Happy 2018! There’s nothing that helps you feel more like you “belong” in a place than hosting guests! We had such a fun couple of weeks over the holidays with a visit from my mum who came all the way from Cape Town to see us and beautiful Kenya. We managed to cram in a lot while she was here – Mombasa, Nairobi, our home in Machakos, and Lake Naivasha.
We spent four days in Mombasa over New Year’s, and battled the extraordinary traffic on the Mombasa highway to do a road trip none of us will forget in a hurry. The trip was filled with traffic, singing, beaches, and wildlife spotting (we saw zebras, camels, ostrich, monkeys, baboons and some buck). Mum and Nips created a variation on their “Nairobi, Nairobi, Nairobi, cows, mooooooo” song, and during our return trip, in lieu of a functional car radio, we all sang at full blast:
Nips: “Mombasa, Mombasa, Mombasa”
Mum and me: “CAMELS!”
Fungai: “Eexhijnsoooo!!” (camel noise, obviously!)
You hear a lot of things about Mombasa. Many of them true. Some of them exaggerated. Some of them omitted. Here’s a snapshot of our trip:
TRAFFIC: God-awful!!! (read: too many trucks and buses on a single-lane highway).
BEACHES: Gorgeous, but some (Pirate’s) full of litter.
WATER TEMPERATURE: Divine (I’m from Cape Town where the sea is freezing, so we looooooved the warm Indian Ocean).
SAFETY: Seemed fine, but we didn’t really go out at night and were warned against it.
FOOD: OK, although we struggled to find the affordable, tasty seafood places we’d heard about.
TRANSPORT: tuk-tuks (3-wheeler taxis) and boda-bodas (motorbike taxis) are everywhere and are pretty affordable.
HOUSING: Perfect – we stayed at self-catering Mawimbi Cottage, which was walking distance to the beach.
CLIMATE: Hot and humid. Sweaty hot!!!
NEW YEAR’S EVE CELEBRATIONS: Awesome! Hotels set up in style and lots of fireworks at midnight.
See all our Mombasa recommendations after the pics.
We left Machakos around 4am, so had passed Emali by the time the sun rose over the hectically busy Mombasa Highway.
Voi is a small town approximately halfway between Nairobi and Mombasa. We stopped there for a food and bathroom break, and even found a playground for Nips! We recommend staying on the Mombasa Road and stopping at the petrol/gas station immediately after the Voi turn-off. We made the mistake of turning down the Voi road…not too much to see.
After hours of following the new SGR Railway line and looking for a train, somewhere between Voi and Mombasa, we met the freight train on an old railway track. I say “met” – it was a bit frightening as there was no signal or barrier between the railway line and the road. So if you’re traveling that route, look before crossing!
We hit TERRIBLE traffic as we entered Mombasa, and Google Maps rerouted us on a slightly back road. This was our view as we entered the city…
You can’t visit Mombasa without taking a tuk-tuk ride. They are everywhere! And they transport everything! Here’s one carrying a full lounge suite!!!
Pirate’s Beach – very popular; very beautiful; very polluted over the holidays.
Fungai dipping his toes in the warm puddles at low tide.
Nips and I hiking back from the low tide mark. She got very brave during this trip and was willing to swim and paddle in the bath-like ocean.
Nips exploring the famous white sands of Mombasa.
We went in search of the highly recommended Jahazi Coffee House in Old Town, Mombasa. Although we found it, sadly it was closed for the holidays. We’ll be back cos we hear their coffee is good!
At Mawimbi Cottage where we were staying, we were joined (usually at mealtimes!) by a troop of monkeys!
On New Year’s Eve, after feeling discouraged by the crowds and the litter on Pirate’s Beach, we escaped to the cushy comfort of Bamburi Beach Resort. Although it was pricey, we had a wonderful day swimming in their pool, eating the endless supply of food, and occasionally heading down to the warm ocean. We did feel a bit weird though that there were all sorts of trades people offering everything from boat rides and snorkeling tours to arts and crafts standing literally at the end of the resort platform, staring and calling to us and other guests. There is a stark and glaring contrast between the “haves” and the “have nots” in Mombasa.
Nips was SUPER brave and went for a camel ride with Fungai. Camels are HUGE…especially for a two-year-old!
Nips watching the tide come in from her Bamburi Resort vantage point. There were also roaming acrobatic groups that performed for guests in exchange for applause and some shillings.
Mothers and daughters enjoying Bamburi Beach on New Year’s Eve, 31 December 2017.
While we were there, Bamburi Resort staff were in full preparation mode for their New Year’s Eve celebrations. We watched a man scale one of these palm trees and cut down palm fronds to add to the decor. Nips is trying to figure out how he did it!
No road trip with a toddler is complete without numerous potty breaks!
African Drift Mombasa Recommendations:
Mawimbi Cottage – super cute and comfortable self-catering cottage; walking distance from Pirate’s Beach
Bamburi Beach Resort – awesome food; swimming pool; on Bamburi Beach
Meat ‘n Herb Restaurant – decent menu at fair prices; classy decor and vibe; child-friendly
10 Street Restaurant – funky fast food joint in Nyali; really yummy food; affordable
Cafesseria – awesome bakery in Nyali; stopped here for pastries and coffee on our way out. Will be back to sample more of their delicious confectionary
Cafe Mocha – busy, super little cafe inside Nyali Cineplex with affordable, tasty, healthy food