Quick Travel Guide to Mombasa for First Time Travellers

The town of Mombasa is Kenya’s second largest city, East Africa’s largest port, and the country’s biggest tourist hub. The town is often referred to as a melting pot, and with good reason. Not only does the town serve as a significant seaport for imports and exports, but it is also home to stunning attractions making Mombasa one of best tourist destinations in Africa. Mombasa city itself is an island with breathtaking stretches of white sandy beaches, and coral reef formations, which lace the coastline. When all these are coupled with large selection of exemplary beachfront restaurants and hotels, Mombasa becomes an ideal vacation destination.

Unlike Nairobi, Mombasa is more culturally integrated and cohesive having a rich and diversified concoction of exotic and indigenous cultures. This includes: the Swahili and Mijikenda community, settlers from India and Arabia, new-comers from Europe, and of course other migratory tribes from other parts of Kenya. Given the town’s diversity, it’s very easy for tourists to communicate with the residents in a number of languages. The cuisine is molded to cater to many preferences including Indian, Italian, Chinese cuisine and many more. Seeing as the town is located on the ocean-side, seafood is a common delicacy, and can be prepared and be eaten just a few hours after it has been caught.

Mombasa is a relatively small town, and the main mode of transport is via public means-buses and small minibuses commonly referred to as ‘matatus’. However, taxis can be found almost anywhere in the city.

Where to Sleep if Booking Airbnb in Mombasa

Just like Nairobi, you will notice a similar contrast between impoverished settlements and affluent neighbourhoods in Mombasa. The wealthy expatriates and Mombasa’s local elite prefer to live in the prime residential areas of Mombasa that have gated communities and leafy suburbs. These areas include: Nyali on the north coast, Kizingo and Diani Beach, a seaside resort located to the south coast. You can expect to spend about a third of your vacation budget on housing in Mombasa.

Things to Do In Mombasa

As a curious traveler you will definitely not get bored in Mombasa.

 Haller Park

This is the biggest animal sanctuary in the town. The park boasts of diverse flora and fauna, which includes reptiles, insects and tranquil botanical gardens. Taking a stroll on the trail is the best way to catch a glimpse of the animals, and in some instances feed the animals under supervision of a guide.

haller park mombasa guide

 Mamba Village

‘Mamba’ is a Swahili term for crocodile and Mamba village is regarded as East Africa’s biggest crocodile farm. At the start of the tour of the farm, you will get to see a movie about the life cycle and natural traits of a crocodile. Afterwards there is a comprehensive guided tour of the entire farm. The tour ends with a thrilling scene of hungry crocodiles fighting for meat during feeding time. There is a Mamba restaurant close-by, where you can delight your taste buds in the house’s specialty: grilled crocodile meat.

Bombolulu Workshops

This is a cultural center founded by the Association for the Physically Disabled in Kenya (APDK). The center features 8 traditional homesteads, a traditional restaurant, and visitors are entertained by traditional dancers throughout the day. The APDK employs disabled people who make hand printed textiles, jewellery, leather crafts, and wood carvings, all of which are displayed and sold in a large show room.

 Fort Jesus

Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011, Fort Jesus represents one of the oldest buildings/ruins on the eastern coast of Africa. The fort was formally used as a prison by the British, and houses some spectacular artefacts affiliated with the town’s history including carved doors, imported ceramics etc.

 Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve

The park and reserve cover marine protected areas. Tourists can hire boats to get to the reserve and park. It’s an ideal place for diving and snorkeling.

Mombasa Nightlife

Whether you are looking for a wild night of partying or a quiet night out, Mombasa provides plenty of entertainment options. There are many nightclubs located on the north and south coast in close proximity to the big hotels. Plus most of these major hotels have clubs and casinos right in their own premises. Cinemas and bowling joints can also be found throughout the city.

Safety in Mombasa

As far as your personal safety  in Mombasa goes, it’s important to be cautious but not be paranoid. While pick-pocketing, mugging, and car-jacking, and burglaries are common in Kenya, most expats tend to stay in suburban areas with security. Hapless residents in local slums are the ones at higher risk.

Here are a few  safety rules for travellers to Mombasa:

  •  Avoid the townships, public parks, poorly-lit areas, and walking on the beach at night.
  • Don’t wear flashy jewellery or carry valuable belongings in public.
  •  Keep the doors to your car locked, and don’t stop at any deserted roads. And if you take public transport, taxis are safer than ‘matatus’.
  • If you become a victim of any mugging, don’t resist, just hand over your valuables.
  • Book your tours with established agencies. And stay in hotels, lodges or camping sites that have their own security staff.  In  recent years, the towns of Mombasa and Nairobi have experienced small- scale terrorist attacks one such attack is Westgate Mall terror attack. So be cautious around public buildings and check with your consulate or Embassy on the latest safety advice in regards to the threat posed by the terror groups.