Mombasa: the other big city besides Nairobi in Kenya. With over one million residents and thousands of visitors each year, the city on the Indian Ocean is a thriving, pulsating, beachfront, historical epicenter for the world. Here are 12 things to do, see, and feel in and around Mombasa.
Take A Trip To Haller Park
Also known as Bamburi Nature Trail, this wildlife reserve created out of the former limestone quarry is located on Mombasa Malindi Road, and features a flourishing ecosystem — zebras, giraffes, hippos, birds, Cape buffalo, and a great reptile corner.
Get A Great Photo Of The Mombasa Tusks
A photo opportunity beyond compare, the towering aluminum ‘M’ for Mombasa awaits as a crossroads in the center of the city — built to honor Queen Elizabeth’s trip to Kenya in 1952.
Dive At Mombasa Marine National Park
There’s a glass-bottomed boat for those who can’t endure the water, and there’s a diversity of sea friends not far down under which attracts thousands of divers and snorkelers each year. There’s also the wreck of the MV Dania, where plenty of seahorses are ambling around.
Explore Mombasa Island
Accessible to the continent by the Makupa Causeway or by ferry, Mombasa Island hosts the largest port in East Africa. The old port/harbor feel of centuries past is still evident, especially with the Arabic, Portuguese, and Indian cultural touches all over much of the bustling island.
Take a Stroll Through Old Town
On the southeastern portion of the island is the antiquity of the city, and here is where the Asian and Arabic influences (and current citizens) can be appreciated — the souks, the cafes, the breathtaking archways and beautiful crumbling buildings.
Mark Off A UNESCO Site At Fort Jesus
Designed by Italian architect Cairati in the 16th century and evidence of the Portuguese military-colonial presence of bygone eras, this UNESCO World Heritage site resting on the cliffs of the island overlooking the sea is now a museum of the old barracks.
Chill Out On The North Coast Beaches
As the title goes, one ventures a bit north from the Mombasa city center towards the airport, and there awaits strips of otherworldly beaches and resorts dotting their coastlines. Shanzu, Bamburi, and Nyali Beaches are the beaches which attract the most life, almost year-round.
Chill Out Some More On The South Coast Beaches
Quieter, more natural, less frequented, coral reef-ridden, rain forest blessed — maybe spots like Shelly Beach or Tiwi Beach are more the speed of the wanderer?
Party It Up At Forty Thieves Beach Bar
Luckily, Mombasa has a sprawling nightlife, and we assume most of you will want to have some night drinks beachside. On Diani Beach, there’s a thumping disco every night at this select watering hole.
Take Home Some Souvenirs From Akamba Handicrafts Cooperative
This small non-profit organization produces stunning-quality woodcarvings — “big five” animal artifacts, furniture, and sculptures — as well as various other handicrafts and artisan treasures on their nine-acre compound in the Kilindini district.
Enrich Yourself At The Main Market
In this very falling-apart but alluring, noisy, sensory-lifting open-air vegetable and fruit market, you can try the chew — miraa, peeled stalks chewed as a stimulant. NOTE: in Yemen and Ethiopia, they chew the leaves, but in Mombasa you chew the branches.
Marvel The Mosques, Temples, And Cathedrals
In the old city, there’s the Swahili-Arabic mixture of design on the Mandhry Mosque. The great Hindu population of Mombasa has their Lord Shiva Temple sanctuary and its beautiful sculpture garden. The neo-Gothic Holy Ghost cathedral is a testament to Christian European colonization of the land.
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This article was originally published on March 31, 2015.