Wednesday, May 09, 2012
For months, it has been deemed a no-go area in the wake of kidnappings and violence that have seen western nationals seized on the beachfront.
But – in a move that will come as a boost to tourism in the east African country – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has relaxed its guidelines on travelling to certain areas of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline.
FCO advice now states that travellers should avoid ‘all but essential travel’ to within 60km (37 miles) of the border with Somalia ‘due to the threat of kidnap and continuing instability in these areas.’
Previously, the FCO’s exclusion zone had extended a full 150km (93 miles) south of the Kenya-Somalia border – a wider advisory that was introduced last October in the wake of increased activity by Somalian pirates in the waters around the frontier.
Most notoriously, last September, a British couple – Judith and David Tebbutt – were attacked as they holidayed at Kiwayu Safari Village, 31 miles below the border.
Mr Tebbutt was shot and killed by his assailants. Mrs Tebbutt was forcibly abducted and transferred into Somalia. After six months in captivity, she was finally released in March amid reports that a ransom of around £600,000 was paid to those holding her.
And in October, Marie Dedieu, a 66-year-old French national living in Kenya, was seized from her home on Manda Island, despite being confined to a wheelchair. French authorities revealed that she died in captivity later that month.
The new FCO advice will not affect Kiwayu Safari Village, where the Tebbutts were staying. This remains within the exclusion area, as does Garissa District and coastal areas north of Pate Island.
But it brings the tourism hotspot of Lamu back onto the radar.
A small island immediately off the Kenyan mainland, Lamu has been an increasingly popular option for holidaymakers.
Its capital, also called Lamu, is the oldest continually inhabited town in Kenya, with its historic districts recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
However, the FCO still recommends caution when staying in northern Kenya.
‘Piracy is a significant threat in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean,’ its advice continues.