The Coastal Towns of Kenya

The Coastal Towns of Kenya

The Coastal Towns of Kenya: Kenya is blessed with the Indian ocean, along the ocean are spectacular beaches where many tourists from all over the World come for leisure and several visits year in year out. This is a region bordering the ocean including some coast provinces and the southern part of the Northeastern Province.

In the earlier days, the coastal towns were a stopping point for the foreigners who came to Kenya, they include; the Portuguese, the Arabs from Oman and British. The Indian came in as laborers for the railway line, they also docked there.

There are various beaches surrounding the coastal towns of kenya, they include; The south coast has Tiwi beach,Diani beach, Galu beach, Gazi beach, Msambweni Beach, Mwazaro Beach, it is said to have the nice-looking beaches. The North sits Nyali beach, Bamburi Beach, Shandzu Beach, Mtwapa beach, Kikambala Beach, the north is known for a variety of activities. To the far north you find, Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi are like the south, they looks so beautiful. These beaches have contributed so big to the development of the towns in the coast.


Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya after Nairobi. Earlier on, Mombasa was the capital city of Kenya, this changed in the year 1905 when Nairobi was seen as a central connection to Mombasa and Uganda during the railway project, Nairobi was fully recognized as the capital city of the Republic of Kenya the year of Kenya’s independence, 1963. The city of Mombasa is also called the white and blue city of Kenya. Mombasa has a population of 1,208,333 people as by the 2019 population census though the municipality is the second largest in the country with a population of 3,528,940 natives.

Mombasa is also a tourist center, every year many tourists from various parts of the globe come to spend their holidays in Mombasa. It is a home of one of Kenya’s state houses.

The Mombasa local government released an order in which the city was painted white with blue accents and the old town was painted yellow. In Mombasa County and the former Coast Province, Mombasa’s situation on the Indian Ocean made it a historical trading center.


 It is believed that Mombasa was founded by two rukers in Mwana Mkisi and Shehe Mvita, some say that Mwana Mkisi was the original ancestor of  Mombasa’s oldest lineages with in the Twelve Nations (ThenasharanTaifa). . Mwana Mkisi was also said to be a queen from the pre-Islamic era, who founded Kongowea, the original urban settlement on Mombasa IslandShehe Mvita hunged the dynasty of Mwana Mkisi and started the first permanent stone mosque on Mombasa Island which is the oldest surviving stone mosque built in c.1300. Shehe Mvita was as a Muslim of great learning and was said to be connected more directly with the present ideals of Swahili culture that people identify with Mombasa.

The real date for Mombasa obtaining a city status is still unknown though assumptions say that it was in 900 A.D. There were many mosques being built then, like the Mandhry Mosque in 1570, is designed specially with a curvy arch, it implicated the designer was pure African architecture. Mombasa was a main point for making trade ties between different countries, in this, there were various items that were traded then, they include gold and ivory . There was a trade link between Mombasa and Cholas of south India that is how far the trade links had reached. Mombasa traded ivory, millet, sesamum and coconuts to India.

Mombasa was a very important port of the Pre-colonial Kenya in the early years and was used to trade with African port cities, ther Persian Empire, India, China and Arabian Peninsula. Once a Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa said that Mombasa is a place of great traffic and has a good protection in which there are always set up in small craft of many kinds and also great ships, both of which are committed from Sofala and others which come from Cambay and Melinde and others which sail to the island of Zanzibar. This was all in the 16th Century.

The British dominance in Mombasa

1887 was the year Mombasa lost to the British East Africa Association and finally also lost to the Imperial British East Africa Company. In 1885, Mombasa became part of the British administration. Mombasa became the main point of the British East Africa Protectorate. It also became the sea route of the Uganda railway project then. As the railway line was being built by the Indians who docked to work upraised and revived Mombasa’s status after the completion of the railway line. In-between 1887 -1906,Mombasa finally became the capital of teh protectorate of Kenya which was later transfer to Nairobi because of it’s strategic location and since then, Nairobi is until today the capital city of the Republic of Kenya.

The Portuguese settlement in Mombasa

Vasco da Gama became the first known European to visit Mombasa in the year 1498. Their dorminance was strange that after two yeats of their stay, the town of Mombasa was discharged by portuguese.The sultanate became neutral from Kilwa Kisiwani and was renamed as Mvita in the year 1502.In the year 1528,the portuguese invaded mombasa again . Somalia’s Arjuran Empire and the Turks of Ottoman Empire combined and formed a force which was led by Emir ‘Ali Bey in the year 1585, their intension was to liberate Mombasa  and other coastal cities in southeast Africa from the Portuguese rule.Many Muslim residents were butchered in mombasa, the Zimba who had dominance over the Tete and Sena on the Zanbezi took over kilwa and butchered very many people there too in the year 1587. The zimba were finally calmed and humbled at Malindi by the tuff Segeju Bantu-speakers. The Portuguese used this chance and took over Mombasa again, this was the third time, this time they were more organised and set up Fort Jesus as an administration point for the teritory. Chief Lundi was then overcome with his forces by the Portuguses who jelled with Kalonga Mzura, this occured between Lake malawi and the zambezi river. Mombasa then was ruled by the members of the ruling family of Malindi which was set up by the Portuguese, here a great Don Jeronimo butchered the portuguese camp in Mombasa and was victorious, he became a pirate, but the portuguesse were sturbon, they later returned and set up a direct rule over Mombasa.

