||This section is divided into three parts i.e. Mombasa Island, North Coast Mombasa and South Coast Mombasa.
1. Mombasa Island
Mombasa is Kenya's second largest town and its the only sizeable port. It has a recorded history stretching back nearly 2000 years, and was mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a pilot's guide to the Indian Ocean written by one Diogenes, a Greek living in Egypt, around the end of the first century A.D. Mombasa was again mentioned by Ptolemy in the second century but then remained in relative obscurity, despite the development of a series of city states by migrant Arabs, until the adventurers, traders and conquerors visited the town beginning with Vasco Da Gama in 1498.
The colonization of the coast by the Portuguese was a hit and miss affair with the invaders sometimes showing interest and sometimes the opposite. But it was also an era of strife between the Catholic Portuguese and the Muslim Arabs. The Arabs finally extinguished Portuguese hegemony with the capture of Fort Jesus in 1699 just over a hundred years after it was built. The next hundred years was a miserable record of petty wars between the minor sultans and of Omani Arabs based in Muscat. Trade, except in slave came to a halt until an army was sent, in 1822, by the Sultan of Oman to crush the warring states and re-establish commercial activity.
Some form of Arab government existed in what became known as the coastal strip until the region was declared a British sphere of influence following the treaty of Berlin in 1885. The town of Mombasa is built on a coral island. Less than a century ago, the builders of what was then called the Uganda railway attached the island to the mainland by a causeway. To the north a toll bridge spans Tudor Creek, with views of the old harbor, linking the town with the north coast beach resorts. On the south side a frequent car and passenger ferry service plies across Kilindini Creek, close to the entrance to the modern port area with its multitude of wharfs and deep water berths, carrying tourists to the splendid beaches of the south coast. Mombasa town itself is a mystical mixture of ancient and modern with a cosmopolitan population blending Africa, Arabia, Asia and Europe. The people who live in this old but vibrant gateway to Kenya and Africa now number almost 600,000. Fringing the dhow harbor is the old town, a maze of narrow streets and pedestrian lanes with quaint shuttered houses and open fronted shops; the smell of spices is always present. Dominating the entrance to the dhow harbor is Fort Jesus, which is open to visitors and which houses an interesting museum displaying antiquities from the length of the Kenya coast. Also on display are finds from the Portuguese warship the Santa Antonio D'Atanm which sank near the fort in 1697 while attempting to raise the Arab siege.
A wide array of African crafts and curios, together with some antiques, are available from shops and sidewalk vendors but a shopping highlight is a visit to Biashara Street where the shops compete for the purchaser's eye, and his pocket, with dazzling displays of locally woven fabrics and prints. Visitors find a visit to the Kamba carvers village near the airport a worthwhile experience. Scores of carvers can be seen at work, and one can follow the progress of a carving from log to the completed artistry. There is a shop selling the finished works. From Mombasa, it is possible to make short excursions to many of the beach resorts or alternatively to seek the cool air of the
Shimba Hills and enjoy the superb concentrations of wildlife at Tsavo East. There are several interesting archaeological sites nearby especially Jumba la Mtwana the Slave master's house - a well-maintained ruin with one of four mosques although virtually intact slipping imperceptibly into the ocean. To reach Jumba, you cross Mtwapa Creek where there is a substantial aquarium with an underwater viewing tunnel displaying sharks, rays and other fascinations from the nearby ocean.
There is also a deep sea fishing center catering too, for water skiers and snorkelers. The world famous rehabilitation project at the Bamburi Cement Factory certainly merits a visit. Sterile quarries have been turned into a sublime oasis, covering 35 hectares, where wildlife and birds inhabit the forests, glades, pools and streams. Haller Park is easily found, and should not be missed as a wonderful example of reclamation of wasteland and restoration as a conservation area.
With its contrasting cultures and its easy pace, Mombasa is a town appreciated by most tourists, not necessarily as a final holiday destination but as a place to savor during a coast visit and beach vacation getaway.
