Kilifi: More Than Your Usual Coastal Town

Kilifi is a resort town on the coast of Kenya , 56 kilometres (35 mi) northeast by road of Mombasa. The town lies on the Kilifi Creek and sits on the estuary of the Goshi River. Kilifi is capital of the Kilifi County and has a population of 122,899 (2009 census). It is known for its beach and for the ruins of Mnarani, including mosques and tombs, dating from the 14th to the 17th century.

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Kilifi town

The town sits on both sides of the estuary and are linked by the Kilifi Bridge which overlooks the estuary. The south side has the Mnarani ruins and Shauri Moyo beach while the north side is the main part of Kilifi Town and Bofa Beach. The weather is generally warm throughout the year (above 25 degrees) with two seasons of moderate rainfall (about 800-1000mm). Long periods of rain start around March and last into July, while the short periods start around October and last until December. The terrain is generally flat with sandy-loamy soils.

The town is somewhat a small and calm town. There are no skyscrapers or traffic hampering your way around. Actually, the main mode of transport is by tuktuks and motorcycles. They are in large numbers.

WHY VISIT

Kilifi is mainly known for it’s white sandy beach. It’s coastline is also very clean due to the few visitors it receives compared to Mombasa. However, the town itself is a marvel. The old buildings, the swahili culture are just part of the reasons you need to visit.kilifi-to-north-bright-skies

Mnarani ruins is also another place you could visit. Close to what used to be the Kilifi ferry, is this old Swahili home dating back the 15th, century which you can visit while on holiday in Kilifi. Some of the attractions include scrambling walls of men’s mosque, women’s mosque, big mosque, small mosque, well, kibla, madrasa, courts, the sultans pillar tomb which is the main highlight plus several other tombs.

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Mnarani Ruins

Just next to the Mnarani museum lays an attractive park where one can see different reptiles including the most poisonous vipers to the very friendly ones. Some of the reptiles include, green mamba, black mamba, puff adder, stripped bellied snake and the spitting cobra.

Takaungu slave market is another place you will need to take a tour of. It was a slave market back in the days of slavery along the East African coast. 7kms from the Malindi/Mombasa highway, just before the Kilifi creek stands an abandoned structure which dates back the 14th, century that once used to be the sultan’s palace. The rusty house with almost collapsing walls includes two rooms on the ground floor, a veranda with an inbuilt swimming pool plus three other rooms on the first floor.

Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is the largest stretch of indigenous coastal dry forest remaining in Eastern Africa measuring about 400 square kilometers.. Located in Kilif County, it runs parallel to the sea from Kilifi to Gede. The ecosystem comprises of three forest types, Mixed forest, Brachystegia Woodland and Cynometra, each containing different rare species of Birds, Mammals, Butterflies and Plants. It is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and is second to Congo only in birdlife conservation  in africa with over 270 birds, 260 butterflies, 70 amphibians, 52 mammals  and 600 plants species.  The Sokoke Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit, east coast akalat, Amani Sunbird and Spotted Ground Thrush are only found in the park and a few in Tanzania.

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Arabuko Sokoke Forest view from the top

The Nyari view point which gives the forest a birds eye view is the most spectacular event one shouldn’t miss while visiting the forest. It is situated about 14 kilometers from the forest’s Mida main entrance. For picnic lovers, a well protected picnic area is situated close to the view point. For those who love adventure, a tree house is well built near a water hole where animals always come to drink water.

You can also go as far as Malindi and Mombasa and visit the sites in those places from Kilifi. They are only an hour away, Mombasa to the south, malindi to the North.

WHERE TO STAY

There are several luxury hotels to choose from for your stay in Kilifi. Their rate range from as low as Ksh. 5000 a night to as high as Ksh. 15000 a night. These include:

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Kilifi Bay Beach Resort

There are also what many may call budget accommodation. These are many, especially in town area and will not oofer much apart from a place to lay your head. Do not expect a room with a beachfront or 3-course meals. They Include:

  • Kilifi Holiday Inn
  • Kilifi Hotel
  • Maxbriz Guest House

A favorable place, and one most people will love, is Distant Relatives. This place offers camping, dorms and bandas for customers. With such a wide range of accomodation choices to choose from, it is ever booked. Check their website for more.

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There is also an array of private villas and beach houses that you can choose for your stay. These residences are usually self-catered or you will have to a little extra to facilitate them to get a cook for you. Takaungu House is one of these.

HOW TO GET THERE

From Nairobi you will have to drive all the way down to Mariakani which is a few kilometres before Mombasa. You will take a left turn before getting the centre of Mariakani town and proceed through Kaloleni and Dzitsoni towns before dropping off to the Mombasa-Kilifi Highway at Takaungu town. You will then turn left and the highway will lead you straight to Kilifi town. This takes you approximately 7-10 hours.

Although this is the shortest way to get there, it is also the toughest. The road from Mariakani to Takaungu is currently being tarmacked(not yet done as of April 2016) and if not familiar with the area you may take a wrong turn on one of the several junctions along(Had to be picked by somebody familiar with the road at Mariakani, and still can’t recall the route). It was pretty dusty when I used it since very little rain is received in these areas, so a 4*4 is highly advised. Once the road is done though, it will be the perfect route. Till then, only for the brave!NRBKLF

Not to worry, there is an alternative route. It is longer, and will probably delay you for a few more hours..but very smooth compared to the first route. Instead of turning at Mariakani, simply pass through to Mombasa. The road is tarmacked all the way, and you will not get lost for sure. However, the traffic as you get into town will be your undoing. This tends to stretch for hours due to the trucks heading for the ports. From Mombasa town, head towards Bamburi, then Mtwapa and continue without any turns. This will get you to Kilifi via towns such as Kibaoni, Mkomani and Takaungu. Mombasa to Kilifi is approximately 1 hour, but due to the traffic, the whole journey(NRB-KLF) will take about 10-12 hours.

There are also several buses that go to Kilifi direct from Nairobi. They use the Mombasa route but being PSVs, the drivers know their routes pretty well and you will be in Kilifi in 9 hours. These include Coast busModern CoastBuscarMash and Tahmeed buses. They are comfortable and some have VIP seats too. Nearly all are fixed with WiFi connection and charging sockets to make your journey worthwhile. The fares average between 1500 to 2000 Ksh.

Sadly, there are no direct flights to Kilifi. But you can always charter one ☺. Or take a flight to Mombasa or to Malindi then travel by road to Kilifi. Well, maybe you have some extra to use!

As for those willing to ride, kindly use the above mentioned methods!

MORE ARTICLES

Too many details without any fun stories? I am sorry. I got you though. Go through Masidza’s trip to Kilifi(You will not be disappointed) and Andrew’s article about Bofa beach Resort. There’s also the transport part explained easily in the Rome2Rio webiste. Check them out!

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Kilifi’s preferred mode of transport

CONCLUSION

I always thought Mombasa was the best till this Lamu fever got to me and I checked it out. Lamu became my love. I loved every bit of Lamu. However, getting my feet to Kilifi did to me what probably only the Titanic movie did back then, have confused emotions. Those white sandy beaches, their culture, the love from the people and their stories(there’s this one I will write to you about) made me fall in love with the place. If you haven’t been there, add this to your list. Definitely a return is a must!

Extracts from:

  1. Kenya County Guide
  2. Wikipedia

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PS: REMEMBER to vote for this blog as the best travel blog in Kenya. Vote via this link(blogawards.co.ke/vote) and select 15E.

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