Zanzibar & Coastline
Looking for flawless palm-fringed beaches, coral reefs indented with creeks and mangroves, and warm aquamarine waters beaded with tropical islands? Kenya’s South Coast and the lush Zanzibar Island offer the perfect way to round off an East Africa big-game safari.
The turquoise Indian Ocean is so clear that even without diving into its warm embrace you can glimpse flashes of bright reef fish and jewel-toned anemones – and these are just a tiny portion of the rich marine life living on the coral reef. It’s no wonder therefore that this coastline is a mecca for snorkellers and divers from around the world. Added to the mix is a heady combination of African, Arabian, Persian and Indian cultural influences, the heritage of centuries of traders blown in on the trade winds.
Snapshot of Zanzibar & Coastline
- Crystal-clear tropical waters, palm-fringed beaches & laid-back island-style living
- Underwater paradise: snorkelling & diving
- Cultural heritage reflecting African, Arabian, Persian and Indian influences
- Tropical seclusion
- Ultimate escape
- Adventure & culture
Whether you are visiting the island for a spot of post-safari relaxation or as a stand-alone destination, Zanzibar is the perfect blend of island getaway and historical charm. Zanzibar Island is a semi-autonomous state of Tanzania and part of the wider Zanzibar Archipelago, made up of over 50 islands ranging from tiny outcrops in the middle of the Indian Ocean to the larger, more populated islands of Pemba and Ungujua, the official name for Zanzibar. The island itself is just six degrees south of the equator and 35km off the coast of mainland Tanzania.
Zanzibar has enjoyed a complex and turbulent history. Ancient pottery demonstrates that traders from Arabia, the Persian Gulf and India probably visited Zanzibar as early as the 1st century AD. The island was a strategic stop-off point that gave traders access to Africa’s Swahili Coast. From the 1500s the Portuguese Empire colonised the island until it fell under the control of the Sultanate of Oman in 1698. In 1890 Zanzibar became a British protectorate, eventually gaining independence in 1963. By early 1964 the Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba became incorporated into mainland Tanganyika to become the United Republic of Tanzania. Today, the island is rich in Arabian and Indian influences, evident in the varying architectural styles of Stone Town and the traditional fishing dhows that billow across the ocean.
Kenya’s South Coast
The south coast of Kenya forms part of Africa’s Swahili Coast which also includes the coastal regions of Tanzania and northern Mozambique as well as the Indian Ocean islands of Zanzibar and the Comoros. South of Mombassa, resorts have the luxury of space and with kilometres separating them, you can holiday in tranquil privacy.
An extensive barrier reef stretches almost the entire length of Kenya’s coast, protecting the shores and creating a 50-metre to 1km-wide sheltered lagoon between the white sand beaches and the deep Indian Ocean in its infinite shades of blue.
Moving further south – and closer to the Tanzania border – the more rural the resorts become with Msambweni Beach and Funzi Island attracting sun lovers as well as divers and snorkellers.
Tiwi Beach is 20km south of Mombasa. It retains a slightly old-fashioned charm reminiscent of the last half of the 20th century. Tiwi has some superb snorkelling and diving spots.
Iconic Diani, regularly voted as one of the world’s best beaches, epitomises tropical beauty. The endless white sands are edged with lush green coconut palms and the reef offers good snorkelling and fascinating rock pools to explore at low tide. It is well supplied with restaurants and accommodation, with options that range from budget to family-friendly to sheer Hollywood glamour.
Msambweni is a remote fishing village that retains a strong sense of tradition and history. A former leprosy hospital still dispenses excellent medical care, while slavers’ caves in the cliffs close to the beach are evidence of the role of the Swahili Coast in the heyday of slaving.
You’ll feel like a castaway (albeit a more glamorous one) on the mangrove-fringed island of Funzi. Robinson Crusoe would have done well in this lush environment, where you can spend your days fishing, sailing or canoeing through the mangroves with the waterbirds – keeping an eye out for crocodiles along the way!
The coastline of Kenya south of Mombasa is a world apart from East Africa’s uplands. Unlike the higher-altitude interior where temperatures can vary from baking hot at midday to icy cold at night, the coast is warm day and night. The sometimes steamy mid-summer tropical heat is moderated by prevailing trade winds that bring a cool breeze. The rainy season peaks between April and May, although November can also bring tropical showers and thunderstorms.
Average max. temp. range 28–34˚C / 82˚F–93
Average min. temp. range 19–22˚C / 66˚F–72˚F
Average relative humidity range 73%–84%