Its an unfortunate truth that one forgets the beauty and attaction of their home town/city/country. How many New Yorkers take the time to visit the statue of Liberty? Do French citizens visit the Louvre more than once? For the majority or people, the answer to these questions is no.
I fell into the trap or daily routine. Setting my mind to travels has re-opened my eyes to the beauty and opportunities available in Mombasa. And there is not shortage of things to do. I have therefore had to split this into a series of 3 parts.
In this first part, I will be looking at the Beaches, Places to Eat and Places to Stay.
Probably one of the biggest attractions in Mombasa is the beach. All up and down the coast, Mombasa sports some of the best beaches in the world. Yes, the don’t have the ‘blue flag’ rating but that’s not because they aren’t excellent. Blue flag hasn’t deemed Kenya, or most of Africa for that matter, as worthy of exploring. The sands are white, powderous and clean most of the year round. During the raining season (because we don’t operate on normal season here), the tides change and seaweed is dumped on the beach. But thats fine. Its not tourist season so visitors generally dont get to see it.
The water is warm being from the Indian Ocean. In the early hours of the morning, the sea is as still as a lake. There are virtually no waves as the shoreline is protected by a reef (more on that in a later post). The sun ebbs a golden glow which you can just feel your skin absorbing, but beware, no matter how good it feels, hang around for more than an hour without protection (and by that, I mean sun-cream;)) and you will guarantee yourself an uncomfortable few days.
There are multiple public access entries to the beach, however; why not make use of the hotels? There are literally tonnes of hotels lining the beach front. They all allow free access to the beach but don’t expect special treatment (use of their sun beds or towels). Most of them have a beach bar where you can replenish your lost liquids and the prices aren’t bad at all. Some of the hotels do have daily rates for public use of the pool and other facilities should you be so inclined. Some of the best hotels that I recommend you visit when here are: White Sands, Nyali Beach Hotel, Voyager, Serena.
Diani and Watamu
Once you’ve had enough of the beaches in Mombasa, grab yourself a matatu (local minibuses) and head on down to Diani (commonly known as ‘South Coast’). Some really fantastic beaches there and great hangout spots. Forty Thieves bar and Ali Baba’s restaurants being the main spots. Or head up north to Watamu and enjoy some of the best water in Kenya. The water is turquoise blue, there are fascinating rock formations jutting out the water and there are some great restaurants and hotels along the beach.
Dining In Style
Every once in a while it is nice to spoil yourself with good food at a nice place. Mombasa has its fair share of upmarket eating spots but be prepared to pay for it.
Just a small note on this restaurant. The location is wonderful. If you pre-book, you can save yourself a spot on a dow and enjoy your meal in the middle of the creek. Otherwise you sit on the veranda on the banks of the creek. Searching for ‘places to eat in Mombasa’ will most likely produce this as a top result but the food is highly overpriced and not all its made out to be. I’d recommend that should you wish to spend some money on a great place, travel a little further to Monsoon (below).
About a 45 minute drive from Mombasa, pass Mtwapa is the ‘Jumbo Ruins’. It is rather hidden away so will help to ask someone when making your way there. These ruins are the remains of a coastal civilization from many years ago. To get to Monsoon, you have to walk through them. This can incur a 200 /- entrance fee but thats a small price to pay for what is ahead of you. Take some time to walk through the ruins on your way home.
Monsoon is run by a charismatic Italian and its specialty is seafood. Everything is prepared fresh so expect to make a day of this trip. The food is incredible, the location (right on the beach) is beautiful and the ambiance is tranquil and relaxed. A great spot for a romantic day out.
You really have a great choice of places to eat. If I was to talk about all of them, this would be a book and not a blog post.
Eating Out On A Budget
Should you be on a budget, do not think you will be loosing out. Some of the best food in Mombasa is cooked right on the street. The local food is great and healthy. Its cheap, and you never had to walk far to find a little place with a makeshift kitchen.
Street Food (Mubins, Dalawa, Tarbush etc)
Since we are on the topic of street food, might as well start with them. Some of my favourite places to eat in Mombasa town are Mubin’s which we call ‘the tiolet brush’. I don’t know how that name came about but be assured, there are no toilet brushes anywhere near the food. They have a braai (or barbeque for the non-South African) on the side of the road, with mutton (possibly goat) kebabs and tikka chicken.
Tikka chicken is a staple in Mombasa and some of the other fantastic food places such as Dalawa’s, Tarbush and Rockwell all serve a great chicken tikka. For the more local experiece, look to your left, now to your right, and you will have seen a place to get some ugali, mahindi or other local food.
Singhs (and Punjabe Daba)
I may be biased but I dont know of a resturant that can beat Singhs when it comes to curry. Singhs has been around for many many years. The owners (its a family business which belongs to, you guessed it, the Singhs) and staff are friendly and efficient. The service quick. The food, cheap. But most importantly, the food is incredible. I like my food hot, so my curry often turns up green from chillies :)
If you are staying in the Nyali area and getting into town is troublesome, there is a restaurant called Punjabe Daba which is an offshoot of Singhs. It is run by cousins and is almost as good as the mother restaurant.
Places to Stay
Of course, there are tonnes of hotels to stay at, all offering various levels of service and class. I have mentioned some of them earlier but why not take a look at TripAdisor and see what they say. Holidaying, however, can leave quite the dent in your pocket so the key is to find some cheaper accommodation.
Mombasa doesnt have the largest selection of backpackers available but there is one. Mombasa Backpackers can be found through various travel websites such as lonely planet and TripAdvisor. As I live in Mombasa, I have not had the opportunity to stay at the backpackers but from what I have read and heard, its generally left people happy and wishing to stay longer.
Couch surfing is a fantastic way to get around for next to nothing and meet nice and interesting people. If you havent already signed up for the free service, head on over to their website. There are thousands of available couches all throughout the world, including at present, 3 in Mombasa. Head on over to their website to find out more.
— End of Part 1 —