wasini, Funzi, Chale, Lamu, Pate and Kiwaiyu. At Funzi you can walk amongst the mangrove palm trees and spot crocodiles and birds. Wasani is extremely peaceful, partly due to the fact that there are no roads and the only electricity is provided with generators. Here you can spend the morning examining an exposed coral garden, and the afternoon visiting ancient Swahili ruins. Lamu is another tropical paradise, where the main forms of transportation remain the donkey and the dhow, just as they have been for many years. Exploring the narrow streets and market squares of the Old Town, virtually unchanged since the fourteenth century, is a particular delight.