Kwale County

Discover Kwale County

View of the Shimba Hills Lodge in Shimba Hills National Reserve.  Photo Courtesy
Shimba Hills Lodge inside Shimba Hills National Reserve. Image Courtesy

Brief Overview of Kwale County

Kwale County occupies the far southern wedge-corner of Kenya bounded by the Kenya-Tanzania border and the Indian Ocean. The area can be divided up into three closely related units – Coastal Plain, Foot Plateau and Nyika Plateau. The Coastal Plain rarely exceeds 5 kms in width landwards and generally lies below the 100 ft contour line. The azure waters and palm-fringed white powder beach at Diani, part of the 512 kms coastline of Kenya, is so well known as to warrant any introduction. Diani Beach is part of Kwale’s 91 kms Coastal Plain comprised of four main beaches: Tiwi-Mwachema River-Diani-Galu Beach (15 kms), Gazi Beach (2.5 kms), Msambweni Beach (4.5 kms) and the Shimoni-Wasini Island-Funzi Beach (8.0 km) – all developed with lovely resorts. The seaward margin of these beaches is marked by a coral reef which, in its natural state, supports a relatively shallow beach. Inland, the coral gives way to salubrious sand beaches.

Behind the Coastal Plain the land rises rapidly, and often more or less abruptly, to the Foot Plateau that stands at 200 to 450 ft. And as you move further inland from the Coastal Plain, the soils get more fertile and deeper typified by a sandy loam that’s red in colour.  These red soils have an important effect on farming and, it is generally found that mangoes and coconuts are grown on the fertile loams to the west and cashew nuts on the eastern region. Large coconut farms flourish on the north and south mainlands, particularly near Gazi, while further south are the Ramisi Sugar farms. In the northern part of the generally planed-off surface of the Foot Plateau, the land takes a steep ascent at the Shimba Hills (1,640 ft). “This horst-like eminence forms the dominant physiographic feature of Kwale County. Apart from a few isolated summits – Tsimba (1,148 ft), Mrima (1,060 ft) and Dzombo (1,250 ft) – the highest of which attains an altitude of just about 1,600 ft., the range is more or less flat at a height of 1,100 to 1,300 ft.

From the northern edge of the Coast Range the topography drops steeply to the Nyika which, starting from about the 600 ft. contour, rises gradually to about 1,000 ft. Nyika is semi-arid, sparsely populated, and capable of supporting only dwarf, scrubby, generally leafless trees and succulent plants. At the moment, the beautiful beach at Diani has been the most successful at attracting travellers to Kwale, yet, there’s much more to the county than the miles of perfect beach. It’s awash with a collection of historic sites, found mainly along the coast, many of them on private lands; consisted of ancient mosques, ruins, palaces, houses, walls with gates and tombs. Owing to their isolation and overgrown vegetation, some are tiresome to reach. The coastal roads from Malindi to Mombasa (B8) and from Mombasa southwards to Lunga Lunga (A14) run along the centre of the Coastal Plain throughout much of their length. Additionally, Kwale County is served by regular flights from Nairobi, or Malindi, landing at Ukunda Airport.

Salient Features of Kwale County

  • County Number 02
  • Area – 8270 km2
  • Altitude – 1390 ft
  • Major Towns – Kwale, Diani, Ukunda
  • Borders – Mombasa, Taita Taveta, Kilifi, Tanzania

Brief History of Kwale County

Kwale has a far-reaching narrative as a centre for human settlement for diverse coastal groups.  Oral traditions suggest that its occupation dates as far back as the 1400’s when the Washiraze People settled here; followed by the Wavumba in the 1600’s, and later the Wasegeju People. Another sub-tribe, the Wadigo, inhabited the coastal regions, while the Waduruma settled around Gazi and Vanga, which had a marked Arab influence. Much later, Shimoni would become a station for Imperial British East African Company (from 1890) before it was handed over to British East Africa, in 1895.  Shimoni served as Vanga’s capital until 1923, replaced by Kwale. Post the Anglo-German Agreement of 1886 – by which the two parties agreed their spheres of influence in East Africa should be divided by a line running from south of Mombasa, then north of Kilimanjaro to a point on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria – the land lying within 16 kms of the coast was declared the property of the Sultan of Zanzibar but was rented from him and protected, developed, and dominated by the British Government.

View of Diani Beach at the Sands at Nomad Hotel.  Photo Courtesy of Sands at Nomad
Diani Beach at the Sands at Nomad Hotel. Image Courtesy of Sands at Nomad

Places of Interest in Kwale County

1. WWF Tree Nursery

The A14 Likoni-Ukunda Road is a narrowed, twisting, and incredibly beautiful drive no matter which side you approach it from. It is noted for the enclosing tropical vegetal profile, sandy shoulders – especially near the coastline – and a whiff of the ocean breeze. The relatively busy road travels side by side with the coastline, terminating 100 kms away at Lunga Lunga and the Kenya-Tanzania border. Along the A14, just 10 kms from Likoni Ferry and 2 kms beyond the boundary of Mombasa and Kwale Counties, the WWF Tree Nursery housed at the Kwale Branch of the National Museums nearby Waa makes for a quick first stopover in Kwale County, and an opportunity to learn about the flora in Kwale. “It was began as an effort to conserve the sacred coastal forests, or kayas, but now focuses also on the high conservation value of these forests, with research ongoing into sustainable management practices and the promotion of good governance. There are over 210 species of tree in the nursery, with most being endemic.” It is located 4 kms before the junction of C106 Kwale-Kinango Road.

2. Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary

The traditional means of getting to Kwale County is abode Likoni Ferry, that crosses the 500 ms Likoni (or Kilindini) Channel from the Island to Mombasa mainland, and onto the A14 Likoni-Ukunda Road. This travels within 2 kms of the seashore for 60 kms to near Funzi before it veers slightly inland to within 10 kms of the seashore for the next 34 kms to Lunga Lunga, at the Kenya-Tanzania boundary. Likoni Ferry has become busier and poky as Mombasa grows and the vintage ferry is often surged, so a fair time consideration should be planned for the crossing. Additionally, now and then, the ferry breaks down altogether, and at such times (and of course at all other times) flights to Ukunda are indicated. 14 kms from Likoni along the A14 at Waa, one reaches the first of two roads into Shimba Hills National Reserve and Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary. The latter sits on the northern edge of Shimba Hills National Reserve, which it is linked to by a fenced elephant corridor. The 24 km2 (6,000 acres) Mwaluganje is best-known for viewing of elephants. A pair of good binoculars is useful to spot the eles as well as enjoy the views at the wide-angled Cha-Shimba viewpoint. Began in early 1990’s, as community initiative by more than 200 families of Wadigo and Waduruma Tribes who set aside part of their land to safeguard this critical wildlife migration corridor, Mwalunganje Elephant Sanctuary is a fine example of human-wildlife co-existence. It is accessed via the main gate to Shimba Hills.

