Mombasa is the second largest city of Kenya (after the capital, Nairobi) and is influenced by Middle Eastern and Asian traditions due to its strong commercial links with those continents.
Mombasa is full of surprises, so plan a few days to visit and see what the city has to offer!
As you drive towards the Nyali Golf Course, it’s hard not to notice the giant crocodile sculpture that stands imposingly at the entrance of Mamba Village (“mamba” meaning crocodile in Swahili). Mamba Village is East Africa’s largest crocodile farm with crocodiles in every size – from hatchlings to fully grown adults such as the 100+ year old man-eating “Big Daddy.” A visit to the center begins with a comprehensive video presentation on this reptile species, which is then followed by a visit through the maze of crocodile pens. Keep an eye out for the pen that features the albino crocodiles before heading off to see giants fight for fresh meat during feeding time. Located within the estate, you can either take a camel ride, visit the equestrian center, or stroll through the botanical gardens. Finish the tour with a cocktail at the Crocodile Bar or for those adventurous carnivores – try out the range of game meats such as ostrich, zebra, and crocodile from the a la carte menu at the Village Restaurant. In the evenings and especially on Fridays, the Mamba Disco is a favorite nightspot to party away.
Built between 1593 and 1596 by the Portuguese, Fort Jesus stands guard at the entrance of the harbor towards the Old Port of Mombasa. The Fort remains one of the finest examples of 16th century Renaissance military fortifications. It was also one of the only forts to be maintained by the Portuguese along the Swahili coast although it was captured and recaptured nine times, falling between the influence of the Portuguese, Omani Arabs, and the British who would go on to colonize Kenya. As of 2011, the fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of Mombasa’s most popular tourist destinations. Inside the fort there is a museum that houses numerous relics from its occupation and offers some outstanding views of the Mombasa Harbor.
As you drive or walk down Moi Avenue in Mombasa, you won’t miss the giant elephant tusks that arch over the dual carriageway of the avenue. The tusks were commissioned in 1956 in commemoration of Princess Margaret’s visit to Mombasa. Although these were originally made from canvas stretched over a wooden frame, these were later replaced with aluminium.
The historic Old Town of Mombasa is located just off Fort Jesus and sprawls over 180 acres (40.5 hectares). The tiny streets are lined with old buildings featuring ornately carved wood and architecture that is a blend of the influences of Arabic, Asian, European, and African cultures. Located in the Old Town is the Old Port of Mombasa where merchant dhows (traditional sailing boats) from Arabia, Persia, India, and Somalia once graced its docks, making it not only a melting pot of cultures but also an integral part of the trade along the ancient maritime Silk Route. While wandering through the streets of the Old Town, stop by one of the many antique stores or sample some Swahili cuisine at the Jahazi Coffee House.
Along the Mombasa-Malindi Highway, Haller Park (formerly known as Bamburi Nature Trail) consists of a Game Sanctuary, Reptile Park, Fish Farm, Crocodile Pens, and a giraffe viewing platform all set about in a vibrant and diverse ecosystem. The park is a product of the Bamburi Cement Company’s efforts since 1971 to convert the barren landscape of disused limestone quarries. The park hosts a variety of flora and fauna; it would be hard to miss some of the giant tortoises that roam freely around the park. Located a few minutes’ drive from Haller Park is the Bamburi Forest Trails where one can lose themselves amidst the beautiful and lush forest surroundings. Featuring trails for walking, jogging, or cycling with alternating landscapes, you will find antelopes, eland, and oryx within the forest. The Bamburi Forest trails also features a butterfly farm along with a host of flora. This is truly a nature lover’s dream!