Mombasa, Kenya, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa. It’s safe, boasts a diversity of culture seldom seen and has incomparable natural beauty. It’s probably most well known for its glistening beaches and diving and snorkelling, which many people consider to be the best in the world. One of the best snorkelling locations is the Mombasa Marine Park, which cover 10 square kilometers of lagoon and coral habitats. The water temperature seldom varies from 28 degrees Celsius, so don’t expect to cool off.
Mombasa’s history is dotted with hostile takeovers with most battles fought over the city’s port, which is ideally situated to defend the coast. Portuguese, Arab and British settlers usurped the indigenous African residents, each leaving its own stamp in the form of architecture and cultural remnants. This eclectic mix is most obvious in the Old City.
The architecture in the Old City is mostly Swahili and many of the buildings are attractions in themselves, especially the intricately carved wooden doors. The area is characterised by short roads jam packed with spice, fabric and curio shops. In the blink of an eye you walk out of the quaintness of Old City and wander into another part of Mombasa with different cultural influences right down to the clothing and atmosphere.
The variety of food in Mombasa reflects the city’s past. If you want some traditional Kenyan cuisine you’ll find it alongside good old fashioned British grub, a selection of Asian offerings and some Mediterranean dishes. Seafood is particularly prevalent and always fresh.
One of the most interesting and recommended ways to experience the sites and surrounds of Mombasa is on a guided cycling tour. You’ll get to see authentic African villages, palm and mango tree forests, and the different landscapes along the coast.
If you’re going it alone here are some sites that you would to well to include in your itinerary.
- Fort Jesus was built by the Portuguese in 1593 to try and stop a Turkish invasion. It’s a national monument and contains a museum dedicated to the city’s frequently bloody, sometimes horrific, always vibrant history.
- The Gedi Ruins are what is left of a stone-made Swahili village that dates back to the 1400s. The Kenyan government has made it a priority to preserve as much of its culture as it can; as a result the ruins have been declared a National Museum and are rigidly protected.
- Haller Park is home to all manner of wildlife, including mammals, reptiles and insects. It also contains botanical gardens. There are a number of walking trails for you to get closer to nature than you would have thought possible and if you’re so inclined you can hold and feed one of the resident snakes. The park is a redevelopment project and was restored to its rugged natural glory after the land was made barren though over-mining.
Mombasa is one of the richest cities in Kenya, not only in business prospects and monetary terms but also in culture, history and hospitality. Kenya itself is one of the best game and safari destinations in Africa. For a real African experience visit Kenya and for a real Kenyan experience make a beeline for Mombasa.