Every time Mombasa is mentioned, I can’t help but see myself lying under a makuti shade at the beachfront, with sunscreen slathered all over my body as I sip pina colada, listening to the tune of the crashing sea waves, serenading whistles of palm trees, and soaking myself in vitamin sea as I contemplate whether I should read a book I carried or continue using it as a prop for my beach photos.
Mombasa is considered as a holiday haven for most guests; local and international for many reasons including; hundreds of beach hotels that cater for all budgets, a vibrant Swahili culture, an exciting food scene, significant historical sites, friendly people, a long list of signature experiences and things to do, clean beaches, and generally a nice place where the world meets to enjoy life.
I recently went on an exciting trip to Mombasa with Jambojet; a leading domestic airline in Kenya that has in the recent past rekindled the love of travel amongst travel enthusiasts. In their popular campaign dubbed #NowTravelReady, the airline has done an impeccable job of demonstrating how it is possible to travel responsibly while adhering to MOH guidelines of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. It partnered with hotels across all the destinations it flies to and put together affordable flying packages for travelers. In addition to that, they have an irresistible lay-by-payment plan called Jaza Pole Pole that allows one to pay for their flights in installments.
From that trip, I have put together a small traveler’s guide for you to consider on your next trip to Mombasa.
Places to stay
The Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa
Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort & Spa has a rich history dating back from the 1930s where it started off as a two-bedroom house with an expansive lounge, followed by an exciting story of how it changed hands in ownership through the decades with major expansions and remodeling to the current 340 rooms.
The beach resort’s customer experience, ambiance, great food, Arabic architecture and furniture, impressive high-roof lounge, sea-facing pub, and restaurants together with the constant brushing, polishing, plucking and pruning has made Sarova Whitesands stand the test of time and become one of the most preferred destinations for guests.
Serena Beach Resort & Spa
If you ask me, Serena is a perfect example of those hotels that are very laid back and unsuspecting at the entrance, but once you walk into the main hallway, you are met with a stately blend of Arabic and Swahili architectural marvel.
Brass fitting, Swahili furniture, Arabic doors, and an arched hallway that leads to an exterior of luxury, tranquility, and relaxation make the Serena Beach Resort stand out on many fronts.
A brief tour of the facility reveals that the design of the resort is that of a Swahili home. In most Swahili homes, the gate doesn’t directly face the main house, but simply curves into the entrance making one wonder whether there is a homestead behind the main entrance. The other feature at the hotel that resembles a Swahili home is a water well at the door and the varying sizes of the balcony as is in a Swahili home that tells of the status of the homeowners; bigger balconies show wealth and vice versa.
Plaza Beach Hotel
If you like a small private hotel, then Plaza Beach Hotel is an option to consider. This is a small family-owned hotel at the end of Neptune road in Bamburi. It has spacious rooms each each with a balcony with AC. A full-board plan on per person sharing starts from KShs.6000.
Top things to do in Mombasa
Enjoy a city tour on board the Mombasa Sight Seeing Double Decker Bus
A private investor partnered with Mombasa County to offer a Mombasa city tour. The cost is KShs. 1200 per person per trip for residents and USD 35 for non-residents. There are two trips per day one in the morning that starts at 9:00 am, and the next one is at 2:00 pm. They highly encourage group departures. The trip is a minimum of three hours and there is usually a stop at fort Jesus for Lunch or refreshments. If you are interested you can call Evelyn on (+254) 726502300. There is no better way to experience Mombasa City than when a top of the bus. The pick-up and drop-off point is Nyali.
Enchanting Sound & Light Multimedia Show with Fireworks at Fort Jesus
If you are like me and the usual tours of historical sites and museums are not exactly your cup of tea, then I strongly suggest you try the sound and light show at Fort Jesus. This show brings to life the 400-year history of Fort to life through 3D projection mapping, lasers, and holograms. It is one thing to read and imagine how the Portuguese and Arabs fought to control the trade routes of the Indian Ocean and a completely different thing to actually see a demo in form of an animation of the capture and recapture of the Fort that assumes the shape of Jesus on the crufix. This show has been termed as one-of-a-kind sound & light world-class production by National Geographic.
The light and sound shows are every week throughout the year, every Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday. For more inquiries call them on 0726532299
Slip and slide at Wild Waters in Nyali as you remember you childhood days
There is no better way to relive your childhood than to scream your lungs out while laughing heartily as you slide down the many different types of water slides at Wild Waters in Nyali.
