Mombasa National Park and Reserve

Mombasa Marine Reserve was formed to protect the precious coral heads and their resident marine life from damage by over-fishing and trophy collecting (relics, shells, coral etc). Coral species include: branching (Acropolra), encrusting (Turbinaria) and massive (Porites). As the original trading and slaving port of Kenya, the national park opened with the support of local hoteliers to prevent further stripping of natural treasures from the reef in order to preserve its ecological and tourist attraction.

* Beaches with marine park access: Nyali, Bamburi and Shanzu*

  • National Park area 10 sq. kms.
  • Marine Reserve area 200 sq. kms.
  • Distance from Nairobi 487 kms.
  • Opened December 1986
  • Delicate coral reefs
  • Variety of Exotic Fish
  • Watersports

Shimba Hills National Reserve

For a contrasting excursion from the Coast, Shimba Hills National Reserve is an easy drive and offers beautiful, lush scenery. It has a unique and botanically rich coastal rainforest. Two of Kenya’s most beautiful orchids can be found here. Another rare species, unique to the Reserve, is the Sable Antelope with its handsome near-black coat. Buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards and several primates are found here. The best places to see wildlife are on the flat grasslands near the spectacular Sheldrick’s Falls and on the Lango Plains near Giriama Point with a tremendous view over rolling park land to the escarpment, from where you can look out to the Indian Ocean. There are number of short walking trails at Elephant Lookout and Pengo Fill and the falls.

  • Area 321 sq. km.
  • Distance from Mombasa 56 km.
  • Opened September 1968
  • Easy excursion from coast
  • Rich coastal rainforest
  • Gameviewing: buffalo,
    lion, elephant, giraffe, leopard
  • Unique sable antelope
  • Sheldrick’s Falls

Kisite Marine National Park

At the Southern most point of Kenya’s 500-km. coastline lie some of East Africa’s most colourful coral gardens. Located 4-8 km. out of the sea from Shimoni and next to Wasini Island, noted for its coral gardens, the Kisite Marine National Park is beautiful and intact.

The entire Marine Park is in shallow water. It can be reached easily by motor boat or traditional dhow, from Shimoni. The Kisite coral reefs are estimated to be 3-4 km long running along the inner and outer edges of the reefs from Mpunguti Islands to the tiny coral island of Kisite itself. The reefs at Kisite and Mpunguti Marine National Park are scientifically important habitats, one of the most complex eco-systems in the world.

Fourty-five varieties of coral have so far been identified. They include staghorn, brain, mushroom and pencil species of live coral which are easy to goggle over but deep enough to avoid damage from human contact. The sheer numbers of fish (more than 250 species recorded) feeding around the coral is an amazing sight. Kisite is a feast of colour and movement with eye-catching coral fish including butterfly, parrot, rockcod, angel fish and rays.

Dolphins are common, as are big shoals of bonito and frigate mackerel. Nearby Shimoni is the home of families of fresh water porpoises which cruise in and out of the Kisite Marine Park and are frequently seen in the channel between the mainland and Shimoni. “Shimo” means hole or cave in Kiswahili. Historically, these caves were used by smugglers and slavers. Some caves have freshwater springs flowing into the sea reputed to come from Kilimanjaro, 100 miles inland.

Diani/Chale Marine Reserve, found further up the coastline just South of Mombasa, was opened in July 1995. This marine reserve was created to protect its fragile coral reef, with excellent coral stocks and fish species. The reserve also allows a range of marine activities, including traditional dhow fishing trips, snorkeling, sailing and other non-motorised watersports, as well as viewing excursions in glass-bottom boats.

A private initiative supported by KWS is taking place at Bamburi, north of Mombasa, to preserve the turtle. Turtle nests are rescued and eggs protected. Once enough small turtles have hatched, local people, tourists and visiting scientists take part in the ceremony of simultaneously releasing the hatchlings into the open sea.

Traditionally, turtles have been valuable to the local people for nutritional, economic and cultural purposes. However, international demand for “turtle trophies”; eggs, young turtles, shells, etc., has contributed to poaching and disruption of nesting sites. KWS rewards anyone who reports a nest site, encouraging them to take responsibility for its safety.

Private projects and the KWS Protection Scheme are showing results in turtle population stabilisation. Marine censi show that more than 800 turtles are distributed along the Kenyan coastline favouring the seagrass and coral reef areas. Species include: Green, Hawksbill, loggerhead and giant leatherback.

  • Area 28 sq. km.
  • Distance Diani-Mombasa 40 km.
  • Opened June 1978
  • Exotic Coral Gardens
  • Shallow water reefs
  • Mpunguti, Wasini & Kisite islands
  • 250 species of marine life
  • Dhow trips, goggling, caving

Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve

The Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve near the Malindi and Watamu reserves and parks is the largest surviving coastal tropical forest in East Africa. The forest provides an important habitat for its unique and endangered birds, insects and animals. Game to view include elephant Shrew as well as 15 types of owl, including the Sokoke scops owl, Clarke’s weaver and more than 80 species of butterflies.

The Tana River Primate Reserve was opened in 1976 to protect the Lower Tana River forest and two endangered species of monkey: the Mangabey and the Tana River Red Colobus. Access is via the Malindi-Garissa road and the lush river forest, there is dry woodland and open savannah bisected by the river. Many of the bird and animal species are unusual in East Africa, and typical of Central Africa’s lowland rainforests. One bird in particular, the White-winged Apalis, is extremely rare.

The forest also supports a rich array of mammals, a large number of reptiles and amphibians, as well as rare plants, some of which are unique to this area.

The Arewale National Reserve, covers an area of 533 sq. km opened in 1974 and is dedicated to preserving the Hunter’s hartebeest (also known as the Hirola antelope). Access is from Garissa to Lamu road.