Mombasa is the second-largest city in Kenya, with a population of over one million.A regional cultural and economic hub, Mombasa has a large port and an international airport, and is an important regional tourism centre. Located on the east coast of Kenya, in Mombasa County and the former Coast Province, Mombasa’s bordering the Indian Ocean made it a historical trading centre and it has been controlled by many countries because of its strategic location.
There are few tourist class hotels on the island as most visitors prefer to spend their time closer to the beach, but no-one who visits the Kenya Coast should fail to explore this fascinating city with its colourful and busy shopping areas and places of quiet history.
South of Mombasa
After crossing the ferry which links the south coast to the island of Mombasa, the road runs for 70 miles (112 km) to the Tanzania border, and there are many beautiful beach resorts from which the visitor can choose.
Furthest away is Shimoni, ‘the place of the caves’ and now a major center for deep sea fishing. The nearby Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Reserve encompasses several small islands and the diving and snorkeling is unsurpassed, although these are not the best beaches.
The best resort area is Diani, lying 30 miles (48 km) north of Shimoni. Here there are number of hotels of varying standards, and the nearby village has several good restaurants. Each hotel offers a variety of water sports, and there are separate centers which cater for those who choose to stay in private accommodation.
Lying in the cooler hills, only a few miles inland from Diani, is a small, peaceful National Reserve which is very well worth a visit for those staying more than one or two days on the beaches. The nearby Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary is a successful conservation project to the North West of the Shimba Reserve.
Crossing the Nyali bridge, north of Mombasa, the beaches stretch for many miles and there are excellent tourist hotels of different standards. Water sports are available in all the main centres, and some hotels offer tennis, squash or golf. The nightlife varies from hotel to hotel and within the different villages. More information on this can be found in one of the many Guides to Kenya. The first resort area is Nyali which lies close to a variety of shopping centres and the Nyali Golf Club. The Bamburi Nature Trail is a well known conservation area, previously a quarry, into which a variety of wildlife has been successfully translocated. There is a crocodile (‘mamba’) village nearby and the Bombolulu Workshops (whose disabled inhabitants produce some excellent handicrafts). 12 miles (19 km) north of Mombasa lies Mtwapa Creek and both here and in Tudor Creek (the northern inlet round Mombasa Island) the historic Arabian dhow has been converted for cruise excursions, offering participants the chance to dine on board (very often to the accompaniment of native bands) and learn something of the history of the area.
A third creek, Kilifi, lies 25 miles (40 km) north of the island. Both Mtwapa and Kilifi Creeks are safe areas for water sport, and are centres for deep sea fishing. Still further north (25 miles/ 40 km from Kilifi) lies the famous ruined city of Gedi, inexplicably abandoned some three centuries ago. Recent excavations have uncovered well preserved relics of the Great Mosque and houses in traditional Swahili style. Watamu is the nearest holiday resort to Gedi, with clean sandy beaches on the shores of a marine national park. Here the coral heads are close to the shore and visitors can hire glass bottom boats to view the brightly coloured fish.