Lighthouses of Kenya

Kenya is a nation on the equatorial east coast of Africa. Although the Portuguese were the first European colonists in Kenya, the country became a British colony from 1890 and remained under British control until it became independent in 1963. Of the East African nations, it has the shortest coastline and is in general the least maritime. However, the coastal city of Mombasa is a major seaport.

Information on Kenyan lighthouses is difficult to obtain. The Portuguese built several stone obelisks to guide ships entering Mombasa, and at least one of these obelisks apparently remains. Many of the more recent lights are also mounted on obelisk-style stone towers, and we lack information on most of these lights. Photos are very scarce; if you have photos of Kenyan lighthouses great or small, please contact me.

Aids to navigation in Kenya are operated by the Kenya Ports Authority, an agency of the Ministry of Transport.

Geographical note: Mombasa is on an island, cupped in a bay off the Indian Ocean. The Old Port, dating back to Portuguese times, is on the north side of the island, while the modern port facilities are on the south side.

In Swahili, the common language of the Kenyan coast, the word for a lighthouse is mnarani or mnara, words related to the Arabic manara. The Arabic word ra's is often used for a cape.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Light List numbers are from volume D of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 112.

General Sources
Lightphotos.net - Kenya
Photos of Mombasa lights by Dmitry Rostopshin.
Afrikanischen Leuchttürme auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.
Leuchttürme auf Briefmarken
Huelse's extensive and useful page of lighthouse postage stamp images.

Ra's Serani Range Rear Light
Ra's Serani Range Rear Light, Mombasa, August 2007
Flickr photo copyright Mike Hooley; used by permission

Northern Kenya Lighthouses
* Shela Range Front
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 6 m (20 ft); quick-flashing white light. 6 m (20 ft) square pyramidal tower, painted with black and white horizontal bands. No lantern. A photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. The rear light is on a 9 m (30 ft) skeletal tower. Shela is a beach resort town on Lamu Island, off Mokowe on Kenya's north coast. Located near the southwestern point of the island. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty D6832; NGA 31176.
Malindi
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 25 m (82 ft); white flash every 10 s. 13 m (43 ft) skeletal tower, painted white. No photo available, and the light is not conspicuous in Google's satellite view. Malindi is a historic port town about 120 km (75 mi) northeast of Mombasa. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama stopped here in 1498-99 en route to India; he built a pillar of coral rock that still stands 170 m (560 ft) north of the modern lighthouse. Located on a promontory on the south side of Malindi's harbor. Site status unknown. Admiralty D6824; NGA 31192.

