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Mombasa Island, kenya Coast

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Mombasa is East Africa’s largest port and Kenya’s main tourist hub. Located in the south-eastern part of Kenya, it is one of the most significant towns, not only for its imports and exports through its port but also as a major destination for tourists visiting Kenya. The coastal city of Mombasa is actually an island with magnificent stretches of white sandy beaches and coral reefs.

Mombasa White Sandy Beach

The town has four major roads, namely Digo Road, Nkrumah Road, Nyerere Road and Moi Avenue. Along these major roads are where most of the towns shops and businesses are located.

Mombasa’s history dates back to the 16th century, and it has been ruled by the Portuguese, Arabs and British-which have all influenced the town’s culture and the attractions that still exist including historical ruins such as Fort Jesus and the Old Town.


Kenya has been sometimes described as “the cradle of humanity” – the Great Rift Valley has yielded some of the earliest evidence of humans, and provided insight into how man has evolved over time across the continent. According to some sources, early settlers in Kenya were the Cushitic-speaking people from what is now Sudan and Ethiopia moved into the area that is now Kenya beginning around 2000 BC.

Due to its strategically important position, many other groups of traders sought to impose their dominance on the town, and it was continually fought over by various trading nations all through its history. The Arab influence on Mombasa has been significant, and prominent at various times in the town’s history.

Dhows in Mombasa

Arab traders were known to sail down around to the Kenya coast from the first century AD onwards, and this gave rise to heightened trade along the coast. The Arabs continued to build trade linkages along the Kenyan coast, and Mombasa and Lamu still exhibit the remnants of the dominance of Arab culture during this era.The dominance of Arab influence on Mombasa was suppressed for about 150 years when the Portuguese arrived.

In 1498, a Portuguese explorer called Vasco De Gama landed on the shores of Mombasa. The purpose of his exploration was to spread the Christian faith and to further expand Portugal’s trading area. His arrival to Mombasa was met which much hostility among the local people.

However, he made a very important ally, the King of Malindi. The Portuguese knew that Mombasa was essential in order to successfully trade their goods; hence in 1592 they used their power to make the King of Malindi the Sultan of Mombasa. In doing so the locals consequently had no choice but to obey the orders of the Sultan, which in turn came from the Portuguese Government.

Mombasa became Portugal’s main trading centre along the East Coast of Africa. This led to the construction of a monumental fort that still stands today known as Fort Jesus. The Fort served as the main hub for trading goods, a prison for slaves, and most importantly protecting the Portuguese from conflicts with locals and threatening foreign battalions. Slavery was the major activity that took place at that time, where local slaves were exchanged for goods from visiting ships that often came from European countries.

The trading of spices, cotton and coffee, which were cultivated and grown in the rich fertile soils of the town’s farms, is one if the reasons Mombasa was a popular destination for seafarers at the time. Captured slaves were forced to work on these farms in extremely harsh and inhumane conditions.

Portugal’s reign over Mombasa lasted for approximately 200 years, after which they were overthrown by the Omani Arabs, who themselves would be forced to give up Mombasa to its final captors: the British. The British took control of Mombasa in 1895, after the sultan of Zanzibar leased the town to the British. The British East African Protectorate was established, and promoted European colonization of Kenya lands and resources. The British took strides to establish control of the strategically important port, and completed a railway line in the early 1900’s from Mombasa to Uganda.

The British rule on Kenya officially ended when Kenya finally gained its hard-fought independence on the 12th December 1963. The first president of Kenya was Jomo Kenyatta, who was an instrumental figure in the fight to gain independence from the British. His appointment as president led to the creation of a political party known as KANU (Kenya Africa National Union). President Kenyatta died in the August of 1978, and was succeeded by his vice president Daniel Arap Moi who ruled as president until 2002.

President Moi stepped down in December of 2002 following fair and peaceful elections. For the first time since 1992 when Kenya’s first multiparty elections were first held, there was a new leader. Mwai Kibaki, running as the candidate of the multiethnic, united opposition group, the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), defeated KANU candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and assumed the presidency following a campaign centred on an anticorruption platform.

During President Kibaki’s tenure, there were significant political shifts until the lead up to the December 2007 election. The official opposition, led by Raila Odinga, challenged strongly for the presidency. Elections were held on December 27, 2007, with many international observers casting doubt on the outcomes of the election process.

When the incumbent Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner, violence erupted in different parts of the country, with hundreds of Kenyan lives lost, and thousands more displaced. Under pressure from the international and African community, the leaders were able to come to a power-sharing agreement which eased the country out of its political crisis point.

Although Kenya experienced a few political jitters after its independence, it has finally settled down on the road to a stable and promising future for the people of Kenya. It is still widely regarded as one of Africa’s bright beacons, and continues to be a thriving economic hub for the region. All over the world, Kenya continues to be re-nown for their hospitality, and the local people are extremely helpful and courteous and gladly welcome foreigners who come to visit their country. Kenya is by far the most visited destination along Eastern Africa, and remains a magnet for visitors because of the exquisite quality of its wildlife and beaches.

Cultural Influence

Fort Jesus remains the biggest remnant of Mombasa’s history when it was dominated by the Portuguese. The fort structure harkens back to the days of ancient battles among seafarers, and a small museum features a variety of relics from the era. Remnants of slave trade can still be seen today. Along the Coast, there are numerous deserted relics that are a testament to the era.

Fort Jesus , Mombasa

In the town, Fort Jesus still contains cells where the slaves were held, and various arti-facts from that era in the museum at the Fort. In addition to the evidence in the Fort, there also is a town bell located in Nyali just as you exit the Nyali Bridge. The bell was rung to inform the locals to hide from the slave capturers who were fast approaching. A walk through the narrow winding streets of Old Town can also provide a sense of daily life several hundred years ago.

