kilifi County-Hospitality, Attractions, Heritage sites and Travel Tips


Kilifi County lies between Tana River and Mombasa counties.The County stretches from Mtwapa town all the way to Mamb’rui town in the out skirts of Malindi town.Located along the Kenyan coast, Kilifi County is home to beautiful white sand beaches, diverse people and good climate. The county hosts a number of the most beautiful hotels and resorts known to the world. Majority of people living in Kilifi County are either Muslims or Christians, although the County has several smaller religious communities. Kiswahili and mijikenda languages are widely spoken within the county but mijikenda being the dominating Culture.

                     MEANS OF GETTING TO KILIFI COUNTY

  • By air– There are several ways of getting into Kilifi County depending on your budget and travel interests. One can get to kilifi via Moi international air port in Mombasa or via malindi air port .There are also airstrips in Kijipwa around Vipingo ridges, Vipingo air strip and Mnarani air field
  • By Bus-Several bus companies like Modern coast, Simba coach,Mash and Tahameed  play the Nairobi –Mombasa-Malindi route. In kilifi county, the major bus stop over and offices are located in Mtwapa, Kilfi town and in Malindi.

modern c

                                     GETTING AROUND KILIFI COUNTY

While in kilifi County moving around is easy either by taxis, tuk tuks , matatus and boats. There are several private and public boats that can be hired especially at kilifi Boat yard, around moorings Restaurant in Mtwapa and in kuruwitu and Takaungu .For those using their own cars, the system of driving still remains Keeping left unlike the west where you always drive on your right hand side.

                                      TRAVEL TIPS AND FACTS 

  • Temperatures- kilifi County is generally hot with temperatures ranging between 30 and 32 degrees when extremely high and up to 20 when low.
  • Healthy services– Kilifi County is a Malaria zone. It is wise therefore for one to bring with him good anti malarial drugs. However, our hotels are well fitted with treated mosquito nets which you can always unveil during your time of sleep to keep you away from mosquitoes. There are several government and private hospitals well stocked with medicines. Medical rescue services which include AAR are also available on call.
  • Banking– There is several local and international Banking services available. There are Different bank branches in Mtwapa, Kilifi and Malindi . For locals M-pesa and Airtel money services are widely available
  •  Security – Security is guaranteed where by regular surveillance from both the Kenya police and community policing has been enhanced. Coast sea survival is a community based rescue organization team which works under the county government to ensure life is protected when tourists and locals go out to swim on our beaches.
  • Shopping- There several  branches of Kenya’s well know supermarkets like Tusky’s , Nakumatt  and  other small stalls located in Mtwapa, Kilifi and where you can go and get all that you need under one roof.
tuskys-supermarket
                              Tusky’s supermarket-Kilifi

                ATTRACTIONS AND HERITAGE SITES

                          River Rare Eco Center 

River Rare Eco Center is situated about 50 kilometers North of Kilifi town. This seasonal river has created a paradise for animals and birds to come for grazing and drink some water from the scattered water holes found along the river bed.The animals can be seen rambling on the rocky hill, and a host of birds rest on the edges of the shallow river.A trek in the park allows you to calmly plunge into a rich ecosystem and discover a vast variety of plants and wildlife .Deep into the park reveals phenomenal caves which are used by locals as shrines to their ancestral gods. Beautiful sceneries of rocky hills paving way for rock trekkers can be found. However walking safaris could also be possible. Caves which form part of the attraction are some of the features found here. Locals use them as shrines where they usually come to make their prayers to their gods as well give some offering.

river rare ecolodge -kilifi

        Watamu Beach and Watamu Marine National Park  

Watamu is a small fishing  village on the Kenya coast located about 105 kilometers North of Mombasa and 15 kilometers south of Malindi. Watamu is home to several communities with the dominant communities being the Giriama people of Mijikenda descent .  The first major settlement in the area was a remote Swahili outpost for trading dhows at Gedi  the ruins of which can still be visited today and are a National Museum site.

This  village is a dream travel destination  for tourists and is known  for its unique, relaxed and laid back way of life. Watamu has several  to offer to travelers  in terms of attractions.The village lies between pristine  white beaches , the protected Watamu Marine National Park and  lush tropical rain forest of Arabuko Sokoke National park .Watamu  is surrounded by small bays, coves and lagoons within the curve of  Mida-creek

watamu-marine
                                         watamu marine national park

