When it comes to beach-life Kenya is hard to beat, offering 700 kms of Indian Ocean coastline renowned for its white sandy beaches, clear waters, remote islands, and mysterious Swahili ruins. Protected for its entire length by a coral barrier reef lying just a kilometre off the beach, Kenya’s beaches promise calm lagoons that are ideal for swimming and watersports, nine national marine parks promising sightings of whale sharks, dolphins, turtles and thousands of other tropical species; and some of the finest dive sites in the world.
Add to this the fact that the coastal climate is as near perfect as it gets with an average daily temperature of 28 degrees centigrade, and a daily average of eight hours of sunshine, and you’ll rapidly conclude that Kenya’s coastline is one of the most alluring in the world.
And then there’s the culture
An exotic fusion of Arab, African and Portuguese influences, the Swahili culture is found nowhere else on earth. Typified by its serene pace of life, its sublime cuisine, its profound heritage and its welcoming people, the sheer delight of the Swahili life- style prompts thousands of tourists to return year after year to immerse themselves in its lilting languor; and to step out of their everyday worlds and into the enchanted Swahili world of winding alleys, peeping faces, bustling markets, white-walled mosques and black-veiled women.
Roughly divided into ‘North’ and ‘South’ of the island city of Mombasa, Kenya’s beaches offer a surprising diversity. South of Mombasa are; Shelly, Diani and Msambweni beaches. North are Nyali, Kenyatta, Bamburi, Shanzu, Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi and, ultimately, the beaches of the island resort of Lamu. Which to choose? Diani Beach is regularly voted one of the ‘finest beaches in the world’ by the global tourism press, but coastal charm is not entirely dictated by beaches. And each stretch of coast has its own subtle allure. Malindi, for instance, is famous for its aura of Italian chic, its stylish shops and restaurants and its vibrant nightlife. Watamu is adored for its sleepy rusticity, its magical mangrove creeks and its big game fishing. Mombasa is the place to go if you want bustle and bazaars, and arriving in Lamu is a little like entering the enchanted world of the Tales of One Thousand and One Nights. Finally, if all you want is beach, sky and sea, with perhaps the occasional harpoon fisherman emerging from the waves every now and then – head for Msambweni.