The landscape is a diverse collage along the 100km swathe of coast between Mtwapa Creek and Malindi. First, between Kikambala and Kilifi lies a major sisal-growing area, focused around the small town of Vipingo, which has just one or two dukas and hotelis, but not much else. As far as the eye can see, arrow-straight rows of fleshy-leafed, cactus-like sisal plants stretch in every direction, the remaining baobab trees standing out bizarrely. A few kilometres inland sits the Vipingo Ridge golf resort (wvipingoridge.com) and the new Vipingo airstrip, served by daily Safarilink flights (flysafarilink.com).
Towards Kilifi, the road bucks through a hilly area and the baobabs grow more profusely amid the scrub. Kilifi creek and Takaungu creek are both stunning, the clash of blue water and green cliffs almost unnatural. As you approach the turning for Watamu, thick, jungly forest (the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve) and mangrove swamp characterize the district around Mida Creek. Further north, there’s a more populated zone of shambas and thicket as you approach Malindi.
There is lots of scope for beach hunting along this part of the coast. Malindi and, to some extent, Watamu have been developed, but Kilifi functions largely as a Giriama market centre and district capital, while Takaungu seems virtually unknown, a throwback to pre-colonial days. There’s also superb snorkelling at the marine national parks at Watamu and Malindi – local divers reckon Watamu has the better coral, and Malindi better fish, but it’s partly a matter of luck and your experience on the day. Lastly, the ruined town of Gedi, deep in the forest near Watamu, is one of the most impressive archeological sites in East Africa.