Kenya is no doubt a beautiful country endowed with breathtaking and magical scenery. In my years of growing up, I had an opportunity to extensively tour different parts of Kenya and witness a couple of natural wonders and unparalled beauty. I spent a good part of my earlier years in Kenya’s capital Nairobi and only heard about Mombasa until late junior school when the chance finally presented itself for me to visit and have a first-hand account of what the city had to offer.
Mombasa is located in the South Eastern Part of Kenya bordering the Indian Ocean and is a city of different faces. As Kenya’s second largest city, the city hosts a major seaport, international airport and a wide variety of tourist attractions.
As you can expect, just like others who had been here before me, Mombasa city was spectacular; I instantly fell in love. The few days I had to spend with my classmates on my first trip here were never enough; there were so many places to go, so much exciting things to do….. I was reluctant to leave but I had to. On my subsequent trips, I came to truly appreciate the rich Mombasa culture and appealing weather.
As they say, life always has unexpected turns; Though I wished to live in Mombasa one day, I never knew this city was going to my home in the years to come. Let me be frank, I don’t regret being here; whether you’re coming to Mombasa city for the first time or you’re a frequent traveler, there’s always something new and exciting to do.
Over the years, the city has experienced major transformations save for the hot and humid weather that has always been here; if you are afraid of hot and humid climates, you’ll need a lot of adjusting. Below is a summary of Mombasa City and its neighborhoods; I have also included some of the most breathtaking photos.
Navigating around Mombasa city may be difficult for visitors; First, most of the smaller streets and alleys are unmarked and getting around can be extremely confusing. Good news is that there are plenty of rickshaws (tuktuks) practically everywhere you look around; you just need flag one down and tell the driver where you are going (fare is typically a single dollar or 100 Kenyan shillings) within the city; at times fare is as low as 50 Kenyan shillings if your destination is nearby and along the same street. If you’re going out of the city, discuss and agree on a price first before setting off.
Moi Avenue is famously known for the giant elephant tusks. Here, we call them “mapembeni” or “pembe mbili”. Moi Avenue is also known for numerous eateries, tour firms, shopping stalls, car dealers, banks etc and runs all the way to “Docks” (entry of the port).
Nyerere Avenue begins at the iconic TSS Towers roundabout and runs all the way to the Likoni ferry crossing joining Mombasa Island to the South Coast. Notable landmarks you’ll see along this road include Biashara Bank building, Imaara, Pandya Memorial Hospital, Aga Khan Hospital, Likoni Towers and Nakumatt Likoni complex.
Nkrumah road begins at the Holy Ghost Cathedral Catholic church junction and sneaks its way through the city centre all the way down to Fort Jesus (a major historical site in Mombasa city) and gateway to Mombasa’s old town (a tourist magnet part of town rich in Swahili history and culture). The streets hosts several offices, embassies, universities and the Mombasa Anglican Cathedral.
Digo road is one of Mombasa’s busiest streets that links Mombasa CBD with the North Coast. This road begins at the CFC Stanbic bank roundabout that serves Moi Avenue, Nyerere Avenue and Nkrumah Road. There are several public bus stops for those travelling to the North Coast of Mombasa connected to the island by Nyali bridge.
Plenty of food eateries including open air Swahili food joints, fast food joints, No Maneno Bazaar (a famous Mombasa shopping complex), the general post office (Huduma Centre), Bima Towers, Banks and Supermarkets such as A-One, Tusky’s Digo and Budget supermarket are all located on Digo Road. From here, you can take a ‘matatu’ (Local word for 14-seater public transport vans) to North Coast neighborhoods such as Bamburi, Shanzu, Bombolulu, Kisauni and Mtwapa. Likewise, you can easily connect with public transport either way to Likoni Ferry or Docks.
