Mombasa Tours Safaris – City Tour Without A guide
Mombasa City is the second-largest and the second most popular city in Kenya. It is the main point of contact for anyone who wants to visit the Kenyan coast. As it has the second biggest airport as well as a good railway and road system. It has the highest number of tourist and many tourist attractions. Hence, the need to organise Mombasa tours safaris along the Island.
Brief History of Mombasa and need for Tour Safaris
Mombasa’s history dates back to the 16th century. Many traders sailed to the town through the Indian Ocean and tried to establish rule in this town. It was preferred by the traders due to its strategic position and good grounds to build a harbour for the many sailors. The town was seen as a good trading ground. Many nations did try to enforce their governance here.
Arabs are believed to have the most influence in this town through their trade of ivory and slave that dates back to the 8th century. The Portuguese later tried to establish their governance and spread their trading area. In the process, they built The Fort Jesus. The Fort served as a source of protection from the locals against conflict as they traded in goods such as spices, coffee, cotton etc. Local slaves were also exchanged for these goods.
The Portuguese were later overthrown by the Omani Arabs who took charge of the Fort. But their rule was short as they were later overthrown by the British who colonized the whole country till Kenya gained its independence in 1963. The British took over the port and even build a railway line from Mombasa to Uganda which is still a landmark to date.
All this History that dates back Centuries ago is still visible in this city. Most of the buildings built by the Arabs still stand strong to date. A Mombasa City tour safari takes you back in history. You discover how each nation that tried to rule this town left its mark. A safari on the town takes you back in time while trying to understand how the different cultures blend in and influence the people’s way of living. Some of the sites worth visiting in your tour are listed below.
Fort Jesus Museum
The Fort Jesus Museum is located at the heart of Mombasa city and touches the shores of the Indian Ocean. The Fort was built by the Portuguese at the end of the 16th Century to protect the port of Mombasa and control the Indian Ocean trade. This magnificent century-old structure is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains a great history of how the Mombasa Port became a great trading route.
Inside the Museum, you will find great displays of century-old artefacts. As well as cookery pieces dating back to the 10th century. There are various rooms, towers and even a slave tunnel that was used for the slave trade. There are some local guides at the museum entrance who are ready to take you on a tour inside. They explain the history of the port from when it was under Portuguese rule. To when they were overthrown by the Oman Arabs and after the British took over.
Outside the Fort has some nice curio shops to buy a souvenir. You can walk down to the ocean shores and enjoy a cool breeze. As you watch the fishermen boats passing as well as some ship heading in and out of Kilindini harbour nearby. There is the option of joining the local people for a swim by the ocean at low tide.
Mombasa Old Town
Mombasa Old Town is famous for its century-old houses that were built by the Arab traders, the Portuguese as well as British Colonizers. You start your journey just outside the Fort Museum. Walking through the narrow streets with tall buildings on each end that carry so much history. The bottom part of the building houses curios shops selling Swahili and Arab artefacts. While the top part of the buildings is occupied by the city dwellers. The dwellers are Kenyan born but come from interracial marriages between the Swahili people and the Arabs, Indian, Portuguese descendants.
Some of the outstanding landmarks to see in this Old Town include the Mandhry Mosque, which is one of the oldest mosques built in the 15th Century. It has an outstanding architecture that is a combination of the Arabic design with the Swahili African design. The mosque is not open to visitors though can be viewed from outside.
Another outstanding feature to see is the African Hotel Museum which is believed to be the first hotel in Kenya now turned into a museum. Visitors are allowed to enter and check out the architecture. As well as the old photo gallery of how the hotel looked like.
Jahazi Coffee House that is located on your way to the old port is also worth checking out. enjoy some delicious Swahili traditional meals as you take in great views of the old town.
Burhani Gardens and Swahili Cultural Centre
Just outside the Old town heading to the Central Business district is Burhani Gardens. A public park where one can go and relax while enjoying a cool breeze after the long tour around Old Town. You get to watch some youth either playing football or skating away under the trees. If you are a nature lover, you can check out the different species of century-old trees that make up the park.
You can also check out the Swahili Cultural Centre. A place run by the National Museum of Kenya that trains youth in the Old Town on how to make traditional Swahili crafts as well as business management.
Uhuru Gardens and the Ivory Tasks
On one of the main streets in the City where we find most banks known as Moi Avenue. We have an iconic landmark locally referred to as ‘Pembe za Ndovu’ or Ivory Tusks. It was constructed to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth. The tasks are however made from aluminium and spell an ‘M’ symbolizing the city name.
The place is common for photography by the tusks. Opposite the monument is a beautiful park known as Uhuru Gardens. This is a nice place to relax and enjoy the cool breeze on a hot sunny day. A new tourist attraction in this park is over 5000 colonies of bats that have taken over the huge trees. Though they are proving to be a health hazard due to their smelly pop and loud noise. Tourist love visiting the gardens as early as 5 am to watch the bats return or late evening around 6.30 pm and watch the bats fly off to look for food.
Mirikiti Market is found on the busy side of the city. It is very famous for getting the best types of natural spices, fresh fruits and vegetables. One side of the market also offers the best fabrics of the common kanga of the Swahili people. You also get to taste some of the best snacks common with the Mombasa people. They include; dried mangoes, mabuyu (baobab seeds), madafu (coconuts drink), Kashata(grated coconut candy bar), tamarind seed/juice and many more.
