Kenya is building the first underwater museum in sub-Saharan Africa around a 504-year-old Portuguese shipwreck off the coast of Ras Ngomeni, Kilifi County.

With cultural heritage one of Kenya’s biggest tourist attractions, the National Museum of Kenya (NMK) and the government are developing the underwater museum for a 2022 opening.

“Once the museum is complete, we will have tour guides who will be guiding people under the water. Each wreck will have a placard that tells its history,” explains Head of Archaeology at the NMK Coast region, Caesar Bita.

The museum will also facilitate scientific research with visitors given the opportunity to study many of the preserved artefacts in the wrecks, including marine life and human remains.

Such historic artefacts risk a faster rate of decay when they are taken out of the water, and can be better preserved if left submerged, protected from strong waves by sandbag walls and nets.

Planning began in 2012 but was put on hold so that the search could continue for more shipwrecks off the coast of Kenya. Currently there have been 22 discovered near Mombasa, eight near Malindi, and three around Lamu.

Construction of the site off the coast of Ras Ngomeni