What to do in Diani & Ukunda- Kwale county

Kwale County is home to Diani beach which is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Africa. Combined with the gorgeous multi million beach resorts and a colorful mixture of landscapes and different cultures, it is a truly unique Paradise on Earth. Wild animals and fantastic nature with plants of all kinds can be found in Kwale County in the very famous mwalughanje Elephant Sanctuary, Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park and Shimba Hills National park .The climate in Kwale County especially in Diani is perfect for holiday makers making it an ideal Vacation or retirement destination. There are several entertainment sites like Discos for the youngsters as well as beautiful quiet beach Resorts where you can relax. For older people who might be having trouble with their bones, the sun and the pristine waters of the Indian Ocean will do for them.

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                                        Getting to Diani 

  • By taxi or matatu-The cheapest way to get to Diani Beach is by local public transport locally refereed to as ‘matatus’. From Mombasa town to Likoni Ferry channel is about Ksh 20. From the Likoni Ferry, take another matatu to Ukunda approximately 30 kms for about Ksh 50-70. From Ukunda to Diani Beach, take another matatu or a tuk tuk  about 5 kilometers at the cost of about Ksh 30.For those going to the far end of Neptune beach you pay ksh 50. Coming from Tanzania, you can get a bus going to Mombasa and ask the driver to be dropped in Ukunda. Taxis from Mombasa city center will be around ksh 3 000 and from the airport around 4 000.
  • By Air – international travelers use the airport in Mombasa .There is also an air strip in ukunda

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                                Getting around

Matatus, motor cycles and tuk tuks run up and down Diani Beach Road from a point called “kona ya beach” and usually charge ksh 30 and ksh 50 for those going to the extreme end near souther palms  resort or Neptune Beach Resort

                                 Things to do

  • Diani Beach Art Gallery – This is located along  Diani Beach shopping Centre and is open from Monday to Saturday .The Art Gallery is home to contemporary African art .The diverse selection of painted works, sculptures and photography hails from well-known artists as well as up-and-coming creatives from Kenya and Africa.
  • Golfing -The Leisure Lodge Golf Club offers a unique playing experience in peaceful Diani Beach. Players of all skill levels will find the 18-hole course an appealing challenge. The Leisure Lodge Golf Club is home to the annual Diani Masters.

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  • Water sports – Diani beach is one of the world’s great beaches for kite surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, Wind surfing and deep-sea fishing. There are several water sporting Companies operating in Diani including Raydon water sports and Extreme water sports
  • Chandarana Supermarket– This a western-style supermarket with all products for daily use. There is also an  ATM at  Fidelity Bank.
  • Columbus conservation -A re-adaptation center and orphanage for Angolan Columbus in Kwale County. If you want to see one of the six primates species in South Coast Kenya visit the Columbus trust for an informative walk to spot one of the many wild primates. There also opportunities for volunteering.

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  •  Uzuri Spa- The Uzuri Spa and Fitness is situated in the grounds of the Leopard Beach Resort ‘Uzuri’ – meaning goodness in Swahili – is a sanctuary for those seeking tranquility and rejuvenation of mind, body and soul. The spa offers a luxurious combination of original African products and European style treatments.The extensive menu of treatments for men and women ranges from TheraNaka massage therapies to Theravine anti-ageing facials, hydrotherapy, body wraps and the usual waxing, manicures and pedicures. Uzuri comprises five treatment rooms including two double rooms for couples.All treatment rooms have an outside courtyard for AL-fresco massages, each with showers that complement the hydro baths. Other facilities include Afya Gym – a fully equipped health and fitness gym, a large outdoor Jacuzzi, a sauna and steam bath. A health bar is situated next to the pool offering a variety of fresh juices, smoothies and a selection of healthy salads and light meals.The latest addition is a dedicated yoga and aerobics pavilion. Soothing sounds, intoxicating aromas, tranquil ambiance , gracious staff, peace, serenity and pampered indulgence typifies the Uzuri experience.

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                                                     Bars 

  • Bidi badu beach restaurant-located at the beach side and very common joint for tourists
  • Forty Thieves Beach Bar.- Best bar in town right at the beach side. Very common place with movie nights, live bands and a pub quiz once a week.
  • Manyatta Green Club.-Pub at the Beach Road with cheap beer mostly visited by Kenyans.
  • Shakatak–  Only real club, which is not attached to a hotel.

