Seven unique things to do in coastal Kenya

Wednesday October 16 2019

Shimba Hills Lodge photo I Tasneem Hassanali

Shimba Hills Lodge photo I Tasneem Hassanali 

By Tasneem Hassanali

Kenya is known for its great Wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and soaking up the Indian Ocean blues and sun in Diani beaches.

World Travel Awards (WTA), the Oscars of travel industry for the 6th time in a row voted Diani as Africa’s leading beach destination. This was during the 2019 WTA edition held in Mauritius in June this year in which Kenya Tourism board (KTB) was also voted Africa’s leading tourist board for the 7th time.

But beyond this, East Africa’s most favoured travel destination is actually a diverse place with a variety of unique things to experience, both in the bush and coast.

While wildlife remains the main attraction, Kenya also offers awesome secluded, sleepy beaches, snorkeling in unique spots in the Indian ocean, trekking to nature’s wonders, interesting ways to get around, amazing nightlife and stories behind every piece of art and craft.

Ahead of East Africa’s leading travel trade show, Magical Kenya Travel Expo, that took place in Nairobi last week, hosted buyers and media had the opportunity to experience part of the untold Kenya on an authentic 5-day fam trips which featured almost 30 highlights of the country.

When you think of coast of Kenya, the real magnet is Diani, with no surprises. I mean why not? It’s white sand beaches and turquoise waters surrounded by nothing but tranquility makes it every travelers’ dream. But the coast of Kenya has so much more to offer than the dreamy beach-line.


Check out our list of 7 unique things to do in the coast of Kenya:

1. Rediscovering nature in Shimba

Shimba Hills National Reserve is one of largest coastal forest in East Africa with rich biodiversity. The 300km2 area is home to rare sable antelopes that are only found in this part of Kenya. A 30-minute drive from Shimba Hills National Reserve takes you to a charming forest lodge, Shimba Hills.

With a vast biodiversity and a rare chance to come so close to untouched African wilderness, the place gives visitors a chance to disconnect from everything and rediscover nature in all its magical wonder. Mesmerized by the only tree lodge within Kenya’s coastal rain forest, Shimba Hills Lodge is truly a secluded escape to get in touch with untold wilderness and nature.

2. Trekking in the middle of forest to breathtaking Sheldrick falls

The only waterfall in the coast, Sheldrick falls is a 2.5kms downhill walk through the Shimba forest, escorted by a Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) ranger.

The hour and a half fascinating walk, in some areas bare-footed, through uninhabited, rocky paths veiled by trees and wild makes for a wonderful experience down the waterfall. Our KWS ranger, Halfan Khamis who has been working as a ranger guide for the past 22 years says the waterfall has never dried up and attracts local and international tourists throughout the year.

3. Snorkeling in the pool of natural Africa map

Along the Tiwi Beach in south coast of Kenya, we finally made it to the famous Africa pool, a natural rock pool visible only during low tide. We went with one of the conservationists of the area who showed us the way to the pool. We took a long walk along the edge of the reef, passing a mine of sea urchins, and finally making it to the natural pool that looks exactly like the map of Africa.

With the snorkeling gear on, we checked out the amazing underwater life inside the pool where we spotted zebra fish, lion fish, sea urchins, corals and many other species of the sea life.

4. Meet Said to understand the world of turtles

Said is the turtle monitor and a conservationist at Tiwi beach and we met him at the Coconut Beach Lodge, where one his turtle conservation project is located. Said informed us about the turtle protection efforts here. One can tell from the way Said talks about turtles that he strives to educate everyone about conserving turtles and has a great respect for them. What he does is that he relocates the nests to safer distances from the sea (or from people) and monitors the progress of the nests. If it’s your lucky day, you can even watch the turtles hatch and then release them into the ocean.

5. Sundowner on Mwachema river

I might get a little poetic on this one. Ever imagined what it would feel like to cruise on dhow, through the romantic mangroves and watch the sunset with your favourite cocktail? Neighbouring the Tiwi beach is the Mwachema river, famous for its sundowners and sunset cruises.

Mwachema river has been renamed by the locals as the Kongo river because of the popular Kongo mosque that neighbours the river.

We boated through the mangroves, with nothing but simply the sounds of nature, watch a breathtaking romantic sunset and sipped our favourite drinks – it was definitely therapeutic.

6. Let your dress do the talking; shopping for popular khangas

If you are in Mombasa, you’ll notice that most of the local women wrap themselves around with a Khanga, a material that is said to do the talking. The bright fabric is bordered with Swahili proverbs that does the silent talking – giving out specific messages for particular people.

Example of some of the proverbs are: Nitazidi kumpenda mpate kusema sana - Keep on talking. The more you gossip, the more I will love him. Hodi hodi naikome mwaka ujao naolewa - Knock, knock, should stop, as I’m getting married next year. This is definitely a souvenir to take back home if you want to send out a specific message to someone.

7. Enjoy seafood dinner in a moving dhow

Whether you are alone, on a date or in a group – Tamarind Dhow, known for its cruise dinners and luncheons is something one must experience when in Mombasa.

We were booked for a dinner cruise that commenced at around 6.30pm, and we were welcomed with their popular ‘dawa’ drink – available as a cocktail or a mocktail as the dhow sails towards Fort Jesus. We voyaged on the Indian Ocean under the blanket of stars while watching Mombasa’s skyline.

Dinner is prepared on the deck in front of the guests that turns into a live cooking show. The diners also enjoy music by the live DJ on board. The food ranges from seafood/vegetable starters, freshly made soup, main seafood platter – from lobster to prawns and ends with a scrumptious dessert. The dhow glides back at the tamarind jetty by 10.30pm.