3. Kutazama Lodge

Mwalunganje has for a longtime served as a dispersal corridor for elephants on their migration between Shimba Hills (south) into Mwaluganje Forest Reserve, and north to Tsavo East National Park. To generate revenue for its maintenance and development, there are 3 rustic camps in Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary – Camp Mwalunganje (east), Travellers Mwalunganje Elephant Camp (north) and the Kutazama Lodge (south). Kutazama Lodge has as a source of its name panoramic views across the sanctuary and the river valley, looking beyond to distant mountain ranges including Mount Kilimanjaro. As one guest here put it: “there are few places in the world with such unique view over miles and miles of unspoiled landscape.” Living is offered in one suite and one tree-house, which both sleep 2 – with space for extra occupancy. Other amenities include a superb double-tiered pool back-dropped by a towering rock face and looking out to the sanctuary, acres of matures gardens complete with pathways, and a main house with a cozy viewing deck, fully-stocked bar, and an authentic African-art theme.

Spatial Location of Kutazama Lodge in Mwaluganje Sanctuary
Spatial Location of Kutazama Lodge in Mwaluganje Sanctuary

4. Mandhari Cottages

Rustic, stylish and unashamedly indulgent, set on an 8-acres property atop the Golini ridge overlooking Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary; Mandhari Cottages hides an inviting 4-bedrooms haven embedded in unspoiled African landscape and engulfed by a rich natural biosphere. The Master Lodge has two bedrooms with four beds and bathroom, ideally suited for couples with children. The Tent Lodge is a one bedroom abode with a splendid outdoor bathroom and shower. The Rock bedroom is a one bedroom suite with its own bathroom integrated in the Rock Lodge. “It is a beautiful scenic location. Surrounded by the sounds of nature. Private and fresh air. The lodge, view, and its ‘outdoor’ shower were the high point for us” – Nancy on Airbnb. Different activities including watersports, golfing, fishing, to safari adventure outings can be organized by Mandhari staff.

Mandhari Cottage at Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary

5. Shimba Hills National Reserve

Either using the turnoff at Waa or an alternative one just 2 kms ahead, Shimba Hills National Reserve is about 16 kms off the A14 Likoni-Ukunda Road along the C106 Kwale-Kinago Road through Kwale Town; the county’s headquarters. From Kwale Town, it’s a short 3 kms drive to the park gate. Established in 1968, in part to save the Sable antelope, the 300 km2 Shimba Hills National Reserve also supports a motley collection of wildlife including species of the rare Roan’s antelope. Into the bargain, it is also one of the most scenic in Kenya with rolling hillocks, open grasslands, and patches of rain forest overlooking Indian Ocean. There is plenty to enjoy on a walking safari around the reserve including stellar views of Pengo and Taita Hills, Shimba Range, the Coastal Plain, convergence of the seven rivers, the rain forest and Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary. By far, the crowning-stroke for trippers to Shimba Hills is a visit to well-liked Giriama Viewpoint en-route Sheldrick Falls, with breathtaking out and out views of the disparate ecological gamut. The 20-rooms tree-house style Shimba Hills Lodge is the prime lodge at Shimba Hills National Reserve. It’s open daily year-round. Park charges are Shs. 300-Citizens, 600-Residents and USD 22-Non Residents.

Game at Shimba Hills National Reserve include: the rare Sable Antelope, Elephants, Giraffes, Leopard, Genet, Civet cat, Hyenas, Waterbuck, Bush pig, Buffalo, African Bush Baby, Bushbuck, Coastal Black and white Colobus, Blue Duiker, Bush Duiker, Red Duiker, Greater Galago, Black-faced Vervet Monkey, Sykes Monkey, Serval cat, Black and Red Shrew and the Knob-bristled Suni Shrew. – KWS

6. Shimba Hills Lodge

Shimba Hills Lodge is located in the northern corner of Shimba Hills National Reserve, making an exit off C106 Kwale-Kinango Road 1 km from Kwale Town. A well defined signage is placed on the road to assist travellers get to the lodge. Built in 1987, this award-winning lodge is noteworthy as the only tree lodge in the Coast Region of Kenya, and it takes beautifully to its contrasting rain-forest and tropical surroundings. The lodge has an open-space theme throughout to give precedence to the exceptional vistas. And a spacious end-to-end veranda directly overlooks a small waterhole which is never without a great variety of game. “A wooden tree top walkway leads directly from the lodge into the forest. On the platform at the end you may want to sit down, have a drink and enjoy nature at a place where nothing can disturb the peace and tranquility.” Its 20-rooms are split into suites, twin rooms and triple rooms, spreads over its three levels – all with large glass windows, snuggly private balconies and forest views.

7. Sheldrick Falls

Besides its very welcome relief from the balmy and quite humid weather, the 21 ms Sheldrick Falls in the mid-south area of Shimba Hills National Reserve is a photographer’s paradise. On arrival at the falls, most trippers having braved the 2 kms walk through the reserve, as might be expected, take an obligatory splash in the naturally-formed pool at the base. Sheldrick Falls is reached on a marked and developed 2 kms footpath, and park rangers are at hand (at Sheldrick Falls post) to escort trippers at no additional charge to the site. Apt to be overlooked, is to carry along plenty of drinking water, snack and comfortable walking shoes.

Spatial Location of Sheldrick Falls in Shimba Hills Reserve
Spatial Location of Sheldrick Falls in Shimba Hills Reserve

8. Lima Self Help Group

Founded in 2003, Lima Help Self Group runs a tree nursery and produces bio-products including bio-fuel. It’s a group project run and initiated by members of the community just outside Shimba Hills National Reserve. Members spend an average of three days each week working at the site, making products out of aloe, farming jatropha and casuarina trees and running a community library – which was built with some of the profits made from the sale of aloe products and tree seedlings to hotels and farmers. 40,000 seedlings have been sold so far, and increasing numbers of hotels in the Diani area are signing up to buy the aloe products for their guests. Jatropha oil can be used as an good alternative to kerosene for lamps, and burns an average of six times longer than traditional fuels. Jatropha grows naturally in the area and was usually used to mark graves.

9. Nyalani Dam

This is found in Vigurungani Village in Kinango along the C106 Kwale-Kinango Road, 6 km north of Kwale Town. Also dubbed as Kinango Dam, its origins are still contested over. Some say, it was discovered by Samburu herders in 1970’s, while other say it was constructed in 1952 by the British Colonial Government. Either way, everyone agrees that Nyalani Dam is a vital lifeline for the residents of Kinango. After some decades of neglect, the dam was rehabilitated by Mpesa Foundation and Kenya Red Cross among other partners, in 2013. “Josephine Mamuu, a local resident, said before Nyalani Dam was rehabilitated, she used to walk for more than 20 kms to fetch drinking water at holes they dug when the dam dried. During such dry seasons, no one thought of farming as it would have been a labour in vain” – Business Daily. The area is prone to drought and the restoration was, in part, a preventative measure to avert drought. Farming is now ongoing and in earnest.  As it turns out, Nyalani Dam has added much to the beauty of the area and makes for an unusual coastal scene for walking tours.

