Mombasa: the other big city besides Nairobi in Kenya. With over 1.2 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 15 things to do, see, and feel in and around Mombasa.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
There’s a seafront park called Mama Ngina Drive, and coming or going from the ports through the channel is some heavy, majestic seafaring traffic. Catch a sunrise here as well, you’re looking in that direction!
Tsavo East National Park
At over 8,500 square miles, Tsavo East is one of Kenya’s largest national parks. Situated north of the Mombasa-Nairobi road and about two hours from the Mombasa coast, this is one of the world largest game reserves (rhinos! Tanzanian cheetah! Coke’s hartebeest!).
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.
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.
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.
Mosques, Temples, 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.
But of course! What’s a trip to Africa without flexing your speedster muscles?! On Bamburi Beach, Mombasa Go-Karting is the bee’s knees, it seems, for flocks of local and foreigners.