Mombasa Lighthouses
Cannon Point
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 19 m (62 ft); white flash every 10 s. 13 m (43 ft) square pyramidal tower, painted with black and white horizontal bands. No lantern. A Kenya Ports Authority photo appears at right, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on a promontory on the south side of the entrance to the Mtwapa Creek estuary, about 15 km (9 mi) northeast of Ra's Serani. Site status unknown. ARLHS KEN-003; Admiralty D6818; NGA 31204.
[Old Port Entrance Range Front]
Date unknown. Unlit daybeacon. Square stone obelisk, painted white. Hannah Stafford has a photo, Rostopshin has a photo showing both towers of the range, and Google has a satellite view. These range obelisks can be seen across the old harbor from the ramparts of Fort Jesus. Located on the east side of the port entrance. Site status unknown.
[Old Port Entrance Range Rear]
Date unknown. Unlit daybeacon. Square stone obelisk, painted white. Rostopshin has a photo showing both towers of the range, and Bing has a satellite view. Located directly across from Fort Jesus just south of the Four Seasons hotel (there is a photo showing one of the old cannons aimed across the river at this beacon). Site status unknown.
Cannon Point Light
Cannon Point Light, Shanzu
Kenya Ports Authority photo (no longer online)
* Ra's Kisauni (Ras Kiberamini Range Rear)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 27 m (89 ft); white flash every 2 s. 12 m (39 ft) round stone obelisk, painted white. Google has a satellite view. The range guides vessels in the old port, on the east side of the island. Located on the mainland, off Nyali Road east of the New Nyali Bridge. Site appears open, tower closed. Admiralty D6774.1; NGA 31220.
* Ra's Kiberamini (Range Front)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 18 m (56 ft); quick-flashing white light. 9 m (30 ft) round stone obelisk, painted white with two black bands on the seaward face. Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of Abdel Nasser Street, on the northeast corner of Mombasa Island. Site appears open, tower closed. Admiralty D6774; NGA 31216.
[Old Port Obelisks]
Several stone obelisks were built near the Old Port on the east side of Mombasa; these towers were probably located near Fort Jesus, which was built by the Portuguese in the late 16th century. A British ex-colonial has posted a photo of an obelisk about 15 m (50 ft) high; this photo was probably taken in the 1950s or 1960s, but the tower may still stand. Huelse has posted a postcard view of a similar but shorter tower rigged as a "petty lighthouse" sometime in the early 1900s. Finally, Michel Forand has shared a scan of an old photo in his collection that shows a third obelisk. This scan appears at right. The obelisks probably functioned as range daybeacons to guide ships into Mombasa's Old Port. These towers (if any of them still exist) represent a fascinating chapter in Africa's lighthouse history. If you go to Mombasa, please look for them; if you see one, please take note of its location, take a photo, and send us your findings!
* [Ra's Serani Range Beacon (2?)]
Date unknown (station established 1902). Inactive as a light, but maintained as a range daybeacon. Approx. 5 m (17 ft) rectagonal cylindrical stone tower, painted white with two black horizontal bands. The light was shown from a bracket on the seaward side of the tower. Huelse has a postcard view of the original light, which was similar but round. Google has a satellite view. Huelse also has a postcard view showing both towers of the original range; the front light was on the obelisk and the rear light on a cast iron tower (next entry). Located at the edge of the seaside cliff southeast of the modern front light. Site open, tower closed.
* Ra's Serani Range Front (1?)
Date unknown (station established 1902). Active; focal plane 26 m (85 ft); quick-flashing white light. 12 m (39 ft) round metal tower with gallery. No current photo available, but Google has a satellite view. Huelse has a postcard view showing both lights of the original range; the front light was on the obelisk and the rear light on the cast iron tower. When the taller rear light (next entry) was built, the cast iron tower became the front light of the range. The present tower appears to be the original with the lantern removed. The range guides ships into Mombasa from the Indian Ocean. The Kenya Ports Authority operates a signal station a few feet to the south. Located on Ra's Serani, at the foot of Lighthouse Road (Magaret Avenue) in Mombasa (the street is aligned with the range line). Site open, tower closed. ARLHS KEN-005; Admiralty D6772; NGA 31208.
Mombasa Obelisk
Obelisk in Mombasa
photo courtesy of Michel Forand
* Ra's Serani Range Rear (2)
Date unknown (1920s?) (station established 1902). Active; focal plane 45 m (148 ft); white flash every 5 s. 33 m (108 ft) round stone tower with lantern and gallery, painted with black and white horizontal bands. Mike Hooley's photo is at the top of this page, another good photo is available, Spike Reid has a closeup, the tower appears freshly painted in a December 2007 photo, and Google has a good satellite view. Huelse's postcard view shows both lights of the original range; the original rear light was a cast iron tower with lantern and gallery (see previous entry). Huelse has also posted a historic postcard view of the current rear light. Located at the right-angle bend of Lighthouse Road,
* Ra's Mchangamwe Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane unknown; white flash every 2 s. 19 m (62 ft) square stone obelisk, painted white. No photo available, but Bing has a fuzzy satellite view that appears to show an obelisk. The front light is on the roof of a building 200 m (220 yd) south southeast; another satellite view shows two possible buildings. Located on the north side of the main highway just west of the Makupa Causeway, which connects the old city of Mombasa to the mainland. Site apparently open, tower closed. ARLHS KEN-007; Admiralty D6812.1; NGA 31260.
Mtongwe (Kilindini) Range Rear
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 28 m (92 ft)' white flash every 2 s. Approx. 15 m (49 ft) square white concrete obelisk. The light is displayed from a bracket near the top of the tower. Rostopshin's photo is at right, and Google has a satellite view. This range guides vessels in Mombasa's Kilindini Harbor, the modern harbor on the south side of the island. NGA lists the tower height as 7 m (22 ft), which is clearly too low. Located on a forested peninsula across the harbor from the commercial docks. Site status unknown. Admiralty D6794.1; NGA 31244.
* Likoni
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 21 m (69 ft); red, white, or green light depending on direction, 2.5 s on, 2.5 s off. 12 m (39 ft) round obelisk with lantern, painted white. A good photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. This obelisk has been equipped with a directional light for entering the modern harbor. Located on the south side of the entrance to the south (modern) harbor of Mombasa. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS KEN-008; Admiralty D6796; NGA 31236.
Mtongwe Range Rear
Mtongwe (Kilindini) Range Rear Light, Mombasa
photo copyright Dmitry Rostopshin; used by permission

Southern Kenya Lighthouses
Chale Island
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 30 m (98 ft); two white flashes every 20 s. Approx. 25 m (82 ft) square pyramidal skeletal tower.The tower is seen at the upper left of an aerial photo and a second aerial photo (halfway down the page), and Bing has an indistinct satellite view. The island shelters the harbor of the fishing port of Gazi and is the site of a beach resort, the Sands at Chale Island. Located on the southern tip of the island (the other end from the resort). Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty D6770; NGA 31268
Pungutiayu
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 16 m (52 ft); 16 m (52 ft) round fiberglass tower, colored with black and white horizontal bands. No photo available, but Bing has a distant satellite view. Located on the outermost of the Wasini islands, off Shimoni at the southern end of Kenya's coast. Accessible only by boat. Site probably open, tower closed. Admiralty D6769; NGA 31272.

Lake Victoria Light Towers
Notes: Lake Victoria is the world's largest tropical lake. Only a corner of the lake is in Kenya; most of it is in Tanzania and Uganda, and we know nothing of any possible lake lighthouses in those countries. Kisumu, at the head of Winam Gulf, is Kenya's only lake port. These two light towers on the lake are fairly ordinary post lights, and many people would not consider them to be lighthouses. They became known to lighthouse fans by appearing on Kenyan postage stamps.
[Asembo Bay]
1954. Active; characteristics unknown. Small square post light on a concrete base. Post painted white; the small lantern is red. No photo available, but there is a 1993 postage stamp image. Located somewhere near the town of Asembo Bay, roughly 40 km (25 mi) west of Kisumu. Site status unknown; the light can probably be seen from the Kenya Railways passenger ferry between Kusumu and Asembo Bay. ARLHS KEN-002.
[Gingira Rock]
1954. Active; characteristics unknown. Small square post light on a concrete base. Post painted white; the small lantern is red. No photo available, but there is a 1993 postage stamp image. Sibling of Asembo Bay. Located on a small island in the entrance to Asembo Bay from the Winam Gulf, about 18 km (11 mi) south of Asembo Bay. Site status unknown; the light can probably be seen from the Kenya Railways passenger ferry between Kisumu and Asembo Bay. ARLHS KEN-004.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Somalia | South: Tanzania

Return to the Lighthouse Directory index | Ratings key

Posted June 16, 2005. Checked and revised May 24, 2013. Lighthouses: 12. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.