So, you have been hard at work game viewing in one or more amazing safari parks on your Kenya vacation. What better way to finish your exploration than in the country’s hotspot for relaxation. Offering nearby beach resorts, as well as cultural and active pursuits, Mombasa is the perfect aprés safari destination.
Mombasa is Kenya’s second largest city after Nairobi, and the main part of the city is an island linked to the mainland by a bridge as well as a ferry service.
A Little History of Mombasa
It helps to appreciate the make up of Mombasa, if you know about the origins of the city. The Portuguese colonized the city and left their influences, from the late 1500s to the early 1600s. It became a British protectorate in the mid 1800s. Later, it became a trading port which attracted immigrants from the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, who arrived as traders and skilled craftsmen. With all these international influences, a cosmopolitan city was the outcome.
Why Visit Mombasa Today?
Many reasons. First of all, it has a year-round tropical climate. Being on the Indian Ocean, there are outstanding beach resorts both just to the north and south, with an excellent selection of resort hotels with full beach facilities. Active visitors can enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, glass bottom boat cruises, and, although you may have had your fill of these, nature parks offering animal viewing.
And the Cultural Pursuits Include……
There are many cultural sites to indulge in, and Mombasa’s Old Town is a good place to start, with its Arab, Asian, Portuguese, and British influences. Here, you can simply stroll through the colourful narrow streets and soak up the atmosphere. Observe a mixture of Portuguese and Islamic architecture. Mombasa’s most visited site is the UNESCO World Heritage listed, Fort Jesus, with its metre thick walls, frescoed interiors, and Arab and Swahili inscriptions which are a record of the history of Mombasa. The fort was built by the Portuguese in 1593 to serve as both a symbol of, and as headquarters for, their presence in this corner of the Indian Ocean. These days, the fort houses a museum built over a former barracks, and the exhibits give an excellent insight into Swahili life and culture.
Within the fort complex is Mazrui Hall, where Portuguese sailors scratched graffiti that illustrated the multicultural naval identity of the Indian Ocean. The Omani House, in the San Felipe bastion, in the northwestern corner of the fort, was built in the late 18th century.
If markets are your thing, head to the Marakiti Market, west of the Old Town, with its all-pervading exotic scents of cardamom, pepper, turmeric, curry powders, and everything else that makes eating interesting.
There are a number of Hindu temples in Mombasa, which visitors can enter. Inside you will be able to see artifacts, idols, and cultural pictures and paintings.
Other Interesting Activities
Mtwapa Creek is a place to visit on Mombasa’s north coast. On an ocean inlet, with some small marinas and beautiful tropical vegetation, it is known for bird watching, mountain bike tours around the creek, and is the starting point for deep sea fishing trips. Mtwapa is also famous in Mombasa for its clubs and active nightlife.
Visit unspoilt Funzi Island via Dhow (traditional Arab sailing ship), and explore Ramisi River Mangroves by canoe to view crocodiles and lots of bird life up close. Here you can bathe on a magical sandbank in the Indian Ocean and feast on a lobster and seafood BBQ.
The night life and entertainment in Mombasa is broad-ranging and offers something for every taste. Many bars, pubs, and nightclubs offer something for every budget. From local bars to exclusive lounges, everything is available. Nightlife is mainly found in the village of Mtwapa, north of Mombasa. It is called “the village that never sleeps.”
And the Beaches?
Nyali Beach is the closest beach to Mombasa, and is known for its many top class hotels and white sand beaches, making it a popular destination. The coast here is bordered by white sand beaches protected by a coral reef and loved by divers. This is a part of the Mombasa Marine Reserve, managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. Activities include windsurfing, scuba diving, kite surfing, and sailing.
Diani Beach is located 30 kilometres/19 miles south of Mombasa and the beach itself is about 10 kilometres/6 miles in length. It also offers excellent hotels and restaurants.
Bamburi Beach is 10 kilometres/6 miles from Mombasa and has some of the best hotels in the region. The beach has beautiful white sand and is surrounded by palm trees. Restaurants along the beach very much invite you to sit under the palm trees to enjoy a drink.
Shopping for Souvenirs
Consider buying Mombasa sandals. These hand-made sandals, made from leather and old tires (for the soles), are stylish shoes and a great souvenir from Mombasa. You can find them in most souvenir shops or purchase them from street merchants. Local craftsman use colourful beads and pieces of leather to create a vast variety of shapes and decorations. No two pairs are alike.
Mombasa is one of the best places in Kenya to buy African fabrics, which are available in curio shops and markets throughout the city. Lesos are colourful, printed fabrics that come in pairs and are traditionally worn by Swahili women. Kikois are typically striped or plaid and are usually worn as shawls.
So, with its many and varied attractions, don’t forget to consider adding Mombasa to your Kenya safari experience. It will really enhance your vacation.
4-Day Mombasa Beach
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