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The Kenyan Coast has a long and exotic history, with its waters being the traditional passage for the Arabian Spice traders. Influences from this time are still evident today with a mix of Arab and Portuguese architecture being apparent. However, the Kenyan Coast is now far more synonymous with beautiful coral reefs, white sand and palm fringed beaches of Diani, Shelly, Malindi and nearby Lamu to name but a few.
The coastal town of Mombasa is one of Africa’s major tourist destinations, with some spectacular beaches, diverse marine life and friendly people.
As well as the watersports and rest and relaxation that can be had here, there is also a wealth of historical and cultural attractions to delight visitors. The Bombolulu Workshops, a project of the Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya (APDK), entertains guests with traditional dances and sells a variety of handmade souvenirs ranging from wood carvings to jewellery.
Fort Jesus, Gedi Ruins and the Mombasa Tusks are also regularly visited attractions. Haller Park, the largest animal sanctuary in Mombasa, and Mamba Village Crocodile Farm are also popular with visitors to the town.
Located in Mombasa town, the Mombasa National Park & Reserve comprises of a variety of marine habitats including sea waters, mangroves, sea grasses and sea weeds. Marine life is abundant including sea urchins, sea cucumbers, crabs and starfish to name but a few.
The park is an incredibly popular location for both snorkelling and scuba diving.
Around 30km outside of Mombasa town, the Shimba Hills National Reserve is a coastal ecosystem which comprises of one of the largest coastal forests in East Africa. The reserve is home to a rich array of wildlife including sable antelope, mongoose and other small mammals. Birdlife include the local red necked spurfowl, croaking cisticola and Zanzibar red bishop species.
Located on the south coast, the marine park covers an area of small islands surrounded by coral-reef. Many important species of seagrass and marine algae are found here.
The park is a delight for snorkelers and divers, whilst those that want to take things easy can relax on the sandy beaches and keep an eye out for the dolphins that can sometimes be seen. The coral gardens are an absolute delight.
Just south of Malindi town lies the Malindi Marine Park & Reserve. Reefs, corals, seagrasses, mangroves and a plethora of fish and marine mammals are found here. Birds are also prolific along the shoreline.
There are a number of activities on offer here including snorkelling in the coral gardens, glass bottom boat rides and nature walks. Watersports are also plentiful as is the beautiful sandy beach.
Situated along Kenya's north coast, the Watamu Marine Park & Reserve is a mixture of marine and tidal habitats. The Mida Creek mangrove forest which is situated within the reserve has a high diversity of species which are an important resource for a number of resident and migratory birds. Sandy beaches, coral cliffs and fringing reefs characterise this beautiful area.
The Kiunga Marine National Reserve incorporates around 50 islands and reefs of the Lamu Archipelago. The reserve runs parallel to Dodori and Boni National Reserves on the Kenya mainland.
The inner islands are home to grasses and aloes, whilst the outer islands are valuable seabird nesting sites. Sea turtles and dugongs take refuge amongst the coral reefs, seagrass and mangrove forests.
Watersports including snorkelling, diving, waterskiing and windsurfing are all available here. Look out for sightings of sea turtles, reef fish, lobsters and sea urchins amongst others.
The Boni National Reserve is situated in the northern corner of the Kenyan Coast on the border with Somalia. Created originally as a sanctuary for elephants, today the reserve houses species such as the gerenuk, giraffe and topi. It’s also great for ornithologists, with many waterbirds found along the waterside.
Created to protect the riverine forest and endangered mangabey and red colobus monkey, the Tana River Primate Reserve offers visitors the opportunity to see these beautiful rare species.
Birdlife are abundant within the parks habitat, with over 200 species recorded. These include the scaly babbler, glossy starling, African pygmy falcon and African open billed stork.
Located around 100km north of Mombasa, the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve is the largest stretch of coastal forest remaining in East Africa. The reserve boasts a number of endemic bird species including the Clarke’s weaver as well as the Amani sunbird, Sokoke Scops owl and Sokoke pipit. It also has a number of other endemic, endangered and rare species of insects, butterflies, reptiles and mammals.
Created with the aim of protecting the rare Hirola that is endemic to the region, the Arawale National Park is also home to species such as elephant, giraffe, Grevy’s zebra and buffalo.
Kipepeo Butterfly Farm is a community based project that that supports the livelihoods of people living around the Arabuko Sokoke forest. The aim of the project is to get the local communities to participate in conservation of the surrounding forest by giving them an alternative means of generating income. Kipepeo does this by selling and producing butterfly and moth pupae and other live insects along with honey and silk cloth.
Visitors to the Kipepeo Market Place have the opportunity to support the project as well as interacting with the farmers themselves and learning more about their work. A visit to the butterfly house itself is highly recommended.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011