The word Safari in Africa means “trip”, so any kind of “trip” is good for your safari. Do not just think of an African safari as going on a big jeep through wide plains, looking for lions and elephants. Africa is much more than this. Africa, and Kenya especially, can also be wonderful ocean beaches, beautiful islands, stunning marine natural reserves … like the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park. The name comes from two islands off the shores of southern Kenya, almost on the border line with Tanzania. The wild nature of these lands plus the incredible seabeds under water make the place unique. A safari, over here, means exploring the ocean. And loving it!
About Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park
When the plan for the first park – Kisite National Park – became a real park, in 1973, Kenya decided to stop fishing around the shores of the Kisite Island. This caused troubles with local fishermen. Those troubles became fights when also Mpunguti Marine Park was included in 1978. It took a long time to find a compromise and make everyone agree about that. So Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park had a difficult birth, but from the 1980s on it has been a precious tourist attraction for the place.
Its territory includes Kisite Island and Mpunguti Island, their seabeds and a small part on the continental shore where the Park’s board has its seat. The compromise between locals and the government allows fishermen to still go fishing off Mpunguti Marine Park. But only if they use traditional fishing methods. It is forbidden any activity at Kisite, instead. The Park’s territory covers 39 sq km, the largest part of which is on Mpunguti Island.
What to see at Kisite-Mpunguti
The sea between the islands of Kisite and Mpunguti is the paradise of dolphins . They often come here and enjoy swimming not far from the shores. A water safari to go and meet the dolphins is already a great emotion, but not the only one you will experience in this Park. If you dive and explore the seabed, you will admire the beautiful corals and tropical marine plants typical of this archipelago. Of course you will swim with many-coloured reef fish species, with the turtles as well. You might be so lucky to meet whales, too.
Pay attention and admire the wonderful Dugong, a endangered species that could disappear in a few years. If you walk on the beaches of the two islands you can anyway enjoy the view of the dolphins, or meet turtles. You can also meet the Coconut Crab, the largest land crab on the planet! It only lives on Mpunguti Island. Many marine birds also enjoy the shores and sea of Kisite-Mpunguti National Park.
What to do at the Park
You can have fun at birdwatching so many species of sea birds: Sterna Dougali and Sterna Fuscata are the most interesting ones. For snorkeling and diving lovers, some local guides also offer “underwater safaris” or boat tours around the marine reserve in order to find the best place where to meet animals.
If you are just a lazy tourist, only aiming to enjoy a different natural environment, you can sunbathe on the islands’ beaches, or walk among their vegetation and meet people. You can stil enjoy a boat trip from one island to the other, just taking photos and swimming sometimes. Tourist lodges and tour operators are at Shimoni, the reference town on the continental shore.
How to get there
The Marine Park is far from Nairobi. So if you are planning your safari over here you better arrive and stay at Mombasa (90 km from the park). From Mombasa, take the main road to the town of Shimoni. All the boats to the islands and the Marine Park leave from Shimoni’s port and beaches.