Watamu   has  extensive views of inter-tidal rocks, clean beds of sea grass, fringing reefs and coral gardens to behold .Wtamu is rated the third best beaches in Africa, for it crystal clear water and silver sand beaches. The  bach is a water sporting haven with visitors being treated with activities such as  snorkeling , diving , wind surfing , water skiing and the currently introduced Beach Rugby by the County Government of kilifi . Watamu Marine National Park  is  turtle breeding area with green and hawks bill turtles as the main species. A sail on glass bottomed boats provides a captivating view to the kaleidoscopic world of turtles, and multi-colored fishes ,crabs and dolphins swirling in the pristine waters .Together with local community groups, the tourist sector and environmental groups, Kenya Wildlife Service protects the park through Watamu Marine Association

watamu-beach-1
                          Watamu Dhow Safaris

                    Arabuko Sokoke Forest 

The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is located in kilifi County , 110 km North of north of Mombasa and 18 km from Malindi  and is protected as a national Forest Reserve. Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is a 420 km2 coastal forest managed by Kenya Forest Service (KFS). It is the largest and most intact coastal forest in East Africa, with 20% of Kenya’s bird species, 30% butterfly species and at least 24 rare and endemic bird, mammal and butterfly species.The Arabuko-Sokoke National Park is only a small portion of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve, a few square kilometres in size and is located on the north-western edge of the forest. The forest is a  dense wilds of luxuriant trees and droves of animals  characterized by spills of sunlight and exotic sounds.The thick foliage forest  is home  to vast number of rare species ; butterflies , birds ,amphibians and plants. The forest ecology holds more than 260 bird species of birds , including several threatened and endangered species such as the Clarke’s weaver spotted ground thrush ,The green haze is the home to the rare golden-rumped elephant shrew, Ader’s duiker and bushy-tailed mongoose .

Regular buses and flights are available from Nairobi to Mombasa or Malindi. One can also use public service vehicles or taxis from Mombasa, Malindi or Watamu. Kenya Forest Service (KFS) charges an entry fee at the point of entry to promote forest conservation.

The forest can be accessed by driving with the forest  driving tracks , walking trails or even  saloon cars but for best access to all tracks, a 4 WD is recommended. Trained guides are available to help one explore the forest. Entry tickets can be purchased at the point of entry between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. The best times to visit are early morning or late afternoon as most wildlife will hide from the midday heat. The best time to watch birds is from dawn to around 9:00 am.

arabuko sokoke toms

                    Kijipwa Graves and Mosque  

Situated 4 kilometers from the Mombasa/Malindi highways lays this most recent discoveries of Kilifi county. Some archaeological tests are still being under taken to reveal when the place was inhabited by the Arabs. People believe that the place could once have been a Muslim or Arab village due to the presence of the rusty collapsed walls of the mosque including its kibla and human remains.

collapsed_kibla_at_kijipwa_mosque
                                Kibla at Kijipwa mosque

                            Malindi Museum 

Situated in the heart of town, is this building which has all it takes in terms of culture and tradition of the coastal people especially the Mijikenda. Some old artifacts used by the early Arabs who once settled in Malindi can are also found. Some of the traditional items include musical instruments, utensils, tools, games, attire etc.

traditional_items_at_malindi_museum
                                Malindi Museum

                          Takaungu Slave Market 

50 kilometers from Mombasa shortly before you arrive at Kilifi creek, turn right into one of coasts fishing town , Takaungu. Just 7 kilometers away from the Malindi/Mombasa highway stands an abandoned structure which dates back the 14th, century that once used to be the sultan’s palace. The house which looks rusty with almost collapsing walls includes two rooms on the ground floor, a veranda with an inbuilt swimming pool plus three other rooms on the first floor.

00007_takaungu_slave_market
                                Takaungu slave market

                         Mida  Creek 
Mida-Creek is  located  6 Kms from Gedi town.The creek is a broad water tidal inlet stretching inland from the sea in Arabuko Sokoke forest and flanked by lush green mangroves and lined with  palms.This 32km2 creek has wide, healthy beds of sea grass and coral, home to many species of fish and feeding sea turtles, while in the mangroves smaller streams and inlets provide a refuge for crabs and bird life. The creeks’ 260 M board offers a memorable sky walk over birds’ paradise .The central broad water is also ideal for water skiing, water boarding and kayaking. Birds of their feathery kind fly over luxuriant mangroves in lovely trills .The greater flamingos, Terek and sand plovers are the beautiful jewels hovering in this hub. From their ornament-ally weaved nests they grace Mida Creek with adorable chattering and musical notes. The creek is  best explored by boat on a cruise through the creek at sunset.As the day paves way to the night ,and all sound dissipates into the cosmos. As flames of fire kindles in the fire place, as ocean breeze blows, a wanderer lies motionless , enthralled by sailing stars in the lucid night sky. Mida-creek is a wonderful destination for sun downers who like like enjoying drinks and crab samosas.

