Gratuitous beach photo…to start this off 😉
2014 is off to a great start…and I promise you I’m not just using a cliche here. I have been been dying to go to Zanzibar, but all plans to get there have so far failed to actually materialize. Well instead, in January, I got the next best thing. I was put on a job at the last minute and I had to head to Mombasa, with literally less than 24 hours notice. I have also been meaning to visit Mombasa for at least a year now, so I was quite happy to finally get a chance to go.
Mombasa is a coastal city and the second-largest city in Kenya. My first time in Kenya, I arrived Nairobi on the 22nd of September 2013, which in case you don’t remember, was the day after gunmen stormed the Westgate shopping mall. Naturally it was a truly sad time and the trip was tainted by the unfolding events and the losses from the attack. I was there for a three-day international conference but in a real show of support for the people of Kenya, and for freedom everywhere really, the conference only recorded minimal cancellations (the organizers reported less than 10% cancellations).
Almost four months later and things seemed to almost be returning to normal, except for the security presence and precautions that were visible in public places like malls, hotels and so on. The major beach hotels and resorts are actually located out of the city center, in the north and south coasts of the city. The north coast is more popular because it is easier to reach and offers many beach options (such as Nyali, Shanzu, Bamburi and other beaches) the south coast requires a ferry crossing and then about a 45 minute drive to Diani beach, where the major hotel and entertainment offerings are located.
Now, enough background info. I had a very pleasant experience in Mombasa. There was a very good meal at The Moorings, a floating restaurant right at the foot of the Mtwapa creek. We ordered a variety of food for the table to share, and everything was so fresh and delicious. Nothing I had disappointed – prawns in pili pili sauce, grilled whole fish, etc. Yum.
A view of the Mtwapa creek through the trees
Boats docked at The Moorings, Mtwapa Creek
I visited Tamarind Village, which houses the famous Tamarind restaurant, but I did not get to eat as the restaurant was on a break between lunch and dinner, at the time of my visit. I plan on going back to Mombasa for pleasure, someday, and Tamarind will definitely be on my to do list.
The best thing, I have to say, about Mombasa has to be the Kenyan people! I don’t think I’ve met a bunch of genuinely warm, pleasant and hospitable people like the Kenyans. Of course, Mombasa being a major tourist destination in the country means that most people have to be hospitable, as this trait is probably tied to their livelihoods. But it really felt genuine to me. People were always smiling, ready to help – it definitely helped to put me at ease here.
The next best thing about this place – besides the beaches, the food, the wonderful mix of Swahili and Arabic culture – has to be the really interesting public transport options. No, not tuk tuks, or donkeys, or anything of that sort. I’ll just explain with a few photos I managed to take in the daytime…
Such interesting color choices, they certainly made my traffic observations quite pleasant. And the buses at night were even more “tricked out”, let me tell you. With lights and rims, and all, they looked like party buses.
Oh…and one last thing, pole pole is Swahili for slowly…as in “life is meant to be enjoyed pole pole” (I made that up, I think). And my other favorite Swahili word is sawa, meaning ok, alright.