Mombasa is Indeed the Swahili Cultural capital of the world —- A world in tune with different historical perspectives that left a mark in this beautiful city.
Since the ancient times, Mombasa was an important trade sea route and port. Different nationalities visited Mombasa leaving a cultural mark — Chinese, Persians, Indians, Arabs, Portuguese, the list is endless. With trade came settlements and culture and the birth of the Swahili culture.
Besides historical and cultural tours, Mombasa has other tourist attractions thus making it a prime tourist destination. Today Mombasa has a diverse and multicultural composition; there are a number of churches, mosques, temples, and gurudwaras within the city. Mombasa is home to several historical heritage sites; and monuments, museums, plus spectacular five star hotels to cater for safari-bound tourists.
So if you are visiting Kenya for business or pleasure, there are many activities and experiences to suit any traveler – fun and interesting activities for anyone to enjoy, from the adventure wild life safari to Mombasa cultural tours; and lots of sun and fun on the white sandy beaches of Mombasa south and north coast beaches of Watamu, Bamburi, and Diani beach. The choices are many —- and not to forget deep sea fishing and other water sports for the discerning traveler.
Things to do while in Mombasa
A Swahili breakfast consist of coastal delicacies, Barka restaurant located on the heart of old town offers wide variety of Swahili dishes. A normal breakfast consist of Mahambri * and mbaazi* and then vyazi karai and bhajia. All can be served with a glass of Ukwaju (tamarind) juice.
Going to the beach
One of coast gems is chasing sunrise at dawn, the magical experience always leaves you rejuvenated and relaxed. The best way to chase the sunrise is at the beach, when the sun peaks behind the horizon and casts a ray of sunlight on the Indian Ocean. The calming ripples of the ocean putting you in a relaxed mood.
- South Coast Beaches
With gorgeous beachscapes and sprawling rainforests, the coastline south of Mombasa is a place of unmatched beauty. There are three popular beaches in this region: Shelly, Tiwi and Diani. Shelly Beach is the closest to Mombasa but offers minimal pleasure activities. Tiwi Beach is a popular spot for sunbathing and snorkeling while Diani Beach is more developed and offers water sport activities such as windsurfing, snorkeling, diving and sailing.
- North Coast Beaches
North Coast Beaches are characterized by swaying palm trees, stunning stretches of white sand and clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The popular beaches along this extensive coastline include Nyali Beach, Bamburi Beach and Shanzu Beach. The beaches offer a variety of water sports and are lined with entertainment venues, shops and hotels.
Touring Old Town
Old Town refers to a whole neighborhood that shows off the old Islamic style and architecture that was the foundation of Mombasa. Though some of the buildings are not in the best state of repair, you can still see some wonderful old structures, buildings and shops. Though the influence is mainly Arabic, there are also Asian, African, British and European elements too.
“Old Town” is reminiscent of the days when the Portuguese ruled this important port. The town’s inhabitants are mostly of Arab, Asian, and European origin, and the architecture reflects their cultures. Ornately carved doors and balconies adorn the old buildings that jostle cheek to jowl along the narrow streets. History buffs can easily spend a couple of hours here strolling along the atmospheric alleys; snacking at one of the many cafés; and shopping for antiques, fragrant oils, spices, and souvenirs.
Exploring Fort Jesus
Fort Jesus was built by the Portuguese in the late 16th Century. It was the first European-style fort built outside of Europe that was designed to withstand cannon fire. Today, it is one of the finest examples of 16th century Portuguese military fortification.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is a popular tourist attraction in Mombasa and is famous worldwide. The partially ruined structure houses a museum that showcases a vast collection of pottery and ceramics that were traded in the ancient times. There are also other ruined buildings to explore near Fort Jesus such as the Omani house and the Passage of Arches.
Lunch (sea food)
If you have never ventured beyond fish in your gastronomic adventures, then perhaps it is time you did. Lots of restaurants offer seafood platters that consist a variety of delicacies. Calamari (squid) , octopus, prawn, shrimp, crab and lobster are the most commonly available in Mombasa. A sea food platter will give you a taste of some or all these in one go.
