A Practical Guide to Exploring Mombasa Kenya
Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya, situated on the beautiful shores of the Indian Ocean. It is located in the former Coast Province in south-eastern Kenya and was the first capital of British East Africa until Nairobi became the capital in 1907. Today, Mombasa is the capital of Mombasa County.
Originally known as Manbasa in Arabic and Kisiwa Cha Mvita (or Mvita for short) in Kiswahili, Mombasa earned the name “Island of War” due to its tumultuous history of ownership changes and battles fought for control.
History Of Mombasa Kenya
The history of Mombasa involves the Portuguese, Oman, and eventually British rule. The Portuguese first visited in 1498 and later sacked the city.
They had multiple encounters with Mombasa, including attempts to quell mutinies and the destruction of the city. In 1585, a joint expedition by the Somalis and Turks captured Mombasa from the Portuguese, but the Portuguese took over again in 1589 and built Fort Jesus. Mombasa came under Omani rule in 1698, but there were regular rebellions against Omani rule. British administration took over in 1895, and Mombasa became the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate.
The construction of the Uganda Railway revived the city’s fortunes, and Mombasa was formally presented to the British in 1898. Eventually, the capital was moved to Nairobi.
Mombasa is located on Mombasa Island, separated from the mainland by two creeks: Tudor Creek to the west and Kilindini Harbor to the south. The island is connected to the mainland through various routes, including the Nyali Bridge to the north, the Likoni Ferry to the south, and the Makupa Causeway to the west.
The city is characterized by its flat topography and extends from Mombasa Island to the mainland. The island’s separation from the mainland is marked by two creeks: Port Reitz in the south and Tudor Creek in the north.
Mombasa is divided into four administrative divisions for orientation:
- Mvita: This division is located on the island where the city was founded. The old town of Mvita stretches from the old port to Fort Jesus, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The port area can be found to the west. Central Mvita includes a vibrant market with colorful shops, stalls, street food, and public places.
- Changamwe: Known as the gateway to the city, Changamwe houses the international airport, part of the port, and oil and chemical industry plants.
- Kisauni: Often referred to as the “north coast,” Kisauni is where the largest slums in Mombasa are located. It is also home to the sandy beaches of Nyali, Bamburi, and Shanzu, which have luxury hotels and vacation houses.
- Likoni: Often referred to as the “south coast,” Likoni has a large sandy beach called Shelly Beach. However, most accommodations in this division are apartments.
Time and Climate
Mombasa, Kenya follows the East Africa Time (EAT) time zone, which is UTC+3:00. This means that Mombasa is three hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The time zone is consistent throughout the year and does not observe daylight saving time.
Mombasa has a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons. The major rainy season occurs between mid-April and late May, while the minor wet season is in October and November. The city experiences a hot and humid climate throughout the year.
Due to its location in the Southern Hemisphere, Mombasa’s summer season, with temperatures above 32°C, occurs in January and March. The temperature variation in Mombasa is relatively small since it is situated just 4° south of the Equator. This means that temperatures remain consistently warm throughout the year, with average highs ranging from 28°C to 31°C and average lows ranging from 22°C to 24°C.
Getting to Mombasa
- Air: Moi International Airport (MBA) is the second-largest airport in Kenya, located in Mombasa. It offers daily flights to Nairobi and various destinations in Kenya, Europe, and the Middle East. Several airlines, including Kenya Airways, Jambojet, and Fly540, operate flights between Nairobi and Mombasa. Direct flights from European cities and other African countries are also available.
- Road: The distance between Nairobi and Mombasa is approximately 483 kilometers. The well-connected Mombasa-Nairobi highway allows for driving between the two cities. Long-distance bus services such as Spanish Coach, Simba Coach, Tahmeed Coach, Dreamline, Mash East Africa, Buscar, and Coast Bus offer reliable and comfortable travel options. The bus journey takes around 12 hours during the day or 10 hours at night.
- Rail: Mombasa has a modern railway station the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway. The Mombasa Terminus station, located at Miritini, provides a convenient connection between Mombasa and Nairobi. Kenya Railways operates the railway, offering both passenger and cargo services. The journey from Nairobi to Mombasa takes approximately five hours, and economy-class and first-class ticket options are available.
