Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park & Reserve is an official no-take zone which means you cannot remove or extract anything from the park. Established in 1973, the protected area is a two-in-one affair. Kisite is about 6,919 acres, and Mpunguti is 2,718 acres. Being an official no-take zone has maintained its unspoilt natural beauty because nothing natural leaves the park, whether dead or alive! Its sandy beaches continue to be a popular attraction for those desiring to enjoy recreational activities in an eco-friendly environment. Here are six things you can do when you visit.

1. Visit Kisite Island

Kisite Island is a flat, treeless rocky outcrop with many patches of grass surrounded by a beautiful sandy shore. During low tide, the island’s beach is exposed hence providing an ideal habitat for seabirds. Some birds include the pelagic feeders and breeding colonies of roseate and sooty terns. They arrive here in July every year to breed and then leave with their fledgelings in September. The richness of birdlife on the island has made it a designated Important Bird Area (IBA).

2. Visit Mpunguti Island

While Kisite teams with colonies of sea birds, Mpunguti Island is engulfed by a dense coastal equatorial forest. Surrounding waters here have well-developed coral gardens and fish. At Mpunguti Reserve, you can try your hand at traditional, non-destructive fishing methods.

3. Swim With Turtles

Spot populations of Green and Hawksbill turtles at Kijamba cha Kasa, their popular hangout.

4. Go Snorkelling

Snorkel in the warm shallow and clear waters of Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park & Reserve. The park and reserve offer excellent dive sites for both beginners and professionals. The most popular areas are those lying in the main coral garden towards the outer edge of the Kisite anchorage marked with mooring buoys.

5. Explore the Corals

Visit and see more than 56 varieties of corals so far identified at the Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park & Reserve. These corals provide a sanctuary for over 200 spinner, humpback and bottle-nosed dolphins. You can see the dolphins as individuals, but they mostly are in pods of 2 to 25 individuals breaking above the waves. If you visit between July and December, you may see Humpback whales and the migratory whale sharks – the largest fish in the world. The humpbacks come here to raise their calves in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

6. Visit the Slave Caves of Shimoni

It was at the Shimoni Slave Caves that the scandalous trade in natives sourced from the Kenyan Coast and Ukambani was transacted.

Take a five-minute walk to the ancient coral caves of Shimoni. Shimoni means a ‘hole’ in Swahili. The vast caves, some extending as deep as 5 KM inland, are filled with fruit and insect-feeding bats. The caves served as ‘Kayas’ or sacred sites of worship among local communities. Later, between the 18th and 19th centuries, they became holding areas for thousands of captured slaves en route to the infamous Arabian slave markets of Zanzibar. Once in Zanzibar, the slaves would then get shipped to Arabia, Yemen, Turkey, India and Persia.

Here they would serve as sailors in Persia, pearl divers in the Gulf and soldiers in the Omani army. Some would work the salt pans of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and become domestic slaves. Women also served as sex slaves. Others became Ivory porters carrying ivory from the hinterland to the coast for shipment. When country singer, Roger Whittaker, sang of Shimoni, he was referring to the inhuman events that took place at the Shimoni Slave Caves.

He sang of Shimoni’s answers being written down. Perhaps he was referring to the chains, shackles and human remains found in the caves. The locals who manage the caves charge a small fee at the gate to support the remuneration of local teachers in primary schools and school fees for needy children in the area. The caves are open from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM.

Next time you are at the south coast, make sure you include Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park & Reserve in your bucket list. The experience of its incredible natural formations, colourful habitats, and limitless sea life is unforgettable. Here you will discover why many regard this protected area as the Maasai Mara of the sea. Check the latest entry rates at the Kenya Wildlife Service website before you visit.