Last month, I went to Kenya and spent four days in Nairobi. My remaining two days there was in Mombasa, which is the country’s second largest city and on the coast. The purpose of heading to Mombasa was initially to experience the beautiful white sand beaches, but I was blessed to have a much more enriching experience there. I can definitely say my crew and I navigated the city of salt and spice like true locals. We also developed an understanding of its mix of Swahili and Arab cultures once learning about Mombasa’s history as a major port in the gold, spice, and ivory trade.
Below, I list the 7 unforgettable moments that contributed to my amazing experience in Mombasa.
Visiting Old Town
On my first day in Mombasa, I spent the afternoon wandering through the streets of Old Town. Here, I admired the old buildings, learned some history, and saw kids playing in the narrow streets. Fort Jesus, mosques, and the shops/spice markets are among the things to see and experience in Old Town. I was also intrigued by the Indian and Arab influence on the architecture and culture. Even its diverse population of Arabs, Indians, and of course the Waswahili (Muslim Swahili) people was a surprise to me. Once I learned of the impact of its location, the diversity all began to make sense.
Buying spices at the Spice Market
We visited a spice market in Old Town. The owner was so helpful in thoroughly explaining the different spices he carried and what they are used for in cooking and as natural remedies for sickness. If you are gonna purchase anything while visiting shops and markets in Mombasa, make sure you get some spices. I bought a few spices for my tea, seasoning rice, making curry, curing colds, and more. In fact, as I write this post, I’m sipping on tea with the marsala spices I bought, and they seriously take the flavor to another level.
Checking out the Mombasa Tusks
While walking through Mombasa, my crew and I came upon the famous giant Mombasa Tusks in the heart of the city. It’s really a great landmark to take photos of. You just can’t go to Mombasa without seeing these tusks.
Visiting the Shri Cutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple
Although Islam is the dominant religion in Mombasa, experiencing this Hindu Temple in the heart of Mombasa was very interesting. It was absolutely beautiful. Even the detail of the temple’s entrance was amazing. The paintings inside told the stories of Hindu mythology, and the prayer halls were huge. Definitely a must-see to get a glimpse of Indian culture.
Riding through town in a Tuk Tuk
You haven’t lived until you almost get hit by several cars while riding through town in a Tuk Tuk. This is a form of transportation that’s way cheaper than a taxi and much more convenient than a taxi because of its ability to ride through the narrow streets in town. While Tuk Tuks are a little scary to ride in, they are the most affordable ways to get to a destination (besides walking) and are commonly used. It’s an experience for damn sure.
Enjoy a seafood dinner at Tamarind
After completing our tour of Old Town, my crew and I arrived to Tamarind via a little ass motorized canoe sans life jackets, which I still can’t believe I had any parts in. We were there before the dinner service began, so we got a couple of drinks at their outside bar and lounge and caught the sunset over Old Town right across Tudor Creek. Dinner was served within the restaurant, and it was amazing. After I realized there were NO vegetarian options, I went ahead got the blackened salmon, which was cooked and seasoned well. After dinner, we returned to the bar and lounge area to partake in some shisha before pure exhaustion overcame us. This was a nice chill way to spend our first evening in Mombasa.
Do a beach day at Diani Beach
While I got a full experience of Old Town on my first day, my crew and I decided to spend our last day chillin’ in Diani Beach, which is about an hour south of Mombasa by way of the Likoni Ferry which crosses the Kilindini Harbour. Our AirBNB host in Nairobi actually recommended we hang out at the Swahili Beach Resort for the day. Unlike resorts in let’s say the Caribbean, outsiders were welcomed on the property. There, we had lunch at its restaurant and lounged the day away on their beach.
I will say the beach at the resort wasn’t the prettiest because there were coral reefs a few feet away from the cabanas and lounge chairs, but I didn’t go to run in the sand or swim. I did appreciate the breeze from the very clear Indian Ocean, the attentive waitstaff that served us on the beach, and being able to have a laziest day ever before the longest journey home ever.
So, if you are headed to Kenya, make sure you stop in Mombasa. It had such a different vibe from Nairobi, and it definitely isn’t as advanced as the capital from an infrastructure standpoint. I don’t even recall seeing traffic signals while wandering around. However, being welcomed “home” from the friendly people who inquired and then learned where we were from, seeing the hustle and bustle of those going to and from work, and experiencing the different ways of getting around gave me an experience I’ll never forget. Hopefully, my experience above will encourage y’all to add this coastal city in Africa to your travel bucket list.
Don’t forget to check out my vlog of my day navigating Mombasa!