Kilifi County

Discover Kilifi County

View of Vasco da Gama Pillar in Malindi.  Photo Courtesy
View of Vasco da Gama Pillar in Malindi. Image Courtesy

Brief Overview of Kilifi County

The 12,245 km2 Kilifi County, resembling an arrowhead with the apex thrust into Tana River County, is bound in the south by A109 Mombasa-Nairobi Road, in the east by Indian Ocean, and in the west by Tsavo East National Park. Its 120 kms coastline has developed beaches at Mtwapa, Takaungu, Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi and Mambrui, with Malindi Beach in the north-eastern corner being the principal centre of interest for visitors to Kilifi County. Access to all these beaches is made easy by the B8 Mombasa-Malindi-Ijara-Garissa Road, which travels along the eastern boundary within sniffing distance of the Indian Ocean. As you go further inland, over the narrow coastal plains and ranges, the land quickly becomes desiccated leading up to the wide-spaced Nyika Plateau that dominates much of the western half, marked by a large lowland of thorny bush and grassland country on a gently rolling relief rising toward Tsavo East Park. The Nyika occupies almost 50% of Kilifi County, over its entire western frontier.

If one is interested in exploring the compelling history of the Coast Region of Kenya, few destinations can better the enriching experience of Kilifi County.  Its charm in beauty and extent of historic sites has attracted the attention of many adventure-makers. Along the coast of Kilifi, ecclesiastical ruins are frequently to be seen, dating back in some cases to the early 9th Century.  Jumba la Mtwama, found just a few kilometres north of the city of Mombasa, is a perfect example. The popular Gede Ruins which are just off the main Mombasa-Malindi Road, near Watamu, and which can be visited within a day from Mombasa or Malindi, are perhaps the most interesting of these reminders of the Arabic influence on the Coast. At Gede Ruins, there are extensive ruins of palaces, a walled ancient town, numerous tombs, and several important remains of large heroic mosques.

Giriama (or wanyika) who are the main inhabitants of Kilifi County are mainly concentrated along the Athi-Galana-Sabaki River, whereas the lesser Swahili live along the coast, seldom migrating out more than 16 kms inland. The greater part of the coastal plain up to 24 kms inland is fairly heavily cultivated, yet, as pressure on the land increases, more and more of the natives are attempting to till the land further west that is harsher and drier. Unique to Kilifi County, and thanks to its surpassing beaches, places of relaxation and world-class resorts, is the growing multiracial population in the coastal hubs. At Malindi Town, where Italian and German are fluently spoken, the local guides can explain the history of the Coast in more than three languages. From Malindi Town, there are direct routes to the vast Tsavo East National Park and Tana Primate National Reserve.

Salient Features of Kilifi County

  • County Number 05
  • Area – 12,245 km2
  • Altitude – 50 ft
  • Major Towns – Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi
  • Borders – Mombasa, Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Tana River

Brief History of Kilifi County

For much of its history, what we now know as Kilifi County had been a regional trading settlement, isolated from the interior of Kenya and bound to the Indian Ocean by the sea trade. Kilifi, the largest center between Mombasa and Malindi, which were arch-rival, was embroiled in their perpetual feuds. At the height of these underhand relations, in the 1590’s, “Kilifi seems to have fought Malindi for Mombasa, possibly on the basis of dynastic links between the two dynasties, possibly through mere ambition. Malindi complained of Kilifi’s raids and opted to put an end to both Kilifi’s provocation and also to put its claim on Mombasa”. After this defeat, Kilifi seems to have suffered a beyond-repair decline. In 1501, owing to friendly ties formed with the Portuguese, Malindi became the cardinal centre for the viceroy in East Africa. After the falls of Portuguese in November 1698, Malindi and Mambrui were resettled by Zanzibar Arabs, and in earnest around the 1850’s. Both had been formerly abandoned during the 17th Century.

View at the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve.  Photo Courtesy
View at the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve. Image Courtesy

Places of Interest in Kilifi County

1. Shimo la Tewa Prison

Shortly before crossing over Mtwapa Bridge, marking the unofficial boundary between Mombasa and Kilifi just 15 kms north of the city of Mombasa, sits the infamous Shimo la Tewa Prison. More impressive for its history rather the site itself, the monastic facade gives away very little of its forbidding history. Shimo la Tewa is symbolic of a ruthless finality that could not have been achieved by any other form, to overcome many obstacles through suppression and suffering. Avowers insist the punishment does not always fit the crime at Shimo la Tewa. The action-packed history of Shimo la Tewa – which loosely translates to “Hell Hole or, Hole in the Ground”, dates back to the 14th Century, when the Omani Arabs established Jumba la Mtwana, later framed as “the large house of slaves”, at Mtwapa. “Shimo la Tewa, just across the creek from Mtwapa, was used as a holding ground for slaves headed to Jumba la Mtwana. Historians have claimed that an estimated 8 million African slaves were shipped to foreign lands during this time – D. Kiereini. Forthwith, it became a holding den for pirates who were unlucky to get captured in the Kenyan waters. During the British Era, its main role’ was as a prison for the hardened offenders. A legacy it has pursued to date.

2. Mtwapa Creek

The 4 kms long Mtwapa Creek that opens to Bahari ya Wali lagoon at the Indian Ocean is crossed at Mtwapa Bridge; the boundary between Kilifi and Mombasa Counties. From the vantages of Mtwapa Bridge the marina at Mtwapa, which at most hours of day is bestrewed with a sizable number of small boats and yachts, forms a pretty sight.  At Mtwapa Marina, trippers can enjoy scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, enjoy a day out at the Mooring Floating Restaurant or at La Marina Restaurant, hang out at Club Lambada, or take a boat ride which is the best way to take in the sights. Also found nearby Mtwapa Creek are the notable ruins of Jumba la Mtwana (the slavemaster’s house) and the early 19th Century Shimo la Tewa Prison.  Mtwapa Creek is situated about 16 kms north of Mombasa City.

3. Mtwapa Ruins

Mtwapa Ruins is a large site on the north side of Mtwapa Creek, in thick bush, with many walls of about 60 houses still standing, stretching several hundred metres north to south; but the breadth of the site is continually reduced by the construction of houses overlooking the creek and the ocean. It is not difficult to imagine that Mtwapa was once considerably larger than its present size. Cut coral was used for the edges of doorways and decorative pilasters. A town wall surrounded the site and may be seen today as a high mound of earth extending across roads and through the bush. There was apparently one congregatioral mosque at Mtwapa, still seen at the site. “The Mtwapa Ruins is a site of great archaeological potential, for settlement pattern studies, survey and mapping, architectural study and excavation. Few other sites could rival it in quantity and quality of its standing remains. It would have had much more potential for development as a national monument if its access to the sea and Mtwapa Creek had not been cut off by new houses, which must have greatly damaged the site”.

4. The Moorings

The floating Moorings restaurant raised on a wooden deck resting on a buoyant platform at Mtwapa Creek and seen as you cross Mtwapa Bridge – which marks the unofficial boundary between Mombasa and Kilifi Counties – has a delightful waterfront setting overlooking the Mtwapa Marina and Mtwapa Bridge. “What is there not to love about a floating restaurant that sways a little as you sit back, relax and sip on a drink and have a bite to eat?” – Puja. The Moorings has been a tradition for many visitors to Mombasa and is one of its most lauded, specially for its seafood. Aside from its venerated seafood delicacies, it has a landlubber menu which includes steaks, chicken, pastas dishes and a pizzeria. Since 1994, The Moorings has been a must go to place and its latter-day Moorings Dhow – a refurbished Arab sailing boat – offers perfect sun-downer dining voyage. It is reached via Nyali-Malindi Road and taking a turnoff (left) after Mtwapa Bridge.