- Sea: The port of Mombasa is the largest in East Africa, with 19 deep-water berths and plans for additional berths and oil terminals. The port is well-connected to the interior through rail and road networks, facilitating trade and cargo transportation. While there are limited scheduled passenger services, the port frequently welcomes international cruise ships.
Getting around Mombasa:
- Matatus and Shuttle Buses: Matatus, mini-buses widely used in Kenya, are the primary mode of transportation within the city and its suburbs. Faster and less hassle-filled shuttle buses operated by Hakuna Mutatu Bus are available for inter-county travel. Online booking options are convenient, or hotels can provide guidance on catching these shuttles.
- Tuk-tuks and Boda-bodas: Tuk-tuks, small three-passenger vehicles, are popular for local transport in the city and its surroundings. Boda-bodas, originally bicycle taxis but now replaced by motorcycles, are commonly used for shorter distances.
- Taxis: Taxis in Mombasa may not display rooftop signs but have license papers on windshields. International taxi-hailing apps like Uber, Bolt, and Yego, as well as local options like Little cab, are widely used for convenient and reliable taxi services.
- Ferry: For travel between Mombasa Island and the south coast, ferries operated by the Kenya Ferry Service are available from Kilindini and Mtongwe to Likoni. The Likoni Ferry is free for pedestrians, but vehicles are required to pay a fee to use the ferry. The Likoni Ferry can get very crowded, especially during peak hours, so it is advisable to plan your journey accordingly.
Beaches around Mombasa:
- Nyali Beach: Situated in the Nyali suburb of Mombasa, this beach offers a picturesque setting with palm trees, calm waters, and soft sand. It is a favourite spot for locals and tourists alike.
- Bamburi Beach: Adjacent to Nyali Beach, Bamburi Beach is known for its picturesque views and laid-back atmosphere. It offers a range of activities, including snorkeling, beach volleyball, and camel rides.
- Shanzu Beach or Serena Beach: Located just north of Nyali Beach, Shanzu Beach is known for its calm waters and pristine sand. It is a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Pirates or Jomo Kenyatta Beach: Located near Nyali Beach, Pirates or Jomo Kenyatta Beach is a popular destination offering a relaxed atmosphere, beautiful white sand, and a variety of water sports activities.
- Mombasa Beach: Situated in the heart of Mombasa, this beach is easily accessible and offers a lively atmosphere with beachside restaurants, bars, and entertainment options. Other beaches, such as Sherry Beach, are also worth exploring.
Activities to be enjoyed In Mombasa
- Fishing excursions
- Jet skiing
- Boat tours
- Snorkelling trips
- Mombasa Golf Club
- Nyali Golf Club
- Vipingo Golf Club
- Golden Key Casino
- Nyali Casino
- Go-kart racing
Education in Mombasa encompasses a range of schools, universities, colleges, and vocational training centers. The city offers diverse educational opportunities for students at different levels.
Primary and Secondary Schools: Mombasa Kenya is home to numerous primary and secondary schools, both public and private. These schools follow the Kenyan national curriculum and provide education to students from early childhood to secondary levels. Some notable schools in Mombasa include: Aga Khan Academy Mombasa, Mombasa Academy, Coast Academy, Mombasa High School, Sheikh Khalifa Secondary School, St. Mary’s School, Light Academy, Oshwal Academy Mombasa, Mombasa Baptist High School, Tudor Day Secondary School
International Schools: Mombasa also has international schools that offer education based on international curricula such as the British or American curriculum. These schools cater to expatriate families and provide a global perspective in their education. Some prominent international schools in Mombasa include: Mombasa Academy International School, Braeburn Mombasa International School, Greenwood International School, Light International School
Mombasa is home to several universities and colleges, providing higher education opportunities to students. These institutions offer a wide range of courses and programs in various disciplines. Some prominent universities and colleges in Mombasa include: Technical University of Mombasa (TUM), Pwani University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Mombasa Campus), Kenya Coast National Polytechnic, Mount Kenya University (Mombasa Campus), Bandari College, International University of Professional Studies (IUPS)
Collages: Utalii College, Bandari College, Kenya Coast National Polytechnic, Auscare Training Institute, Mombasa Industrial Training Centre
Mombasa provides a vibrant shopping scene with a range of malls and markets to explore. Here are some noteworthy shopping destinations in the city:
- City Mall
- Nyali Centre
- Ratna Shopping Mall
- Likoni Ferry Market
- Marikiti Market
- Kingwea Market
Nyali Cinemax Complex
Mombasa’s culinary scene is a vibrant reflection of its cosmopolitan nature and diverse cultural influences. From Arabic and Chinese to European and Indian traditions, the city offers a wide range of dining options to satisfy all tastes. Whether you’re in the mood for local delicacies, international cuisines, or street food delights, Mombasa’s restaurants cater to every palate and budget. Explore our comprehensive dining section for detailed information on restaurants.
