The coastline north of Mombasa is a little livelier than the south coast, and the resorts are closer to the airport and Mombasa City. Palm-lined beaches, crystal clear waters, coral reefs, and a profusion of water sports, resorts, and entertainment venues provide plenty of tourist action. Mombasa Marine National Park fringes the coast here, with multi-hued coral gardens, drop offs, and Kenya’s best wreck diving on the MV Dania. Traveling north from Mombasa, Nyali Beach is the first stop. Shops and hotels line the beach here. Farther north, Bamburi Beach and Shanzu Beach are also tourist hubs with a wide range of accommodation, from luxury resorts to beach bungalows.
Generally reached by dhow, Wasini Island is a popular day trip from Mombasa. Dolphins regularly cruise these waters, and passengers can stop to snorkel and dive the coral reefs along the way. The island itself is tiny – only five square kilometers. Sightseeing opportunities include visiting Wasini Village, strolling around the coastal scrub where ancient Swahili ruins lie, exploring the exposed coral gardens, and dining on fresh seafood. The village of Shimoni is the launching point for Wasini Island tours and was once the headquarters of the Imperial British East Africa Company. Here, visitors can explore the Shimoni Caves, thought to hold slaves before their shipment to Arabia.
Shimba Hills National Reserve, about 33 kilometers south of Mombasa, offers a peaceful getaway from the hubbub of the busy beach resorts. Woodlands, waterfalls, lily-topped ponds, savanna, and rainforest provide a home for a rich diversity of plants and animals. Among the rare plants are endangered species of cycads and orchids. The park also protects one of the highest concentrations of elephants in Kenya, along with leopards, sable antelope, and abundant birdlife.
Guided forest walks are available, and visitors can cool off in the swimming hole and picnic area at the scenic Sheldrick Falls on the Machenmwana River.
The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is East Africa’s largest remaining indigenous coastal forest. The forest plays host to plenty of rare species including birds, butterflies, amphibians, and plants. More than 260 species of birds are found here, including several threatened species such as the spotted ground thrush and Clarke’s weaver. Rare mammals that call the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest home are the golden-rumped elephant shrew, bushy-tailed mongoose, and Ader’s duiker. The forest is a favorite picnic spot for residents and visitors.
South of Wasini Island, Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park is a popular spot for snorkeling, diving, and dolphin spotting – usually from the decks of a traditional dhow. The park encompasses four small islands surrounded by fish-rich coral reef. Dolphins frolic in the Shimoni Channel, and humpback whales swim these waters between August and October. Other marine life includes moray eels, angelfish, grouper, snappers, and green sea turtles. Deep-sea fishing is fantastic south to the Pemba channel.
Between 1837 and 1895, the Fort was used as barracks for the soldiers. When the British protectorate was proclaimed on the 1st of July 1895, the Fort was converted into a prison. The huts were removed and cells were built. On the 24th October 1958, Fort Jesus was declared a National Park in the custody of the Trustees of the Kenya National Parks. Excavation was carried out and the Fort became a Museum in 1962. The Fort is now an important historical landmark in the East African region.
Nestled in lush rainforest, Gedi was one of the ancient Arab towns along the East African Coast, and was probably rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries. Today, you can tour the ruins where the Great Mosque, the Palace, coral-stone houses, and pillar tombs have been unearthed. The houses in Gedi display a traditional Swahili style, and some have ancient drawings on their plaster walls. Ming Chinese porcelain and glass as well as glazed earthenware from Persia indicate trade links and a taste for luxury by those who prospered here. These items as well as Spanish scissors and Swahili cultural artifacts are on display in the on-site museum.