PLACES YOU CANT AFFORD TO MISS IN SOUTH COAST
Kenya’s South Coast has a more rustic feel than Nyali or any of the other suburban beaches immediately north of Mombasa, partially due to its logistical dislocation from the island-bound city, to which it is connected not by a road bridge but by the steady-but-slow Likoni ferry service. South of the ferry, the surfaced A14 sticks to within 2 to 3km (1 to 2 miles) of the seashore for most of its length, veering further inland only as it approaches the Lunga Lunga border with Tanzania, about 120km (72 miles) south of Mombasa.
Diani Beach is a ribbon of a flawless tropical beach, with white, fine-grained, gently cambered to the ocean and shaded with palms and casuarinas. The ocean at Diani, or rather the inshore shallows, are entirely protected by the fringing reef, massive and solid like a seawall. Nothing can penetrate – no sharks, no other large marine life, and very little pollution. The ocean scenery also seems on a larger scale than anywhere else on the Kenyan coast, subtle and infinitely varied. When the tide goes out, a half-mile stretch of coral and sand between the reef and shore is exposed as a mosaic of rock pools.
Development on the Diani Strip has been fairly intense, not only in terms of tourist accommodation, which includes dozens of large resorts and several smaller beach hotels but in a whole range of ancillary services. There’s a number of shopping centers, several banks and ATMs, a hospital, restaurants, hairdressing salons, laundromats, DVD rental stores, craft stalls, internet cafés, vehicle hire, training facilities and equipment for snorkelling, scuba diving, windsurfing, glass-bottomed boating and deep-sea fishing. Hotels here range from air-conditioned concrete and glass to vintage, open villa-style fanned by breezes off the ocean. All offer assorted water sports and deep-sea fishing, have good restaurants and arrange day tours to Mombasa’s old town and other sites along the south coast, such as Shimba Hills or Wasini Island, a popular option with those on extended beach package holidays.
2.Shimba Hills National Reserve
A few miles inland of Tiwi and Diani beaches the upper reaches of the Shimba Hills – gentle, rolling downs rising to 450 metres (1,500ft) from the coastal plain – are protected within the 250-sq-km (97-sq-mile) Shimba Hills National Reserve. This pretty reserve is the last Kenyan stronghold for the handsome sable antelope, some 200 of which inhabit the reserve, and are readily observed in areas of open grassland. Shimba also supports substantial populations of buffalo, elephant, zebra, warthog and seldom-seen leopard. The birdlife is also profuse and includes several coastal specials, including Fischer’s turaco, black-and-white casqued hornbill, Kenya crested guineafowl, and the country’s only population of the beautiful green-headed oriole.
An easy car drive from any of the beach resorts, Shimba Hills not only provides visitors with an excellent safari opportunity, but it also offers a refreshing climatic change from the humid coastal strip. In addition, there are long-range ocean views from the eastern escarpment, from where the pretty Sheldrick Falls can be reached on a guided walk that also offers the possibility of exciting wildlife encounters on foot. Shimba Lodge, overlooking a water hole in the middle of the forest, is a beautifully sited but slightly rundown tree lodge noted for its night-time game.
3.Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park
The town of Shimoni, 80km (50 miles) south of Mombasa, hosts the headquarters of the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park. Comprising 40 sq km (16 sq miles) of open sea and reefs, this marine park is centred upon Kisite Island, a remote coral outcrop unrivalled on the Kenya coast both for the clarity of its water and for the variety of marine life present. Most day trips from Diani incorporate a session of snorkelling at one of the many excellent reef sites around Kisite, which lies 8km (5 miles) from Shimoni by boat. Bottlenosed dolphins can frequently be seen during the ride out. Schools of yellowfin tuna can often be seen in the area, and sightings of mantas, humpbacked whales and whale sharks have become more frequent in recent years.
Only about one hour’s drive from Diani Beach, you will find Shimoni, divers’ paradise. This peninsula is situated close to the Pemba Channel and is regarded as one of the last unspoilt regions for deep-sea fishing.
Before the depths of the Pemba Canal, fascinating coral reefs have developed, which are protected by the Kisite Mpunguto Marine National Park. The area is blessed with crystal-clear waters making it the perfect spot to discover the marine life. Be prepared to swim amongst dolphins and marine turtles while underneath you a whole different world of colours and shapes unfolds.
You can also visit Wasini Island for a snorkelling trip from Shimoni. While Shimoni’s beaches may not compare to those of its neighbour Diani Beach, it is a dream destination if you are a keen diver or fisherman and makes for a good day-trip from Diani.
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