If you are spending any considerable time at one of the North or South Coast Beach Resorts in and around Mombasa; I highly suggest devoting at least one day to explore this most historic port town. Mombassa is the oldest settlement and largest port in Kenya and one of the largest in all of Africa. Early records go back at least 2,000 years. Mombassa is actually an island and a very unique blend of local Kenyan together with a very large Indian and Arab community. The Port is quite deep allowing for large trade and cargo vessels to and from major ports throughout the world.
If you decide to explore Mombassa for one day you may chose an organized tour operator from your Hotel or even better chose a licensed drive and guide to take you there privately for the day. Mombassa is not an easy pursuit; traffic is congested and chaotic. Getting there requires taking the Likoni Ferry which is a 24 hr frequent passenger/car Ferry to and from the island of Mombasa. There is tight security and photos are not allowed while queuing up or even onboard the ferry. We were fortunate enough to have a very trusted driver and secure vehicle arranged by the General Manager of our Hotel; the Leopard Beach Resort.
Your first stop should be the famous and most historic Fort Jesus built by the Portuguese in 1593. The interior courtyard and ramparts of the Fort are actually in the shape of Jesus on The Cross hence the name; Fort Jesus. Admission is approximately $10 pp and you will be approached by a local licensed guide who will automatically walk with you and explain the history etc. The Guide will then walk you through the old section of the Town which is fascinating. The guides are most reliable, kind, friendly and trusting; they will ask for about $10-15 at the end which is negotiable.
Remnants of a British Colonial past; the Mombasa Club is a most gracious historic Private Club and Hotel very close to Fort Jesus and adjacent to the Historic Town. The Club sits along a cliff walk with a brilliant swimming pool and spectacular view of Mombasa Port. It is also along the walkway known as The English Gardens.
Your Guide will then proceed through twisting alleys and passageways where you will see typical local life, peddlers, vendors, antique shopkeepers, goats and chickens running through the streets; locals in various dress and costume; Masai, Indian, Arab, Kenyan, etc. Its a fascinating place with exotic color at every turn!
After visiting The Fort, Historic Town, the famous Tusks and War hero statues; its now time for a most deserved break from the congestion and traffic. The Tamarind Restaurant and Dhow sits proudly across from the North Side of Mombasa Island. There is a fairly new bridge on the opposite side of Mombasa which has replaced the floating bridge built by The British. After crossing the bridge you will begin to pass several walled mansions and luxurious buildings and then your lunch or dinner oasis The Tamarind Restaurant. You will enter an interior courtyard parking lot very well attended and secured; the staff will immediately greet you with warm refreshing towels scented with coconut oil. The design of the building is part Moorish/Arab/Indian as well as the menu. The Fish and Seafood is quite fresh and abundant on the menu. Probably one of the best meals I had in this part of Kenya not to mention the spectacular views from the outdoor arbor pavillion dinning room. Liza Uku is the General Manager of Tamarind Mombasa; attention to detail, quality of food and first and foremost she will make you feel as though this is your home away from home!! I highly recommend it.