10. Tiwi Beach

The 15 kms Tiwi-Mwachema River-Diani-Galu Beach convinently divides itself into three areas. These are Tiwi-Mwachema River Beach, Diani Beach and Galu Beach. Surprisingly little-known is the delightful Tiwi Beach, located only 7 kms before arriving at Ukunda Town and the more famous Diani Beach. Judging by growth rate of hotels, Tiwi is growing in popularity – albeit not as plentiful and widespread as found in Diani. It is reached by taking a left turnoff shortly after passing Waa and the turnoff to Shimba Hills National Reserve (right), along a motorable all-weather road taking to the oceanfront, where most of the resorts are set. Here, like at Diani, the reef runs parallel to the coastline from 300 ms to 1000 ms. Some of the notable beach resorts include Amani Tiwi Beach Resort, Twiga Lodge, Coconut Beach Boutique Lodge and Spa, Hillpark Resort. It also has a wide range of villas and cottages to include Moune Villas, Swahili House and Tiwi Villas. Some highlights at Tiwi Beach include the old Kongo Mosque (also known as Kongo Masjid) near Amani Tiwi Beach Resort, Mwachema River and the fascinating natural-pool shaped like Africa. Tiwi and Diani Beaches are separated seaward by the less-developed Diani-Chale Marine National Reserve.

11. Diani-Chale Marine National Reserve

“This marine park was established to safeguard its delicate coral reef, excellent coral gardens, and fish species. It incorporates a range of marine activities like traditional dhow fishing trips, snorkeling, sailing, other non-motorised water sports as well as glass-bottom boat marine life safaris” – Kenya Tourism Board.

12. Kongo Mosque

Also known as Tiwi Mosque, this 14th Century Arab Masjid originally known as Diani Persian Masjid is thought to be one of the oldest in Eastern Africa. Most parts of its unusual copula or barrel vault have remained almost intact for many centuries. Remarkably, Kongo Mosque is still used day-to-day as a community Masjid. The ancient Masjid, set next to the lovely Tiwi Beach and the scenically-splendid creek where enormous baobab trees stand sentinel, depicts the style of early Islamic Mosques. The flanking rooms were roofed with domes, and the three rear rooms were covered by four longitudinal barrel vaults. The doorways are simple archways, as in the mihrab, which opens without adornment from the wall plane into an unaecorated apse. This stark mihrab design was seen in the mosque by the sea at Munge and, in northern Lamu, in the mosque of the pillar at Shanga. “West of the mosque are walled courtyards, and to the north are five or more tombs, labelled A-E on the accompanying illustration. Tombs B, C, and D are interesting because they have basal curbs, but more particularly because they are rather large and are approximately square, or measure slightly longer on the east and west sides than on the north and south sides. Only tomb B was panelled, on the east side only, above which was a frieze of niches.” Tomb C might have been a step end tomb. It is located near Amani Tiwi Beach Resort.

13. Twiga Mosque

Not far northeast of the ruins of the “Mosque and houses of Kirima”, and only a few metres off the road between the highway and Twiga Lodge, is a small ruined mosque popular as the Twiga mosque. A part of the south wall stands but all other walls have fallen. A portion of the qibla survives under a tree, the roots of which twine throughout the masonry. Its facade has fallen, but there seem to have been several recessed orders under a capital. At the northeast corner of the masjid is a tomb with an arched window. It’s found 510 ms south of Tiwi Beach.

14. Diani Mosque

Ukunda Mosque, the remains of a single mosque may be found near the large baobab tree protected by presidential decree at Ukunda. It is a structure with eastern and probably western rooms flanking the musalla and with another room to the south. The musalla measures 5 to 20 metres wide by 8.95 metres long; the eastern room is about 2.10 metres wide. A section of the eastern wall survives and suggests that there were two eastern doorways opening into that chamber. At the northwest edge of the mosque is a tomb, just off the north wall.

15. Diani Beach

7 kms from Tiwi you reach the bustling town of Ukunda, and then taking a left turnoff near Ukunda Police Station along Ukunda-Diani Road for 2 kms passing Ukunda Airport you reach the junction of Diani Beach Road. And lo and behold, along this 22 kms road is Africa’s Leading Beach Destination – 2014 through to 2019 – by World Travel Awards. More than any other place in Kenya, Diani Beach Road has the greatest concentration of holiday resorts, and its plenitude of hotels makes it a guaranteed success for local and international trippers as a sun-and-sand-lover paradise. The beach itself, running parallel to Diani Beach Road, lacks little in beauty and charm and it is certainly Kenya’s most popular beach, liked for its exuberant and dreamy ocean-facing resorts. “It is the most tourist-oriented beach of the so-called South Coast. This is separated from Tiwi Beach to the north by the Kongo River.” Diani Beach is roughly demarcated by the Southern Palms Beach Resort (north-end) and Chale Harbour (south-end).

Map of the South Coast of Kenya.  All Right Reserved to Expert Africa
Map of the South Coast of Kenya. All Right Reserved to Expert Africa

16. Leisure Lodge Beach and Golf Resort

Unique to Leisure Golf Resort found in the north area of Diani Beach Road is its extolled 18-hole championship golf-course notable as the only golf course in the South Coast area.  The 132-rooms Leisure Golf Resort put down in a total 200 acres also enjoys one of largest beach frontages along Diani Beach. Diani Beach Masters hosted at the resort yearly, in October, is open for both amateurs and professionals. Then, there’s also the winsome and wacky annual Goat Festival along with many other delightful events. It is located 1 km north of the junction.

17. Diani Shopping Mall

This is found along Diani Beach Road, 1 km south of the junction with Ukunda-Diani Link Road. The trendy and contemporary Diani Shopping Mall features a medley of local and international retail stores and is specially a treat for fine-art buffs who can visit a number of stores that showcase local and international art works. Some of the art outlets include Diani African Colours, Agape Boutique, Adventure Centre, Kikoy Co., Bombolulu Arts, Kazuri Beads and Sandstorm. It has a mini-mart, food vendors, banks, tour operators, restaurant and bar. Diani Mall is well sign-posted so you shouldn’t have too many difficulties finding this.

Spatial Location of Diani Shopping Mall along Diani Beach Road
Spatial Location of Diani Shopping Mall along Diani Beach Road

Launched in September 2010 as Diani Beach Art Gallery within Diana Mall, it is the leading art gallery in the South Coast Region fostering both African Art and exceptional international artwork through exhibiting, selling and in supporting artists. Of particular interest at Diani Beach Art Gallery are its African Artists’ Art which retail both at the gallery and on its online platform. It’s perhaps the only place along the Coast of Kenya to offer such a wide variety of fine African art – paintings (oil and acrylic on canvas/board, mixed media), vast sculptures (bronzes, other metal, clay, or wood), and photographs (framed and unframed).

19. Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant

2 kms from Diani Shopping Mall along Diani Beach Road, beyond the Baharini Shopping Center, brings you to one of the unique and lionized restaurants at Diani. One thing Kenyans can agree on is that Swahili cuisine and dining are a mile ahead of the rest, and to enjoy a meal at Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant is a crowning moment. Unique to this place, as the name suggests, is that it offers a spell-binding dining experience in a charming cave. The cave itself comprises a series of interlinking chambers with depths of 10 ms below ground level within a large ancient coral cave with interlinking chambers dating back to 120,000-140,000 years. The roof of the restaurant is open, offering a rare opportunity to wine and dine under the star-enliven African night sky. The cuisine focus at the Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant is seafood and steak, cooked up excellently and presented exquisitely. On a long night out in Diani, travellers can enjoy some dance and drinks at the close by Forty Thieves Bar, Taandori Bar and Shakatak Disco. The fact that Ali Barbour’s is situated within easy reach of most resorts makes it a good alternative away from the routine evenings at the coastal hotels.