Spartial Location of The Moorings, Mtwapa in Kilifi County
Spartial Location of The Moorings, Mtwapa in Kilifi County

5. La Marina Restaurant

Much of a muchness is La Marina, a sea-front restaurant that features a floating restaurant combining the very best of the cheerfully exuberant day and nightlife of Mtwapa – which is fittingly dubbed as “the coastal village that never sleeps”. By day, La Marina Restaurant is cherished for its excellent sea food, merriment and stunning outlook of Mtwapa Marina. By night, it is one of the most popular watering-holes, which carries different theme nights.  Found nearby La Marina Restaurant are Mooring Restaurant, Jumba la Mtwana, The Porini, Bhari Gates and the Mumtaz Restaurants. La Marina is located 16 kms from Mombasa City.

6. Jumba la Mtwana

Chronicled as ‘the house of many doors’ or ‘the slavemaster’s house’, Jumba la Mtwana is perhaps the most pronounced structure along the Coast Region of Kenya, and among the best preserved ancient ruins. It consists of four mosques and a number of houses located in a picturesque setting on and above the beach not far north of the mouth of Mtwapa Creek. Or again, “Jumba la Mtwana has four mosques, a tomb and four houses that survived in recognizable condition. These houses include the House of the Cylinder, The House of the Kitchen, The House of the Many Pools and the Great Mosque; all part of its three phases. The inhabitants of this centre were mainly Muslims as evidenced by its numbers of ruined mosques”. The site was investigated in depth by James Kirkman in 1972, who cleared some of the houses and at least one of the mosques. He dates the site to the late 11th Century-early 15th Century. One of the mosques of Jumba la Mtwana, cleared and planned by Kirkman in 1972 is aptly known as the Great Mosque or the Mosque by the Sea. There is a second mosque near the centre of the site, a small mosque at the far western end, and the fourth mosque, or the domed mosque, is found some metres north of the cleared areas of the National Monument. North of this mosque is a cemetery with numerous tomb enclosures abutting the little coral cliff to the west. The style of architecture seen at Jumba la Mtwana is comparable to the style of ancient ruins found at the Songo-Mnara Region off Tanzania’s Coast. The ruins are found 18 kms north of Mombasa, off Mombasa-Malindi-Lamu Road for 4 kms to the northern area of Mtwapa Creek.

7. Kikambala Beach

Travellers interest in the North Coast Region is on the five principal beaches of Nyali, Kenyatta, Bamburi, Shanzu, and the surprisingly little-known Kikambala Beach. Picking up from the busy Shanzu Beach in Mombasa, the 11 kms stretch of reef protected beach, which is the prime beach between Mtwapa and Vipingo Creek, is a quieter beach. One of its biggest drawbacks is that it lacks a clear line of communication, with its easiest access being a dusty 3 kms all-weather road. By the same token, Kikambala Beach is less developed and is more popular as a public beach. It is served by a few middle-budget resorts like the Sun and Sand Resort, Sultan Palace Beach Resort, North Coast Resort, Royal Reserve Safari Beach, Ocean Blue Apartments, Xanadu House and Kelliana Resort. Kikambala Beach is located 18 kms from Mombasa City and 3 kms from Mtwapa township.

8. Vipingo Mosque Ruins

The Vipingo mosque is located on the beach about 14 kms north of Mtwapa and 3 kms southeast of Kijepwa Police Station. The qibla and west side of the north wall stand, and some of the western walls may be traced, but the eastern side of the mosque has been eroded by the sea. There’s little evidence that remains of what was possibly a wall. The roofing of the mosque supports a more narrow musalla, and to the west of the scar the top of the wall falls with a sharp pitch. This pitch continues down to the north arched doorway of the western room, and probably indicates the roof was of makuti. The wall height of the western room appears to have been no higher than the spring line of the archway; the area thus probably functioned as an open verandah. The mihrab is framed in a plain architrave, with plain jambs below offset capitals of two narrow members.

9. Kinuni Ruins

Kinuni is a small site of one mosque and a group of tombs located on a beautiful beach just north of a coral outcrop at the end of a well-kept access road in the Kuruwitu Conservancy. Portions of the site were excavated and reported on by James Kirkman in 1975. Only the western anteroom of the mosque stands, the northern part to full height. The surviving northwest doorway of the musalla is a simple archway with edges of coral. The western doorways of the anteroom were squared. There might have been a western verandah. The mihrab and the eastern areas of the mosque are completely destroyed. Of the tombs at Kinuni labelled A to E by Kirkman, ‘A’ is the largest of the tombs over 17 metres in area.

10. Kuruwitu Conservancy

The 30-hectares Kuruwitu Conservancy established in 2005 was the first locally managed marine reserve along the Coast of Kenya. Kuruwitu Conservancy is a ‘working model’ for many community-based initiatives that aim to conserve and preserve these delicate marine ecosystems.  Among the success stories here are Kuruwitu Turtle Alive Project and their unique Marine Research Project. Guests to Kuruwitu may also be take part in deep-sea fishing using knowledgeable local guides, sail traditional dhows or volunteer in projects. Kuruwitu Conservancy is found 24 kms from Mombasa City (at Shariani) off the Mombasa-Malindi Road.

Spatial Location of Kuruwitu Community Marine Conservancy in Kilifi County
Spatial Location of Kuruwitu Community Marine Conservancy

11. Neem Tree House

Set up on a beautifully-appointed edge of a cliff at the northern end of Kuruwitu Marine Conservancy, the cozy and private Neem Tree House is a snug 3-rooms retreat surrounded by well groomed mature gardens. Its delightful infinity pool overlooks the Indian Ocean. This is an idyllic family-run retreat, in a dreamlike location, affording it seclusion and tranquility. It has direct access to the beach and to the Kuruwitu Marine Conservancy too.  Neem Tree House is also within easy reach of Mtwapa and Kilifi. It is found just 36 kms north of Mombasa City.

12. Vipingo Ridge

The upmarket leisure and residential Vipingo Ridge Estate set up on 2500 acres of picturesque hinterlands has for a pièce de résistance the 19 Hole Baobab Golf Course ranked among the “Top 100 golf courses around the world” – CNN and among “Africa’s 10 leading golf course” – Business Daily.  This top-rated 72 par course, designed by golf legend David Jones, is one of two golf courses in Kilifi County.  Their opulent Clubhouse is the central meeting point at Vipingo Ridge. Among its other highlights include: Vipingo Beach Club, Vipingo Guest House, and the Kuruwitu Conservancy.  Vipingo Ridge is found 30 kms from Mombasa.

Map of the North Coast of Kenya.  All Rights Reserved to Expert Africa
Map of the North Coast of Kenya. All Rights Reserved to Expert Africa

13. Takaungu Creek

“Of a divine, clean, barren marine greatness, with the blue Indian Ocean before you, is the deep creek of Takaunga” – Karen Blixen, Out of Africa.  Some of the outstanding features at the sightly and unadulterated Takaungu Creek are: the Vuma Cliffs and River Mbogholo Bridge. And, if you can find it, the old colonial house belonging to Karen Blixen.  For the more adventurous swimmer, a dip in Takaungu Creek is worth all the efforts of getting there. Although for the most part Takaungu Creek is only a history-rich small settlement that remains just a dreamy ways-out village, there are some accommodation options found nearby like the Takaungu House. For the history buff, a visit to the Kitoka Ruins, on the northern flank, comprised of two distinct ancient mosques among other smaller ruins, is a singable encounter. Takaungu Creek is found 49 kms from Mombasa.

14. Kitoka Ruins

Kitoka, on the north bank of Takaungu Creek, along with Mnarani on the south bank of Kilifi Creek and Kilifi Ruins on the north bank, were the settlements of the old “city state” of Kilifi – Kirkman 1959. Kitoka is a site of two mosques and numerous houses, today covering an area of about six acres, although it is likely that in the past the site was considerably larger. Plans of the two mosques and elevations of their mihrabs were first cited by Garlake, in 1956. The mihrab of the large mosque is still in good condition, with two arch orders above and two recessed jambs below single member capitals. Some of the more interesting features or characteristics of the houses at Kitoka include the doorways in the houses framed by architraves, often with single niches in each of the pilasters. Also, the archways at Kitoka themselves were often once or twice recessed from spandrel level, either including the jambs or above the level of “springing” only.