Attractions, Parks and Heritage sites in Kwale County

                                Tiwi beach

The south coastline is a riveting beauty of pristine waters .The cosmic blue expanse laps the sun-bleached beaches where thousands visit every years to loll under rustling palms. Rain forests with profuse wildlife roam the tranquil expanse. About 17 Km south of Likoni Ferry is Tiwi Beach, an endless stretch of sapphire water, a popular spot for sunbathing and snorkeling .Popular among budget travelers having a bit of a splurge, Tiwi rates as genuine tropical paradise material and attracts lots of local and international travelers. Tiwi is a cottage territory, with major hotels being Amani Tiwi Resort and Hill Park Hotel .If you are a party animal, Tiwi might not be a perfect destination for you because the place is isolated from Mombasa and Diani and the lacks restaurants and bars outside the cottages and guesthouses.

AMANI TIWI BEACH RSORT

                                                 Diani Beach 

Further south is Diani Beach, a beguiling beach under flowing blue sky ,apart from the dance of waves and the southern breeze . Visitors can be seen windsurfing, enjoying a boat safari, sailing, snorkeling, diving, water-skiing and parasailing. With swaying palms and white sand caressed by glittering turquoise water, Diani Beach has many of the ingredients of the perfect tropical holiday destination that makes it the best Beach in Africa. Diani beach has a large and still-growing assortment of hotels and restaurants, some of them extremely luxurious by local and often international standards.Far south of Diani , are Funzi and Chale Islands .Chale Island is home to the famous Italian owned  Sands at Chale Resort

                           Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary 

Mwaluganje sanctuary is a 36 square kilometer sanctuary  located next to shimba hills reserve.It  is located 45 Kilometers Southwest of Mombasa, between Shimba hills National reserve and Mwaluganje forest. Mwaluganje sanctuary  is globally recognized as one of the top 25 biodiversity hot spots in the world due to its unique ecosystem.  It has waterways shaded with indigenous trees that wind through undulating plains, cliffs and rocky outcrops.The beauty of Mwaluganje is almost staggering, the lush green blooms fiercely, and the breeze from the nearby Chasimba river and the Indian Ocean flows lucidly in the forest .

Kutazama View

The sun benediction on the rolling hills,cliffs ,steep ridges and winding water shades further accentuates the beauty of Mwaluganje. Deep into the forest are two marvels, the “God’s Bridge,” “Time Rock” and the traditional shrine where congregants from the local community practice ancestral traditions. The 23,736-hectare forests of Mkongani north and west to Mwaluganje, boasts the last of the world’s coastal rain forests where ancient Cycad plant species continue to thrive. Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary was established in 1993 to preserve the serene ecosystem mainly the rare and endangered African elephants, riparian vegetation, moist deciduous forest and river Chasimba that drools to the Indian Ocean. The sanctuary is the result of a successful local wildlife management strategy that was developed collaboratively by the local Digo and Duruma communities.

mwalughanje sanctuary

Most-popular activity at the sanctuary is viewing the bull elephants that enjoy the many benefits of living in a protected area.  Vast grasslands give way to the spectacular Taita Hills that extend into Tsavo National Park to the west.

Accommodation is available at Travelers Mwaluganje Camp  or kutazama lodge set in the heart of the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, in the Mwaluganje Hills which is a 3 hours drive across the Likoni ferry down the main south coast road.

                       Shimba hills National Reserve 

Shimba Hills National Reserve is located around  33 KM South of Mombasa  .This hilly plateau offers splendid views of the hilly and forested country side and far as the Indian ocean and Chale island to the East and the Tsavo plains and Taita hills to the west. From Mombasa, take the ferry at likoni  and  take the Tiwi to Diani route.The main gate is located around  1 km from the (C106)  road and   3 km from kwale. The fee for residents adults is  shs 100, child shs 50 and car shs 150. For non-residents adults are charged 15 USD, Child-2 USD and Car-150 kshs

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This National Reserve is surrounded by a forested area of approximately 24000 hectares with the rambling waterfalls, savanna, lily-topped ponds, woodlands and luxuriant rain forest that provides a home for a rich miscellany of flora and fauna. Among these are sable antelope, Bushy-tailed mongoose, Blue duiker, Bush duiker and Red Duiker Genet, Civet cat, Greater Galago, Black-faced Vervet Monkey and Sykes, Summon the red-necked-Spur-fowl, Croaking Cisticola and Zanzibar Red Bishop, Ostrich Eagle, African Hawk; Falcon, Cuckoo and Guinea-fowl Honey guide, Greater; Horn-bill, Crowned; Quail, Blue, Sun bird and Uluguru. An impressive 25 meters high waterfall of fresh spring water,  Sheldrick Falls on the Machenmwana River is the highlight of Shimba Hills National Reserve. The River plunges down in delightful powerful showers, splashing on its pool down the rocky cliff producing song and rainbow.