2. North Coast Mombasa
Long stretches of idyllic beaches, fringed with palms, screwpines, casuarinas and scented with oleanders and frangipani make the north coast, between Mombasa and Kilifi, a visitor's paradise.
Kilifi lies 70 kilometers north of Mombasa's new Nyali Bridge, which links the island with the north coast. Nyali, on the mainland immediately after crossing the bridge, is a well-established garden suburb for Kenya's oldest metropolis. The town's elite own elegant air-conditioned houses set in landscaped gardens. Turn right just after the bridge and not far beyond you come to the Moorish lines of the famous Tamarind restaurant overlooking the old dhow harbor. Becoming equally well known is the Tamarind Dhow, a floating restaurant serving classical seafood to the sounds of a celebrated African band. Beyond the restaurant, the visitor reaches a promontory known as English Point, marked now by cement silos, which in the last century became the spot for the first 'colony' of liberated slaves established by the English. There is also a memorial to the celebrated missionary Ludwig von Krapf and his wife who reached Mombasa in 1844. She died just two months later, of malaria, with her infant child and their graves lie here.
Nearby is the Agricultural Society of Kenya's showground whose annual show is held every August. The Nyali Estate also boasts an immaculate 18-hole golf course and squash and tennis courts all of which are available to visitors from nearby beach hotels. On the coast, towards the north end of the beach is Mamba Village, a crocodile farm, said to be the world's largest, and an entertainment complex. A nearby attraction is Haller Park. Also, nearby on the sea side of the main Malindi road is Kipepeo Aquarium, which displays an astonishing number of Kenya's tropical fish from the lagoons and reefs which fringe the entire coastline.
After Nyali beach comes Kenyatta and Bamburi beaches before Shanzu, a beach from which you can swim at all tides. There are many hotels along this stretch of coast - too many to describe in detail save to say that almost all are architecturally imaginative, some outstandingly
so, and most have services and facilities which give them complete independence.
At Mtwapa Creek just north of Shanzu beach is Kenya Marineland where Kenya's largest aquarium houses all the monsters from the deepest parts of the Indian Ocean and which can be viewed from a glass-sided underground tunnel. 7 kilometers beyond Mtwapa is Kikambala Beach where there are few hotels and where the water is shallow enough at low tide to walk out to the fringing reef. These are the last beach hotels before Kilifi is reached.
3. South Coast Mombasa
Although all the beaches, which lie to the south of Mombasa form part of the "south coast", the phrase always conjures up Diani Beach, about 40 km from Mombasa where the majority of the hotel and resort development is centered. The exceptions are Likoni, better known as Shelley Beach, just across from the Mombasa island ferry, Galu and Msambweni not far south of Diani, Tiwi and Shimoni close to the Tanzania border. A good paved highway serves the whole of the south coast, and there is a tarmac airstrip at Ukunda serving the Diani resort area. Diani Beach is 10 kilometers long, a vast uninterrupted stretch of white sand lapped by an opal ocean joining up with Tiwi Beach. Many of the hotels along this beach nestle in cleared beachfront areas of the Jadini forest - still the haunt of leopard and monkeys as well as a brilliance of forest birds. In addition to the hotels, there are private houses, some available for renting, and several self-catering "villages". Most marine activities are available which include windsurfing, water skiing, scuba, snorkeling and deep-sea fishing.
Many hotels have their own marine sports centers but there are also independent ones to supply the needs of the more experienced marine addicts. Fishing (all along the Kenya coast) is year round except for May and June and perhaps July. The bill fish season is roughly November to April. The main center for serious deep sea fishing is Shimoni, 106 kilometers from Mombasa quite close to the border. Shimoni is also the base for visits to the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Parks and Reserves where Kenya's most outstanding underwater world can be viewed.
Back at Diani, golf enthusiasts will be delighted with the splendid golf course. Diani has a selection of restaurants and nightclubs offering top class food and entertainment. All along the coast, there are myriads of reef fishes to be seen with no more than a mask and snorkel and perhaps some flippers. The reef building corals, home to these innumerable fish are themselves the world's most spectacular architects. It is no wonder that such amazing homes should attract such sensational tenants.