15. Mnarani Ruins

Among the numerous ruins of ancient Swahili towns along the Coast of Kenya is Mnarani, which was occupied in the 14th Century. It serves as a great example of the ancient civilization that thrived here for hundreds of years.  To start with, there is a magnificent pillar tomb with a Friday Masjid (Mosque) and 12 tombs labelled from A to L, still in good condition. Then, there are the captivating fine carvings at its large pillar tomb, which is marked by layered arcs on the mihrab with stellar coral inscriptions still in immaculate condition. It has slave tunnels too.  The ancient Mnarani Ruins are situated at south bank of Kilifi Creek about 55 kms north of Mombasa City, and just 200 ms off Mombasa to Malindi Road.

16. Kilifi Boatyard

Kilifi Boatyard, a working boatyard with a secure serviced moorings, is Kilifi’s response to the salubrious sea-facing eat-outs at Mtwapa Creek. Much like the restaurants gracing Mtwapa, the sea-food at Kilifi Boatyard is faultless, and its atmosphere is beyond-money. Particular to this site is the unmistakable floating self-catering rental cottage, which sleeps up to 6. Built in 2007, by Rene Faber and his co-directors, this trim wooden cabin-style house, which is permanently anchored a few metres from the shore, adds to the beauty of the scene ten-fold.  

The location of the floating house on the heavily sheltered lagoon means that the waters will always be calm even when the waves in the open ocean are high, ensuring that even those prone to sea sickness because of the waves can cope. Apart from the floating house, little else has changed in the boatyard whose ownership has changed three times in the past couple of years. – Moses Michira, Nation Media

17. Kilifi Bridge

Kilifi Bridge, spanning 451 ms and linking Kilifi to Mtwapa and further out to Mombasa, is currently Kenya’s longest bridge. Completed in 1991, the hauncher girder tyre design bridge, tied up in three spans, crosses over the Kilifi Creek. It offers a splendid view of the cobalt blue ocean, awash with both traditional daus and modern fishing boats.  There are satisfactory marinas just a short distance from the Kilifi Bridge to include the Kilifi Boatyard. Furthermore, about 2 kms away, sits is the famed Mnarani Monument.  It is found 56 kms from Mombasa.

Above Kilifi Brige – Published by Kinetic Films

18. Kilifi Creek

The wide Kilifi Creek, extending 3 kms at its widest point crossing the estuary of the Goshi River, is famous for its stunning sunsets and as a swimming spot. For those who do not fancy splashing around, there is the laid back and much-loved Mnarani Club, where travellers can enjoy an afternoon outing. Certainly Kilifi is one of Kenya’s most stunning creeks and the cherished vista from Mnarani Club (formerly Kilifi Hotel) says this all.  The western side of Kilifi Creek is served by the busy Mombasa-Malindi Road, where the little-known delightful Bofa Beach is found. Also found around this creek are: Musafir Dhow, kayaking at Emerald Creek, diving with the Kilifi Buccaneers Club and the Distant Relative Ecolodge.

19. Mazingira Park

If, instead of proceeding northbound after crossing Kilifi Bridge, you takes the immediate left turnoff, onto Bofa Road, you’ll arrive at the finicky gem of Kilifi County simply known as Mazingira Park. The first impression on arrival is how cool the park is and how green everything is, thanks to the pretty ancient trees most notably of its jumbo baobab trees. This popular public outdoor space, set at the sea-front – across the channel from Mnarani Beach Club – is very pretty and relaxing. What’s more, there is no absence of interesting areas to explore on foot including the beautiful Church located just 300 ms away which is thought to be one of the foremost in Kilifi County. Then, there’s the series of untravelled mossy ruins. Mazingira Park is found 2 kms from Kilifi Bridge along Bofa Road.

20. Bofa Beach

Past Mazingira Park along Bofa Road lies Bofa Beach. It happens to be on many a traveller bucketlist, much talked about but less often visited. Still, Bofa Beach, where Bofa Beach Resort stands, is slowly gaining a good repute. Other notable resorts here include Baobab Sea Lodge and Mada Hotel Kilifi. Although it does not have half as many beach resorts compared to the beaches at Kwale’s South Coast and Mombasa’s North Coast, it does carry great stretches of golden sand – and the obligatory swaying palms. Owing to its passably developed beaches, the atmosphere at Bofa is more laid back and trippers easily mingle with locals, who in turn are happy to offer relatively cheap boating trips along the shoreline.

21. Distant Relatives Ecolodge

Nestled between the Giriama Fumbini Village and the picturesque Kilifi Creek, the ecologically friendly and socially conscious Distant Relatives Ecolodge is an exceptional and budget-friendly alternative to the “classic coast hotel living.”  At Distant Relatives Ecolodge, holiday-makers either opt to camp in safari tents or be settled in dormitories, private rooms or in their beautifully designed en-suite bandas – all with path ways to the clean beach. It has a pretty pool too. Distant Relatives is situated 58 kms from Mombasa and about 2 kms from Kilifi Bridge.

Spatial Location of Distant RElatives Ecolodge in Kilifi County
Spatial Location of Distant RElatives Ecolodge in Kilifi County

22. Dalton House

Once a ‘sleepy village’ with a thousand years of history, Kilifi is now popular as a sun and sand lovers destination, with many reputable resorts. One of its latest establishment, the superb Dalton House, was designed by Alberto Morell Sixto. Dalton House, which caters luxuriously for the wealthy traveller, celebrates the Kenyan coastline and Swahili architecture. One of the amusing twists of Dalton House is a 10-ms wide staircase that takes from the bottom of a courtyard pool up to a viewing deck which overlooks Indian Ocean. Its secluded location offers exclusivity and quietude. It’s found in Madeteni Village and close to Kilifi Town.

23. Panga ya Saidi Cave

Excavated in 2018 on the project led by Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the 1076 m2 Panga ya Saidi Cave is conceivably one the most significant archaeological finds made in Kenya over the past three decades. As recently as ten years ago, the Panga ya Saidi Cave found about 15 kms from the flourishing beaches of Kilifi, was used by locals for native rituals. But, the recent discovery indicates that its history is forsooth more mesmerizing.  Based on the evidence excavated, Panga ya Saidi was previously continually occupied by the “Homo sapiens” for 78,000 years.  The multi-layered artefacts, linked to middle stone era, include multifarious ornaments, beads, shells and hominoid remains.

24. River Rare Geo Park

This is located about 40 kms northeast of Kilifi along Kilifi-Ganze-Bamba Road, in the sparsely populated backwoods country nearby Ganze. The road is flanked on both sides by a rugged and totally untamed country with a rarity of vehicles and people which offers the intrepid an interesting adventure into an unusual coastal flora. It’s not a difficult drive to get to Ganze but one must have a strong wish to venture off into a rarely untravelled and undeveloped area that requires some asking around to locate this envisioned geo-park. Around the Ganze area, the seasonal River Rare with its headwaters in the southern flanks of Taita Hills has produced impressive and extensive formations of bizarrely eroded pillars, numerous eroded-down rocks, caverns and a bank of unique tunnel like passes. 

25. Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve

Covering 420 km2 and marching with Mombasa-Malindi Road from near Kilifi to Gede, the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is the largest and last surviving fragment of the coastal forests in East Africa. Likewise, it is Kilifi’s most important forest. 6.1 km2 inside the forest is designated as a National Reserve managed by Kenya Wildlife Service as well as a 2 km2 patch taken by National Museums of Kenya principally for the preservation of the historically important Gede Ruins. The bracing beauty of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is best enjoyed on walking safaris which take walkers through the motley collection of endemic species of insects, butterflies, birds, rare hard and soft wood trees. It has a meshwork of well-marked walking trails, with more than 30 kms of driving tracks traversing the different forest sections.   The Kenya Forest Service guides offer captivating insights on its anatomy and history including some of the traditional rituals still carried out here and the ancient medicinal properties of many of its plants, on a walking trip that culminates at Nyari Viewpoint with unprecedented views over the forest canopy. Mida Creek, a beautiful tidal inlet with 6 species of mangrove trees, is less than 1 km from the entrance to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. The main gate is found 110 kms from Mombasa City, and just 20 kms from Malindi Town.