minda creek

       Tourist enjoying swimming along Mida-creek

 

                            Vasco Da Gama Pillar

The Vasco da Gama’s Pillar is the most famous onument in Malindi, that’s situated on the seafront road near the jetty.The Pillar is located 120 kms from Mombasa city.It marks the last stop in Africa before Vasco da Gama, the great Portuguese explorer, sailed across the Indian Ocean to India in 1498.His endeavor to find the sea route to India landed him in Kenya.The pillar is one of the oldest remaining monument in Africa.This bell shaped architecture stands majestically on a cliff and is one of the oldest European monuments built at the East African coast  amidst Muslim resistance..

vasco dagama pillar

The pillar is visited by both local and international tourist.  Managed by the National Museums of Kenya, the pillar is today visited as a monument. The pillar was conveniently positioned as a sea route to merchants to and from the East Coast of Africa.This is not the only pillar that Vasco da Gama had built in the Kenya Coast.  Apparently he had put up another pillar at the Sultan’s palace in Malindi.  At the time Vasco da Gama were having a dispute with the Sultan of Mombasa.  However the pillar was demolished by the predominately Islamic community located within the towns that were resistant of Christians. Incidentally the pillar had a cross at the top and was seen to be endorsing Christianity.  Following the demolition of the first pillar, Vasco da Gama had to explain to the sultan on the importance of the pillar and finally the pillar was built at its present location in Malindi.

From the cliff is enthralling vista of the rise and fall of sea waves. Beneath the cliff , you can catch a glimpse of the angelfish, butterfly fish and emperor fishes ,the groupers, sweet lips, parrot fish, lobsters and dolphins from the deep-sea. The sharks, snappers, surgeon fish, trigger fish and wrasses have been spotted at this spot

                                  Mnarani Ruins and Snake Park 

The Mnarani ruins are located around 60 km North of Mombasa  directly opposite Old ferry ; 200 meters from the Mombasa-Malindi highway.The ruins are at the top of 107 steps you must climb to get a spectacular view. The ruins are  the remains of two mosques  Dating from the 15th century, the mosques are located on a bluff overlooking Kilifi Creek from the southern side.

The history of these ruins dates back to the 15th century when Omani Arabs came to the East African Coast for trade. Their businesses flourished and they built their residence at Mnarani. Mnarani Ruins are under the National Museums of Kenya. Mnarani has two mosques and tombs — an indication of early life. The foundations of the great and smaller mosque, which are located in the eastern tower, are still intact. The mosques have also served modern generations. The mosque comprises six sections: a well where water was fetched and stored in a tank to be used before prayers, a baraza where sandals were placed before entering the mosque, a worship area for women and men, an imams’ changing room and a pulpit, which is known as “kibla” by Muslims.The fall of Mnarani in the hands of the Galla happened in the early 17th century as confirmed by archaeological evidence .In March 1929 , Mnarani ruins was gazette in Gazette Notice No.170 as “Ruins of Mnarani” and afterwards confirmed as Monuments in Gazette Notice No.457. Mnarani Ruins has a clean compound and is a perfect spot for picnics and for nature lovers to connect with the past. Clear pathways entice you to take a walk through history as you make a trip around the ruins.A lover of natural beauty easily catches a view of the Mnarani Creek waters dotted with fishermen’s dhows, tourist boats and its beautiful green mangrove forest perched on the sandy beaches

Mnarani bridge as viewed from mnarani ruins

    snake park Cobra Village

Just next to the Mnarani museum lays an attractive park where one can see different reptiles including the most poisonous vipers to the very friendly ones. Some of the reptiles include, green mamba, black mamba, puff adder, stripped bellied snake and the worst spitting cobra.

mnarani ruins

     Portuguese Chapel 

portugease chapel

Portuguese Chapel-Malindi

     Jumba La Mtwana 

Jumba la Mtwana is a former slave port located in Kilifi county ,lying on the Mtwapa Creek 15 kms  north of Mombasa .The site lies  4 kilometers from the Mombasa-Malindi road and extends along the shore for a distance of about 300 meters and 250 meters inland. Its geographical location on Map is at Grid Reference 855641 of Map sheet 198/4, Kenya Survey Map. Mostly dating from the 15th  century, its features include the Mosque by the Sea.

The ruins tell a tale of stunning architecture of the Swahili homes and mosques with its ornate and arched doorways.The house was inhabited sometime between 1350 to 1450.Within this area four mosques, a tomb and four houses have survived in recognizable condition. These houses include the House of the Cylinder, The House of the Kitchen, The House of the Many Pools, which had three phases, and the Great Mosque.

