Located on the beautiful southern coast of Kenya, Kwale County is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history, this tropical paradise offers an unforgettable experience for every traveler.
Whether you’re seeking relaxation on pristine beaches, exploring wildlife reserves, or immersing yourself in local traditions, Kwale County has it all. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the wonders of Kwale County, covering everything you need to know before embarking on your adventure.
Quick Facts About Embu County
- County Number: 002
- Number of Sub-Counties: 6 (Matuga, Msambweni, Kinango, Lunga Lunga, Samburu and Shimba Hills.)
- County Headquarters: Kwale town
- Current Governor: Hon. Fatuma Achani
- Current Senator: Issa Juma Boy
- Woman Representative: Zuleikha Juma Hassan
- County Website: kwalecountygov.com
Geography and Climate
Kwale County stretches across an area of approximately 8,270 square kilometers (3,190 square miles). It is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Taita-Taveta County to the north, and Tanzania to the south. The county’s diverse topography ranges from coastal plains to the Shimba Hills, a chain of low hills covered in dense forests.
The climate in Kwale County is typically tropical, with temperatures averaging between 25-30 degrees Celsius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the year. The coastal regions experience two rainy seasons: the long rains from April to June and the short rains from October to December. The dry seasons, between January and March and July to September, are perfect for sun-seekers.
Economy of Kwale County
Kwale County’s economy is primarily driven by agriculture, tourism, mining, and manufacturing. Agriculture plays a crucial role in the county’s economy, with crops such as coconuts, cashews, mangoes, and bananas being major contributors. The fertile land and favorable climate create ideal conditions for agricultural productivity. Additionally, the county has a significant mining industry, with deposits of minerals such as titanium, limestone, and gemstones. The extraction of these minerals contributes to both local and national economies.
Tourism is a thriving sector in Kwale County, thanks to its pristine beaches, wildlife reserves, and cultural attractions. Diani Beach, in particular, attracts a significant number of tourists from around the world. The county’s diverse cultural heritage and natural wonders offer visitors a range of experiences, including wildlife safaris, water sports, cultural festivals, and relaxation at luxury resorts.
Kwale County is administered by a county government, headed by the Governor. The county is further divided into seven administrative sub-counties, namely Msambweni, Matuga, Kinango, Lunga Lunga, Samburu, Kubo South, and Kubo North. Each sub-county has its own administrative structure and is led by a sub-county administrator. These administrators are responsible for overseeing the delivery of public services and the implementation of county government programs within their respective areas.
The county government is responsible for various sectors, including education, healthcare, infrastructure development, agriculture, and tourism promotion. Through efficient administration, the county aims to enhance the quality of life for its residents, promote economic growth, and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of Kwale County.
Beaches and Marine Life
Kwale County boasts some of the most breathtaking beaches along the Kenyan coast. Diani Beach, a popular tourist destination, offers pristine white sands, turquoise waters, and a variety of water sports activities such as snorkeling, diving, and kiteboarding. Shimoni and Wasini Islands are perfect for exploring coral reefs, swimming with dolphins, and indulging in fresh seafood delicacies.
The marine ecosystem in Kwale County is a haven for biodiversity. The Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park and Reserve, located off the coast of Shimoni, is renowned for its vibrant coral reefs and abundant marine life, including dolphins, turtles, and various species of fish. Snorkeling or taking a glass-bottom boat tour here is an experience you won’t want to miss.
Wildlife and Nature Reserves
For nature enthusiasts, Kwale County offers a wealth of opportunities to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. The Shimba Hills National Reserve, a tropical rainforest oasis, is home to Kenya’s only population of the endangered Sable antelope. The reserve also boasts a diverse array of flora and fauna, including elephants, giraffes, leopards, and numerous bird species.
Additionally, Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary provides a unique chance to witness elephants up close. This community-run conservation project offers guided tours and allows visitors to learn about elephant behavior, their importance in the ecosystem, and efforts to protect them from poaching.
Kwale County is rich in cultural diversity, with various ethnic groups residing in the region. The Digo, Duruma, and Giriama communities form the majority of the population and have preserved their vibrant traditions over generations. Visitors have the opportunity to engage in cultural exchanges, witness traditional dances, sample local cuisine, and visit traditional villages to gain insights into the local way of life.
One notable cultural attraction is the Mijikenda Kaya Forests, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These sacred forests are revered by the Mijikenda people and serve as important cultural and spiritual spaces. Exploring these forests with a knowledgeable guide offers a glimpse into the traditions, beliefs, and rituals of the Mijikenda community.
Local Cuisine and Handicrafts
No visit to Kwale County is complete without indulging in the local cuisine. Sample mouthwatering dishes such as biryani (spiced rice), mahamri (sweet fried bread), and the coastal favorite, seafood delicacies like grilled prawns and coconut curry.
For souvenir hunters, Kwale County is a treasure trove of unique handicrafts. The artisans of the region create intricate wood carvings, colorful Kangas (traditional wraparound cloths), and handmade jewelry using traditional techniques. These items make for wonderful keepsakes and support local communities.
Accommodation and Infrastructure
Kwale County offers a range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s preferences. From luxurious beach resorts and boutique hotels to eco-lodges nestled within nature reserves, there is something for everyone. Diani Beach and Shimoni are popular areas to find accommodation, with a variety of amenities and services available.
The infrastructure in Kwale County is well-developed, with good road connections and transport options. Ukunda Airport, located near Diani Beach, offers domestic flights to and from Nairobi and other major cities in Kenya. Public transportation, including buses and matatus (minibusses), is available for local travel.