360° – Forty Thieves Beach Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant – by 360 Africa

20. Raydon Watersports

Generally speaking, there are two categories of holiday-makers who visit Diani Beach: those contented with sun, sand, unwind and refreshments; and the more active adventure-lovers who like to spruce-up their holiday with some outdoor activities.  The latter will find that Raydon Watersports housed at the Alliance Safari Beach Hotel just south of Sands at Nomad, on a beautiful white beach, satisfies many levels of the good old adrenaline fix. Raydon Watersports has a cornucopia of thrilling activities ranging from their jet skis, fly-boarding, kite surfs and banana boat ride. Sky-diving can also be arranged if you fancy an all out hair-raising adventure. They also have specialized packages for families that include: dolphin spotting tours, mangrove boat tour and Chale Island tour. It is open daily between 8 am and 5 pm, and located just 4 kms south of Diani Mall.

21. Colobus Conservation

Established in 1997, Colobus Conservation Diani works towards improving the conservation, protection and preservation of primates around the South Coast Region, to include the nationally threatened Angolan Colobus monkeys, their associated coastal-forest habitats and the enrichment of these ecosystems. “The organisation pioneered the innovative construction of flexible ladders which are strung across the roads of Diani at treetop height to cut down on road kills. It also prompted the insulation of several of the deadly power lines, which are taking a heavy toll on the population of Colobus in this country” – Jonathan & Angie Scott (founders). Callers to Colobus Conservation get to sight troops of Colobus monkeys, whose usual mischief and social structure are interesting to observe, during the one-hour guided primate eco-tour that meanders along the peaceful and lovely nature trails. There is also a full-scale information centre within the site. It is open Monday to Saturday between 8 am to 5 pm. A small cover charge is payable – (Shs. 250-Citizens and 750-Non Citizens) – towards its upkeep. It is located 5.4 kms south of Diani Mall and uniquely sits between Raydons Waterports, in the north, and H20 Extreme Diani Beach, in the south.

22. H2O Extreme Diani Beach

Here too, their waterports are the star of the show ranging from kitesurfing, windsurfing, stand up paddling, surfing, kayaking body boarding and the skim boarding. Founded in 2003 as the first kiteboarding school in the South Coast, H2O Extreme Diani Beach is now the leading kite surf center within Kenya and since 2006 their school has been affiliated by IKO (International Kiteboarding Organization) – the biggest international kitesurfing-related association world wide, generating the highest teaching and safety standards. It’s found 6.2 kms south of Diani Shopping Mall, or 2 kms north of the Kaya Kinondo Kaya Forest.

23. Baobab Beach Resort

One of the most approving hallmarks of Diani Beach is, without-question, the plenitude of ocean-facing middle-budget resorts, which include Baobab Beach Resort, one of the oldest and most reputed beach destination resort. Set on 80-acres within an indigenous forest, Baobab Beach Resort is comprised of three distinct luxury properties – Baobab, Maridadi and Kole-Kole – each offering a unique category of accommodation. And, bearing in mind its longstanding and illustrious history, everything at Baobab Beach Resort is well-ordered; from its rooms, lawns, pools, cafes, entertainment, resting-areas, beach set-up, and the guest activities. There’s something for everyone at Baobab Beach Resort, from swimming in the three gigantic pools – each with a variant experience, its four different restaurants, gym and wellness spa, business centre, a children’s play area, and assorted watersports. It is located 6.6 kms from Diani Shopping Mall.

24. Lantana Galu Beach

Throughout the 22 kms length of Diani Beach Road, many signs and exuberant sounding resorts pop-up one after another to tally with the seller’s experience of Diani Beach. And for what that’s worth few would have it any other way. One example, Lantana Galu Beach, that reads on paper as a separate destination in South Coast, has often flimflammed many a writer to imagine it as an lonesome destination. In context, this is pleasantly sited along Diani Beach near Baobab Beach Resort, and best-known for its trim award-winning through and through Swahili theme. “It offers a range of suites and villas with airy open plan living spaces, flooded with natural light and natural cross ventilation that takes full advantage of the sunny, breezy coastal climate”. If you have the time, a drive across Diani Beach Road is a worthwhile experience. It is reachable without too much extra trouble by simply hailing a hop-on hop-off “tuk-tuk” – a localized version of the rickshaw – at an affordable rate. Lantana Galu Beach (Resort) is located about 8 kms south of the Diani Shopping Mall, along Diani Beach Road.

Spatial Location of Lantana Galu Hotel along Diani Beach Road
Spatial Location of Lantana Galu Hotel along Diani Beach Road

25. Skydive Diani

Look where you may in East Africa but few places can better the tandem sky-diving at Skydive Diani, above Africa’s Finest Coastline.  Established in 2013, to champion and to further sport parachuting in Kenya, Skydive Diani has build a reputation for offering exceptionally memorable experiences and guaranteed ultimate highs! They offer four kind of jumps: Tandem, Jump School, Jump for Charity and The Sky Gods. What is common in all the jumps is that they offer views of Diani Beach from a very unique perspective. Their popular Tandem Jump experience “starts with a short brief from one of their instructors before you are ready to take on the skies at 12,000 feet. After getting geared up, you board the airplane for a 15 minute scenic flight and can enjoy the beautiful view as you climb to altitude. While you approach the exit point, you will be securely attached to the front of your instructor, and then start moving towards the doorway of the plane. Wind is blasting and your heart will be pounding with excitement as you hang your feet outside the aircraft and look at the ground over 3,600 meters below.” – Skydive Diani is found 8.3 kms from Diani S. Mall.

Skydive Diani – Published by AFF

26. Kaya Kinondo

11.3 kms from Diani Shopping Mall you arrive at one of Kwale’s 21 sacred forest groves, locally known as the Kayas, which are historically maintained by local traditions and collectively recongnized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the Sacred Miji Kenda Kaya Forests. Kaya, in the native lingo translates as home or as homestead in nearly all nine Miji Kenda dialects. These are also dubbed as Nganasa, the Maasai equivalent for boma or homestead. As it goes, the Kayas were originally places of refuge for Waduruma and Wadigo, where they sought refuge from the invading Maasai herders who swayed an extensive territory in pre-colonial Kenya. Later, as the threat subsided from the Maasai Community, the Kayas began to be used by the community elders for prayer and traditional ritual ceremonies. Consequently, the Kayas became treasured by the rest of the Miji Kenda communities as sacred groves. Of a more recent development “Kaya Kinondo ecotourism project is a pilot project that seeks to initiate and test the viability of ecotourism as a means of linking conservation to tangible social and economic benefits of local community” – CIVS. Other Kayas in Kwale County include: Gandini, Mtswakara, Chonyi, Chitanze, Lunguma, Bombo, Kiteje, Waa, Teleza, Miyani, Tiwi, Galu, Chale, Sega and Jego. In sum, there are almost 50 Kayas ‘sacred groves’ scattered throughout forests in the Coast Region of Kenya.

