10 Places to See in Mombasa
A cosmopolitan tourist hub and Kenya’s second largest city, Mombasa is the adventurous tourist’s exotic destination. Enjoying a well-known and long seafaring history, the city offers a firsthand taste of Africa. Mombasa’s beaches and resorts stretch for miles to the north and south of the mainland standing out for their palm-studded strands, fringed by brilliantly sparkling coral reefs. It is commonplace to see tourists flock to the beaches to participate in and enjoy the diverse watersports, which often range from deep-sea fishing, diving, to snorkelling. Tourists also take the opportunity to relax on the beautiful shores and spot dolphins on traditional dhows.
Here’s a list, in no particular order, of top 10 places to visit in Mombasa.
This UNESCO World Heritage site was developed by the Italian architect Cairati and built in 1593-1596 by the Portuguese, who kept it under their control for one century. One of the world’s finest examples of 16th-century military architecture, Fort Jesus bears resemblance to a male figure and named after Jesus as an open religious reference.
Lying at the southern edge of the town of Mombasa, over a spur of coral rock, Fort Jesus bears testimony to the first successful attempt by Western civilisation to rule the Indian ocean trade routes, which, until then had remained under the Eastern influence.
The design of the fort, with its proportions, its imposing walls and five bastions, reflects the military architectural theory of the Renaissance. Fort Jesus, Mombasa also bears physical witness, in its structures and subsequent transformations, as well as to the interchange of cultural values and influences between and among peoples of African, Arab, Turkish, Persian and European origin that fought to gain and maintain their control over this strategic port. Despite being partially ruined, a museum was built over the former barracks that exhibits pottery and ceramics. The compound also houses displays on Swahili culture and life, as well as the 18th-century Omani house, which contains Omani jewellery, and the Passage of Arches, which gives access to the sea via a cut through the coral.
Mombasa Marine National Park
The Marine National Park was established to protect sandy beaches, coral reef, seagrass beds, and mangroves. A large and diverse marine life including eels, seahorses and stingrays dwell in the waters of the reserve providing an amazing and relaxing underwater scene viewed from glass bottom boats. Snorkelling and diving are two of the most popular tourist activities (south of Mtwapa Creek to the Likoni’s entrance is highly recommended). The park can be accessed through the Shanzu, Bamburi and Nyali beaches.
With more than 160 species of birds, giraffes, zebras, waterbucks, hippos, and Cape buffalo, Haller Park is the ideal place to visit for wildlife lovers and photographers. Formerly called Bamburi Nature Trail, the Park was founded in 1971 as a project headed by Dr Rene Haller who converted the abandoned limestone quarries into a booming wildlife reserve. This was achieved by increasing the mineral content of the soil, adding a fish farm, and planting trees, as well as creating an animal reserve where each animal functioned as part of the ecosystem.
Other delights include a palm garden, crocodile pens, a reptile park, giraffe feeding, a butterfly pavilion, cycling and walking paths that wind through casuarina groves. In addition, there are also nature trails in the reserve that connect and lead tourists to the Nguuni Wildlife Sanctuary where abundant herds of eland, oryx and ostrich are grown.
Old Town is a classic throwback to the days when the Portuguese ruled Mombasa. Situated on the southeast side of Mombasa Island, it consists mostly of Asian, European and Arab descent— also reflected in its architectural style. Tourists are presented with atmospheric alleys, cafes and shops, as well as old knit buildings adorned with baroque carved doors.
So, if you enjoy baroque carvings and architecture, Old Town is one of the best places to visit.
The crystal clear water, coral reefs and resorts beaches on the north coast, which include Nyali, Bamburi and Shanzu, provide a diverse number of watersports, and many venues for entertainment. The coastline north of Mombasa also houses the Mombasa National Park which in turn houses the MV Dania, Kenya’s favourite wreck diving, drop-offs and beautifully multicoloured coral gardens.
South Coast Beaches
The southern coastline is another raving panorama of nature’s beauty—Sun-kissed beaches hugged closely by turquoise seas that offer a rumbling background noise and harmonises with the rustling palms providing shelter for tourists. With beautiful birds, wildlife and rainforests, the southern coastline is ideal for recreation and relaxation. Diani, Shelly and Tiwi Beaches also offer beautiful landscapes and diverse watersports that include sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing, parasailing, diving and snorkelling.
Mamba Village Centre
Situated at Links Road, Nyali, Mamba Village Centre is the largest crocodile farm in East Africa. With a botanical garden that is home to orchids and aquatic plants, aquariums and horses, Mamba Village Centre is a fascinating place to visit. Tourists learn more about the life cycle of a crocodile by observing their behaviours and feeding times.
So, if you love eating or want a taste of game meat, including ostrich, zebra and crocodile, Mamba Village Centre is a must-visit.
Built to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Mombasa in 1952, Mombasa Tusks are a famous and highly popular landmark. The tusks, which are constructed from aluminium, intersect and form the letter “M” for Mombasa and can be found on Moi Avenue, Mombasa. They also mark the entrance to the heart of the city where tourists explore the best shops and markets.
One of the ancient Arab towns founded along the East African Coast, Gedi is a classic tour that showcases the ruins of the Palace, Great Mosque, pillar tombs, coral stone houses, and traditional Swahili houses with ancient drawings on their plaster walls. Spanish scissors, Swahili cultural artefacts, Ming Chinese porcelain and glassware, as well as earthenware from Persia indicate open trade lines in earlier centuries. There is also an on-site museum that displays cultural artefacts from centuries ago.
Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre
A project of the Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya, Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Centre consist of four sheltered workshops and a restaurant which offers Kenyan cuisine. Here, tribal dance performances, handcrafted souvenirs, wood carvings, jewellery, textiles and leather crafts are available. The proceeds from the sales of art items are used for the sustenance of the centre. The workshops are situated at Workshop Road, Bombolulu, Kenya.
Can you tell me if your favourite did not make the list?