Kwale County

Discover Kwale County

Spatial Location of Kwale County in Kenya
Spatial Location of Kwale County in Kenya

Brief Overview of Kwale County

Kwale County occupies the far southern wedge-corner of Kenya bounded by the Kenya-Tanzania border and the Indian Ocean. The area can be divided up into three closely related units – Coastal Plain, Foot Plateau and Nyika Plateau. The Coastal Plain rarely exceeds 5 kms in width landwards and generally lies below the 100 ft contour line. The azure waters and palm-fringed white powder beach at Diani, part of the 512 kms coastline of Kenya, is so well known as to warrant any introduction. Diani Beach is part of Kwale’s 91 kms Coastal Plain comprised of four main beaches: Tiwi-Mwachema River-Diani-Galu Beach (15 kms), Gazi Beach (2.5 kms), Msambweni Beach (4.5 kms) and the Shimoni-Wasini Island-Funzi Beach (8.0 km) – all developed with lovely resorts. The seaward margin of these beaches is marked by a coral reef which, in its natural state, supports a relatively shallow beach. Inland, the coral gives way to salubrious sand beaches.

Behind the Coastal Plain the land rises rapidly, and often more or less abruptly, to the Foot Plateau that stands at 200 to 450 ft. And as you move further inland from the Coastal Plain, the soils get more fertile and deeper typified by a sandy loam that’s red in colour.  These red soils have an important effect on farming and, it is generally found that mangoes and coconuts are grown on the fertile loams to the west and cashew nuts on the eastern region. Large coconut farms flourish on the north and south mainlands, particularly near Gazi, while further south are the Ramisi Sugar farms. In the northern part of the generally planed-off surface of the Foot Plateau, the land takes a steep ascent at the Shimba Hills (1,640 ft). “This horst-like eminence forms the dominant physiographic feature of Kwale County. Apart from a few isolated summits – Tsimba (1,148 ft), Mrima (1,060 ft) and Dzombo (1,250 ft) – the highest of which attains an altitude of just about 1,600 ft., the range is more or less flat at a height of 1,100 to 1,300 ft.

From the northern edge of the Coast Range the topography drops steeply to the Nyika which, starting from about the 600 ft. contour, rises gradually to about 1,000 ft. Nyika is semi-arid, sparsely populated, and capable of supporting only dwarf, scrubby, generally leafless trees and succulent plants. At the moment, the beautiful beach at Diani has been the most successful at attracting travellers to Kwale, yet, there’s much more to the county than the miles of perfect beach. It’s awash with a collection of historic sites, found mainly along the coast, many of them on private lands; consisted of ancient mosques, ruins, palaces, houses, walls with gates and tombs. Owing to their isolation and overgrown vegetation, some are tiresome to reach. The coastal roads from Malindi to Mombasa (B8) and from Mombasa southwards to Lunga Lunga (A14) run along the centre of the Coastal Plain throughout much of their length. Additionally, Kwale County is served by regular flights from Nairobi, or Malindi, landing at Ukunda Airport.

Lunga Lunga Border Point, Image Courtesy of Travel Unplugged.
Lunga Lunga Border Point. Image Courtesy of Travel Unplugged

Salient Features of Kwale County

  • County Number 02
  • Area – 8270 km2
  • Altitude – 1390 ft
  • Major Towns – Kwale, Diani, Ukunda
  • Borders – Mombasa, Taita Taveta, Kilifi, Tanzania
Kwale County Map

Brief History of Kwale County

Kwale has a far-reaching narrative as a centre for human settlement for diverse coastal groups.  Oral traditions suggest that its occupation dates as far back as the 1400’s when the Washiraze People settled here; followed by the Wavumba in the 1600’s, and later the Wasegeju People. Another sub-tribe, the Wadigo, inhabited the coastal regions, while the Waduruma settled around Gazi and Vanga, which had a marked Arab influence. Much later, Shimoni would become a station for Imperial British East African Company (from 1890) before it was handed over to British East Africa, in 1895.  Shimoni served as Vanga’s capital until 1923, replaced by Kwale. Post the Anglo-German Agreement of 1886 – by which the two parties agreed their spheres of influence in East Africa should be divided by a line running from south of Mombasa, then north of Kilimanjaro to a point on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria – the land lying within 16 kms of the coast was declared the property of the Sultan of Zanzibar but was rented from him and protected, developed, and dominated by the British Government.

View of Diani Beach at the Sands at Nomad Hotel.  Photo Courtesy of Sands at Nomad
Diani Beach at the Sands at Nomad Hotel. Image Courtesy of Sands at Nomad
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58 Attractions in Kwale County, arranged as one would visit these - north, south, east then south - with aid of in-depth narratives, images, strip maps and distance chart:

WWF Tree Nursery, Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, Kutazama Lodge, Mandhari Cottages, Shimba Hills National Reserve, Shimba Hills Lodge, Sheldrick Falls, Lima Self Help Group, Nyalani Dam, Tiwi Beach, Diani-Chale Marine National Reserve, Kongo Mosque, Twiga Mosque, Diani Mosque, Leisure Lodge Beach and Golf Resort, Diani Shopping Mall, Diani Beach Art Gallery, Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant, Funguo Wreck, Raydon Watersports, Colobus Conservation, H2O Extreme Diani Beach, Baobab Beach Resort, Lantana Galu Beach, Skydive Diani, Kaya Kinondo, Chale Island, Gazi Beach, Gazi Ruins, Msambweni (Mbuyu) Beach, Munge Ruins, Funzi Island, Shirazi Ruins, Fikirini Caves, Hurumuzi (Hormuz), Pongwe, Shimoni Caves, Betty's Camp, Shimoni Ruins, Wasini Island, Wasini Ruins, Wasini Boardwalk, Chambocha Cemetery, Charlie Claw’s, Wasini Dolphin Tour, Pilli Pipa Dhow, Global Vision International, Mkwiro, Mwaozi Tumbe's Gravestone at Bogoa, Kisite-Mpunguti National Marine Park and Reserve, Sii Island, Maji Moto Springs, Vumba Kuu, Vanga, Kagugu, Nyika Plateau

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