Both Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve and the Shimba Hills National Reserve combined hold the largest coastal forests in East Africa, both sites are important for conservation of birds and are listed as one of the twenty-five biodiversity hotspots in the world. The sites should therefore be listed for serial nomination in company with other forests along the Eastern Arc Coastal forests. – UNESCO (Tentative List)

26. Mangea Hills Forest

This tiny 5 km2 acroamatic Mangea Hill Forest (sometimes spelt Mwangea) is an isolated patch within the lowland coastal forests situated just 15 kms west of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest an that’s also listed as an important birding areas. Over 125 species from 41 families were recorded in the Mangea Hills Forest Survey of 2009, with its expected species estimated at about 189. Among the commonest bird species seen here are: Tropical Boubou, Zanzibar Greenbul, African Pied Wagtail and White-throated Bee-eater. “It is one of the coastal forests thought to still contain small populations of the Golden-rumped elephant shrew listed as Endangered.” Rising 200-500 ms and forming part of the coastal lowland forest biodiversity hotspot, Mangea Hills is marked by lots of patches indicative of land clearing to pave way for land for growing crops and settlement. The risk of expansion which in turn will lead to the clearing of more land is imminent as more populations continue to inhabit the area. It can be reached via Malindi-Taveta Road which travels on the northern frontiers of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

Spatial Location of Mangea Hill Forest in Kilifi County
Spatial Location of Mangea Hill Forest in Kilifi County

27. Watamu Marine National Park

Established in 1968, the 10 km2 Watamu Marine Park enclosed by the 213 km2 Malindi National Marine Park and Reserve is a charming underwater world of incredible colours. Watamu Marine Park covers the areas around Blue Lagoon, Turtle Bay and the birding paradise of Mida Creek.  Further offshore, stretching northerly, the Malindi Marine Parks and Reserve is well-liked for scuba-diving.  Popular activities at Watamu Marine National Park: snorkeling, skiing, glass-bottomed boats rides, exploring the islands and Mida Creek. The area around Watamu has plenty of reasonable rentals and resorts to include Watamu Beach Hotel, Turtle Bay Resort and Ocean Sports Resort.  Watamu Marine National Park is situated 115 kms from Mombasa City near the entrance into Mida Creek.

28. Mida Creek

The picture-postcard tidal inlet of Mida Creek, which is lined on either side by mangrove forest, covering 32 km2, is a part of Watamu Marine National Park. Internationally recognized as a sanctuary for shorebirds, with over 200 species, Mida is also a veritable sanctum of beautifully contrasting flora both seaward and landward. The mangrove forest at Mida Creek covers 17 km2 and accounts for 25% of mangrove forests in the Coast Region of Kenya. The tropicalscape of Mida Creek, best enjoyed on local dhow boats and stand-up puddle boards, is a nature-lovers delight. A visit to Mida Creek should not omit a drop in on Mida Ecocamp, boating safaris to the Sudi Islands – embodying the feeling of cast-off paradise islands – and walking its simple board walk whose revenue goes to the local communities. “The 260-metres bridge offers a memorable skywalk over birds nests”. Still and all, Mida ecosystem is a fragile and vulnerable biosphere and mangroves poles from Mida Creek, Mto Kilifi and Ngomeni in Malindi, and Lamu have been exported to Arabian countries (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain) and Somalia in Africa in spite of the Government ban in 1982.

29. Uyombo Ruins

Uyombo is situated a bit inland from the south side of Mida Creek. The site is a very ruined mosque in the bush, its mihrab fallen. The only thing of interest is a long conduit, about one metre high, running from a well that is still in use to a cistern that was located at the southeast corner of the mosque. Another cistern and wall close by were from a ruined house. Uyombo Ruins are probably recent.

Map of Historic Sites along the Lower Coastline of Kilifi County. Image Courtesy
Historic Sites along Lower Coastline of Kilifi County. Image Courtesy

30. Kilepwa Ruins

Kilepwa Ruins is a site on an island in Mida Creek, consisted of a mosque, some tombs and several houses. Kilepwa was investigated by Kirkman who, on the basis of local and imported ceramics and porcelains, divided the site into three periods of seven phases, dating from the last half of the 12th Century through the second quarter of the 17th Century. The earliest permanent structure that has survived is the pillar tomb, probably dating to around the middle of the 14th century. This interesting structure has two large single recessed panels on the east facade of the wall. Coral panels composed of three ascending coral tiles alternating with adjacent areas of rough coral masonry today give a pleasing chequered effect to the pillar. “Although Kilepwa continued to be occupied throughout the 16th Century, the scarcity of late Ming sherds would appear to indicate that the population of the area was smaller or poorer” – T. H. Wilson.

31. Rock and Sea Resort

Kilifi is perhaps the only County of Kenya which can be properly called a leisure and recreation hub. And, Kilifi lives up to its name in its ace listing of hotels and fine seaside resorts.  Unique to the Rock and Sea Resort, found at Mida Creek in Watamu, are its luxury transparent bubble camps set in the scenic creek. These eco-friendly climate-adjusted camps come complete with a full-sized bed, sleek bathroom and a resting area – with transparent walls and roofs – which purvey unobstructed views of the surrounding tropical landscape and the enliven night sky. The floors of these protected cocoons are invitingly natural sand, to give its guests the feeling of being right in the middle of beach. While tenably secluded, the bubbles are just a short walk from the main Rock and Sea Resort’s building.

32. Watamu Beach

The splendid 12 kms stretch of Watamu’s sandy beach is comprised of 7 smaller contiguous beaches – Garoda Beach, Turtle Bay, Blue Lagoon Bay, Watamu Bay, Ocean Breaze, Kanani Bay and Jacaranda Beach. These all lie within the secured Watamu Marine National Park that’s considered one of the surpassing underwater worlds in Kenya. The blossoming Watamu Beach is also home to several of the unashamedly beautiful resorts in the Coast Region of Kenya that include: Aquarius, Majirani, Mawe, Garoda, Temple Point Hotel, Kanani Reaf, Jacaranda Beach. Medina Palms, Alawi Boutique, Baracuda, Ocean Sports, Gecko’s, Sun Palm Resort.  Watamu Beach is situated 108 kms from Mombasa. It is reached via the Gede-Watamu Road and Turtle Bay / Watamu Beach Road.

Above Watamu, Above Malindi – MicroDrone Pictures

33. Watamu Tree House

Although Watamu and Malindi are sometimes put under one bracket, they are in fact two totally different regions.  Watamu covers the regions of Blue Lagoon, Turtle-Bay and Mida Creek inside Watamu Marine National Park, and Malindi Beach sits 23 kms northerly in the northeast corner of Malindi Marine National Park and Reserve. Among the extra-ordinary resorts at Watamu, widely-lauded as one of the best experiences in Kilifi County, is the twin two-storey Watamu Tree House. Located within a sightly forest and overlooking the ocean, “the first version of the tree house was created in 1992, as a single-room home, where the Krystall family came for holidays”. The present towers were conceptualized in 2001 by Nani Croze of Kitengela Glass House. In her distinctive signature style, Croze added quirky, yet elegant, coloured glass throughout the towers. An open plan policy carries throughout its rooms, the roof-top viewing decks looking out over the jungle and beautiful beach. It is found off Turtle Bay Road in Watamu. 

34. Tribe Water Sports

Started in 2001, this world-class water sports outfit is Kenya’s leading and most experienced kite-surfing and stand up paddling (SUP) provider.  Tribe Water Sports is owned and managed by Ben Kelliher, who is one of the world’s finest kite-surfing instructor. Also available for trippers to Tribe Water Sports are, its exciting hydro-foiling, dolphin SUP, scuba-diving, deep-sea angling tours and snorkeling. Also offered here is the “tribe gap year program” aiming to give the locals a step-up in a career in water sports, and especially in kite-surfing sector.

