When the time comes to swap beach for bush, Kenya’s South Coast is the perfect destination.
The flawless long, palm-fringed beach, fine white sands and azure waters of vibrant Diani guarantee it a regular place on lists of the world’s best beaches. This is Kenya’s biggest coastal resort outside of Mombasa, with many prime hotels and lodges, restaurants and night spots, but it still maintains a laid-back friendliness.
The coastal forest that starts just off the beach is home to many birds, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, Sykes monkeys and the rare and beautiful black-and-white colobus monkeys. High above the Diani beach road, ropewalks link the trees on either side to give the monkeys safe passage across.
Tropical paradise doesn’t end here. The coconut palms and casuarinas nod and sway in the coastal breeze on glittering beaches all along the South Coast, interrupted only by the occasional creek, mangrove swamp or coral outcrop. Just across the Mwachema River to the north of Diani lies intimate Tiwi Beach with its sparkling main beach, hidden coves and rock pools. Galu Kinondo on the southerly sweep of the beach is Diani’s quieter, more exclusive twin. South of Diani lies the fishing village of Mswambweni with its secluded beaches and rocky coral outcrops, the southern end of the world’s longest continuous fringing reef, which stretches north to Malindi. Shimoni is the starting point for dhow trips across the Kisite-Mpunguti National Marine Park to Wasini Island.
There is something for everyone on the South Coast. The coral reefs attract swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers. The more horizontally inclined laze in the warm waters of the sea or hotel pools, while foodies can enjoy a romantic seafood dinner in a restaurant located in a coral cave, cool down with Italian ice creams or savour delicately spiced Swahili cuisine. Kite surfing and skydiving hit the sweet spot for adrenaline junkies. History buffs delve into the rich Swahili Arab history of the coastal region, and culture vultures can visit one of the sacred forests of the Digo people, the Kaya Kinondo. For those aching for a little more game spotting, the Shimba Hills National Park lies only 20 minutes inland. Safaris take to the water in the Kisite-Mpunguti National Marine Park, with its coral gardens, whale sharks, dolphins, turtles and gorgeously colourful reef fish. Sipping sundowners barefoot at a beach bar are a fittingly chilled way to end the coastal day.