When I think of Kenya I picture the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, dusty tracks, and an abundance of wildlife wandering through some of the world’s largest nature reserves towards the camera-snapping tourists on their safaris. But as a girl from the English Cornish coast, I decided to put the long-awaited safari on hold and I headed to the East African country’s coast to see what it had to offer.
Far from the dusty desert terrain I had envisioned, Kenya’s coastline boasts white sand beaches which fringe the azure warm waters of the sparkling Indian Ocean. The northern region of Kenya’s coast is home to many luxurious beach resorts and five-star hotels but there are plenty of options for travellers on a budget who are looking for little piece of paradise in the form of private family-run guest houses and B&BS.
This small coastal town is home to an array of beachfront hotels, lodges and guesthouses scattered along the shores and within the lush forests. The historic town features some traditional Swahili architecture and is a popular destination for Kenyan travellers as well as foreign tourists.
Close to Malindi is the sleepy village of Watamu and its Marine National Park which provides perfect conditions for snorkelling and scuba diving. Vibrant coral gardens are located just 300 metres from the shores and the warm waters are teeming with over 600 species of fish, octopus, whale sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles.
Malindi is a great place to mingle with locals and tourists are encouraged to take part in community activities such as cultural or religious events or festivals. The area is renowned for its local wooden carvings and artefacts, and fishing and it’s not hard to find a local guide who is happy to show you beautiful areas off the tourist path such as dense mangrove forests and the lost town of Gedi.
Lamu is situated on an island in the Lamu archipelago and is one of Kenya’s oldest towns. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best way to explore its narrow alleyways and stone streets is via foot, bike or donkey. The tranquil surroundings differ from most bustling tourist destinations and a great way to explore the surrounding islands such as Manda Island and its historic ruins is on a Dhow sailing trip.
Lamu is one of the rare places where chic Hollywood movie stars will walk the same streets as dishevelled backpackers. The market is a great place to pick up a bargain and the medieval stone town is famous for its woodcarvings which range from doors, beds and huge chests, to small jewellery boxes and candle holders. If you want to take home an authentic souvenir, buy a khanga, a pattered piece of fabric which is traditionally decorated with a Swahili proverb, and can be used as a sarong or beach towel.
The historic Swahili town of Kilifi is located on the north side of Kilifi Creek, just one hour away from Mombasa. The town is famously known for its Mnarani Ruins, and ancient mosques and tombs which date back to the 14th century.
Kilifi boasts several quiet unspoilt white sand beaches including Bofa Beach and you can explore the bays and inlets of Kilifi Creek on small fishing boats or dhows. Like most of Kenya’s beaches, there are plenty of opportunities for diving and snorkelling activities around the lakes and bay of Kilifi and the warm crystal clear waters offer the perfect respite from a day of haggling at the market.
The town’s markets sell locally sourced produce including tropical fruits, seafood, and meat, and can be a great way to experience the town’s culture and traditions while tasting some of the most delicious fresh food. If you enjoy your seafood, you are in the right place so make sure you try the local oysters from Kilifi Creek.
So, how did the white sand beaches of Kenya compare with the golden sand beaches of Cornwall? I still can’t decide so I think another trip to East Africa might be in order, and this time I think I’ll throw in a couple of Kenyan safaris….
Author Bio: Anna Ridley is a freelance travel writer who has a passion for travel, writing and fizzy wine. After living in the French Alps for two years, she now lives back by the beach in Cornwall where she is attempting to work her way through her “bucket list”.
All text and pics are from the author.