35. Kite House

If your interest in visiting Kilifi County is to find a modestly-priced, sequestered and laid back spot with plenty of ways to spend the day and with a good share of merriment, the rustic Kite House ticks all the boxes. Previously known as Mvuvi Lodge, this 3-bedrooms house, set up on 2 acres of tropical palm gardens with a private pool, is perfect for families and groups. It is rented as self-catering with support staff available round the clock. From this jump-off, guests can enjoy the interests of Watamu including water sports, deep sea fishing and excursions to close by Robinson Island. Watamu Beach is located 5 kms away. Other places of interest within easy reach are: Bio Ken Snake Farm, Gede, Malindi, and Marafa.

36. Local Ocean Conservation

Local Ocean Conservation is a private, not for profit organisation committed to the protection of Kenya’s marine environment by using practical conservation, community involvement and development, education, research and campaigns to further the sustainable use of Kenya’s marine resources. The Watamu Turtle Watch was their flagship programme. It was started by local residents in 1997 to protect nesting sea turtles. Now it sits under ocean conservation along with Diani Turtle Watch, Bycatch release, beach profiling and their Rehabilitation Centre for sick and injured sea turtles. It’s also actively involved in mangrove restoration, having planted and monitored over 230,000 mangrove seeds and seedlings, and has its own mangrove nursery on site. Often, planting efforts are done together with the local community to promote a sense of ownership and pride. Education about the importance of mangrove ecosystems complements these restoration activities. Through their Eco Visitor Programme guests get the opportunity to have a hands-on experience with all aspects of the LOC work by participating in day-to-day operations, contributing directly to the conservation efforts as well as enjoying a unique local experiences created for visitors. Tours run every hour, on the hour during the operation times (Monday to Friday from 9.30am-12.30pm and 2.30pm-4.00pm and Saturday from 9.30am-12.00pm). A small cover charge of Kshs. 300 is applicable, that goes towards conservation and the maintenance of the site. It is located along Turtle Bay Road in Watamu.

37. Ocean Sports Watamu

Watamu is Kenya’s most celebrated game fishing destination and Ocean Sports Watamu is a paradise for big-fish anglers.  The waters off Watamu and Malindi beaches are proper “sailfish country” where E. Hemingway pursued his choice sport in the 1930’s.  Up until the 1980’s, big quantities of Barracuda, Yellowfin, Dolphin, Kingfish, Sailfish, Shark, Wahoo and Trevally were regularly caught.  Along the wall spaces within the lounge at Oceans Sports Watamu are mounted records of some of the biggest fish ever caught along Kenya’s coast to include a Black Marlin that weighed in at 342 kgs. Ocean Sports Watamu, with decades of experience, is a one-stop-shop for fishermen with an appetite for big fish. The popular Ocean Sports Resort offers various accommodation options – standard rooms, ocean family rooms, ocean suite and the beach house. It is found 9 kms from Watamu Marine Park, or 7 kms from Gede if approaching it from Malindi.

38. Bio-Ken Snake Farm

Bio-Ken Snake Farm is one those locations you are likely not to forget, after you scroll through the rather exhaustive spine-tingling collection of some of Africa’s deadliest snakes, reptiles and insects.  And, there are over 127 species of snakes at the Bio-Ken Snake Farm as well as a robust collection of various reptiles – in what is the largest local assemblage of its kind along the Coast. It’s found 2 kms north of the junction of Turtle Bay and Gedi-Watamu Road along Kanany Road.

39. Kiburugeni Ruins

At the southwest margin of Blue Lagoon, near Watamu, are a mosque and two tombs named for the area, Kiburugeni. The mihrab has a plain architrave, with two arch orders within the spandrels. At the apex of the arches is the small terminal coast nick. All walls excepting the qibla have fallen. At the northeast corner abutting the mosque is a considerable tombstone, with three single recessed panels below a frieze of niches. This is flanked by masonry piers ending in square pyramids. In the facade of the tombstone are recesses for three bowls or dishes; it is almost certain that about half a dozen 11th Century Chinese blue and white porcelain sherds now in the Gede Museum came from this tomb. As the mosque predates the tomb, a late 11th or early 15th Century date for the mosque seems appropriate. Behind the large tomb is a smaller one.

40. Mgangani Ruins

Mgangani is the site of a mosque southwest of Gede, near the upper reaches of Mida Creek, associated with Somali mosques of the 18th Century. A few piles of rubble nearby suggest that there might have been a few stone houses other than the mosque, but the ‘outpost’, if there were stone houses, must have been small.

41. Gede Ruins

This is found at the corner of Mombasa-Malindi Road and Gede-Watamu Road, 16 kms before arriving at Malindi. Typical of most ancient towns along the East African Coast, the 12th-16th Century Gede Ruins are a relic of the ancient Arab towns. “Gede traces its origin in the 12th Century but was rebuilt with new walls in the 15th and 16th Centuries”. The entire site is estimated to cover 45-acres in the primeval forest at the edge of Arabuko-Sokoke. Gede Ruins are one of three most important historic locations along Kenya’s coast, owing to the quality and quantity of its remains. It was also the first intensively studied site. Work began in 1948, led by James Kirkman, concentrated in the north-central quarter of the area. The key ruins are comprised of a conglomeration of mosques, palaces and houses, with one of its most imposing structures being the Great Mosque. This as it stands is the youngest of 3 mosques. The first, about which little is known, was built in the mid 15th Century; then, half a century later, a similar Mosque to the present one was built. The latter dates to the mid 16th century. It’s a large mosque with four rows of six square pillars and further divided in two by a wall.

There are six lesser mosques at Gede Ruins: Mosque of the Long Conduit, the Mosque of the Three Aisles, the Small Mosque, the Mosque of the Sarcophagi, the Mosque Between the Walls, and the Mosque on the South Wall. All of the mosques had a single central row of one, two or perhaps three pillars, except the Mosque of the Three Aisles, where two rows of pillars left an unobstructed view of the mihrab. All of the mosques had eastern ablution facilities, again with the probable exception of the Mosque of the Three Aisles, where these seem to have been on the west. The units combined to make up the Gede houses are: forecourts and domestic courts; long rooms, usually spanning the width of the house; small rooms, based on the division of a long room; store rooms, usually at the rear of the house or at the end of a suite of small rooms; toilets of the typical coast type; lobbies and entryways, essentially small rooms for the passage from one area to another; and passageways, usually of long corridors from a street to the entrance of the houses. According to historians, Gede was partly wiped off (in 1528) by troopers from Mombasa opposing the Portuguese.

Spatial Location of Gede Ruins in Kilifi County
Spatial Location of Gede Ruins in Kilifi County

42. Kipepeo Butterfly Farm

Begun in 1994, as a small community-based farm, Kipepeo Butterfly Farm now exports their pupae for exhibit to as far as United Kingdom and United States.  Kipepeo (Kiswahili for butterfly) “currently markets butterfly and moth pupae and live insects as well as honey and silk cloth produced by the community. The live insects hatched from their pupae are exported and displayed in insect parks globally”.  For the guest, not much is left for imagination, with the technicolour spectacle created by hundreds of exotic butterflies collected from the Arabuko-Sokoke.  Kipepeo Butterfly Farm is situated close to the entrance of Gede Ruins.

43. Malindi Museum

From Gede, it’s a short 16 kms hop to Malindi Town, reached soon after passing the Malindi International Airport set 2.5 kms outside the main town. Equally a necessary logistic for Lamu and Tana River Counties and a holiday destination, Malindi has a lot to interest the visitor. One of the easiest to find is the Malindi Museum, along Silversand Road. Also known as the House of Columns, this was originally an Indian trader’s house, then the town’s hospital, before its recasting as the first National Museum in Malindi. As a destination, it is one of the nicest museums in Kilifi County, which expositions an impressive display of artefacts related to different eras that have dominated the region, in addition to, hosting many temporary exhibitions and multiple cultural festivals.  Malindi Museum is located 1.2 kms from Malindi Roundabout via Tana Street and Silversand Road.