Old Town takes visitors back through time to illustrate facets of early Swahili culture, influenced by the presence of the Omani Arabs in the town. In tandem with Muslim-influenced architecture, one can find traces of the Indian and British colonial past. Many houses in the Old Town are modelled on ancient Swahili designs, of which a defining feature tends to doors with intricately carved designs.

Some of these designs are also found on the furniture in upscale hotels. A walk through Old Town can yield some fascinating insights into the traditional Swahili culture, and clearly illustrate the Muslim influence on the town and its inhabitants.

Colonial buildings from the British era are also scattered throughout the city. The famous “Mombasa Tusks” are located in the centre of town – the two pairs of crossed tusks formed a ceremonial arch to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. Around the Fort Jesus area, there are other government buildings that display distinctive colonial-era architecture. Treasury Square is one such area - where old colonial buildings, the historic town hall, and a charming garden square, can all be found within walking distance.

Getting Around

The Moi International Airport is an architectural symbol of Mombasa’s growing investment in tourism. It has been newly-renovated, and a new terminal has been built to facilitate larger aircraft and increased passenger traffic. As a direct result, many of the major airlines that operate out of the airport have increased both the number and frequency of their flights, in particular from major European cities. Smaller airlines operate local and regional flights within Kenya and East and Southern Africa respectively.

Kenya Airways offers the most frequent flight schedule into and out of Mombasa, to a variety of national and international destinations.

Kenya Railways offers train services throughout the country, primarily between Nairobi and Mombasa. Passengers who chose to travel via rail have the option of travelling either by first or second class. A trip from Nairobi to Mombasa usually takes around 13 hours during which a variation of wildlife can be seen at a relatively close distance. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are also served on the train’s dining carriage. Tickets can be purchased at local travel agencies as well as at the main station which is located opposite the roundabout of Haile Salassie avenue and Mwenbe Tyari Road.

Being a small town, Mombasa does not have an extensive transport grid. The main form of transport is the public bus service (Kenya Bus Services), followed by the very popular minibuses otherwise commonly known and referred to as “Matatus”. Both forms of transport are highly used by the locals, and a ride in a “Matatu” can be quite a fascinating experience. London-style cabs and other taxis can be found almost anywhere in the town. The North Coast is accessed via the Nyali Bridge, and the South Coast through the Likoni Ferry.


In the heart of the town is where most hospitals, businesses, banks, shops and markets are situated. Hence almost all services such as health advice, financial services, or any kind of shopping, are all provided for in the City. There are four main hospitals around the City centre, with many smaller clinics located all around the town and its outskirts. They are the Mombasa hospital, Aga Khan hospital, Pandya Memorial hospital and Coast General hospital. Most hotels have resident doctors and nurses.

Financial institutions are located in abundance throughout the center of the town. Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered, and ABN-AMBRO are a few of such banks that can be found. Many other internationally-based banks also have their branches in Mombasa. Foreign exchange bureaus are also available and offer attractive exchange rates for all currencies.


Security is always a concern, and the local government has taken a number of steps to ensure that the general public feels safe in all areas of the City as well as along the beaches. The Central Police Station is located at the heart of the town, and regular patrols are carried out on foot as well as in vehicles all over the City. Kenya Wildlife Service agents maintain a safe and clean environment along the beaches, and ensure that the law is enforced with around the clock surveillance.

Port Of Mombasa

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) manages the port of Mombasa. The port serves as a transit point for Kenya’s imports from other countries as well as for its exports of goods and services from the industrial, commercial and agricultural sectors. Most of the ships seen at the port are from Kenya’s neigh-boring countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Zaire and few others as well.

Cruise ships, Navy ships and the famous QEW are frequent visitors to the port and the town. The Port of Mombasa is vast in size. Port Tudor, Kilindini Harbour and Port Reitz, which used to be the old port, are what make up the Port of Mombasa. The Port offers many of the essential services such as cargo handling, berthing of ships, and other such facilities.

Mombasa Hotels, Lodges & Suites

Ashari Hotel , Bahari Beach Hotel , Bamburi Beach Resort , Bamburi Beach Hotel , Pa Pweza Adamsville Suites
Indiana Beach Hotel , Kenya Bay Beach Hotel , Le Soleil Resort , Nyali Beach Hotel , Neptune Beach Hotel
Plaza Beach Hotel , Reef Hotel , Royal Reserve , Sun N' Sand Beach Resort , Sai Rock Hotel , Serena Beach Hotel
Severin Sea Lodge , Travellers Beach Hotel , Voyager Beach Hotel , Sarova White-sands Beach Resort, Royal Reserve Safari Beach Club , Giriama Beach Hotel , Milele Beach Hotel , Mombasa Beach Hotel , Nyali Beach Resort ,
Continental Mombasa , African Safari Club Hotels = (ASC) , Dolphin Hotel (ASC) , Flamingo Beach Hotel(ASC) ,
Shanzu Beach Resort (ASC) , Palm Beach Hotel (ASC) , Coral Beach Hotel (ASC) , Kasr al Bahar (ASC) ,
Vasco da Gama (ASC) , Paradise Resort (ASC) ,Shanzu Holiday Resort (ASC) , Bamburi Beach Resort ,
Tamarind Village Beach Resort , Safari Inn Guest House, Royal Court Hotel


Feedback From Clients

Doreen & Clara Doreen & Clara

Hi Davies Another wonderful safari! Those lemurs in Madagascar are delightful. We had a great time there. The highlight of course was Kruger where we saw leopards for the first time in all our travels. Thanks so much for another great safari!

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