27. Chale Island

17 kms from Diani Mall you reach the tail-end of Diani Beach Road at the Chale Harbour, and the jumping-off place to the tiny picture-postcard Chale Island. It sits 600 ms seaward spanning 1.2 kms long and 0.8 km wide with a north-south orientation. To the west, it is separated from Gazi Beach by the 2 kms wide Gazi Bay. The Island is divided into two areas: the resort and the sacred ‘kaya’ forest. The Sands at Chale Island Resort is set on 15 acres of indigenous ancient forest, with a superb 0.01 km2 white sand reef protected bay, in the southern quarter. Aside from its perfectly white sand bay, Chale Island is a choc-a-bloc explosion of variegated flora. It also has a mystical in-shore tidal mangrove lake that is a must-see. Additionally, owing to the lack of seaweed pile-ups, turtles frequently lay eggs in the bay. “Chale Resort is a contemporary mix of Swahili structures, Italian stucco, Lamu furniture, objects of African art and varnished Mahogany”. Its top-of-the-line 60-rooms are thoughtful split into six living options, to suit different types of guests. There are three great swimming pools on Chale Island.

The Sands at Chale Island

28. Gazi Beach

The 3 kms long Gazi Beach located on the eastern side of the 18 km2 Gazi Bay – 2 kms west of Chale Island – sits deep within palm plantations. “Gazi Beach is never crowded and it is a nice place to go if you are looking for privacy during your vacation” – Travelstart. It is of the lush, untamed and uncharted kind, in proximity to the little sleepy fishing village of Gazi marked by beaten footpaths meandering around neatly arranged mud-walled huts and a handful of dukas.  In 2009, the community at Gazi (Mikono Pamoja) rallied together to engender conservation initiatives as a way to promote tourism in this little-known place. “Mangroves are essential for villages like Gazi whose inhabitants rely on the forests to build houses, furniture, boats and to use as firewood. Some villagers who still ascribe to the traditional Digos religion have erected shrines inside the forest. These also act as carbon sinks and, most importantly for the fishermen, they are a vital coastal ecosystem”. The highlight of their efforts is the 450 ms Gazi Boardwalk. Also of interest at Gazi, if you can find a knowledgeable guide to take you there, is the old days former ‘palace’ of Sheikh Mbaruk – a popular figure of Mazrui Rebellions of 1895. Although Gazi lacks popular beach resorts, it is contiguous with Msambweni Beach that has a few notable resorts. Gazi is located 22 kms from Ukunda Town along the A14 Likoni-Ukunda-Ramisi Road.

Spatial Location of Gazi Beach in Kwale County
Spatial Location of Gazi Beach in Kwale County

29. Gazi Ruins

Gazi was in the 19th Century the headquarters of Mbarak bin Rashid al Kazrui, whose palace with a carved wooden door may still be seen today. About 3 kms southeast of Gazi is a ruined mosque on the Khan farm. It appears to have been a three room type, with an eastern anteroom about 2.60 ms wide and a western room about 2.20 metres wide flanking the musalla, which measures 3-5 metres wide by 7.6 metres long. Enough low sections of the eastern wall of the musalla stand to indicate there were two doorways into the musalla. The western side is more crumbled although a section of the musalla wall may be seen at the south.

30. Galu Ruins

Galu ruins is a large walled compound similar in design to Tumbe, although it is located upon a hill rather than at the sea. It is a walled enclosure, approximately square, with western and eastern gatehouses. The western entry is in slightly better condition than the other but both structures reveal a two room ground plan. The former structure was two storied, as was probably the latter. Inside the compound is a well located about midway between the gatehouses; it is still in use. In the middle of the north and south walls were salient circular bastions with holes placed to allow enfilade fire across the northern and southern walls.

31. Msambweni (Mbuyu) Beach

Contiguous with Gazi Beach, the seldom-busy, peaceful and restful Msambweni Beach is 4.5 kms long. It is sometimes dubbed as Mbuyu Beach after the iconic 600 year old Baobab (Mbuyu) tree found here, or as Sawa-sawa Beach – the Swahili equivalent for “everything is okay”. Although less developed than the 15 kms Tiwi-Mwachema River-Diani-Galu Beach, it has a more laid back feel to it, and it is not all rare to find trippers to Msambweni angling with local fishermen or mingling with the natives at the sleepy Msambweni Town. Albeit few and far between, it has good hotels like Sawa-sawa Beach House, Coast Sun Gardens, Msambweni Beach House and Private Villas, the Kakazi Beach House, Mlango Lodge, and Hotel Sonrisa. Msambweni is found 23 kms south of Ukunda Town.

32. Munge Ruins

The ruins at Munge consist of two mosques, one on a hill overlooking a little beach and the ocean and the other about half a kilometre back from the sea in some shambas. The Munge mosque in the shambas is built upon a little hill and overlooks the surrounding land by a metre or two. The mosque consists of a central chamber, eastern and western flanking rooms, a southern chamber and an area delimited by a western peripheral wall. About 9 metres northwest of the mihrab is a well that does not appear to be used. Some sections of the mosque still stand, as does the mihrab, although this is tilting precariously to the north.

Map of Historic Sites along Kwale’s Coastline. Image Courtesy
Map of Historic Sites along Kwale’s Coastline. Image Courtesy

33. Funzi Island

As the earliest permanently settled island of the four islands in Kwale County, Funzi Island, at the very least, offers several scenic routes through the colorful villages of the seafaring Digo Community. Past the villages, the pathway lead to the littorals and scenic tidal inlets. Funzi Island is comprised of four mangrove covered islets, with only one being inhabited. Funzi Island is best-known for the world-famous family-run boutique Funzi Keys Resort. This secluded up-market establishment, designed to blend unobtrusively with the paradisal oceanfront, captures the imagination of its great stretches of golden sands. This is found in the western area of the Funzi. Also found on Funzi Island, a short distance from Funzi Keys, is the middle-budget Mikoko Cove Ecolodge and Mangrove Hotel. Other highlights at Funzi Island include: boating along Ramisi River lined on either side with dense mangrove forest, visit Funzi Turtle Club, explore little-known historic sites, visit Mkwiro, or Wafunzi village – on the eastern side of the island. Funzi Island is located 33.5 kms from Ukunda, through Msambweni.

34. Shirazi Ruins

Shirazi, also known as Kifundi, is a pleasant modest village at the edge of a sea channel about 3 kms from the A14 highway. About 100 metres or less south of Shirazi village is a mosque and one or more tombs in dense bush. There are two wells, one south of the mosque that is still used by the people of the village, and an old well in the bush east of the mosque. The mosque is in extremely ruined condition, all walls and the qibla fallen except for a short portion of the north wall. On the outside it is seen that the north wall stands to a height of about two metres, demonstrating that the mosque is deep in rubble. The central musalla measures about 4-60 metres wide by 6.90 metres long. There is a niche on the east end of the north wall and a small window on the west end. The mihrab was framed by an architrave that on its lower faces was plain. There was probably a capital, below which the facade seems to have been plain. 200 metres north of Shirazi, about 150 metres from the high tide line sits a second mosque, in ruins.

