When my principal invited me to an education conference in Mombasa, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the coast! Great conversation with three high school principals in the car made time fly by. Get a group of educators from different parts of the world together and you can imagine. The scenery changed as we left the city to gorgeous plains scattered with acacia and baobab trees with mountains in the background and awesome kopjies or granite rock outcrops. We pulled over to grab some roasted maize from a street stand, and I shared the snacks I brought. They were all surprised to try almonds for the first time and some granola bars! The eight hour trip took us past the Yatta Plateau and Tsavo National park, where I spotted my first giraffe in the tree tops, a zebra on the side of the road, and baboons crossing the road. As we continued on toward the coast, I felt the air changing and temperature rising. Between going “off road” for road construction, being overtaken or passed by huge transit trucks, and watching for impatient drivers that randomly make their own lane, there was certainly never a dull moment!
Drive from Nairobi to Mombasa
When we arrived in the city late that night, we headed straight to find some of this infamous Swahili food. The small restaurant was completely dark so we ate by candlelight. The soft glow added to the mystic feel of dinner off the beaten path where we savored freshly roasted spicy chicken with ugali. Then again, after an eight hour drive, anything edible qualifies as a gourmet meal. Full and happy, we drove down Moi Avenue, past the Mombasa tusks and arrived at the Darajani Hotel to settle in for the night.
First night in Mombasa
The next morning, I was ready to explore the city and I experienced my first tuktuk ride on the way to Fort Jesus. A tour guide showed me the museum, then we went outside of the fort and saw the Indian Ocean! We walked the narrow old city streets, watched workers sewing and cutting the soles at a Masai sandal shop, and admired the unique blue parrotfish at the old fish market, and saw the Indian Ocean again from the fishing dock at the port. The first hotel in Kenya provided much needed cover when the torrential afternoon downpour began, and we managed to find an umbrella to walk to the market. So many fruits and vegetables and spices galore – coconut, avocado, plantains, and papaya and some more local foods like thorned melon, mabuyu, arrow root, and red bananas. That afternoon, Sister Esther and her friend Mary drove me around town, and we rode the crowded ferry across from the island city of Mombasa to Likoni on the south coast. We had a delicious dinner of fish, greens, and chapati – my new favorite and the best I’ve had yet!
Fort Jesus and the Coast
The next day, I went to Bamburi beach and walked along the shore while the tide was out. I found so many interesting critters in the pools of shallow water – urchins, sea lettuce, slugs, crabs, coral, and sponges. Many beach boys tried to sell me souvenirs, but I finally got some peace and enjoyed a relaxing morning. The weather changed quickly, and I ran under the mangroves to rest on the rocks and wait for the storm to pass. When the ride came back in, we went to the public beach near Pirate’s Cove for a swim in the gorgeous blue green salty water.
After wading in the waves, we went straight to Haller Park and saw all the animals – curious and friendly monkeys, lazy hippos, and a 10 foot crocodile. I remembered reading about this game sanctuary in the children’s book Owen and Mzee that for Read Across America week a few years ago, so it was really cool to see “Mzee” the giant tortoise in person. I had an incredible dinner of chips masala and beef with the hotel manager Catherine that night, and then we went to the rooftop bar to enjoy the view and a cold Tusker.
Biodiversity at its finest
Fun, Food, and Friends!
My trip to Mombasa was a quick but fun one, and I met the sweetest and most generous people. I spent my last day walking around town, meeting Mary’s family, and going to her house for a delicious homemade authentic lunch. They took me to the airport, and her sweet granddaughter waved bye as I went through security and the ticketing agent manually checked my name off the written list of passengers. I had a good flight home and made it back to Kiambu for classes in the morning!