Responsible Tourism in Kwale County
Kwale County places a strong emphasis on responsible and sustainable tourism. Various community-based initiatives and conservation projects aim to preserve the natural environment, protect wildlife, and empower local communities. As a visitor, you can contribute to these efforts by choosing eco-friendly accommodations, supporting local businesses, and respecting the cultural traditions and natural resources of the region.
10 Things to Do and Places to Visit in Kwale County
Kwale County is a treasure trove of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and exciting adventures. From stunning beaches to wildlife-rich reserves and intriguing historical sites, this region offers a plethora of experiences that will captivate every traveler. If you’re planning a visit to Kwale County, here are 10 must-do activities and places to explore.
#1 Diani Beach
Spend a day basking in the sun on the pristine shores of Diani Beach. Enjoy the soft white sands, turquoise waters, and a variety of water sports.
#2 Shimba Hills National Reserve
Embark on a safari adventure through this lush reserve, home to elephants, giraffes, buffalos, and an array of bird species. Don’t miss the majestic Sheldrick Falls within the reserve.
#3 Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park
Dive into the crystal-clear waters of this marine park, known for its vibrant coral reefs, dolphins, turtles, and diverse marine life. Snorkeling and diving here are unforgettable experiences.
#4 Wasini Island
Take a boat trip to Wasini Island and immerse yourself in its tranquil beauty. Explore the colorful coral gardens, go dolphin spotting, and indulge in a Swahili-style seafood feast.
#5 Colobus Conservation Centre
Learn about the conservation efforts dedicated to protecting the endangered Colobus monkeys. Take a guided tour, observe the monkeys up close, and understand the importance of preserving their habitat.
#6 Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary
Get up close and personal with elephants in their natural habitat. Take a guided tour and learn about the conservation initiatives aimed at protecting these gentle giants.
#7 Kaya Kinondo Sacred Forest
Take a guided tour of this sacred forest, considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Immerse yourself in the spirituality and traditions of the local Digo community.
#8 Gazi Bay and Mangrove Boardwalk
Experience the beauty of the mangrove forests on a guided boardwalk tour. Discover the diverse ecosystem, spot bird species, and learn about the importance of mangrove conservation.
#9 Slave Caves of Shimoni
Dive into history with a visit to the Slave Caves in Shimoni. Learn about the dark past of the East African slave trade and the significant role Shimoni played in it.
#10 Kongo Mosque
Explore the historic Kongo Mosque in Kwale town, known for its unique architecture and cultural significance. Immerse yourself in the Islamic heritage of the region.
Where to Stay in Kwale County: Hotels & Beach Resorts in Diani
Accommodation in Kwale County ranges from luxurious beach resorts to eco-lodges and budget-friendly options. Here are some popular accommodation choices in different areas of the county:
#1 Diani Beach
Diani Beach is a popular tourist destination in Kwale County, known for its stunning beaches and vibrant atmosphere. It offers a wide range of accommodation options, including the following.
- Luxury Resorts: Diani Reef Beach Resort and Spa, Swahili Beach Resort, and Leisure Lodge Beach and Golf Resort are some of the high-end resorts that offer luxurious amenities, private beaches, spa services, and multiple dining options. Check out these Beach Resorts in Diani Beach.
- Boutique Hotels: The Sands at Nomad, WaterLovers Beach Resort, and AfroChic Diani Beach are boutique hotels known for their personalized service, stylish rooms, and beachfront locations. Check out these Hotels in Diani Beach.
- Eco-Lodges: For environmentally conscious travelers, The Colobus Conservation Guesthouse and The Sands at Chale Island provide eco-friendly accommodations surrounded by nature.
- Budget-Friendly Options: Many guesthouses and budget-friendly hotels are available in Diani Beach, such as Diani Backpackers, Diani Sea Resort, and Diani Beachalets, offering comfortable rooms at affordable prices.
Shimoni, located in southern Kwale County, is a charming coastal town known for its marine reserves and historical sites. Accommodation options in Shimoni include:
- Shimoni Reef Lodge: This lodge offers comfortable rooms, a restaurant serving fresh seafood, and easy access to marine excursions, including snorkeling and diving.
- Wasini Island: For a unique experience, consider staying on Wasini Island, just off the coast of Shimoni. Accommodations like the Charlie Claw’s Guesthouse provide a peaceful setting with stunning views and a chance to explore the island’s marine attractions.
#3 Tiwi Beach
Tiwi Beach is a quieter alternative to Diani Beach, located a short distance south of it. It offers a tranquil setting and a more laid-back atmosphere. Accommodation options in Tiwi Beach include:
- Amani Tiwi Beach Resort: This beachfront resort features spacious rooms, a pool, multiple dining options, and activities like water sports and beach volleyball.
- Neptune Paradise Beach Resort and Spa: Known for its picturesque location, this resort offers comfortable rooms, a spa, a swimming pool, and a variety of dining choices.
#4 Other Areas
Kwale County has additional accommodation options in areas like Ukunda, Msambweni, and Kinondo. These areas offer a mix of resorts, lodges, and guesthouses catering to different budgets and preferences.
Now You Know About Kwale County
Kwale County in Kenya is a true tropical paradise, offering an abundance of natural beauty, cultural richness, and unforgettable experiences. It boasts a diverse landscape that includes beautiful beaches, lush forests, rolling hills, and mangrove ecosystems.
Diani Beach, a renowned tourist attraction, stretches along the Indian Ocean, offering pristine white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters. The county is also home to the Shimba Hills National Reserve, an important wildlife sanctuary characterized by its hilly terrain, dense forests, and cascading waterfalls such as the Sheldrick Falls.
The coastal area is marked by coral reefs teeming with marine life, providing ample opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving, and other water sports. So, whether you’re a beach lover, wildlife enthusiast, or cultural explorer, this hidden gem has something to offer.