Shimoni Caves

Shimoni Slave Caves

Useful Information

Location: Shimoni.
80 km south of Mombasa on the Kenya coast.
(-4.647007, 39.380300)
Open: All year daily 8:30-18.
Shimoni Slavery Museum: All year daily 8-17.
Fee: Adults KES 400, Children KES 200, Kenia Residents KES 200, Kenia Citizens KES 100, Children KES 50.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=7 km.
Guided tours: self guided, D=20 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Shimoni Slave Caves, Tel: +254-714-043477, Tel: +254-791-743363.
Shimoni Slave Caves (SSC), Tel: +254-793-044-408. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


01-JUL-2001 show cave opened to the public by Ali Abubakwar, chief curator Fort Jesus.
2020 conservation project started.


The Shimoni Slave Caves were developed as a show cave as a community project and have trails and electric light. They are considered a historical site due to their importance during the slave trade, not a show cave. A concrete staircase was built down to the level of the cave passage, with wooden railings. The triangular passages have numerous openings to the surface which allow daylight to enter, there are also a few light bulbs at the darker parts. The floor of the cave is flat with several ruined walls, one is a quadratic cistern with a depth of one meter and a size of 1.5 m. The visit is self-guided.

Shimoni is a Swahili word meaning "the place of the caves". The village is located at the sea, on a hill of coral limestone which is karstified and has numerous caves, hence the name. The complex of caves is quite big, it is more than 7 km long. The passages are often 4 m high and 6 m wide, and have a triangular shape. The rock is often quite porous, a result of its formation, it consists of corals which grew when this area was still covered by the sea. There are also some nice speleothems like stalactites and flowstone. They were used by the locals as a shrine, and as a hideout during intertribal incursions. We are not sure how this actually worked, as the caves are easily accessible, probably the key element was hiding in remote parts.

Since the 18th century the Arabs used this part of the cave system to imprison slaves before they were shipped to Zanzibar, where they were traded on the Zanzibar Slave Market, or they were sent to the Gasi Plantation. East Africa was a source of slaves since the Middle Ages. Arabic slave traders travelled down the coast and either bought slaves from local rulers or just caught the locals. Later the British made a big slave trade which became famous as triangular trade. British industrial products were traded for slaves in Africa, the slaves were traded for raw products, mostly cotton, in America, and those raw products were traded for industrial produtc back in Britain.

Britain abolished slavery in 1833, France in 1848, and the U.S.A. finally in 1865. In 1887 Zanzibar became a protectorate of Britain, which should have ended the slave trade theoretically. E.N. Mackenzie and Sir Lloyed Matthews surveyed the coast in the service of the Sultan. They made treaties with local Chieftaincies, the Tswaka, Chuyu and Shimoni, which allowed the British East African Association (BEAA) to establish trade with the interior of the country. The Chieftaincies received protection and a flag post was built on the modern fish market. This flag area became a trade area where the Wumba from Wasini and the Digo, Segeuju, and Wakifundi from Shimon met for trade. The British also erected buildings for administration like the Colonial DC's Office, DC's Residence, the prison, and a cemetery.

In East Africa the Zanzibar Slave Market was closed by the Sultan as late as 1907. But while being illegal, clandestine slave trade went on until the 1940s. It was 1948 when the United Nations finally declared slavery illegal under the Universal Rights of Man. And Mauretania was the last country in Africa which finally abolished slavery in 1981.

Beneath the cave there is the Shimoni Slavery Museum, which was created in a former slave traders building above the caves. It informs about the history of slavery, with emphasis on the local history.

There is also a Caves Nature Trail which starts at the cave entrance. This trail is on the surface and concentrates on the local plants, it is more like a botanical garden.