Luxury escapes to Kenya's south coast

I love Kenya’s south-coast beaches for their combination of beautiful crescents of white sand, warm clear waters teeming with marine life and fascinating Swahili culture and history. This part of Kenya was ‘discovered’ long ago with all that entails, but careful searching can find rubies in the sand – which is what our carefully curated luxury beach lodges represent.

Whether you want to land a marlin or catch some rays on the beach, or some air while kite surfing, the south Kenya coast beaches offer a vast array of activities to satisfy the indolent and the intrepid. Swim, snorkel or scuba – the Indian Ocean is your playground.

… Or come ashore – just like the nesting turtles of Funzi Island – and be guided through the aromatic alleyways of Mombasa, an ancient port city which features the Renaissance Fort Jesus (a Unesco World Heritage Site). Other, more sombre reminders of local history can be seen at the Shimoni Slave Caves.

If you prefer your history to be of the natural variety, head inland on a game drive into the Shimba Hills National Reserve, which is noted for its elephant and sable antelope.

The main attraction remains however the almost unbroken string of beaches, beginning with Msambweni (just north of the border with Tanzania) and the nearby time-warp Wasini Island, continuing through Diani Beach and then ending with Watamu and Malindi.

Marine national reserves demonstrate that Kenya takes coastal conservation seriously, and preserve some of the very best of this fascinating swathe of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast.

When to Go

The beaches of Kenya’s south coast are at their very best from July to October – the long dry season. Calm, clear sea conditions are perfect for reef snorkelling and diving, and the lower temperatures in combination with cool coastal architecture make for balmy days and nights. Tourist numbers along the southern coast tend to peak in August, as you might expect, but choosing from our carefully curated selection of luxury beach lodges will keep you far from the madding crowds. Combine beach time during these months with the Great Wildebeest Migration, which will be moving from the Serengeti’s Grumeti River to the Masai Mara.

The short dry season is also a wonderful time to while away a few days on the Kenyan coast. Crystal clear waters are perfect for encounters with giant, peaceful whale sharks (most frequently seen from January to March). February is typically the driest month, before temperatures begin to climb towards March in anticipation of the rains. Coinciding with one of the most iconic African wildlife experiences – the mass wildebeest calving in the southern Serengeti – this is an ideal season for combining safari and the Indian Ocean.

The mid-March to late May rains can be a more challenging time to visit the Kenyan coast, due to very high temperatures and humidity. It’s probably best to choose another time of year to experience these gorgeous beaches at their finest. The short rains in November, however, do not present the same difficulties – diving and snorkelling conditions are again exceptional. Almost any time that you visit, warm, clear equatorial ocean waters and blue skies will welcome you to Kenya’s coast. It’s just a matter of choosing the right luxury beach lodge.

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