The Park

Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park and Reserve is managed and protected by Kenya WIldlife Service (KWS).

Park map

The marine park is located on the south coast of Kenya, 40km from Ukunda town in the Msambeni District of Coast Province.  The ecosystem covers a marine area with four small islands surrounded by coral reefs. Kisite island is covered in low grass, herbs and rocks, while Upper and Lower Mpunguti Islands have dense coastal equatorial forest.  Sea grasses cover a large area of the sub-littoral zone of the reef.

Access: The Marine Park and Reserve are 8 Km off the Kenyan coast from Shimoni and 6 Km north of the Tanzanian border.  The park can only be reached by boat- a trip of about 12 kms around and between various islands.  The Kisite Marine Park HQ is situated at the mainland in Shimoni, 200 metres south of the main Shimoni jetty.   It is 550 kms from Nairobi and 85 kms from Mombasa via Ukunda to Shimoni, mainly on tarmac but with gravel for the last 15 kms.  And, yes, for the budget traveler there is public transport available, but it may take you 2,3,4, 5 or even 6 times as long to reach us from Mombasa than if by private car.  Please contact us if you need more details.

Size and allocation:  39 sq km. (Kisite Marine National Park: 28 sq km. Mpunguti Reserve: 11 sq km).  There are numerous patch reefs within the Marine Protected Area.  Kisite Marine Park is an official no take zone, which means nothing natural should be removed whether dead or alive. Mpunguti Reserve allows controlled fishing but only using traditional, non-destructive fishing methods.

Boundaries: Park boundaries are marked by mooring buoys to reduce conflict between park management, the community, boatoperators,  fishermen, and other resource users.  Moorings within the park are designed to prevent anchor damage to coral reefs.

Climate:  The coast is humid with mean annual temperatures ranging from 22-34 C (72-93 F).  Annual rainfall is about 500 mm (19.7inches).

Why should I visit?  Why?!!?  Because the creation/ nature/ wonders/ marvels (choose your own word) that you see here will amaze/ thrill/ excite/ relax/ addict you.  Whether it is underwater marine life, or birds, or coastal forests, or mangroves, or the scenic views of islands, beaches and boats that is your thing, we have it all.  Add some time on Wasini Island if you wish and a visit to the Slave Caves that will touch your heart, and you will have the perfect all-round day or days.  Stay in the KWS bandas and you can maybe add colobus monkeys and bush-babies (galagos) to your list of experiences.  Addicted snorkelers tell us that Kisite far surpasses anything they have seen elsewhere on the Kenyan coast (with the possible exception of Kiunga which is too close too Somalia for the comfort of most people), or Zanzibar, or Mahe Island in the Seychelles.  Come.  See for yourself!

Major Attractions

  • Pristine coral reefs for snorkeling and diving
  • The scenic Kisite and Mpunguti Islands and beautiful sandy beach at Kisite during low tides
  • Dolphin and sometimes whale or whale shark spotting
  • Shimoni historical Slave Cave managed by  the local community while KWS provides capacity-building
  • Wasini “Coral Gardens” and mangrove boardwalk managed by a Wasini women’s self-help group with KWS support

What to bring with you:  drinking water, picnic items and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight at a camp site.  Also useful are: binoculars, camera, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and guidebooks.

Marine Life

  •  Fish: over 250 fish species have been recorded.  Those frequently encountered includes barracuda, groupers, rabbit fish, trigger fish, surgeon fish, emperors, angelfish, wrasse, goatfish, parrotfish, damsels, snappers, lionfish, lizardfish, anemone fish, unicorn fish, moray eels, stingrays, and butterfly fish.  Many of these species are frequently caught by fishermen in the Shimoni area. Thus we need proper monitoring in order to study the effect of catches, especially from within the Marine Reserve.
  •  Dolphins: the species often seen in this area are the bottlenose (Tursiops aduncus), humpback (Sousa chinesis) and the striking spinner (Stenella longirostris).  However, seven species of dolphin have been recorded along the Kenyan coast.
  • Whales: We are commonly visited by humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) during their seasonal migrations.  They visit us between July and October.
  • Sea Turtles: green and hawksbill turtles are common within the Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve all year around.
  • Sharks:  Reef sharks are commonly sighted within the protected area and around it.  Whale sharks are seasonal, usually being sighted from March to May.
  • Corals: Over 50 genera of hard corals have been recorded, along with a multitude of soft corals.
  • Birds:  Roseate, common noddy, crested, and sooty terns all breed, nest and roost on the park islands.  These birds come from Europe to the Kisite islands in July and leave in September after successfully breeding.
  • Sea grasses (often in beds) and other marine plants and algae abound.
  • Other marine life: dugong, gastropods, crustaceans, molluscs, echinoderms, sponges. Common names include octopus, squid, cuttlefish, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, shells, sea stars, sea urchins, jellyfish, sea cucumbers.  We also have an endemic (found nowhere else) coconut crab.
  • Terrestrial Wildlife: Buffalo, Angolan black and white colobus, Sykes monkeys, baboons, vervet monkeys, bush babies (galagos), monitor lizards, snakes, crocodiles, hyenas, and leopards are among the animals found in the greater Shimoni area.

Criteria for selection and establishment of Kisite/Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve

v  The pristine condition and biodiversity of the coral reef

v   Scenic setting and beauty

v   Capacity for the area to act as a breeding nursery and feeding area to restock surrounding fishing areas

v   Important habitat for rare coconut crabs and breeding birds

v   Unusual combination of terrestrial and undersea life

v  Potential for nature tourism, recreation and relaxation

Volunteering/ attachments/ internship: KWS makes provision for all of these.  Check it out here.  In addition, Global Vision International (GVI) has a base on Wasini Island.  Volunteers work on Wasini, in the Marine Park, and around Shimoni in various projects such as dolphin research, colobus monkey research, and teaching environmental education in local schools.  Look here for more information.  GVI has sending bases in the UK, Australia and the UK.