The Kenyan coast has been influenced by a large number of different cultures throughout history, mainly due to the fact that Mombasa has been a bustling port since the 12th century. For 800 years Arabs, Swahilis, Portuguese, Omanis and British have all been passing through leaving pieces of their traditions and cultures behind. This unique melting pot of cultures makes Mombasa a fascinating place to discover, from its Portuguese and Islamic architecture to traces of an Indian and British colonial past. Here is a quick introduction and guide to what you need to know about Mombasa when planning your first visit …
When To Go
The coast stays hot throughout the year, but nothing spoils a beach break like a sudden downpour – areas along the coastline also benefit from the breeze coming off the sea, which brings the humidity down, leading to more comfortable conditions.
The best time to travel to this part of the world is during the dry season, which lasts from January through to March.
Although the wettest months tend to be April and May there is often a wet spell in October and November too.
Visitors should be aware that this area of Kenya is predominantly Muslim, so travel plans can be affected when trips are booked around the religious festival of Ramadan in November.
Since the Mombasa coastline sits on the edge of the Indian Ocean it is not surprising that some of the best beaches in the world can be found here.
Think white sand, azure sea and palms dotted along the shore and you will start to build up an accurate picture.
Diani Beach – one of the best swimming spots in the area due to the reef’s location slightly off shore, which protect the beach from large waves.
It is located to the south of Mombasa and is a hive of activity during the high season, but more tranquil when the tourist rush subsides.
Tiwi Beach – at the other end of the spectrum to Diani Beach, but also to the south of the city, this is a great place to escape the crowds.
There are no large hotels or resorts at Tiwi Beach, making it much quieter. It is a safe place to swim with no souvenir sellers plying their trade, but there is also a shortage of amenities as a consequence.
Bamburi Beach – this is the hotspot for getting involved in activities such as snorkelling, scuba diving and water skiing. Here you can also arrange to be taken on a camel ride across the beach or on a dhow ride out to sea, so think action packed as opposed to peaceful.
Things To Do
Start off at the Old Town in Mombasa itself where the narrow streets are home to ancient buildings and curio shops.
Then head to Fort Jesus, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese, which now contains a museum exploring the practice of slavery that occurred in the area during the era. This educational destination contains various artefacts relating to slavery and shows the cells where slaves were kept.
To the north of Mombasa the ruins of a town called Gedi can be found. They date back to the 15th century when a small group of Swahilis lived there, ruled by a rich sultan.
Well preserved, they make for a fascinating place to explore and have been designated as a National Museum by the government, meaning that they are protected as a place of cultural importance.
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