35. Fikirini Caves

Also known as the Three Sisters Caves, these are found almost dead-center in the rural backwoods of Shimoni, in Fikirini Village. As with many caves in the region, these were traditionally used by the Wadigo as a refuge to escape the threat of both invading Maasai raiders and slave traders. The Fikirini-Tswaka Community now run tours within these three eerie goodly caves with plenty of natural wonders like stalactite, stalagmite and pillars sculpture and a myriad of bizarre cave creatures. “The first cave is called Mdenyenye and is the largest. It has a wooden staircase built by the natives. The second, Pangani, with several chambers, was used for prayers and resting. The third, Kisimani, has a fresh water well that never runs dry.” – NMG. These are found in Fikirini Village, 48 kms from Ukunda Town and 10 kms from the A1 Likoni-Ukunda-Ramisi Road, taking the turnoff southerly toward Shimoni, and another west towards Fikirini.

36. Hurumuzi (Hormuz)

The site of Hurumuzi, probably the old Hormuz (Ormuz), is located about 30 minutes’ walk west-south-west of Pongwe, through dense concentrations of mangroves. The site is on a little grassy knoll rising above the surrounding mangroves. Some scatters of local ceramics could be seen, and there were a few stones around that might have belonged once to structures. The main building is a small mosque of a single chamber, entered through a door on the south end of the east wall, and possibly through another in the south wall. The north, east and east half of the south walls stand; the west and west half of the southern walls have fallen. There is a single rectangular column in the centre of the room.

37. Pongwe

A few kilometres west of Kidimu are the ruins simply known as Pongwe. Its only remains are the ruins of a small mosque now located about 20 metres inside the high water line, at the edge of the mangroves. It measures about five metres long and four metres wide; although the masonry nowhere stands to above one metre in height, the structure was undoubtedly a mosque: traces of the mihrab can be seen on the north, and there was likely a cistern on the south.

38. Shimoni Caves

“There’s a hole in the side of Africa, where the walls will speak if you only listen …” Roger Whittaker’s famous song evokes the binding history of Shimoni Caves where slaves in transit to Zanzibar were held. The caves are located in Shimoni Penninsula across from the channel from Wasini Island, seen south. In the face of this surpassing history, the earliest occupation of Shimoni Caves has always been a subject of unending debate. These were once a Kaya Shrine, a shelter for Maasai herders and a slave post, at different periods in time, not well defined. Shimoni – Swahili equivalent of “a place of the holes” – is well known for the later use as a slave post, where its many caves and tunnels were used as holding chambers for slaves destined for Zanzibar and as far as Oman. The caves run all the way to the ocean through interconnected tunnels, 7 kms underground, used during the 18th Century and early 19th Century by Arab Traders. Interestingly enough, in 1887, Shimoni was the foremost meeting place between British East African Association (BEAA) represented by E.N. Mackenzie and Lloyd Mathews and the Native Local Council, where they appened the first known treaties with the locals. The treaties allowed the BEAA, reestablished as the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEA) by William Mackinnon, to establish links between the coast and the hinterland. Shimoni Caves are located 51 kms from Ukunda, and 13.1 kms from the A1 Likoni-Ramisi Road to the south end of the peninsula.

39. Betty’s Camp

This offers a pleasant stay near the historic hermitage of Shimoni. At Shimoni Caves, a road extends west to Shimoni Community Boatyard and Betty’s Camp is just 200 ms from the entrance to the caves. Opened in 2002, and completely restored in 2013, its living is split into luxury rooms, standard rooms and tented camps. It has beautifil gardens, an elevated viewing deck overlooking the Indian Ocean and a pool which is uniquely covered overhead by camouflage netting to allow sunlight in and excessive heat out. Activities at the camp include: walking trips to Shimoni Caves; Shimoni Ruins and to the forests; boating trips to Chale Island (east), Wasini Island (south), Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Reserve (south); fishing excursions and mangrove tours abode dinghy or kajaks. Other retreats around Shimoni include Shimoni Reef Lodge and the Msitu Eco-Camp.

Spatial Location of Betty's Camp Shimoni in Kwale County
Spatial Location of Betty’s Camp Shimoni in Kwale County

40. Shimoni Ruins

Between 1891 to 1923, Shimoni served as the headquarter for the British East Africa Company’s Vanga District, and a useful base from which they swayed the Peninsula and appended many treaties with the locals. Of course, Shimoni was conveniently sited to assist with British Empire’s quest of abolishing slave trade following the adverse effects of the Trans-Atlantic ‘slave’ Trade (1444 to 1807). Notable among the colonial relics seen at Shimoni Ruins is the wall of a derelict prison (Kenya first official prison) that’s thought to have underground links to Shimoni Caves. The Shimoni Ruins are found 5 kms away from Shimoni Caves.

41. Wasini Island

The 7 kms long and 3 kms wide – 21 km2 – Wasini Island orientated in an east-west strike lies about 900 ms south of Shimoni Penninsula. Shimoni boatyard is traditionally the jump-off to the island. The little town of Wasini located on the northwestern side of the island is its main landing. The Island has a population of about 4,000, of mainly three fishing communities – Wadigo, Washirazi and Wavumba – who coexists in this dreamy place where life has changed very little in the past decades. In fact, the island has only one main footpath connecting its triad of villages – Wasini, Nyuma Maji and Mkwiro. Very limited farming is carried out in small garden plots, dominated by coconuts and bananas. Still and all, Wasini Island has a few of sea food eateries catering to day-trippers, and a number of traditional dug-out canoes serve as good hop-on hop-off water taxis. Adventure makers here may be interested in touring the revered boardwalk and coral gardens walkways, the ancient Waseju Mosque and tombs, Charlie Claw’s Restaurant which are easily combined with a trip to the nearby Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park located 1 km south of Wasini. The locally based Kisite Private Boat Operators Association’s runs tours to Kisite. Also, there’s Wasini Island Bandas.

Dolphin Family in the Wild – Wasini Island, Kenya (HD) – Natural Cuties

42. Wasini Ruins

At the historically rich Wasini Island there are five mosques, three of which are still in use, associated tombs and the ruins of a few stone houses. Prom west to east the mosques: Msikiti wa Mira Mwiyuni, Msikiti Mdogo, Msikiti wa Ijumaa, Msikiti wa Kale and Msikiti wa Mgodo. The western mosque, Msikiti wa Mira Mwiyuni, was said to have been built by one Mkulu wa Mwenyi Mkuu of the al-Ba Urii family; he is said to have come from Pate. At the southwest corner of the mosque are six tombs, said to be those of Mkulu wa Mwenyi Mkuu and his kin. The eastern mosque, Ksikiti wa Kgodo, like Ksikiti wa Kira Mwiyuni, is said to have been built by Mkulu wa Mwenyi Mkuu. The other unused mosque at Wasini, Msikiti wa Kale, is now in ruins. It’s thought to have been built by the agent of Ahmed bin Muhammad, the Mazrui governor of Mombasa. Ksikiti wa Ijumaa was built by Diwan Hasan, the son of Diwan Ruga, and completed in 1161 or 1162. Near the seafront is the grave of Iaarus, who is reported to have been considered a wizard and at whose grave the Digo were said to pray for rain. He is remembered today as a religious man, and a leper, to whom people, mostly sailors, would go to ask him to pray for them or their problems. The grave has short pillars on the east and west ends, with central wall monuments on the side walls and step ends at the corners with conical finials on top on the east end and cylindrical finials on the west. Its facades are decorated with blue and white bowls and plates. There is a tombstone at the grave that’s dated 1279.

