In today’s industrialized society, a walk in nature can be therapeutic and a source of inspiration. Located on the south coast of Mombasa, it is a piece of nature you cannot afford to overlook. As you move past Ukunda, heading to Shimoni, you will pass by Gazi Bay.

Gazi (Maftaha) Bay is a tropical mangrove bay that boasts nine mangrove species. The dominant species is the red mangrove-whose bark is used as a mosquito repellant. This tree is the famous ‘mkoko’ in Swahili, as the locals have a variety of uses for it. There’s also the grey mangrove (Avicennia marina (Forssk.), the black or orange mangrove (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza (L.), the cannonball mangrove (Xylocarpus granatum), tulip mangrove, and many more. Each of these mangroves benefits the community. For instance, the fruit of the cannonball mangrove is used to improve a man’s virility.

A point to note is that there is a 10th mangrove. But scientists don’t recognize it as a mangrove but rather as an associate species. It’s called the small-leaved mangrove (Pemphis acidula Forst.). Gazi has about 600ha of mangrove forest. As such, this is a fantastic place to spot water birds, reptiles, and other fantastic creatures in their element, from coloured rovers to the palm nut vulture, crab-plover, and other palaeatric shorebirds, gulls and terns. Gazi is also home to the olive thrush baboon and the Colobus monkey.

Aside from the unique mangrove ecosystem with its awesome fauna, Gazi is rich in culture and history. You can plan for a village tour, where you’ll get to engage with the locals. The tour entails visiting one of the houses of the local Swahili people for an authentic Swahili meal as you interact with them. You can imagine an ala carte of Swahili meals such as vitoboshe/vitobosha, fish cooked in Mango and coconut milk, coconut rice, tamarind juice, viazi karai, mboga ya kokoshe and other meals.

Gazi has a slave trade history. The bay used to be a dock where small ships would pick up slaves and transport them to Zanzibar, the main slave market. At times, Shimoni would be the destination for the transport of the slaves.

There is a historical ruin in Gazi with a troubled past. According to the locals, the leader, Sheikh Mbaruk of Gazi ( c1830 – 1912), was cruel to the locals. You’ll hear gory tales of beheadings and locals buried alive in the house’s pillars when you visit the site. The floor of the house is made of human teeth.

Rashid was notorious for torturing the locals. The natives say that he even murdered his brother, and they will point you to the site where legend has it the murder took place. However, Mbaruk was, in the end, defeated by the British. When you visit Fort Jesus, you’ll find a big carved door taken from Mazrui’s house in Gazi.

Quiet yet culturally rich and ecologically diverse, Gazi is a great destination to add to your bucket list. The locals have some interesting traditions, such as applying black eye pencil on babies to keep off demons or ghosts. These traditions will probably fade away as the region opens up to development.

Gazi Bay is Approximately 47 km South of Mombasa, North of Msambweni and Sabaki rivers. While there, you can go for a guided tour on the Gazi mangrove boardwalk. The boardwalk is about 450 m and cuts across the mangrove forest. The views on the boardwalk are priceless, especially the sunrise and sunset.

If you are curious about marine life, visit the KMFRI station in Gazi. There, you will learn some awesome facts about ocean life. You can also buy some honey harnessed from the mangrove bees (one of the sweetest kinds of honey in the market), some baskets and other locally made products.

Gazi is one of the lesser-known destinations in Kenya. Yet its simplicity, history, and ecological treasure make it a worthwhile place to visit.