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Shanzu Beach in Kenya

The soft white sands of Shanzu Beach on the North Mombasa coast nestle between shady coconut palms and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

The beach at Shanzu provides direct access to the Mombasa Marine National Park which is protected by the Kenya Wildlife Service. With a coral reef stretching for 230 km and plenty of marine life there's lots to see below the water and the reef is considered one of the world's best dive sites. The reef is home to a range of fish including the striped zebra fish, multi-coloured angelfish, butterfly fish, snappers and lionfish. Sharks and rays also hunt on the reef. The endangered green, hawksbill, loggerhead, Ridley and leatherback sea turtles can be found here along with a variety of dolphins. Non-divers can also view plenty of corals and an abundance of brightly coloured tropical fish darting around by snorkelling in the shallows.

If you prefer to stay dry but still not miss out on the underwater scenery and sea life then you can take a glass bottom boat trip out to the reef. You may also spot the dolphins and turtles from the comfort of the deck. Back on land it's even possible to have a camel ride on the beach.

A holiday in Africa wouldn't be complete without a safari and the chance to see some magnificent wildlife. You can combine a safari in another part of Kenya with a beach holiday on Shanzu but there's also the Shimba Hills National Reserve just 56 km south of Mombasa. The reserve has elephants, leopards, zebras, giraffes, buffalos, hyenas and many other animals. The reserve is also home to Kenya's only herd of rare sable antelope and there are around 100 in the park.

The reserve's ecosystem includes coastal rainforest, woodland and grassland. More than 50% of the 159 rare plants in Kenya can be found here and it is also an important site for birds and butterflies. It's proximity to Mombasa makes it straightforward to include a safari to Shimba Hills as part of your holiday on Shanzu Beach.

There is also the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary which was established in 1993 as a community-based project to reduce human/elephant conflicts and manage and conserve the elephant. More than 200 local families contributed land and agreed not to farm. They now live nearby and look after the sanctuary which provides more income than farming. The revenue has allowed them to build classrooms and provide a steady water supply and better roads. The sanctuary is just 45 km from Mombasa.

Ngomongo Villages is an award winning sustainable eco-tourism park set in a reclaimed quarry which has been planted with 15000 trees. Close to Shanzu, it is well worth a visit and a great way to understand more about the Kenyan culture and way of life.The park consists of a group o f nine rural tribal homesteads each with huts, crops, animals and even a village witch doctor! Each tribe has different activities for visitors to take part in such as grinding and pounding maize, archery, rafting and tasting traditional foods.

It's also worth a trip to Mombasa city itself. A vibrant, bustling port, Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya after the capital Nairobi and is just 18 km from Shanzu Beach. Mombasa is actually an island and is connected to the mainland by the Nyali Bridge to the north and to the west by the Makupa Causeway. The 16th century Fort Jesus, historic Old Town, Hindu Temples and the Gedi Ruins are all interesting places to visit. Luxury dhow cruises around Mombasa's harbour are also a popular way to explore and a relaxing way to see the city.

The entertainment in Shanzu is mainly based around the hotels and Mombasa also has a range of nightclubs and casinos.

It should take around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the traffic, to get to Shanzu from the airport and many resorts will provide their own bus or arrange a private transfer.

Taxis are the easiest way to get around and will normally be waiting outside hotels and tourist attractions. Agree the price first. Less comfortable but cheaper and more authentic are the matatus (shared mini buses) and tuk tuks (three-wheeled auto rickshaws).

You can fly directly to Mombasa's Moi International Airport from London's Gatwick and can connect easily from regional airports in the UK. There are also flights from Manchester. It's also possible to fly to Mombasa from Nairobi. The flight takes about one hour. For the more adventurous you can also take an overnight train from Nairobi. The journey time is at least 12 hours but first and second sleeping compartments are available and you can spot impala, giraffe and ostrich from the window.