The coast

This coastal belt possesses a unique climate, a different type of people and a separate cultural history from the rest of the country. Along with the coast of Tanzania, the Swahili culture and Kiswahili language has its origins on the coast.

Built on a 15-sq-km island, and linked to the mainland by causeways and a rickety old ferry, Mombasa is Kenya's second biggest city and is East Africa's main port. It has a history dating back several hundreds of years, when the Persians, Arabs, Indians and Chinese visited the East African coast to trade in slaves, skins, ivory and spices.

Today, there's a long line of top-class beachside hotels to the south of the Mombasa's Old Town centred around Diani Beach, and to the north all the way up to Malindi. More than half of the country's international hotels are based along the coast served by direct flights from Europe. Most have been constructed from thatch and local materials and are well spaced out, so despite the coast's popularity as a beach holiday destination, it never gets overly crowded even during the high seasons. The beaches are of fine white sand and there are plenty of activities on offer including diving, snorkelling, windsurfing and jet skiing. There are marine national parks aplenty off the coast protecting the important marine life of the Indian Ocean, which can be experienced by
dhow
, glass-bottomed boat, or in a closer encounter, through a mask. Here the colourful coral reefs teem with fish, dolphins and turtles, and the aqua blue Indian Ocean provides near perfect visibility. Away from the beach there are a number of other attractions in the dense coastal forests and undulating hills, and a safari to one of the parks can easily be combined with down time on the beach.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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