43. Wasini Boardwalk

This is found within Wasini Village. The looping 500 ms raised boardwalk was a shared venture by Biodiversity Conservation Program and KWS and is run and maintained by Wasini Women Group, as a noble community initiative to show case the exemplar fossil coral garden landscape and mangrove forests of Wasini Island. Within Kwale County, mangrove forests are confined to tidal estuaries, particularly at Shirazi, Wasini, Gazi, Majoreni and Vanga. The ecosystem seen along the Wasini Boardwalk is one of most elaborate in the South Coast Region and has huge scientific importance owing to its innumerable highly specialized aquatic organisms. “For years, these fossil coral gardens had been an attraction for locals, with foreign visitors intrigued by the mere presence of the big rocks”.

44. Chambocha Cemetery

On the south side of Wasini Island, near the hamlet of Nyuma ya Maji, is found the Chambocha Cemetery; the burial place of the people of Wasini. The reason the cemetery is located so far away from the village is simply because there is not an area without stony ground any closer. At the cemetery, there about 50 tombs in thick bush. The tombs are small, usually single. The facades often have windows or niches and sometimes had plaques as well as bowls and dishes. To boot, some gravestones had inscriptions, although they are now mostly illegible.

45. Charlie Claw’s

Charlie Claw’s is best-known as an internationally acclaimed tour outfit offering exemplary dhow sailing safaris, dolphin and whale spotting tours, diving, great Swahili dining and, of course, snorkeling. Charlie Claw’s Restaurant, on Wasini Island, is equally impressive especially for trippers who prefer to rest, unwind and soak up some sun in their wonderful lagoon pool. On consecutive rights, to include a boat tour, Charlie Claw’s offers the best of the Swahili Coast in a day.

46. Wasini Dolphin Tour

Dolphins are synonymic with nature’s playful foible and Wasini Dolphin Tour offers first-rate and exclusive tour packages to view these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. Tours are done aboard the Swahili style dhows boarded in Mombasa, on a pleasing voyage across to the Shimoni-Wasini Channel, Wasini Coral Island, Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve and Funzi Island. The tours are fun and educational, and an exciting opportunity to sail aboard the refurbished traditional dhow – oozing of centuries old Swahili sailing culture, swim at various little-known splendid spots in the Indian Ocean, spot dolphins, snorkel, and enjoy Swahili inspired sea-food lunches, made fresh while on tour.

47. Pilli Pipa Dhow

The personalized Pilli Pipa dhow tour is an all-in-one sea-safari which has its patrons spoilt for choice from their robust list of activities. Likewise, the outfit operates both day and night excursion in addition to scuba diving, snorkeling, dolphin spotting and Swahili sea food cuisine. The Pilli Pipa Dhow packages include pick-ups and drop-offs to hotels, both in North Coast and South Coast.

48. Kisite-Mpunguti National Marine Park and Reserve

Although there is no wildlife supported on the water-less Kisite-Mpunguti coral islands, callers to this site get to enjoy superb uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean as well as enjoy various activities at the multi-colour coral gardens. The 39 km2 Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve, comprised of 28 km2 Kisite Marine Park and 11 km2 Mpunguti Marine Reserve, was established to protect the scenic islands and surrounding habitats that host a wide range of endemic marine life and breeding migratory birds. The marine park was first created at Kisite in 1973, and in 1976 the boundaries were revised and re-demarcated. In 1978, Mpunguti was gazetted as a marine national reserve following disputes over the loss of fishing grounds caused by the marine park under the aegis of Kenya Wildlife Service. Today, its biosphere covers the four separate islands of Mpunguti ya Juu, Mpunguti ya Chini, Kisite and Mako Kokwe as well as their surrounding coastal areas. Kisite Island, the primary interest of visitors to this place, features an exposed sand bar and the surrounding pellucid waters offer perhaps the most rewarding of snorkeling sites. The park, which is open daily between 8:30 am and 6:00 pm, is reachable by boat from Shimoni and Wasini.

49. Sii Island

Sii Island, to the far west of the Kisite-Mpunguti Islands and close to the Kenya-Tanzania maritime boundary, is a small undiscovered island entirely covered by mangrove forests. For many centuries, Sii functioned as a refuge for the native groups of Wavanga and Wajimbo during times of war, and it has retained most of its natural tropical charm, only escaping degradation and exploitation thanks to its inaccessibility for small dhows. Up to the present time, the vast mangrove forests of Sii Island hold-out as the most intact and untainted in Kwale County. The mangroves in Kwale occur in four distinctive areas: Vanga-4265 hectares, Funzi-2711 hectares, Maftaha Bay-615 hectares and Ras Mwachema-5 hectares. These are some of the most important and most productive coastal biospheres.  

50. Maji Moto Springs

70 kms from Ukunda Town along the A14 Likoni-Ukunda-Ramisi Road through Msambweni you reach Lunga Lunga and the last town before Tanzania. There is a 6 kms peripheral area between the border post at Lunga Lunga and that found at Horohoro on the Tanzanian side. 10 kms before arriving at Lunga Lunga, in Lwayoni Village, the geological oddity at Maji Moto Springs is a popular local site that’s worth a look-see. The area has a geyser and bobs of hot water gushing out of the ground to form adobes of hot springs on surface bed, a sacred area of high cultural value to the local Miji Kenda Sub-tribes, and close by Mrima Hill. A wellness center has been earmarked for construction at the site by the County Government to create a unique high end hot spring eco-lodge of 20 rooms and a wellness center on the 10 acres of land which is now zoned and fenced. Not far from here, 5 kms before Lunga Lunga, Lwayo la Mulungu (or God’s footprint), an embossed footprint on a rock, continues to baffle the imagination of native Waduruma folk. Having considered the odds, they attribute this to “Jesus” who they believe must have walked here. It is one of nearly five “footprints of Jesus” in Kenya in company with those found in Meru, Makueni, and Vihiga Counties.