44. Malindi Pier

This is situated 500 ms from Malindi Museum at the end of Mnarani Road. As with many admirable piers, this also provides an easy way to go out to sea for sightseeing and pleasure walks out over the Indian Ocean to watch the sunset. In the late afternoon, and exceptionally over the weekends, Malindi Pier is the central point where locals meet to play soccer, swim and unwind. The 100 ms Malindi Pier overlooks the popular Golden Beach, locally dubbed the Buntwani.

45. Malindi Pillar Tombs

Also of interest nearby the Malindi Museum, just 70 ms away close to the Jamia Mosque Malindi, are the twin antediluvian 15th Century Malindi Pillar Tombs. Thought to be the burial grounds for renowned Portuguese settlers, these tombs feature an ornately decorated enclosure wall with unique concentric patterns on the panels and archways. Their detailed facade, still in good condition, and the delicate inscriptions on the tombs, are the most fascinating aspects of the relics.

46. Portuguese Chapel

The Portuguese interest in East Africa stretches back to the late 14th Century, with aims of establishing a trading empire and to outflank Islam commercially, politically, militarily, and religiously. The decision to conquer East Africa was taken by the Portuguese after Vasco da Gama’s return to Portugal in 1499 from an exploratory voyage of East Africa in 1499 on which he forged friendly bonds with Malindi. Build around 1500 and enlisted in 1935 as a National Monument, the tiny Portuguese Chapel, 550 ms south of Malindi Museum along Silversand Road (also known as Mama Ngina Rd) is arguably the pioneer Church in Kenya. Outstandingly, it is still in use.  One of its momentous milestones happened in 1542, when on his voyage to India Saint Francis Xavier S.J., one of the greatest missionaries since St. Paul, visited the antiqued Portuguese Chapel.  There are two outlying graves found close to the Chapel where Saint Francis buried two of his sailors before embarking on his journey to India. After the Portuguese left Malindi in November 1698, it was deserted, until the British arrived in 1893. While the Portuguese had garnered some success with trade, they did not fair well with spreading Christianity in East Africa. They had won some converts in Malindi and some in Mombasa but their evangelism had no permanent success.

St Francis died on December 3, 1552 at the age of 46. It was the goal of Xavier to extend his missionary preaching to China, but he died in Shangchuan Island before he could achieve that. He was beatified by Paul V on October 25, 1619 and was canonised by Gregory XV on March 12, 1622.

47. Vasco da Gama Pillar

This is located 400 ms south of the Portuguese Chapel, standing stentinel at the edge of a peninsula almost 520 years since it was set up here. Looking out to the infinite ocean horizon, Vasco da Gama Pillar connects trippers to a far-removed history of the 1490’s. In January 1498, Vasco da Gama’s exploratory voyage had reached the island and town of Mozambique, now under the influence of Kilwa, before arriving to a very hostile welcome in Mombasa, and more significantly to a friendly one at Malindi – the arch-rival of Mombasa. Soon after his arrival at Mombasa, Vasco da Gama set off for the coastal town of Malindi (or Melinda, as he liked to call it) that would later become the seat of the viceroy in East Africa. The welcome and proceedings in Malindi had been cordial and before departing for India he erected the infamous stone pillar cross as was customary, as a sign of an amicable relationship. Some say, Vasco da Gama Pillar depicts a trimmed down version of a ship, while others have suggested it resembles a giant sword. Either way, it is a deeply moving monument that memorializes the Portuguese conquest of East Africa, and one of the most captivating chapters in its history.

Spatial Location of Vasco da Gama Pillar in Malindi, Kilifi County
Spatial Location of Vasco da Gama Pillar in Malindi, Kilifi County

48. Malindi Beach

The beaches south of Malindi – Silversands and Casuarina – are part of the 120 km2 Malindi Marine National Park. Silversand Beach covers the 2 kms stretch between Vasco da Gama Cross (north) and Sandies Village (south) along Mama Ngina / Silversand Road. It is home to the long-standing Driftwood Beach Club, “popular in Kenya partly for its refusal to accommodate large overseas groups.” Casuarina Beach covers the 7.2 km stretch from the junction of Siversand Road and Casuarina Road up to Mayungu Public Beach in the south. It is awash with plenty of distinguished resorts, perhaps more than any of the major beaches at the Coast Region of Kenya. Some of the notable upmarket brands here include Billionaire Resort, Leopard Point Luxury Beach Resort, Kivulini Luxury Resort and Lion in the Sun. Yet, there is something for everyone here, with plenty of exceptional middle-budget resorts and beach villas. Visitors interest in Malindi centers on these two beaches. The Sabaki River drains its water into the Indian Ocean some kilometres north of Malindi, which causes the Ocean to turn brown in that area. As a result, the popular clean beaches are located south of Malindi. 

49. Malindi Marine National Park and Reserve

Access to the Malindi Marine National Park is through Casuarina Road south of Silversands. This is just 5 kms from Malindi township, taking Exit 4 (Casuarina Road) at the roundabout. Revered as the “green turtle paradise”, it was the first Marine Reserve established in Kenya, in 1968.  Today, Malindi Marine National Park and Reserve is recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, both for its diversity of marine life and flora and for its efforts in conservation.  Some of its prolific marine life include crabs, corals, sea urchins, jellyfish, sea stars, and sea cucumbers. Varieties of coral species include Acropora, Turbinaria and Porites. Of interest here are the many hop-on hop-off glass-bottomed boats taxis that cruise along the shoreline and off-shore to some idyllic snorkeling spots, where the range of variegated, beautiful, and bizzare marine life is open for inspection.

50. Falconry of Kenya

The Falconry of Kenya harbors a respectable assemblage of avifauna to include falcons, eagles, goshawks and owls; among the 41 species found here. Originally established as a snake and bird sanctuary, Falconry later specialized in birds of prey. Today, its main focus is to rehabilitate sick and injured birds. Falconry of Kenya is one of only three such destinations in Kenya, along with the Raptor’s Centre, in Nairobi, and Naivasha Owl Centre, in Naivasha. It is especially worth a visit by birding enthusiasts. “The most exciting of all the night birds being the Barn Owl, which flaps its tail while asleep mimicking a swaying leaf to shroud itself from the enemy”. Caller to Falconry get to view these majestic birds close-up, feed the birds, and assist in helping the birds develop their muscles – as a falconer.  It is found only 3 kms beyond Malindi close to Malindi Police Station.

51. Jemadari Mosque

Although Malindi is one of the famous historic old towns on the Coast of Kenya, few monumental antiquities survive in the area. Those which survived include, from south to north: a south mosque, the Da Gama Cross, parts of a Portuguese Chapel, the infamous pillar tombs and the Jemadari Mosque. The Jemadari Mosque is on the north side of Malindi, nearby the sea and Malindi Golf and Country Club. The mihrab design is interesting for its highly stilted multiple arch orders; its panelled jamb blocks, decorated with cable pattern mouldings. Although the east side of the mosque is buried and the south side has fallen, the plan of the mosque was probably the six room type: a musalla flanked on each side by anterooms behind which, on the south flank, were three smaller rooms.

52. Malindi Golf and Country Club

Established in 1962, Malindi Golf and Country Club is a dashing 9-hole course measuring 6,000 yards for men and 5,200 yards for women, with a par of 70 for both. The course itself meanders through a series of pretty elephantine sand dunes with 6 par-threes and 4 par-fives on its finely contoured greens, making it both exciting and challenging. “The 9-hole course features a number of iconic holes and with separate tees and some additional greens on the second nine and certainly has the feel of a full 18-hole golf course”. Other highlights here include a 250 ms driving range, practice putting greens and practice bunker,clay tennis court, pro-shop, restaurant and bar. The club has a generous admission policy that includes full membership, junior membership, temporary membership and daily membership. There are some reasonable accommodation options nearby like the adjoining Ocean Beach Resort & Spa. Malindi Golf and Country Club is located 3 kms north of Malindi via Malindi-Garsen Road and Golf Course Drive.

