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Mombasa Retreat for the Family

The choice of nearby holiday destinations has been limited due to the regional unrest in the past few months so recently when we had a few days spare my family and I decided to head south to Mombassa in Kenya. Mombasa is built on an island and surrounded by a huge natural harbor making it historically a great trading port for East Africa. The local population is made up of Asians and a melting pot of tribes from all over Kenya and nearby regions. Today Mombasa is still a very important trading port and also an increasingly popular holiday destination.

On exiting the small airport we headed straight to our hotel in the Shanzu Beach area of town. We drove through a mix of colorful streets with decaying buildings and through areas where colonial building still stood encircled by beautiful tropical gardens. Small shops and market stalls (selling anything from bananas to underwear) all stood side by side as men dressed in smart suits and women in traditional dress weaved in and out of the streets busy with their day to day lives.

The Serena Beach Hotel & Spa is built in traditional Swahili style. We strolled through the grounds which are shaded by very tall coconut palms and fringed by a beautiful beach – which we took full advantage of the next day. Lounging by the pool and enjoying walking on the soft white sand of the beach. One of my favorite sites on the beach was watching a camel being bathed in the sea – a sight I had not seen before in Dubai! The sea in front of the hotel is a National Park to preserve the fragile coral reef which we were able to snorkel on amid a fantastic array of multicolored fish.

Like Dubai, Mombasa has its very own creek and like Dubai some very good restaurants so as the sun was setting we headed out to La Marina Sea Front Restaurant on the Mtwapa Creek. We enjoyed fresh seafood as we watched the Arab Dhows and luxury Yachts coming in from their fishing trips.

After our restful first day we decided to discover the old town by visiting Fort Jesus. This is a fortified stronghold at the entrance to Mombasa Port built by the Portuguese in 1593 with walls made of coral, walkways and gun emplacements round the top. Additions were added years later by the Omanis. From the old town we traveled down Moi Avenue past Mombasa’s famous landmark of the two crossed tusks which were built to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. For shopping we went to Ratna Square and made some great purchases including basket work, silver and the traditional kikoi.

No trip to Kenya would be complete without a safari so we decided to visit the nearby Tsavo National Park. This covers a massive 8,036sq miles and has now been split into two – Tsavo West and Tsavo East. On arrival at Tsavo we were greeted by “Happy” who was to be our driver for the next two days. We all jumped aboard the safari vehicle and set out on our first drive to the camp. On the way we passed Elephant, Giraffe, Gazelles, Zebra and a vast amount of different birds. Happy was very knowledgeable and managed to spot animals well before we saw them.

That night we stayed in Satao Camp which is nestled amongst Tamarind trees and surrounds a central waterhole. The tents were luxuriously equipped with comfortable beds and en-suite facilities to satisfy my teenage daughter! As we lay in our beds it was entertaining to view the monkeys who had stolen another visitors reading book. In the evening as we ate dinner we enjoyed viewing the animals including a Cheetah who had come down to the watering hole. Not surprisingly the Gazelles were taking no chances and moved closer to us and the fire well away from the Cheetah!

We rose early the next morning for another game drive spotting animals in the cool of the morning which included a lion dragging his kill of a baby Zebra to the nearest bush with a lot of hungry Jackals eagerly waiting for any scraps. Like the jackals we were ravenous after our early morning start so headed back to camp for a full English breakfast which set us up for our drive out of the camp back to Mombasa.

Mombasa was a great trip for all the family, offering great accommodation, delicious meals, different cultures and a fabulous safari.

It is advised to take Malaria medication before traveling to Mombasa so consult your family GP before you go.

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