Mombasa Town, as well as neighbouring regions like Shazu and Mtwapa, provide a vibrant nightlife scene with something to suit everyone’s preferences. Whether you seek a lively atmosphere with live music performances, a laid-back evening with friends, or an electrifying clubbing experience, Mombasa has it all.
From bars, clubs with themed events to sunset cruises there is something for everyone. To stay informed about the latest happenings, make sure to check the events section for a comprehensive list of upcoming events in Mombasa. Among the most popular clubs are The Yatch, Volume VIP Club, Tapas Cielo, and Hypnotica.
Tourists in Mombasa Kenya often prefer staying along the North Coast for their accommodation, as opposed to staying in the city itself. This region offers a wide range of options to suit various budgets and preferences, ranging from luxurious to convenient and affordable accommodations. Additionally, the North Coast provides a greater variety of entertainment and dining options compared to the city centre. For detailed information on specific establishments, please refer to our comprehensive accommodation section.
Banks & ATMS Around Mombasa Kenya
In Mombasa, banks are generally open from Monday to Friday, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Some banks may have limited hours on Saturdays, typically from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. However, there are exceptions, such as the DTB Nyali Center branch, which opens every day from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
Currency exchange services are available in all banks in Mombasa, and you can also exchange currency at selected M-Pesa locations like TwinCo at Nyali Center. TwinCo is open every day from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
ATMs can be found throughout Mombasa, with most of them located in shopping centers. These ATMs are open 24 hours a day and accept Visa and Mastercard credit cards.
M-Pesa, a mobile money service, is widely used and convenient in Mombasa. M-Pesa outlets or agents are located throughout the city, making it easily accessible. To use M-Pesa, you need to register with Safaricom, the provider of M-Pesa services.
Mombasa Kenya is home to several foreign consulates representing various countries, providing assistance to their citizens and offering consular services. Some of the consulates located in Mombasa include:
- Consulate of Austria
- Honorary Consulate of Belgium
- Royal Danish Consulate
- Honorary Consulate of Finland
- Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany
- Honorary Consulate of Greece
- Honorary Consulate of Hungary
- Assistant High Commission of India
- Royal Norwegian Consulate
- Consulate of Tanzania
- Consulate of Uganda
Hospitals In Mombasa Kenya
Mombasa, as a prominent city in Kenya, has a well-established healthcare infrastructure with multiple hospitals and medical facilities. These institutions cater to the healthcare needs of both residents and visitors. For more detailed information about the main hospitals in Mombasa and their respective locations, please refer to the article provided in this link: [article].
When it comes to safety in Mombasa Kenya, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Photography and Filming: It is generally prohibited, and in some cases illegal, to take photos or film certain areas without authorization. This includes airports, banks, military areas, and police stations. It is always best to seek permission or obtain proper authorization before capturing images in these locations.
- Respecting Privacy: When taking photos of people, it is courteous to ask for their permission first. Not everyone may be comfortable being photographed, so it’s important to respect their privacy and wishes.
- Personal Security: While walking around, be aware of your surroundings and take precautions against pickpocketing. Avoid displaying expensive electronics or valuable items that might attract unwanted attention. Keep your belongings secure and be mindful of crowded areas where theft incidents may occur.
Police Station In Mombasa Kenya
- Near Mama Ngina Drive. Contact: +254 41 225501, +254 41 222121. Toll-free: 112, 999.
- Central Police Station: Situated on Makadara Road. Contact: +254 41 225501. Toll-free: 112, 999.
- Bamburi Police Station: Contact: +254 41 548210.
- Changamwe Police Station: Contact: +254 41 433700.
- Likoni Police Station: Contact: +254 41 451222.
- Makupa Police Station: Contact: +254 41 491605.
- Nyali Police Station: Contact: +254 41 477555.
- Municipal Fire Brigade: Toll-free: 112, 999.
- Port Fire Brigade: Toll-free: 112, 999.