Clearance and excavation of the ruins were first carried out in 1972 by James Kirkman with a view of dating the buildings, its period of occupation and consolidating buildings which were in danger of collapse. Ten years later in 1982, Jumba la Mtwana was gazetted as a National Monument. Thus Jumba is legally protected under Antiquities and Monuments Act Chapter 215 of the Laws of Kenya.

The full name Jumba la Mtwana means in Swahili “the large house of the slave”. There are no written historical records of the town but ceramic evidence showed that the town had been built in the fourteenth century but abandoned early in the fifteenth century. The dating is based on the presence of a few shreds of early blue and white porcelain with lung-chuan celadon, and the absence of any later Chinese wares.

It is most likely the site’s strategic position was selected because of the presence of fresh water, exposure to the North East and South East breezes which would keep the people cool and its safe location from external attacks by sea since it had no harbor, thus larger vessels had to anchor along way offshore, or move probably in Mtwapa creek. One can only therefore guess reasons for its eventual desertion, namely trade interruption, hostile invasion or a failure in water supply. Though there is need to pursue further research on this.

jumba la mtwana

Jumba La Mtwana                           

    Hell’s kitchen 

Marafa Depression commonly referred to as Hell’s Kitchen  is a series of rather impressive rock formations, with layer upon layer of colored rocks that will take your breathe away.Hell’s kitchen is located about 30 Kms away from Malindi. Hell’s kitchen is an  ascents and descents of natural landscape. The site is a formation of craggy gullies and valleys smolders with sun producing hellish heat wave .Marafa depression is a feral, uncultivated, remote, primeval landscape which to the believers in abyss it is a relentless reminder.The local Giriama residents know it as Nyari which is Kigiriama for Natural hallowed depression .

hels kitchen

                                  Rabai Museum 

Rabai is well known in the annals of history as the place where Christianity and modern learning in Kenya started well over 150 years ago.  In 1994 the Krapf Memorial Museum was founded to give formal and a perpetual reminder to monumental events during the advent of early missionaries. Stories about the first missionaries were passed on by word of mouth and are still told today.

rabai museum

Built in 1846 as the first Church edifice in Kenya, Rabai is situated about 25 km north-west of Mombasa, off the Nairobi-Mombasa highway on Mazeras-Kaloleni road, about half an hour drive from Mombasa.The Rabai museum was opened as a site museum in June 1998 in the building that was originally the church built by the CMS missionaries, Dr Ludwig Kraff and Johann Rebmann, between 1846 and 1848 at Rabai mission station.In 1846 Krapf together with Johannes Rebmann set up a mission at Rabai. Dr. Krapf learnt the local languages and translated the bible into Swahili.

Building Rabai for the freed slaves is probably the greatest consolation for the broken . At Rabai they were given unearthly hope. A visit to the museum cannot be complete without a walk in the sacred Kaya forest and a stop at the first Church built on Kenyan soil ,a stone throw away from the museum.

                    Watamu Monument 
Watamu monument dates back the 13th Century when Malindi and Gedi were also occupied . This neglected historical site  Overlooks  the beach front of Temple point hotel in Watamu and is a  common site to those  who have once been residents at the hotel.

watamu monument

      watamu monument

Watamu monument could have been one of the Arab towns to be occupied along the eastern coast of east Africa before it was abandoned. The site has alot of hidden history behind it pending archaeological excavation to reveal the truth.The site could possibly have been one of the Arab towns abandoned after being vanquished by enemies.

                                         Gedi  Ruins 

Gedi ruins are a historical and archaeological site in Kilifi County Kenya within the  Arabuko Sokoke Forest. The  Ruin  is the remains of the 13th century city with  impressive collection of mosques, houses and palaces that made up the city in its prime. The Gedi ruins are located 16 kilometers south of Malindi , 105 kilometers north of Mombasa , and 6.4 kilometers from the Beach.  Its location along the coast and association with similar sites along the Swahili Coast had made it an important trade center. Gedi’s architecture and an abundance of imported material culture including pottery, beads, and coins provide evidence of the cities rising prosperity over the course of its occupation from as early as the eleventh century to the sites abandonment in the early-seventeenth century.

town-door-of-gedi
                                  Town door -Gedi Ruins

                            Kipepeo Butterfly Farm  

Close to Gedi  Ruins lies the Kipepeo Butterfly Center, which is Kenya’s largest butterfly farm with numerous species of both common and rare butterflies.The kipepeo Butterfly Farm , in Gede, on the coast of Kenya, is a community-based project that links conservation and development. It helps local farmers to earn a living from the forest by rearing butterfly and moth pupae for export to live exhibits and butterfly houses in Europe and America.

Gedi kipepeo farm
                             kipepeo farm -Gedi
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