The Oman dominance in Mombasa

The Oman rulers on the Island of Ugunja influenced local challenges , they got this node by having Fort Jesus in their control, they further seemed so organised and appointed three Governors, they include; Imam Saif ibn Sultan, Nasr ibn Abdallah al-mazru’i and Shaykh Rumba. But the Portuguese really had a force that kept trying to return to capture Mombasa to themselves, this time they with a new captain in Major Alvaro Caetano de Melo Castro who succeeded and ruled briefly. The Oman force in silence came up with four Governors  and conqured mombasa again and new sultans were indentified,they include; Masud ibn Nasr al-Mazrui, ‘Ali ibn Uthman al-Mazrui, Abdallah ibn Muhammad al-Mazru’i, Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Mazru’i and Sulayman ibn ‘Ali al-Mazru’i


Malindi is located north east of Mombasa city, it sits at the mouth of Galana river that lies on the Ocean coast. It is located 120km from Mombasa.It has a population of 119,859 as by the population census of 2019. It is located in Kilfi County and is the largest center. The town of Malindi is a major tourism center majorly popular among the italians. In the south f Malindi is the Watamu beach and Gedi ruins, in the north of Malindi is sabaki river’s mouth, the area has the best swahili styles in architecture and designs. It is highly populated with the muslims. Malindi also harbours malindi Airport the San Marco Equatorial Range now called Broglio Spac Centre.


History of Malindi

Malindi was stormed in the early days by the Bantu speaking farmers who smelted iron and built timber and fenced houses thatched with strong palm leaves, these farmers spoke a kiswahili dialect but also did long distance trade and sometimes regional trade. Many people continued to move to Malindi because many were acting as middlemen for somali, Egyptian, nubian, Arab, Persian and Indian trades. They constructed houses and also spoke swahili and Arabic where inter-marriages happened.

 Malindi has always been a port town and has dominate for along time with Mombasa topping the East Africa ports. A group of Chinese tourists visited Malindi, they were sent a bearer with a giraffe as a present to China on that specific group.

Portugal’s Vasco da Gama was welcomed by the sheikh of Malindi unlike in Mombasa, he entered Malindi and erected a coarl pillar which stands to date, it is one of the tourist attractions there. The population in malindi was growing so fast with the swahili speaking people the majority, their was a ruling division in recognition. There were the clan leaders who elected “wenye mui”(chief), spoke on behalf of the noble, there were the wealthy families too.

Malindi exported ivory and rhino horns and their main trade. They also exported agricultural products like oranges, millet and rice. Malindi was a great town though fell behind to Mombasa and Kilwa because of the coming of the Portuguese. Portuguese built a stop point in Malindi as they went to India. Malindi sided with the Portuguese in a Portuguese conquest to conquer kilwa and Mombasa and made Malindi a successful town. Malindi once declined it’s status though was reinstated to greater heights by Francis Xavier and Ludgwig Krapf, there were many buildings of swahila architecture, juma mosque, a portuguese chapel with a grave yard too was built. Malindi handled sultan Majid of Zanzibar and served as a point of slave trade. When it stromed the British administration, slave trade was stamped out and agriculture was the order of the day, this lead to the growth of many industries in Malindi.Mnay hotels have come up and boomed up the tourism industry, the first hotel was built by commander Lawford. During world war II Malindi was flooded with Italians who upto date are common there.

Lamu town

Lamu is another old town among the coastal towns of Kenya.It is located north West  of the shores of the ocean, it is more different from other towns on the coast, it has almost no motor vehicles with no traffic at all. It is well known for keeping it’s legacy as an Islamic town with many swahilli settlements. Most residents wear traditional robes and headscarves accompanied with a number of mosques. Lamu is made up of sand beach called “Shela Beach” located near the Old town, and east of the beach is “Shela Village” with many hotels and restaurants. Those natives involves in Tourism commonly speak English , swahili and Arab and moslem greetings are common.

