Kenya was one of the first overseas countries that I visited (go big or go home!). It opened my eyes to the whole travel world! I was based in Mombasa for 2 weeks (back when I visited, this was on a direct flight from London). Naturally I spent a lot of time on the beach, enjoying the Indian Ocean! My hotel was surrounded by monkeys so I was in my element watching them chilling out by the pool. But of course we explored some of the country too. So here are some of my favourite places to go in Mombasa including our side trip safari in Tsavo National Park!
Things To Do in Mombasa
Mombasa Marine Park
One place we went to in Mombasa was the Mombasa Marine Park! I remember the boat trip being a bit choppy so was kinda hanging over the edge of the boat so the sea spray would hit me in the face (no, amazingly I didn’t puke!). We stopped at an area of coral where we could jump in and snorkel over the reef.
Two wild dolphins swum under me which was amazing! We swum out to a sand bank and rested for a while. It was the first time I really wished I had a waterproof camera! I wanted to be able to capture that view forever, with the blue sea and all the boats anchored around us in a line. (Oh how my travels have changed over 11 years! I didn’t even have a digital camera on this trip!)
We stopped for lunch on Wasini Island. The island is so close to the border of Tanzania that my phone actually received a ‘Welcome to Tanzania’ message! The island is home to a coral garden. The tide no longer comes in far enough to cover it so the coral has become fossilised. There’s a boardwalk where you can wander around the garden over what used to be the sea bed!
One of the main things to do in Mombasa is to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fort Jesus. It was constructed at the end of the 16th century by the Portuguese to guard the entrance to the Port of Mombasa. It played a big part in protecting the ‘Western’ end of the Indian Ocean trade routes that were mainly under Asian control.
We had a guided tour of the Fort and walked around the walls that had cannons aimed in various different directions. Our guide talking about what life would have been like manning the Fort, including giving us a demo of how they would have gone to the toilet that was built into the walls!
Shop for Souvenirs on the beach
Our hotel was located on Bamburi Beach. Each day it would be swamped with beach sellers along with the permanent shops and restaurants! I remember being overwhelmed by the attention but as I hadn’t seen anything like it before, it was kind of exciting and I bought a whole bunch of souvenirs! Of course there were lots of wooden statues of various animals. I bought 3 wise monkeys for myself, along with models of elephants and giraffe that I gave to my family as gifts!
I loved the personalised carved keyring and plaques (great for someone that struggles to find their name on ANYTHING) and the beaded bracelets. You’d ‘order’ the item and then the seller would come back and find you later to give it to you. The seller’s memories were AMAZING, they would remember everyone by name throughout the whole stay!
I was obsessed with the soapstone items. These were really smooth marble type items (that weighed a ton!). I bought several decorated eggs, trinket boxes and a ‘marble’ solitaire game in the shape of Africa. My Nanna had a solitaire game that I loved to play when I visited, so it’s a souvenir that reminds me of her! My Kenyan one broke during my move to America though. I was so sad but currently it’s holding up after I superglued it back together!
The beach did make me a little sad though. There were often people with camels where the tourists could pay for a ride. The camels were covered in whip marks though so I steered clear of them. I was worried that when I did my Sahara Desert trek that the camels would be in the same condition…thankfully they looked like they were treated a lot better than these poor guys.
Nakumatt supermarkets are great for picking up cheap snacks and drinks too! (They are like the Kenyan Walmart!) They had teenie tiny shopping trolleys! I’m not sure if they were meant for little kids to push around or whether they were meant to be like baskets with wheels for a light shop!
I will include this in my post as it was one of the main reasons for my trip. My college arranged the trip to Mombasa as we had been fund raising for a school in the city. It was an amazing experience and one that I’m glad I had done while I was a student myself. I wrote about it in full here: My Experience Visiting a Kenyan School
Safari in Tsavo
Tsavo National Park
One of the best things to do in Kenya is of course to go on safari! OK so this option isn’t quite in Mombasa but it is only around a 3 hour drive away! We spent 1 night at one of the Tsavo safari lodges to maximise our time. Tsavo National Park is split into two sections, the East and the West. It is home to the African ‘Big Five’ (rhino, elephant, leopard, lion and cape buffalo). The East side of the Park is the larger and the landscape is the more typical ‘African plains’, very open and flat. This is where we saw bigger animals more frequently.
As soon as we entered the park, a herd of zebras ran across the road in front of us. (“A real zebra crossing!” exclaimed our guide)! Our safari vehicle was a regular mini bus but had a pop up roof, so we could stand up and get a clear view of the animals without the restriction of the glass.
Our Tsavo safari guides literally had eagle eyes. They could spot animals from miles away! We saw giraffes, elephants (including a baby…all walking along in a line, holding the tails of the elephant in front, with their trunks!), a lion, buffalo and a whole heap more!
We stopped for lunch at Voi Lodge. The restaurant has a big open air seating area where you can enjoy views of the plains while you eat. During my visit, the hotel had an underground tunnel that lead to a viewing area, right next to a watering hole (although in the middle of the day it was empty). They actually have a live webcam now though!
Tsavo West is more ‘over grown’ and landscape wise is much more diverse. The dirt tracks are bright orange which is such a contrast to the blue skies and green bush! It is harder to spot animals in this part of the park because of the trees, however there was a lot of bird life! We were lucky enough to see a leopard walk alongside our van. Its fur was perfect, it was amazing to see!
This park is also home to a volcano and the Mzima Springs. Here you can watch hippos from an underwater viewing area. Although the fish wouldn’t move out of the way, so we had to make do with seeing them from above!
While on our safari in Tsavo, we stayed at the Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge. The view from the rooms was amazing. There were some strange noises in the middle of the night, some sort of animal was definitely just outside my window! My Tsavo safari highlight was watching the sunrise over a huge watering hole that was full of SO MUCH activity! Thousands of different species were all hanging out together having breakfast! During this time, we heard a scratching noise up above us and a whole troop of monkeys came rushing off the roof (where they sleep!) and ran across the deck in front of us!
Things To Know About Visiting Kenya
Over the years Kenya has gone through some political instability and sometimes it’s advised for tourists not to travel there. I visited as part of a college trip which was meant to run again the year after but they had to cancel it due to the warnings.
The currency of Kenya in the Kenyan Shilling. $1USD/£0.70GBP = 100 Shillings
It is worth checking with your doctor regarding health care before travelling to Kenya. Kenya is in a Malaria risk area and so I had to take Malaria tablets before, after and during my trip. I used Malarone tablets. They are expensive and a strong dose (not recommended for long term travel) but I didn’t get Malaria despite being a mosquito bite magnet, so in my eyes they done their job. At my time of travel, I also had to have a Yellow Fever certificate and ensure all my routine injections were up to date (Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria). Again, I’m not a medical professional, this was just my experience.