Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city and also the oldest, has a recorded history reaching back some 2000 years.
It presents a mystical mixture of the ancient and modern, a blend of cultures and traditions – an intriguing potpourri of romanticism and practicality that is irresistible.
Dominating the Old Town is the well preserved 16th Century Portuguese Fort Jesus with its lurid saga of conquest and siege. This ancient fort houses a museum displaying numerous coastal antiquities.
In the romantic winding streets of the Old Town and around its ancient dhow harbour, merchants beckon visitors to buy their wares. In the ‘new town’ there is an abundance of African souvenirs, shops, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos, and an international airport.
Only a few miles away from the city lies the ocean paradise of Diani Beach to the south and Shimba Hills National Park, home of the rare sable and roan antelope.
Mombasa is the take-off point for Kenya’s sun-kissed sandy beaches, exciting water sports, and trips into the hinterland.
The main deep-sea fishing area is from Shimoni where fishing takes place all year round in the famous Pemba Channel. Slaves were hidden in Shimoni’s deep dark caves in appalling conditions in days of yore.
Shimoni is also the sailing point for the breathtakingly beautiful Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park, and Wasini Island with its unusual coral outcrops.
To the north are yet more picturesque beaches with water sports, luxury accommodation and a remarkable conservation programme at Mamba village. The great man-eating crocodiles here were trapped on the Tana River and transported to the village for the safety of people and crocodile alike.
All in all, Kenya’s coastline is a great wonderland, continuining on beyond the well-preserved and very mysterious 13th/14th century Gedi ruins.
No one really knows why Gedi was built, or why it was suddenly deserted. It is a fascinating if somewhat eerie place, although obviously once a flourishing settlement.
Then there is Malindi, old and new, with its Marine National Parks and ancient monuments, first class hotels, white sandy beaches and 15th century tombs.
Malindi was a Portuguese outpost for ships plying the Indies routes. Its recorded history dates from the 13th century.
Further still, there is the beautiful Island of Lamu, only an hour’s flight from Malindi, yet still beckoning with a timelessness that is as ageless as history itself. Although the island has excellent hotels. Lamu remains a perfect setting for the Arabian Nights.
The atmosphere there, indeed throughout the whole archipelago (which can be explored by dhow), is lazy and peaceful, with many well preserved relics of the past, and a fascinating museum.
The North Coast
Stretches from Nyali to Kilifi creek and includes areas such as Bamburi, Shanzu and Kikambala. Its long stretches of tranquil beaches are fringed with swaying palms. The area boasts of numerous attractions which include a golf course, specialty restaurants and superb hotels along the beach.
The South Coast
Famous for its long white sandy beaches and linked by ferry to the Mombasa Island. Diani beaches are notably well appointed with luxurious resorts, chalets and villas. Shimba hills can be seen quite clearly from this beach. Jadini forest is still a haunt for a wide variety of wildlife. There are a range of activities for water sports available such as water skiing, wind surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving and deep sea fishing.
Malindi and Watamu
Malindi which lies north of Watamu is the oldest of Kenya’s beach resort. The town is a maze of alleys, courtyards and gardens dating back to the 12th Century. Time stands still and centuries of civilization have not changed the hospitality and charm of the native people. The golden sands, tranquil township, the mosque minarets and the composed people add character to this coastal resort.
The indomitable spirit of intrepid sailors of centuries gone by, such as Diego Amerigos, Christopher Columbus and Vasco Da Gama, who set out to discover new territories as well as to find a passage to India is kept alive by the Vasco Da Gama monument at the Causarina point. The first ever marine parks where established here in 1979. Gede ruins which were mysteriously abandoned in the 17th century, the Arabuko Sokoke forest, the Portuguese chapel and the Mamburui village are excellent excursions in Malindi.
This archipelago with its narrow alleys, glorious old houses have defied the passage of time.
Delicate wood craftsmen, numerous mosques and a thriving Swahili culture make this island an ideal resort for those looking for a trip back in time. Also known as the Venice of Kenya it is linked to three other smaller islands, Kiwayu, Manda and Kiunga by waterways. Ernest Hemmingway made Lamu his home and most of his writings where inspired by this captivating island. The maulidi festival, mangrove swamps and the Lamu museum are attractions worth seeing. Donkeys are the only mode of land transportation.