Tucked further away in the village of Shimoni in Kwale County, the rugged ancient caves of Shimoni are not only a stark reminder of some of the darkest periods in human history but also represent a fascinating historical gem that goes back many centuries.
The Dark History
For the most memorable part, the ancient coral caves of Shimoni served as a pen in which over 1 million slaves would wait before being shipped to the slave market in Zanzibar, Tanzania & onwards to Yemen between 1860 and 1895.
It is believed that the slaves were held here for 2-3 weeks, before being packed in dhows – up to 1000 at a time. As many as 400 died during that voyage and were thrown overboard to be eaten by sharks.
Location of Shimoni Slave Caves
Located just an hour’s drive (50km) from Diani shopping center, Shimoni is a small village on the south coast of Kenya. The name ‘Shimoni’ is a Swahili word that means ‘a place of the hole’ or ‘inside the hole’. The name is derived from the existence of caves by the seashore formed as a result of natural forces.
These caves cover over five kilometers inland and have complex tunnels that have been used for different functions and different times. The age of the caves is evident with the huge stalactites and stalagmites inside that complete the horror feel. Shimoni’s history revolves a lot around these caves.
A long time ago before the slave trade happened, people used the caves for spiritual rituals or as hiding places whenever there was a war.
Modern Day Shimoni
Today, Shimoni village lies further South and is currently a somewhat sleepy fishing village with resorts and operators that specialize in scuba diving, dolphin safaris providing accommodation and recreation for visitors.
The locals believe that the cave is a living organism as some of the rock pieces have outcrops from the top and bottom forming jaw-like structures. Pieces of old iron chains and shackles can be found in the cave which some people argue were used to shackle slaves in order to stop them from running away while others argue that the hooks inside were used to hang animals slaughtered during rituals.
Details: Entrance Fees & Hours
A small entrance fee of KES. 400 is charged to non-residents and KES. 100 for Kenyan Citizens to explore the caves and tours are usually between 8.30 am – 10.30 am in the morning and 1.30 to 6 pm in the evening. You can call 0714 043477 for more information regarding the caves.