See, Wild Waters is an expansive water park consisting of various slides of different lengths and heights, a landing pool, a children’s pool, and rain dance, a lazy river, and a water PlayStation. If you are an adrenaline junkie who doesn’t mind getting wet, this should be one of those activities that you shouldn’t miss out on. For Ksh 1,500 you get to access all the slides. Ensure you try the spirals and flume bowls when you go!
Enjoy a cruise aboard Mombasa Dhow
The Mombasa dhow cruise with friends is an absolute delight as you enjoy a nice tour from Madubah behind Fort Jesus through Tudor Creek through Jomvu Mangrove forest then back to Madubah. The cruise is so scenic and the good guys of Mombasa Dhow are very knowledgeable. The cost of the experience starts from Kshs. 10,000 f0r a group of six, or from Ksh 2,500 per person. This fee includes refreshments. ( A welcome madafu, cassava crisps, and water).
They also have a cool box in case you want to bring your own drinks. For a complete Swahili experience, they have partnered with the African food trail, who did a serious thrown down of nice Swahili dishes that included Samaki wa kupaka, cassava in coconut milk, veges (mchicha), goat meat, biryani, chapati, and bottomless tamarind juice ama ukipenda Ukwaju. for an extra Ksh.2,500 per person, you get to enjoy dishes from the African food trail. Mombasa dhow will also organize a sunset cruise with dinner if you are keen. To get in touch with them call Captain Mohammed on 0723235472.
Reporting for duty.— Bonnie 🇰🇪 (@bonitaonsafari) February 5, 2021
Today we sail from Madubah, behind Fort Jesus through Tudor creek then to Jomvu Mangrove Forest. Costs for dhow starts at Kshs 10,000 for 6 people. Includes cassava crisps, drinking water and Madafu. Lunch is 2,500 pp(extra)
0723235472- Mohammed Dhow pic.twitter.com/54JtdHTVOK
Places and to eat in Mombasa
Enjoy finger licking grilled delicacies at Char Choma Restaurant
Char Choma is a unique seafront restaurant located next to Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort and Spa. The concept of the restaurant is for patrons to select a range of meats they like(seafood and the usual…) then wait for the meats they have selected to be grilled as they listen to music and enjoy drinks.
There must be something that Charchoma is doing right if their large number of guests is anything to go by.
The restaurant is chic, sleek and modern, which is quiet against the norm with most coastal properties that incline towards Swahili and Arabic style.
Entertainment is always on point and at the time of visit, I would like to state that the band that played that day won everyone’s heart. It was difficult not to dance to the diverse range of music they played. It was such a delight to enjoy a band that is so good you’d think the original artist was on set.
Despite a large number of guests, service was generally fast and the grilled meats couldn’t be better.
New Island Dishes
I love how strategically placed New island dishes is; right at the entrance of Fort Jesus. So the recommended plan would be, get to Fort Jesus some minutes before lunch, do a one-hour or so tour of the fort, then go to Island Dishes for a nice Swahili meal and remember to wash down with Tamarind juice. Go right outside the Fort into Old Town for an old town tour, then if you still need to enjoy stories of Fort Jesus, stick around for the Light and Sound show.
New Island Dishes restaurant has easily some of the best Swahili treats on that side of Mombasa. It is a small intimate space that has cave-like vibes. I like the sea-themed aquarium tables and rough reef finish of the interior with vintage furniture.
Royal House Mombasa
Located along Twahir S.Said Road junction, opposite Arti apartments in Kizingo is Royal House Mombasa. Royal House is a unique restaurant that specializes in Yemeni and Lebanese cuisine.
There are so many outstanding attributes of Royal House starting from impeccable customer service right from the entrance, above-average hygiene conditions, judging from the sparkling wash hand sinks at the entrance. The partitioning of the restaurant is one thing anyone who values privacy and undisturbed time with close friends and family will appreciate. There is a general sitting area, then separate rooms for men and women, a VIP private room that is charged at Kshs, 1000 per hour, and a bigger space that is ideal for a bigger family. Apart from the main restaurant with tables and seats, the rest of the sitting arrangement is majlis style because culturally Mandi is best eaten when seated on the floor.
Food is finger-licking good and the portions are generally large. The House serves the best mutton Mandi in Mombasa town. If you are a fan of Yemeni or Lebanese delicacies or would like to give it a try then this restaurant is where it’s at.
Other activities to try are cycling, picnicking, or enjoying a nature walk at the Bamburi Nature Trail. You can also bring your own bike or hire bikes at an hourly rate of Ksh 350.
This list is just a tip of the iceberg! there is a lot more to be done in Mombasa. Let me know you favourite thing to do and places to stay in Mombasa in the comment section below.
Partners: Kilian Tours and Travel for ground transfers and Mombasa County Government.
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