Mombasa is Kenya's main tourist destination. It is on the Eastern coastline of Kenya. This 2nd city borders the Indian Ocean which has made it a popular destination for its beaches.
Mombasa offers diverse marine life, world-class hotels and a friendly atmosphere. There is a tropical climate all year; it is a great destination filled with activities for all ages.
Mombasa was ruled by the Portuguese, Arabs and British. It originated back in the 16th century. Mombasa's culture today still exhibits that of its past. There are historical ruins like Forte Jesus de Mombaça (AKA Fort Jesus). This is a historic Portugese fort. There is the Old Town are attractions influenced by Mombasa's trade culture. There are many examples of Portuguese and Islamic architecture.
The port city of Mombasa is the second largest in Kenya. It is one of the major center of tourism. Being Kenya’s chief port, Mombasa is the commercial and industrial hub. It lies on the Indian Ocean and is connected to the mainland by bridges and ferries.
History of Mombasa
Mombasa has a long history the traces can be found from the writings of the 16th century. Many traders did attempt to enforce their governance on the town. This was due to its central location, but Arab influence is felt till date.
The Arab Influence
The town of Mombasa remained the center of the Arab trade in ivory and slaves from the 8th to the 16th century. It is known that Arab traders sailed down around to the coast of Kenya. This is from the first century AD who continued to build trade along the ports of Mombasa and Lamu.
Portuguese also had their influence on the port. This changed the face of the land by burning it almost three times. It is believed that Vasco da Gama was the first known European to visit Mombasa. His purpose of exploration was to spread the Christian faith. it was also to further expand Portugal’s trading area.
Mombasa became Portugal’s main trading centre of spices, cotton and coffee. This is where Fort Jesus was constructed. The Fort served as the major center for trading goods. It also protected the Portuguese from conflicts with locals. The remains of which still attracts a great deal of tourists and visitors. Slavery was highly practiced during that era, the local slaves were exchanged for goods.
Until 1698, the Portuguese controlled the city, but soon the Omani Arabs took over the charge.
Finally, the British took control of Mombasa in 1895. This is when the British East African Protectorate was established.
Colonization perpetuated in Mombasa promoted European culture over the town and the Kenyan lands. Like in India, the British gained momentum and established control of the port.
They even completed a railway line in the early 1900’s from Mombasa to Uganda. This is perhaps the major landmark in the history of Mombasa. From 1887 to 1907, Mombasa remained the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate.
The British rule ended and Kenya received its independence on the 12th December 1963. Since then we have had creation of political parties and unions. They faced elections for the formation of a stable government.
Getting into Mombasa
Getting in By Air
Mombasa airport has been renovated. This has increased the frequency of flights in and out of Mombasa from European cities. Kenya Airways offers the most as far as options for traveling to/from Mombasa.
Getting in By Train
Train service is mainly provided between Nairobi and Mombasa. The advantage of traveling by railway is the ability to see wildlife up close. The train ride from Nairobi to Mombasa is estimated at 13 hours. There are meal accommodations and options of purchasing first or second class seats.
Going By Bus
Buses, are not a major mode of transportation within the city. They are mostly used for traveling outside the city. The major provider of transportation in Mombasa is Matatu. The fleet consists mostly of fourteen-seater minibuses. Matatu is quite popular with the residents.
Getting Around Mombasa
the easiest way to get around Mombasa is by taxi from center. You can also travel by the local bus-taxis (Matatus). These are mini-buses that are usually full of people to capacity. They’re cheap.
The name derives from a Swahili term that refers to ‘ma’penny. The original matatu cost three cents many years ago. They are all over and in huge numbers. They are privately owned mini-buses regulated by the government.
One can also travel using auto rickshaw’s (also called tuk-tuks). These are three wheeled private taxis. They cost about the same as Matatus. Moving from one part to the city to another is quick with these “bikes” or 'boda boda. On the plus side they are quite airy and allow you to take in the scenary as you go by.
Attractions to See
1. Bombolulu Workshops
Bombolulu Workshops was founded in 1969. It is a project of the Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya (APDK). This center is a popular attraction for tourists. It has 150 disabled employees who create jewelry, textiles, wood and leather crafts. It is the largest rehabilitation center in Kenya.
2. Hindu Temples
This attributes to Mombasa cultural diversity. Tourist are able to go inside the Temple accompanied by a guide from the Temple. Inside you will be able to see artifacts, idols and cultural pictures/paintings. e
3. Mombasa Tusks
These four tusks are on Moi Avenue. The tusks were built in 1956 to celebrate Princess Margaret’s visit to Mombasa town. They are at the entrance to the city; they are not made of ivory as is sometimes thought, but of aluminum. An interesting thing to note is that the tusks form dual archways. This is over each side of the road creating the shape in entirety of an ‘M’ for Mombasa!
Things to Do
- Old Town. Located around Ft. Jesus, this historic district has mostly been converted into souvenir shops and restaurants. A nice place to explore on a Sunday when much of the city is closed down.
- Colobus Trust nature walks and conservation volunteering at Diani Beach.
- Mtwapa Creek is a place to visit on Mombasa’s North Coast. An Indian Ocean inlet with some small marinas and beautiful tropical vegetation. Very famous for bird watching, mountain bike tours around the creek, and starting point for deep sea fishing trips. Mtwapa is also famous in Mombasa for its clubs and active nightlife. To get here from the city center, take a matatu from Digo road.