53. Marafa Depression

9 kms north of Malindi along the Malindi-Garsen Road, Sabaki River Bridge is crossed, appreciably close to the point where the Sabaki River – Kenya’s second longest river – empties into the Indian Ocean. Rising on the eastern flanks of the Aberdare Range, it first flows as Athi River in Mackackos, then as Galana River as it crosses Tsavo National Park, and finally as Sabaki River as it drains into the Ocean; coursing for 390 kms from its headwaters to the mouth. 5 kms past the Sabaki River Bridge the turnoff to Magarini-Marafa-Dakacha Road is to the right. From here, it’s a 31 kms drive to the stupefying Marafa Depression or Hell’s Kitchen, that is locally dubbed as Nyari – “the place that broke itself”. The natural splendour of this 5 km2 steep-sided canyon, curved by centuries of torrential flush floods, has left in its wake a picturesque scenery of moonscape like formation. Its particular combination of erosional configurations, geologic colour and shrubland forms a decorate valley of rare beauty. While it’s perfectly safe to explore throughout the day, without much to threaten a traveller in the gullies, it’s best surveyed during the cooler morning hours, before it gets balmy in the midday sun. It is located 45 kms east of Malindi Town, in Marafa Village.

Marafa Depression (Hell Kitchen) near Malindi. Published by Red Travel Blog

54. Dakacha Woodlands

Though fragmented and small, Kenya’s coastal forests are of critical importance as watersheds for the rivers and streams on which the local people in the coastal areas depend. One of its smaller and pretty forests often sold short is the 3 km2 Dakacha Woodland located 20 kms west of Marafa Village. The area is largely concealed by red sand forming hills rising to over 700 ft with thick forest cover and harboring indigenous trees some rising over 35 metres. ‘‘Dakacha is known for its rare birds and for photographing the golden-rumped Sengi in the Arocha Reserve, making Dakacha all the more important for conservation,’’ – The Star. The golden-rumped sengi are insectivorous animals who prey on earthworms, millipedes, beetles, and termites by using their long nose to probe the leaf litter.

55. Mekatilili wa Menza Site

Born in 1840 as “Mnyazi wa Menza” in the little Bungale Village near the banks of Sabaki River, the lionized Mekatilili wa Menza as she would be immortalized, was a lionhearted Giriama heroine who bore arms to vehemently oppose the oppressive colonial policies of the early 1900’s, at a time of unbridled and strict patriarchal dominance and deep-set colonial subjugation. Satisfactorily referred to as “the mad woman who rattled the British”, she made a worthy contribution to Kenya’s liberation, yet, it is her poetic role in the empowerment of women that her selfless efforts will forever reverberate in history as “representing the strength of womanhood in Africa”. She became Mekatilili after the birth of her first son Katilili. The prefix “me” in Mijikenda languages stands for “mother of”. She was arrested on October 17, 1913, and exiled to Mumias in Western Kenya for five years. Mekatilili wa Menza spent the later years of her life in a homely hollowed Baobab (now a shrine) at Bungale Village of Sabaki. She died in 1924. “The dancing that Mekatilili wa Menza engaged in is called kifudu. It’s a type of ecstatic dance usually reserved for funeral ceremonies which meant the sight of an elderly woman excitedly jittering from town to town was somewhat unusual. Menza’s kifudu attracted a crowd of onlookers wherever she went, and soon the onlookers became devoted followers. Within weeks, Giriama colonial system had all but shut down due to her efforts. All of which earned her the attention of the British colonial supervisor, Arthur Champion” – Excerpt, Rejected Princess.

56. Mambrui

17 kms north of Malindi, the compact town of Mambrui engulfed by sand dunes is reached. There are a handful of reasonable hotels and resorts along its 4 kms beach including Angel’s Bay Resort and Kola Beach Resort which can double as jumping-off places to Tana River Primate National Reserve (145 kms north) or to Tsavo East National Park (300 kms west). Mambrui is also the last major town before heading to Garsen in Tana River County (95 kms north) or Mkowe in Lamu County (192 kms northeast). Of course, Mambrui is also historically relevant, as a successful trading post during the 12th and 13th Century, based on the artifacts unearthed here.  A small pitted brass coin excavated in 2014 by a Kenya-China joint team of archaeologists indicated a Chinese presence in this region to as early as 1400, and 100 years before the Portuguese arrived. On all accounts, the Chinese early presence along the East Africa Coast in undeniable.  Indeed, “the Chinese authors during the Dynasties of Sung (960-1279) and the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) were well acquainted with East Africa – which they dubbed as Tsang-pat or Tseng-po.  They traded in gold, ivory and animal skins.

57. Mambrui Tombs

The most interesting of the Mambrui tombs was studied by Kirkman in 1950. It is a big tomb with a decagonal pillar about 1.6 metres wide and 5.5 metres high. In a frieze around the top of the shaft wore set ten late King blue and white porcelain bowls and plates, one alternating with the other, of late 16th Century. Adjoining this tomb on the north is a compound with a large tombstone on its east wall and, like the enclosure of the pillar tomb, with a doorway in its west walls. Nearby is another tombstone tomb, which once had a circular coral boss set in the centre of the tombstone; although the stump of this boss remains. The old Mambrui Mosque is located on some high ground just above the beach, east of the cemetery. Leading from the musalla out to the west was a single square headed doorway, while in the north end of the west wall was a niche or window.

58. Kibiraki Ruins

In similar style of the Kongo Mosque and the Munge Mosque by the sea, this is situated at the rear of Sheshale Bay, about 3 kms north of Mambrui, at a point where a channel sometimes washes water into the sea but at high water is itself filled part way up stream by the sea. The site of a single Mosque, Kibirikani is located several tens of metres from the beach, in dense bush on the south side of the river channel. The mihrab and a few walls on the southwest side stand, including a small cistern, from which perhaps the site takes its name (Birikani).

Map of Historic Sites along the Upper Coastline of Kilifi County. Image Courtesy
Historic Sites along Upper Coastline of Kilifi County. Image Courtesy

59. Delta Dunes Lodge

Lying 35 kms north of Malindi on the way to Garsen and Lamu, this is probably the only place in the Coast Region of Kenya which properly showcases the Tana River Dunes at its mouth, side by side with clean empty beaches and the open ocean. Once a tiny lodge with just one cabin, in 1982, it’s now well known for its spectacular bird life, unfamiliar landscapes and comfortable ambiance with all-round spectacular views. Delta Dunes Lodge has seven-open fronted cottages, perched on top of sand dunes on the side of Kipalo Hills, with a large central common area, and it’s a perfect location to experience these rare natural thrills for a day or two before heading out to Lamu. “It has fabulous views overlooking the Tana River on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. Delta Dune is an Island Lodge”. Access to the lodge is from the B8 Malindi-Garsen-Garissa Road. After an hours drive from Malindi you reach a pick-up point where the host with a small boat waits for you to get you across Tana River. In 20 minutes, you are at the famous Delta Dunes Lodge formerly dubbed as the Tana Delta Lodge.

60. Nyika Plateau

Nyika Plateau, an expansive lowland of wait-a-bit and grassland set on a gently rolling relief, which gradually rises to merge with Tsavo East National Parks, is one of the harshest region in the Coast Region of Kenya.  Nyika Plateau expands over north of Mariakani and west of the coastal plain and range in Kilifi County, then spill into Tana River County.  Nyika, the Swahili equivalent of “forest and thorn bush country”, covers about 50% of Kilifi’s surface area including Galana Conservancy and seven other smaller conservancies and ranches in the County.