51. Vumba Kuu

The historic old site of Vumba Kuu is located near the Kenya-Tanzania border (Lunga-Lunga) nearby the Mchamalale (or Mchongo) Stream. The site itself is densely overgrown, although much of the area around is under cultivation. An erosion channel and tidal flats divide the site into two parts: a western section, a small part of which is in Tanzania, and a smaller eastern area where a mosque is located. Vumba Kuu, which literally means the capital of Vumba, dates to the 15th Century coinciding with the arrival of the Bani Nabhani from Pate and the rise of the Omani (Arab) Rule. “It is likely that the historic date from Pate was incorporated into the history of Vumba Kuu. Seven sultans followed the first man enthroned at Vumba Kuu, allegedly in 1201+, before the reign of a Kwana Chambi chardi Ivoo, whose presence seems to be confirmed about 1630 – 80’s.” The area suggested by the curve of the town wall might reach seven acres, but if the eastern side is included the total area might double that. House remains could not be seen” – Thomas H. Wilson. All that remains of the mosque are the broken walls of its southeastern section, including: a south wall, ruined to a low height; a cistern to the east of the musalla, although, no trace of an anteroom can be seen; a well south of the rear wall, with an adjacent cistern, smaller than the other. Traditionally Vumba Kuu was said to have been founded in 1201+, as the date for the arrival of the Nabhani at Pate, and for the founding of Tumbatu.

52. Vanga Ruins

18 kms south of Lunga Lunga Town sits Vanga, a small fishing-town of mostly mud and thatch houses arranged along a neat series of north-south streets. The town is at the water’s edge, with access to the sea through a broad channel that is flanked by mangroves. Vanga is the most southerly settlement in Kenya and contrary to expectation, this ways-out hamlets is a treasure trove of historical ruins. Small tombs are scattered throughout Vanga, one of these having a small pillar about 2 ms high, with the base of a 19th century European ceramic mug on top. According to a report by National Museums of Kenya “Vanga was only a small fishing village when Diwan Sheikh moved there from Wasini about 1821.” Some of the other elaborate ruins include those left over from the British epoch.

53. Kagugu

This is a site out in the mangroves located a few minutes walk out of Vanga. There, on a grassy rise above sea level, a little island about 200 metres long by about 100 metres wide, are found an isolated cistern and, somewhat farther north, a ruined mosque. At the cistern is a collection of umpteen 19th century ceramics. The mosque was at the north end of the grassy high ground, but the north end of the structure has been carried away by tidal action. “The hidden nature of this site suggests ‘Kagugu’ is located where it is for defensive reasons”.

54. Nyika Plateau

Nyika Plateau (Swahili for grassy and thorny bushland) covers close to 30% of the land surface of Kwale County. This roomy lowland of mostly thorny scrubs and grasslands (on a slightly rolling relief gradually rising inland) dominates much of Kwale’s western border and north-lands.  It is narrower towards the south, becoming broader northward. The seemingly endless plains teemed with wildlife encrusts the bulk of Kinango, Kasemini, Samburu, Ndavaya and parts of Lunga Lunga. Its domination, as it marches towards Tsavo East National Park, is only broken by few low-lying hills. The rough and ready 100 kms from Lunga Lunga to Samburu, trending just east of north, travels across the Nyika Plateau through Kibaya and Kwa Mkamba. Samburu is found midway between the towns of Taru and Mariakini along the A109 Mombasa-Nairobi Road which marks Kwale northern border from Mazeras to Batchuma, a distance of 85 kms.

View of the coral garden as seen from Wasini Boardwalk.  Photo Courtesy
View of the coral garden as seen from Wasini Boardwalk. image Courtesy

Geography of Kwale County

Kwale County is best known for its 35 kms developed sand beaches. These land formations is a build up of eroded reef material whose deposits form a stretch of coastline covering approximately 90 kms. The Coastal Uplands, commonly known as Shimba Hills, is an area of medium to high agricultural potential. The area rises steeply from the Foot Plateau at an altitude of between 135 to 462 meters above the sea level. This zone is made up of sand stone hills that include the Shimba Hills (420m), Tsimba (350m), Mrima (323m) and Dzombo (462m).

Land Use in Kwale County

Kwale County is divided into two agro-ecological zones in terms of agricultural potential. Medium potential and marginal lands constitutes 15% and 18% of the total land area respectively. The rest of the land, about 67%, is range, arid and semi-arid land, suitable only for livestock and for limited cultivation of drought resistant crops.  In the drier areas of the Nyika Plateau in Kinango, Kasemeni, Samburu Ndavaya and some parts of Lunga Lunga divisions the land is held in trust and under group ranches.  Only 22.5% of the surface land has title deeds. 

Highlights in Kwale County

The main tourist attraction sites in Kwale are Shimba Hills National Reserve, Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserves, historic sites (Shimoni Holes and Diani Mosques), forests, sandy beaches, bird habitat areas, hotels and turtle breeding grounds. There still exist potential in the tourism sector such as untapped cultural resources and plenty of potential tourist sites that could offer living and leisure facilities as well as sport tourism. There are 22 tourist class hotels in Kwale County with a bed capacity of 5,098.

Population in Kwale County

Population density and distribution in Kwale County is strongly influenced by the topography and the agro-ecological set-up.  The population density in 2012 was 86 people / km2. The density varies from a minimum of 57 people / km2 in Kinango Constituency to 376 people / km2 in Msambweni Constituency. Total population was projected to be 713,488 people in 2012. The urban population accounts for 17 % of the total population. Kwale County has three major towns – Kwale, Ukunda/Diani and Msambweni, with a population of 28,252, 62,529, and 11,985 respectively in 2009. Other centers are Kinango and Lunga-Lunga.

View of the Sands at Chale Resort on Chale Island.  photo Courtesy of TripAdvisor
Sands at Chale Resort on Chale Island. Image Courtesy of TripAdvisor

Airports in Kwale County

Kwale County has four airstrips found at Ukunda/Diani, Shimba Hills National Reserve, Msambweni and at Kinango. Only Ukunda Airport is operational.

Roads in Kwale County

Kwale County has a total of 1,483.1 kms of classified roads. Of these 187.7 kms Bitumen surface, 425.2 kms are gravel surface and 871.2 kms of earth surface roads. An international trunk road, the A14, traverses Kwale from Mombasa to Lunga Lunga on the Kenya – Tanzania border. On the northern side the A109 Mombasa–Nairobi Highway forms the boundary of Kwale and Kilifi Counties.

Climate in Kwale County

Kwale County has monsoon type of climate marked by hot and dry weather from January to May and cooler temperatures from June to August. The long rains fall in between March to May.  Average temperatures ranges from 26 C to 28 C in the coastal lowlands, 25 C to 27 C in Shimba Hills and in the hinterland.  

Kwale County Distance Chart
Kwale County Distance Chart

View of Sheldrick Falls within Shimba Hills National Reserve.  Photo Courtesy of TripAdvisor
Sheldrick Falls in Shimba Hills National Reserve. Image Courtesy

National Monuments in Kwale County

  1. Kongo Mosque
  2. Diani Ruins
  3. Kaya Diani
  4. Kaya Muhaka
  5. Kaya Galu
  6. Kaya Kinondo
  7. Chale Island Grove
  8. Shimoni Caves
  9. Kaya Bogowa
  10. Kaya Gandini
  11. Kaya Mtai
  12. Dugumura Hill Grove
  13. Kaya Kwale
  14. Kaya Dzombo
  15. Mrima Hill Grove
  16. Kaya Ukunda
  17. Shirazi
  18. Tumbe
  19. Tiwi
  20. Kaya Mtswakari

Kwale County Map

Kwale County Map