Mama Ngina Waterfront
Mama Ngina Waterfront is the latest attraction on Mombasa Island. Though the area has been around for years and popular with locals. The county government refurbished the area and gazetted it as a public recreation facility.
It includes facilities like the Kilindini Cultural Centre, an amphitheatre, walking/jogging track, sitting areas, parking bay and modern kiosk area.
There are many vendors selling common snacks unique to this area like cassava crisps, roasted maize/cassava/sweet potatoes and coconut drinks.
This is a good place to catch the sunrise by the sea. Also, a good place to unwind during sunset while you enjoy a breeze and hang out with friends. The park is open to the public 24hrs a day.
Also Read: Mama Ngina WaterFront
Jomo Kenyatta Beach or Nyali Beach
Jomo Kenyatta Beach is one of the most popular public beaches also referred to as Pirates Beach. It is one beach that has many activities going on. It is a good place to take a swim and interact with the local people. At times the people can be too pestering while trying to sell you their wares.
If you need a less crowded place to swim or just rest by the beach, Nyali Public Beach is the place to be. Nyali beach is a clean beach and less crowded. It is very secure and the people are friendly and fun to swim with.
Mombasa Marine Park
The Mombasa Marine Park is next to the Jomo Kenyatta Beach and offers a great marine life experience. You get to enjoy boat rides over the marine life with an option of snorkelling or diving to discover more marine life underwater. It is advisable to deal with the Kenya wildlife service guides to avoid being ripped off.
Haller Park and Butterfly Pavilion
If you would prefer a tour out of the city and want to see some wildlife, then Haller Park is a good option. This park was transformed from a quarry wasteland into an ecological area. It houses many wildlife and plant species. Some of the animals at the site include elands, hippos, tortoise, crocodiles, bird species and many more.
If you love nature and enjoy nature walks, then the Butterfly Pavilion is a good option. It is found within Haller Park and is a good place to enjoy nature and learn more about the ecology. This can be achieved through a bicycle ride through the park.
This is a crocodile farm and also serves as an amusement park. It is a good place to go with the family and watch big Nile Crocodiles being rared on the farm. The guides start with a brief presentation of the reptiles’ life cycle and their role in the ecosystem. A tour of the farm allows you to see crocodiles of all ages from hatching to large adults. The climax of the visit is the feeding time when you watch the crocodiles fight for large chunks of fresh meat.
Wondering where to stay while in Mombasa, check out some of the hotels and vacation rental near and around Mombasa City below.
Your article was very exciting. I’m not sure which part I enjoyed more, the history of Mombasa or the modern-day insights to life in the city. Since I like my local farmers markets, I really liked learning about the Mirikiti Market. I’m sure that similar to here everything can not be found all the time, but I was wondering when they were open. I mean are they open just on the weekend? Are they a year-round market?
Of course, I am not sure how I feel about taking a tour of an alligator farm. I was scared looking at the picture. I think the closest I might get is looking at a nice safe zoo. But if you want to send me pictures I would love to have them!
Hey Mercedus, this market is open every day during the day. The traders can close their shops when they need a break or attend any other function.
Well in Kenya you just get used to wildlife since there are so many species, but people are always conscious not to get so close to them and endanger their lives. Crocodiles are bigger than alligators so if you fear alligators you might faint if you see a Nile crocodile.
Thank you for your post. I have never been to African. But the land and its culture attract me deeply. I particularly like to see the wild life in African. I watched several documentaries on Safari park and wild life is so amazing!
There is a Safari Park in Kenya, right? This is the dream place I would like to visit. After reading your articles, I realize that there are so many interesting places to visit. I bookmarked your webpage and will do more research on this. I am definitely going to visit African in 5 years. Do you have good suggestions for a African sightseeing trip?
It is kind of you sharing such interesting information with us.
Welcome to Africa Anthony, there are many wildlife parks and game reserves in Kenya. You will be spoilt for choice, it is easy to see a lot of animals in a short time. All you need to do is research then narrow it down on exactly what activities you would love to participate in while in Africa, which animals you would love to see then identify which country would be the most appropriate to give you the experience you want. This will make it easy for you to plan a safari.
All the best in your adventures.
I am a seasoned traveler. I am originally from Australia and not live in the USA. I have travelled to a number of different places around the world but I have never visited Africa. Your description of Mombasa and what to do there was really helpful,
The brief history of the town and the area was great to know as unless you know something of the history of a location it is more difficult to see it as it is now.
Of the locations reviewed which is your personal favourite? I lived in far North Queensland so I have seen crocodiles before and I would love to see the Nile crocodile so I could compare the two.
You talk about the local produce. When I lived in Papua New Guinea I did the same thing there. I would get my produce from the local stores, Not only was it good but I could also help the locals.
One thing that I have always done when visiting our places to try and get the advice of the locals. I did this when I visited Jamacia. There I got one of the hotel’s staff to be my local tour guide. This allowed me to not only see the location with a local flavour but also help out a local family
Well, Jon, I hope you get to travel around the continent of Africa and enjoy what it has to offer soon.
My favourite place would be Lighthouse area where you just sit and enjoy the big ship docking in and out of the harbour and watch them disappear into the ocean while eating the local snacks and drinks.
Local guides are the best they always tell you something the books don’t tell about an area and it is wise to consider one.