61. Galana Conservancy

The 4800 km2 Galana Conservancy, of a predominantly semi-arid scrubland in the Nyika Plateau, occupies about 60% of Kilifi’s coastal uplands. This vast un-fenced range is a vital buffer zone for Tsavo East National Park, and provides a safe place both for wildlife to roam freely and a goodly space for ranching.  For tourism, there are 6 elegant camps within Galana Conservancy – Kulala, Kudu, Kapama, Kiboko, Shoroa and Crocodile.  Galana offers exclusive game viewing on unprecedented levels, with wondrous vistas and plenaries. By road, Galana Conservancy is around 98 kms from Malindi via C103 Malindi-Voi Road, safer when dry and usually bumpy. If approaching from Nairobi, exit into Tsavo East National Park via Sala Gate, along A104 Mombasa-Uganda Road.  After 15 kms turn left into Galana’s Kulalu Camp. It is reachable via private chartered planes.

Spatial Location of Galana Wildlife Conservancy in Kilifi County
Spatial Location of Galana Wildlife Conservancy in Kilifi County

62. Ronald Ngala Mausoleum

Launched on December 30th, 2012, to concomitantly mark 40 years since the passing-on of Ronald Ngala, this mausoleum is a trip down ‘founding fathers of Kenya’ memory lane.  Ronald Ngala was one of Kenya’s most admired founding fathers and decisively the most distinguished leader from the Coast Region of Kenya. Ronald Ngala Mausoleum celebrates the life and times of an icon, who was best-known as the leader of Kenya African Democratic Union Party from its creation in 1960 to its dissolution in 1964. Ngala later became Cabinet Minister of the Cooperatives and Social Services in Kenyatta’s Government. He remained active until his untimely and saddening death in a road accident near Konza in December 1972. Ronald Ngala Mausoleum is found within Vishakani Village in Kaloleni Giriama 18 kms east of Mazeras and the A104 Mombasa-Nairobi Road.

63. Rabai Museum

Built in 1846, and the first missionary Church edifice in Kenya, Rabai Museum served as the base for the Church Missionary Society before advancing inland.  Of interest for visitors to Rabai Museum are the Kraph Memorial Museum, the Livingstone memorabilia and the Kaya Kambe Shrines. The cardinal nudge for Christianity in Kenya came 344 years after the end of Portuguese Rule in East Africa, in 1844, with the arrival of Johann Ludwig Kraph of Church Missionary Society of England (CMS). Kraph had been vouched for by Seyyid Said by form of a letter asking the governors of the coastal centers to give him any help. In 1846, he was joined by Johannes Rebmann, also under CMS, and together they established the Rabai mission station. In 1862, members of United Methodist Church arrived from Britain, led by Kraph, to put up stations at Jomvu, Lamu and Sagalla. Despite initial resistance, they eventually unfurled through much of Kenya, and today 70% of the citizenry profess Christianity.  Rabai Museum is located 25 kms north of Mombasa near Mazeras along Mombasa-Nairobi Road.

64. Kaya Kambe Shrine

Kaya Kambe Shrine is 1 of 11 sacred groves which intertwine biodiversity of the coastal forest with the deep cultural ancestry of the Miji Kenda Community.  In sum, the 11 ‘Miji Kenda Forests’ that host these Kaya Shrines are inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, owing to their singular value of preserving both culture and the integrity of these forests. By the same token and thanks to their importance to the local community, the areas around Kaya Kambe Shrine – as with all the other Kaya shrines – have remained practically unchanged to avoid destroying the Kaya. Kaya Kambe is located nearby Rabai Museum, at Mazeras.

View of Malindi Pier.  Photo Courtesy of Fiveprime
View of Malindi Pier. Image Courtesy of Fiveprime

Geography of Kilifi County

Kilifi County has three essential topographical features. The first is the narrow coastal plain, which varies in width from 3 kms to 20 kms. The coastal plain lies below 30 ms asl, with just a few prominent peaks on the western boundary that include hills such as Mwembetungu Hill. Across the coastal plain runs several creeks resulting in excellent marine swamps that are endowed with mangrove forests utilized for tourism and aquaculture. This zone is composed of marine sediments including coral, limestone, marble, clay stones and alluvial deposits that support agriculture. The veritable Nyika Plateau, which rises from 100 ms to 340 ms, occupies about half of Kilifi County along the entire western frontier.

Land Use in Kilifi County

Much of the land in Kilifi County is dominated by 12 large-scale ranches with an average land carrying capacity of 3 livestock’s per hectare in dairy zones and 0.25 livestock’s per hectare in the rangelands. These ranches include Galana, Birya, Girya, Ndigiria Mapote, Mnagoni, Dola and Kilifi, among others. It is estimated that 11% of the households in Kilifi County are landless. Many of these people are squatters on private land.  This has also led to an emergence of informal and unorganized settlements about Malindi, Kilifi and Mtwapa Towns.

Highlights of Kilifi County

Kilifi County is endowed with diverse tourism attraction sites which include the beaches at Malindi, Watamu, Kilifi and Mtwapa. Important historical sites at Gede, Malindi, Takaungu, Mnarani and Rabai with most dated back to the slave trade period are also popular with travellers to Kilifi County. Other noteworthy places include the Kaya forests, Marafa Depression, Bore Valley, Mekatilili Wa Menza, Kapangani Rock, Sabaki Estuary in Magarini, and mangrove swamps. Kilifi County also offers excellent opportunities for sport fishing and marine research, especially for rare breading grounds of special fish like the Tewa. It is also home to the outstanding Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, Malindi Marine National Reserve, Watamu Marine N. Park, and Kuruwitu Marine Conservancy.

Population in Kilifi County

Kilifi’s population density in 2009 was 88 people/km2, projected to increase to 96 people/ km2 in 2012 and further to 116 people/ km2 in 2017. Her population was estimated to be 1,217,892 in 2012, projected as 1,336,590 and 1,466,856 in 2015 and 2017 respectively, at growth rate of about 3.1% per annum.  Rabai constituency had the highest population density with 517 people/km2 while Magarini constituency has the lowest population density with 27 people/km2.  

View of Watamu Treehouse.  Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor
View of Watamu Treehouse. Image Courtesy of Trip Advisor

Airports in Kilifi County

Kilifi County is served by Malindi Airport and Kilifi and Kijipwa airstrips.

Roads in Kilifi County

Kilifi County’s entire road network covers about 3000 kms. Of these, 1,320 kms are rural classified network roads and almost 450 kms are nationally classified network road, with the A104 Mombasa-Uganda Road and the B8 Mombasa-Malindi-Garsen Road being the principal lines of communication in the County.

Climate in Kilifi County

For the greater part of the year, the climate along the coastline is pleasurable, though humid. In the hinterland it is generally hot and adust, then humid and enervating during the rainy seasons. The annual temperatures in Kilifi County range between 21C and 30C. Temperatures are higher along the coastal belt ranging between 30C and 34C. Kilifi County has relatively low wind speeds, ranging between 4.8 km/hr and 12 Km/hr. Areas with highest rainfall include Mtwapa, to the north of the coastal strip, and around Arabuko Sokoke Reserve.

Kilifi County Distance Chart
Kilifi County Distance Chart

View of Rock and Sea Resort Watamu.  Photo Courtesy of Booking
View of Rock and Sea Resort Watamu.  Image Courtesy of Booking

National Monuments in Kilifi County

  1. Takwa Milinga Ruins
  2. Districy Officer’s Office
  3. Kaya Fungo
  4. Kaya Kauma
  5. Kaya Chivara
  6. Mnarani Ruins
  7. Mtwapa
  8. Mambrui
  9. Takaungu South
  10. Da Gama Pillar
  11. Kilepwa Island
  12. Jamadra Mosque
  13. Sheikh Said
  14. Sheikh Othman
  15. Takaungu North
  16. Jumaa Mtwapa
  17. Mgangani
  18. Gedi Ruins
  19. Bedida Sacred Grove
  20. Kaya Mudzi Muvya
  21. Kaya Lunguma
  22. Muyu wa Kae
  23. Kaya Fimboni
  24. Kaya Mzizima
  25. Ronald Ngala’s Site

Kilifi County Map

Kilifi County Map