Kilifi County

Discover Kilifi County

Spatial Location of Kilifi County in Kenya
Spatial Location of Kilifi County in Kenya

Brief Overview of Kilifi County

The arrowhead-shaped Kilifi County, with the pointed end of the arrow lodged in Tana River County, is bound in the south by A109 Mombasa-Nairobi Road, in the east by Indian Ocean and in the west by Tsavo East National Park. Its 120 km long coastline has developed beaches at Mtwapa, Takaungu, Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi and Mambrui, with Malindi Beach in the north-eastern corner being the principal centre of interest for visitors to Kilifi County. Access to all these recreation areas is made easy by B8 Mombasa-Malindi-Ijara-Garissa Road that travels along the eastern boundary within sniffing distance of the Indian Ocean. As you move further inland, over the narrow coastal plains and ranges, the land quickly becomes desiccated as it leads up to the wide expanse of Nyika Plateau dominating much of the western half, marked by a large lowland of thorny bush and grassland country on a gently rolling relief, rising towards Tsavo East Park. The Nyika occupies almost 50% of Kilifi County, over its entire western frontier.

If one is interested in exploring the compelling history of the Coast Region of Kenya, few destinations can better the enriching experience of Kilifi County. Its charm in beauty and extent of historic sites has attracted the attention of many adventure-makers. Along the coast of Kilifi, ecclesiastical ruins are frequently to be seen, dating back in some cases to the early 9th Century. Jumba la Mtwama, found just a few kilometres north of the city of Mombasa, is a perfect example. The popular Gede Ruins which are just off the main Mombasa-Malindi Road, near Watamu, and which can be visited within a day from Mombasa or Malindi, are perhaps the most interesting of these reminders of the Arabic influence on the Coast. At Gede Ruins, there are extensive ruins of palaces, a walled ancient town, numerous tombs, and several important remains of large heroic mosques.

Giriama (or wanyika) who are the main inhabitants of Kilifi County are mainly concentrated along Athi-Galana-Sabaki River forasmuch as the lesser Swahili live along the coast, seldom migrating out more than 16 kms inland. The greater part of the coastal plain up to 24 kms inland is fairly heavily cultivated, yet, as pressure on the land increases, more and more of the natives are attempting to till the land further west that is harsher and drier. Unique to Kilifi County, and thanks to its surpassing beaches, places of relaxation and world-class resorts, is the growing multiracial population in the coastal hubs. At Malindi Town, where Italian and German are fluently spoken, the local guides can explain the history of the Coast in more than three languages. From Malindi Town, there are direct routes to the vast Tsavo East National Park and Tana Primate National Reserve.

Aerial View of Kilifi Town, Creek and Bridge. Image Courtesy of Tripadvisor
Aerial View of Kilifi Town, Creek and Bridge. Image Courtesy of Tripadvisor

Salient Features of Kilifi County

  • County Number 05
  • Area – 12,245 km2
  • Altitude – 50 ft
  • Major Towns – Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi
  • Borders – Mombasa, Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Tana River
Kilifi County Map

Brief History of Kilifi County

For much of its history, what we now know as Kilifi County had been a regional trading settlement, isolated from the interior of Kenya and bound to the Indian Ocean by the sea trade. Kilifi, the largest center between Mombasa and Malindi, which were arch-rival, was embroiled in their perpetual feuds. At the height of these underhand relations, in the 1590’s, “Kilifi seems to have fought Malindi for Mombasa, possibly on the basis of dynastic links between the two dynasties, possibly through mere ambition. Malindi complained of Kilifi’s raids and opted to put an end to both Kilifi’s provocation and also to put its claim on Mombasa”. After this defeat, Kilifi seems to have suffered a beyond-repair decline. In 1501, owing to friendly ties formed with the Portuguese, Malindi became the cardinal centre for the viceroy in East Africa. After the falls of Portuguese in November 1698, Malindi and Mambrui were resettled by Zanzibar Arabs, and in earnest around the 1850’s. Both had been formerly abandoned during the 17th Century.

View of Vasco da Gama Pillar in Malindi.  Photo Courtesy of Mapio
View of Vasco da Gama Pillar in Malindi. Image Courtesy
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72 Attractions in Kilifi County, arranged as one would visit these - south, north, east then north - with aid of in-depth narratives, images, strip maps and distance chart:

Shimo la Tewa Prison, Mtwapa Creek, Mtwapa Ruins, The Moorings, La Marina Restaurant, Jumba la Mtwana, Kikambala Beach, Vipingo Mosque Ruins, Kinuni Ruins, Kuruwitu Conservancy, Neem Tree House, Vipingo Ridge, Kilifi Sisal Plantations, Vuma Cliffs, Takaungu Creek, Kamili House, Kitoka Ruins, Mnarani Ruins, Kilifi Boatyard, Kilifi Bridge, Kilifi Creek, Mazingira Park, Bofa Beach, Distant Relatives Ecolodge, Dalton House, Panga ya Saidi Cave, River Rare Geo Park, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve, Mangea Hills Forest, Watamu Marine National Park, Mida Creek, Sudi Island, Uyombo Ruins, Kilepwa Ruins, Rock and Sea Resort, Watamu Beach, Watamu Treehouse, Tribe Water Sports, Kite House, Local Ocean Conservation, Ocean Sports Watamu, Bio-Ken Snake Farm, Kiburugeni Ruins, Mgangani Ruins, Gede Ruins, Kipepeo Butterfly Farm, Malindi Museum, Malindi Pier, Malindi Waterfront Park, Malindi Pillar Tombs, Portuguese Chapel, Vasco da Gama Pillar, Malindi Beach, White Elephant Sea & Art Lodge, Malindi Marine National Park and Reserve, Falconry of Kenya, Jemadari Mosque, Malindi Golf and Country Club, Marafa (Hell's Kitchen) Depression, Dakacha Woodlands, Mekatilili wa Menza Site, Mambrui, Mambrui Beach, Mambrui Tombs, Kibaraki Ruins, Ngomeni Shipwreck, Delta Dunes Lodge, Nyika Plateau, Galana Conservancy, Ngala Mausoleum, Rabai Museum, Kaya Kambe Shrine, Kambe Limestone Exposure, Thomas Wakefield Memorial Methodist Church, Ribe

Geography, Land-Use, Highlights, Population, Roads, Airports, Climate and National Monuments in Kilifi County