Mtwapa town

The dusty town is 15km north of Mombasa is among the fast growing towns in the coast province. Mtwapa lacks modern public transport but has more activities for tourists. Mtwapa has settled a number of Europeans and bringing development. Nicknamed as the, “village tha never sleeps”, the bars play loud music upto past midnight with the venders and people selling food stuffs, prostitutes, basically, it is the centre of night life. Because of many Europeans building homes for retirement or spending winter time there, the place has become trendy for Kenyans too, and real estate prices and construction activity have risen dramatically. Mtwapa is not a tourist resort, but a typical Kenyan town with noise, dust and chaotic traffic.


Msambweni town

The small town is located between Mombasa and Tanzania in Kwale county. It is just half an hour drive from Diani beach, there is basically no or little package tourism yet, It is a quiet place and when along the beach you can hardly find a person for a long time walking.

Msambweni is made up of ten villages and approximately they have 12000 inhabitants where the biggest number is made up of Muslims and members of the locally dominant Digo tribe. Agriculture, fishing, crafts and trade are their main economic activities, they also grow Coconut palms, mango and neem trees, and sugar cane plantations are characterize the area. Msambweni is site of the County Hospital in the sub location of Kisimachande, and of a Medical Training Center in Tumbe.

Diani beach,Ukunda

The resort area of Diani beach along the Indian Ocean in Kenya is 30 km south of Mombasa. This is the centre for any tourist who visits the coastal towns and it is also called the DSouth coast. To it’s north is Tiwi beach by Kongo river, 10kms south of Diani beach is Galu beach, 20km south Gazi beach, 30km south Mswambweni beach and finally 50km the south of Mwazaro.

It is a place for holiday lovers from all over the world. Located on south coast, it is also among the the nice beaches and more acient nature the North Coast around Mombasa offers many more activities. Some of the hotels on the South Coast are kinder isolated, offering peaceful holidays at the beach and pool which might become boring. Others are closer to night-life and shopping centers. Diani creates photogenic memories with different cultural differences between the north and the south.

How to get to Mombasa and other coastal town in kenya

The coastal town has many routes one can use to entry and exit. Main points lead you to Mombasa city. One can access the coastal towns by the following means;

Air transport

Mombasa city has the Moi international Airport.  It is traced from the Port Reitz area locally known as chaani area. It accommodates flights from within and outside Kenya making it a very busy Airport.

Road transport

The coast towns have tarmacked roads all way, there are also highways that connect the coastal towns from Nairobi,some of the roads include; Mombasa-Nairobi highway, in mombasa there is Jomo Kenyatta Avenue, Diogo road, Nkrumah road and many more. Highways connect Mombasa to Nairobi, Dar es Salaam while northward road link to Malindi and Lamu, which also extends towards the border with Somalia. These roads easily connect to the many tourist sites around the coastal towns.

Most means of transport used by the natives are;Mini buses also called matatus, the tuk-tuk, this a motorcycle designed with two wheels behind and one in front, these are common and usually carry 3 to 2 passengers.nThey also use motorcycles.

The train

In east Africa, transport from Nairobi to mombasa was made easy by the construction of standard guage railway that substituted the old station built by the British, it was accomplished in 2017, it has it’s stations in Miritini Turminus station and many stations along the route from Nairobi to Mombasa. The station in mombasa is located 20km away from the centre of the city. The journey is 5 hours from Nairobi

Water transport

Mombasa has the largest port in East Africa with it’s 19 deep water berths . The rail connects the port to the interior, it has less fixed passenger service but international cruise ships flood the port. You can access mombasa waterfront with ferry.


Ferries serve the purpose of crossing passengers from mombasa island to the south coast, it is under the Kenyan ferry service from Kilindini and Mtongwe and ends in Lioni south coast of mombasa. Apart from using the ferry to cross to south coast, some fy to Ukunda airstrip. There is also a By pass being put inplace to connect Mombasa to the south coast.

Accomodation around the coastal towns of Kenya

Along the beaches and the town centers are a variety of luxury, budget and midrange accomodation. These are some of the accommodation points in the coastal towns; Kenya Bay beach Hotel,The reef Hotel, Mombasa, Voyager beach resort,Hotel sonrisa and many more. Majority of the hotels are on full board meal plans.


Most of the coastal towns depend on Tourism, the major tourist sites are beaches , Historical sites like Fort Jesus, Tsavo national park, the historical towns, culture and many more. Mombasa is a centre of coastal tourism in Kenya. Mombasa Island itself is not a main attraction, although many people visit the Old Town and Fort Jesus. The Nyali, Bamburi, and Shanzu beaches are located north of the city. The Shelly, Tiwi, and Diani beaches are located south of Mombasa. Several luxury hotels exist on these beaches, while the less expensive hotels are located further away.Mombasa will become a Special Economic Zone  in which certain industries such as tea, garments, and footwear will be exempt from certain taxes to promote domestic growth. This is in response to the deficiencies in Export Processing Zones .

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