A snorkelling expedition often involves a motor glass boat that takes you to the reefs. These are either hired or are provided by hotels or marine parks. It is worth noting that very little of the reef actually is under the Marine Parks. Other water sports centres, therefore, offer far more exciting snorkelling experiences. World renown sites such as Kisite Marine Park are arguably the best spots on the East African coastline.
Iconic Mombasa Tusks
The Mombasa “Tusks” are symbolic representations of entrance into the heart of the town. The tusks were built to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth to the town in 1952, as they lay directly on the path from the port to the town.
Ivory was considered to be an exquisite commodity during the time, and in essence the tusks were meant to embrace the Queen and the British Empire into the town and within its social structure. Coincidentally the tusks also spell the letter “M” for Mombasa
Haller Park is the largest animal sanctuary in Mombasa. Located next to the Bamburi Cement Factory, the Park boasts an enormous variety of animals, reptiles, insects and botanical gardens. The best thing about this park is that tourists can select one or more from Game Sanctuary, Palm Garden, Butterfly Sanctuary, Reptile Park, insect watching, botanical gardens or bird watching as their personal preference.
Walking along the trail is the ideal way to look at the various animals, and on many occasions holding or feeding a reptile such as a snake is allowed under close supervision of a guide. Educational videos are also shown, with emphasis on the history and continuous improvement of the trail.
Birds are also abundant in the park. More than 160 species have been introduced to the area including weaver birds, cranes, pelicans, and storks. Walking and cycling paths wind through the groves of casuarina, and a reptile park, palm garden, and crocodile pens are other attractions
Mamba Village Centre
Located at Links Road in Nyali, Mamba Village Centre is the largest crocodile farm in East Africa. The centre allows you to enjoy exciting activities such as horseback riding and watching the crocodiles. It includes a botanical garden that features orchids and aquatic plants. You can enjoy game meat available at the centre’s restaurant.
Nestled in lush rainforest, Gedi was one of the ancient Arab towns along the East African Coast, which was probably rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Gedi ruins that lie to the North coast of Mombasa towards the town of Malindi. Built of rocks, Gedi was a small town that was inhabited by a few thousand Swahili people.
Ruled by a very rich Sultan, today only the ruins have remained that date back from the 15th century and thus attracts the tourists. Preserved as a National Museum, these ruins are a direct reflection of the commitment of the Government to sustain the country’s cultural and historical background. It presents itself as a historical Arab-African town which is one of the many remnants of the gone era.
The Bombolulu workshops are located along the North coast of Mombasa. Bombolulu Workshops is a Project of the Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya (APDK) and was founded in 1969. It is a major tourist attraction which consists of a Cultural Centre with 8 traditional homesteads.
The Centre also runs a traditional Restaurant and guests are entertained with traditional dances throughout the day. The Centre is run by the “Association for the Physically Disabled” and employs 150-disabled craftsmen/women who produce jewelry, hand printed textiles, wood carvings and leather crafts. The products are sold in a large showroom and exported to 20 countries. Bombolulu Workshops have grown to be one of the biggest rehabilitation centres in Kenya and has built a reputation as one of Kenya’s most reliable exporters.
Shimba Hills National Reserve.
National Park-Covering 320Km2, the park has elephants, buffalo, bush buck, monkeys, and the only population of Sable antelopes. It provides superb views of the coast. You can even spend the night at Shimba Rainforest Lodge.
Evening stroll at Mama Ngina Drive
To clear your mind, take evening stroll at Mama Ngina drive and enjoy the Indian Ocean. After a three kilometre walk you can stop at resting area and watch the sunset and watch the waves crash into the corals while enjoy some Kachiri (cassava chips) and madafu (coconut juice).
Enjoy the famous night life of Mombasa. The night life and entertainment in Mombasa is broad and offers something for every taste. Many bars, pubs and nightclubs in many price ranges offer something for every taste and budget. From local bars to exclusive lounge bar, everything is available. In the city center there are numerous 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. It’s called “the village that never sleeps”.
After an eventful 48 hours, you will have experienced Mombasa‘s diversity and the mix of cultures. It is this magic that makes this town a place to yarn for; both locals and foreigners. This is your chance to sample what makes Mombasa one of Kenya’s top destinations.