Sights and Sounds of Kwale County

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By Joseph Maina

Alighting at Kwale town, I made a stop at the offices of the county government for a courtesy call to Mr Daniel T. Nyassy, the Director of Communications.

We chatted about the attractions the county has to offer. We discussed the Shimba Hills, and about sugar farming in Kwale, which happens in Ramisi. He told me about Diani Beach in the county, which has been voted Africa’s best beach four times in a row. Afterwards, I stepped out and viewed the sights about this town.

It rests on a high elevation, with the vegetation suggesting plentiful rainfall. A beautiful park lies to the right of the road as you enter town, with a forest featuring giant trees to the left. The skyline is decidedly flat, with hardly any buildings rising up to four storeys. It has a small bus park where mostly fourteen seaters and minibuses ply to destinations in the hinterland.

A matatu will charge Ksh 100 from here to Mombasa. Interestingly, you cannot get a direct matatu from here to Ukunda, meaning you must connect via Kombani. Banks and other key institutions are well represented here. There is a Kenya Medical Training College campus and a prison. Also, in this town, we find the park headquarters of Shimba Hills National Reserve, owned by the KWS.

Later in the afternoon, after a sumptuous meal of fish and ugali, I left town and returned to Ukunda. Day three, I planned to visit the town of Lunga Lunda, which I understood as the border town along the border with neighboring Tanzania.

It costs Ksh200 by public transport from Ukunda to Lunga Lunga, which is some 69 kilometres away. You take the A14 highway, and pass through the towns of Msambweni and Ramisi. The journey takes you through a decidedly coastal landscape featuring tree cover, characterized by coconut in places. At some point, we pass by the road leading to the titanium mines.

As you approach Ramisi, the landscape switches to one of sugar plantations. Acres upon acres of land are under sugarcane in this region. There is a sugar milling plant at Ramisi town. From here, the remaining 36 kilometres to Lunga Lunga take you through sugar farms, which eventually fade away, giving in to dense tree cover and other farmland.

There is plenty of maize and cassava in the farms, and expansive pasture where cattle of the humped variety munch away. It is clearly one region that enjoys abundant rainfall. Buses travelling to Tanzania are a common sight along this route. Arriving at Lunga Lunga, I took a few moments eyeing this town. Locals informed me that this was once the border with Tanzania before the border was shifted further into Tanzania.

I hopped onto a bodaboda, paying Ksh100 for the trip to Horo Horo, just about 4 kilometres away. Here, we find the border point between the two countries. A KRA office is just a stone throw away from its Tanzanian counterpart. I asked for permission from Kenyan and Tanzanian security personnel to cross into Tanzania, just for kicks, and they gladly accepted.

“Karibu sana, jisikie ukiwa nyumbani,” Tanzanian personnel amicably said. They made it clear, however, that one may not venture beyond the border town without a passport. And so I crossed into Tanzania for a much-desired tea break and wandered about the little outpost. Having wandered enough, I returned to the country and biked back to Lunga Lunga.

I then travelled back to in the direction of Ukunda but decided to stopover at Ramisi, where we find sugarcane farming. Back in Ukunda, that evening, I made a bit of exploration as I savored the town’s nightlife. Unlike many towns I have visited, Ukunda remains vibrant many hour past nightfall. Public service vehicles work on a 24-hour basis, travelling to Mombasa and other destinations.

Entertainment joints abound both within town and along the beach. For a taste of disco, Ukunda offers joints such as The VIP Club, Cloud City Discotheque, Shakatak Disco among others. Numerous hotels and restaurants offer a taste of coastal and other dishes. Places such as the Rongai Eating House provide a 24- hour service where you can sample a variety of culinary delights, from fast food to more conventional meals.

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