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                                          Shimoni Caves 

Shimoni caves  are located around 75 Kms South of Mombasa  near Wasini Island .For those coming from Dares-Es-Salaam, the coastal highway (A 14) connecting Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanga, Ukunda (Diani Beach) and Mombasa passes close by. From Mombasa , cross Likoni Ferry on foot to reach the Likoni Matatu station. There, just ask for the minibus or bus to Shimoni. It will only cost approx. kes  250, but traveling time is approx. 3 hours. From Diani Beach or Ukunda, catch the Shimoni bus at the Matatu stop near Ukunda Post Office (approx. kes  200 and 2 h traveling time) .

Shimoni village holds historical reminiscence .Before anti-slavery crusaders put a halt to human trafficking , Shimoni Caves, located in a sleepy seafront village , were used as a waiting pen for captured slaves from the hinterland before shipment to slave markets to  the Arabic islands of  Pemba,Yemen ,Arabia and  Zanzibar. At the caves, metallic studs stuck to the walls with chains dangling from them signify only part of the torture and terror the slaves were put through in the hands of raiders, traders and masters . Until the hundred years of humiliation, abuse and deprivation ended did the Digo start using the caves as shrines (kaya). A few metres from the site stands the Shimoni Slave Museum that is managed by the National Museums of Kenya.This historical site is managed by a community-based organisation and opens doors to tourists from 8 am to 6 pm every day at an affordable fee. For those who love a flashback of Kenyan coast  history from the seafront, this site is an amazing destination to include in your bucket list .

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                             Wasini Island 

Wasini Island lies off the southern Indian Ocean coast of Kenya next to Shimoni. It is approximately 5 km long and 1 km across. There are no cars or roads on Wasini Island. wasini island is located around 1.5 km from the small town of Shimoni .For those coming from either Tanzania or Mombasa , they should take the direction to Shimoni Caves .From Shimoni’s boat jetty , you will cross over to Wasini Island aboard a traditional Arabic Dhow  (10 min, kes 250 pp during day time).Highlights will include snorkeling in Kisite Marine Park to spot Sea Turtles and swim with  dolphins .For those planning a dhow excursion trip , the charges are around  ksh 7, 350 for  Kenya Residents . Non residents – US$ 135
Child (up to 11 years): Residents – Kshs. 3,850/,  Non residents – US$ 70.The island is next to the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park.

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Wasini Island is a unique  haven that is full of peace and tranquility. In the hot midday the ocean haze seems more enchanting than ever and as you draw near, the ferocious ocean hurls itself at the island . Dolphins regularly glide across these waters of wonder and sailors to the island can snorkel and deep dive along the sail. On the island, strands of trees thrive, mangroves and coconut palms sway serenely and apart from ocean whispers everything else is calm.Ancient Swahili ruins lie in the village ,every year visitors in their numbers visit to stroll along the scrub and dine on fresh sea food at a small restaurant in the island. For those who would like to spend a night at the island , several traditional cottages are spread out in a wild garden along Wasini’s coast line. You can try  Blue Monkey Beach Cottages owned by  a German family where you will enjoy  delicious Swahili seafood dishes served on a tree-top terrace with great views of the sea.

                        Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park -Home of the Dolphins 

Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park is located  in kwale county near Shimoni and south of wasini island, around 8 kms North of  Tanzanian  border and 90 km south of Mombasa . Kisite park covers 11 square kilometres while Mpunguti reserve covers 28 square Kilometres.

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It lies in the coral gardens south of Wasini Island and encompasses three small coral rag forest islands, each with considerable areas of fringing reef.The dazzling sun-life elbows through pearly -purple clouds and touches the cobalt sea creating a tantalizing panorama . Wanderers find the delight they seek in Liwe la Jahazi and Wasini Island spectacle. The two islands lie within Kisite Mpunguti ,adorned with the splendor of coral gardens. Kisite is one of the most rewarding snorkeling locations at the coast. Visitors can also enjoy bird watching, diving and of course, sunbathing. The park is a home to  diverse marine life consisting of the crab-plover roseate terns and the dolphins.Fathoms and fathoms deep into the immaculate blue swirls and whirls the Dolphins, sea turtles and whale whirls.The park can only be reached by boat via a Kenya Wildlife Service camp 200 meters south of the main Shimoni pier.Travelers can drive or fly in through Mombasa or take flights to Ukunda Airstrip before driving south to Shimoni.

dolphins of kisite

One can enjoy boat rides, drinks and food offered by locals at a fee while the KWS rangers collect park entry fees and provide security.  Adult’s residents are charged Sh250 and children ksh150 while non-residents are charged ksh 350 for adults while children are charged at ksh 200. For foreigners who are non-residents in Kenya, adults are charged at $20 (ksh2, 020) while children pay $15 (ksh1,515).

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