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Mombasa, Kenya
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Mombasa, Kenya

 

Photo by Alfredo De Simone

While Mombasa, Kenya may not hold a candle to Lamu or Zanzibar it is a must see for families in search of culture and history on their Kenyan beach holiday. A melting pot of Arab, Indian, English, Chinese, and African cultures, a tour of 'old town' is walk through history. Fort Jesus built by the Portuguese in 1593 marked the onset of nearly 300 years of turmoil. The mosques, temples and churches that dot the small coral island are evidence of cultures that once ruled. The narrow streets and architecture exemplify Mombasa's ties to Swahili culture and tradition. The bustling marketplaces proof of the city's prominent role in East African trade. Whether you explore Mombasa on foot or on a dhow don't forget to take time out to shop.
Getting There
 
International and intercontinental flights including regularly scheduled and charter airlines arrive/depart the airport in Mombasa. Domestic airlines connect Mombasa with Nairobi and Lamu. Mombasa Air Safari flies up and down the coast and makes it possible to travel between the beach resorts and games reserves without connecting through Nairobi. And while cheap flights may be available to Mombasa, it can be expensive to fly domestically. The night train referred to as the Iron Snake makes the trip between Nairobi and Mombasa three times a week and offers a bit of adventure for families traveling with older kids.
Getting Around
 
Driving in Kenya is a hair-raising experience and the hazards go beyond potholes. If you decide to rent a car make sure it is a 4-wheel drive, keep in mind that driving is on the left, and do not drive at night. And keep in mind that maps can show a road it can't convey quality. Buses, matatus (minibus), and taxis are the best way to get around Kenya's second largest city.
When to Travel
 
The peak season for travel to the Kenyan coast is in August and from December through February. The best time to visit the area is from January to March when snorkeling is ideal. While it is clear and dry in August and September, the ocean is rough and visibility low after the long rains. March is the month of trade-offs, humidity begins to rise but the tourists have all but disappeared. Mombasa's Cultural Carnival is held each year in November.
Health & Safety
 
Malaria is a risk in all areas along Kenya's coast and travelers' diarrhea is the most common ailment affecting tourists in Kenya. When packing your suitcase don't forget to include long sleeved shirts and trousers, DEET insect repellent and high factor sunscreen. Sleep under a treated mosquito net or in a screened or air conditioned room. Watch your bags at all times and be wary of large and small tricks.
Things to Keep in Mind
 
As in any large city, keep your wits about you. When touring, leave your valuables locked in the safe of your hotel.
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Travel Trivia
Magellanic penguins breed in: