The Indian Ocean coastline of East Africa is one of the most beautiful in the world. Silver sands, year-round clear-blue waters, and tropical palms. Known as the Swahili Coastline, thanks to the unique mix of African, Arabic, and Portuguese people who typify it, it also offers; a wide range of ancient cultural sites; mosques, and ancient Swahili towns; a vibrantly colorful cuisine; a wide range of marine parks backed by coastal parks and the last remains of the African equatorial rain-forests; endless water-sports, child-friendly pursuits and nightly entertainments for all tastes; and one of the world’s most famous barrier reefs.
Prepare to fall under the spell of this hypnotic part of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline, where the exotic permeates everything, blending spice, soul, and sand. The attractions of this slice of paradise have historically not been lost on anyone lucky enough to visit, whether it be Portuguese explorers, Cushitic Somalis, Bantu-speaking Mijikenda, cattle-herding Orma, Italian holidaymakers, or, of course, the Swahili. Many of these people stayed on and have left their own mark on the coast, from the ancient ruins at Gede to the holiday resorts built by Italians in more recent times.
Watamu and Malindi
Remain popular beach destinations for Europeans; Mida Creek is a haven for birdwatchers and vagabonds in search of shooting stars; and Lamu archipelago beckons with its mazelike Swahili villages, bohemian artist/yoga vibe, and the promise of waterborne adventure as you sail between the islands on a traditional dhow.
With a flawless, long stretch of white-sand beach hugged by lush forest and kissed by surf-able waves, it’s no wonder Diani Beach is so popular. This resort town scores points with a diverse crowd: party people, families, honeymooners, backpackers and water-sports enthusiasts.
Zanzibar Island is a jewel in the ocean, surrounded by beaches that rate among the finest in the world. Here you can swim, snorkel or just lounge the hour’s away, while shoals of luminous fish graze over nearby coral gardens and pods of dolphins frolic offshore.
Mother Nature was unbelievably generous with the Seychelles, a fabled paradise whose islands lie scattered across the Indian Ocean. Spellbinding beaches are the main attraction, and what beaches! Exquisite ribbons of sand lapped by turquoise waters and backed by lush hills, palm trees and Dali-esque boulders. Beyond the beach, diving and snorkelling are brilliant in the warm waters amid abundant marine life, while few places on the planet do ocean-side luxury quite like the Seychelles. Mahé is the largest island and entry point to the Seychelles, with some fabulous resorts, restaurants and beaches, not to mention the small capital city of Victoria. But it’s also the busiest island, with glorious Praslin and La Digue a short boat ride away. Even further out, there are real lost-world islands to be found.
Mark Twain once wrote that ‘Mauritius was made first and then heaven, heaven being copied after Mauritius’. For the most part, it’s true: Mauritius is rightly famed for its sapphire waters, powder-white beaches and luxury resorts. But there’s so much more attraction to Mauritius than the beach, and it’s the kind of place that rewards even the smallest attempts at exploration. There’s hiking in the forested and mountainous interior and world-class diving and snorkeling offshore. There are boat trips to near-perfect islets and excursions to botanical gardens and colonial plantation houses. Mauritius is a fabulous culinary destination with great wildlife watching thrown in. And the real Mauritius away from the beach resorts – a hot curry of different cultures and quiet fishing villages – is never far away.