Abdel Nasser road is an extension of Digo Road as you drive out of Mombasa City and proceeds to join Ronald Ngala road from Saba Saba junction at the famous Buxton junction. On your way towards the junction, you’ll see the bus terminus for Kilifi and Malindi on your right as well as the junction to Coast General Hospital (Mombasa’s public referral hospital).
Jomo Kenyatta avenue is the main highway that links the CBD to the Moi International Airport and neighborhoods of Changamwe, Mikindani, Miritini and Jomvu. Travellers to Voi and onwards to Nairobi, Kenya’s Capital city (about 450km away) use this road to exit Mombasa city. Numerous buses travelling to Nairobi and other major towns in Kenya and around East Africa have their offices on this street.
Mwembe Tayari a famous neighborhood of the city dominates this dual carriage highway with plenty of mosques, shopping complexes (Nawal Centre is all-inclusive), banks and bus stops for Tudor, Nyali Reef, Migadini, Magongo and Mishomoroni matatus
Other major streets include Haile Selassie Avenue (originates from Digo Road and terminates at the Mombasa Railway roundabout) with modern fast food joints such as Bakers Inn, Blueroom and Chicken Inn. Makadara Road is a must visit for foodies, You’ll know you’re on Makadara Road when you smell the sweet aroma from numerous restaurants lined up along the street serving mouthwatering Swahili dishes.
Makadara Road begins from Digo Road near the post office and joins Nkrumah Road near the Fort Jesus museum. This street is the gateway to the Old Town of Mombasa and hosts the city’s Central Police Station. Msanifu Kombo, Dedan Kimathi Avenue, Kaunda Avenue, Meru road and Biashara streets are well-known.
The best way to explore the city and know your way around is to walk. However, you can also use a tuktuk to get around; they penetrate smalls alleys and maneuver easily in heavy traffic.
The city center is usually busy on weekdays with lots people and cars. Weekends are a perfect time to stroll around; its less congested and laid back. Although traffic is common across the day; peak hours of early morning and evening rush hours are quite busy.
Mombasa North Coast
The North Coast is one of Mombasa’s most vibrant neighborhoods popular for world class beach hotels, parks, leisure spots and neighborhoods. Beginning from Nyali bridge, major attractions here include Nyali, Bamburi and Shanzu Beaches that host several sea side resorts.
Mamba Village crocodile park, Haller Park and Mombasa Marine Park top the list of famous must visit spots. Don’t leave Mombasa without coming here….. I and my wife always frequent here and every trip has its own unique moments and discoveries. Absolutely spectactular…….. 🙂
Nyali bridge is the link between the North Coast and Mombasa Island.
However, plans are at advanced stage to build a second Nyali bridge at the far end of Abdel Nasser Road to reduce traffic jams and open up more entry and exit points from Mombasa City.
Honestly…. I have no sufficient vocabulary to describe the Old Town of Mombasa. Strategically located within the city centre, it’s the perfect place to step back into history and get a real feel of how the old historic towns looked like. The architecture is ancient with a predominant Swahili and Portuguese influence.
The sweet melody from the birds, narrow winding streets, and strong cultural influence summarize the enchanting beauty of the old Town. This is the place to be if you love shopping for souvenirs; they’re numerous stores and everyone is really nice and friendly.
Furthermore, while here, you’ll find the perfect opportunity to experience the warm hospitality of the Swahilis and Arabs who inhabit the neighborhood.
South Coast is famously known for Diani Beach, rated as one of the best beaches in the world. Other major spots aside from Diani, include Tiwi, Ukunda and Shelly Beach. The seaside resorts here and hotels are mind-blowing; the pristine white sandy beaches are a sight to behold not forgetting the peace and tranquility. The South is connected to Mombasa city via the Likoni ferry crossing. Likoni is a large neighborhood South of Mombasa City.
Do not worry because we shall be describing all these places with in-depth future posts with exclusive photographs. Keep checking as we share with you our first-hand experiences of Mombasa travel as well as things to do while in Mombasa.
All Images Courtesy of ; Skyscrapercity.com