- Nyali Theatre featuring Hollywood and Bollywood new releases. Entry is just 500 KSH, with bowling alley, casino, and Italian Restaurant. Have some Indian bhelpuri, a type of chaat. This consists of hot puffed rice, vegetables and tangy tamarind sauce while you’re there. Taxi from centre – 800 KSH, Tuk Tuk- 300 KSH. Matatus plying the Mkomani or Nyali routes – 30 ksh (Ask to alight at “Cinemax”).
- Kinazini Funzi Dhow Safaris. This is 1 hr south of Mombasa off main Tanzania Rd. Bus transport from all beach hotels included Every day. Visit unspoilt Funzi Island via Dhow (traditional Arab sailing ship). Explore Ramisi River Mangroves by canoe for crocs and lots of bird life up close. Bathe on a magical sandbank in the Indian Ocean. You can also feast on a lobster and seafood BBQ on Robinson Crusoe Island.
- Haller Park also called Bamburi Nature Trail. It is East Side of Links Road just North of Nyali (North on Links Road to Nyali. Look for entrance on left or ask a local). 8:30 – 5:30.Small zoo that feels like a park. Animals include giraffes, hippos (2), monkeys, and a reptile house. Guides speak English, Spanish, French and other languages. Watch out for the monkeys. They are numerous and appear friendly but do occasionally bite. 1400.
- Avicennia Island kayaking goes every Tues, Thurs, Sat. For South Coast adventures, Avicennia Island is unbeatable. Kayak silently through submerged mangrove forests. You can swim & sunbathe in the emerald waters of the Funzi Sandbar. Enjoy a sumptuous seafood barbeque meal served at a delightful wooden banda. This is anopen structure, beach house, or shelter, sheltered from the elements.
- Go-Kart in Shanzu, near Haller Park). Mombasa’s motor sport arena – a place to chill with your friends and thrill with your kids. Whether you’re a budding Schumacher or a first-time driver, this is the place. Go-Karting has the experience and technical know-how to put you on the right track. There is a viewing veranda located in the bar. You can order food from the bar whilst you are watching the action on the track.
- Shimba Hills National Park is 30km south of Mombasa situated National Park. It is mountainous with lush tropical vegetation. This makes it particularly attractive. It is like most other well-known national parks of Kenya have steppe-like vegetation. The main attractions include the elephant habitat and the stocks of antelopes. There is the waterfall, the Mwaluganje forest and the many vantage points.
- Enjoy the famous night life of Mombasa. The night life and entertainment in Mombasa is broad. It offers something for every taste. You get to enjoy local bars to exclusive lounge bar, everything is available.
- In the city center there are many coffee shops, small pubs and bars as well as some small to medium sized clubs. Nightlife “special kind” is mainly found in the village Mtwapa, north of Mombasa. Its called “the village that never sleeps”.
Where to Eat in Mombasa
Mombasa is known for their diverse cuisines. Here you can enjoy Swahili, Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Italian cultures. They offer an planty of resturants and eateries to choose from. These include establishments with freshly caught seafood.
- Mikaye Restaurant – Fort Jesus, Sir Mbarak Hinawy Road (Opposite Fort Jesus), 0719331880, . 6:30 am – 7pm. Mikaye is an authentic fusion restaurant. Mikaye is the first wife in dholuo one of the Nilotic tribes in Kenya. It sets the guideline for the restaurant- entailing good food. There is admirable service, great ambience hence a formidable culinary experience. With a scenic view of Fort Jesus, the decor of the restaurant is modern. It has a strong African influences. . The food is essentially a fusion of African food with touches of international cuisine. Biriani, Pilau , Kuku Kienyeji, Tilapia , Mataha.
- Chinese Galaxy – is the most visited Chinese cuisine attraction. They offer fine dining, and a wide range of selections including house specials.
- Tamarind – On the island. It is the most popular with tourists. It overlooks Old Harbour and offers freshly caught seafood, exotic menus, nightlife and entertainment.
- POA Restaurant & Grill. This is at Tembo Entertainment Plaza on the North Coast, near the Nakumatt Nyali Shopping Centre. Large menu range from snacks, burgers to specialties from Germany. You will also find Italy, India, China, Thailand, as well as seafood. Open throughout the night, from 6pm to 6am.
- Blue Room offers a self-serve cuisine. This range from ‘Indian Bites’ to other items like burgers, pizza, and ice cream.
Watering and Drinking Wells
There are quite many good bars, pubs and Entertainment Spots in Mombasa Town and the North Coast. Night Life is vibrant in Mombasa.
- Bob’s Bar, Nyali. Lively and popular bar located near Tembo. This bar and grilll is where a lot of great nights out get started.
- Fontanella Beer Garden, (Moi Avenue/Digo road Junction). Relaxed atmosphere right in the middle of the city affordable meals and drinks
- Club Lambada- Mtwapa, (Mtwapa Town). 24Hrs. Found on the north coast. It offers all night disco and cabaret shows food drinks and accomodation
- Sheba Lounge, (City Mall Nyali). Rooftop Bar Great Music and atmosphere
- Tulia House and Camp, Off links road, Nyali, Mombasa, +254711955999, . 24h. Based in the heart of the entertainment area of Nyali in Mombasa. Tulia House and Camp offers a range of accommodation to suit every budget.
|Languages spoken||English, Kiswahili|
|Currency used||Kenya Shillings|
|Area (km2)||294.7 km²|