Mombasa - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Mombasa


The hot and humid holiday destination of Mombasa is the biggest port on the east coast of Africa, serving five different countries and located at the beginning of the only railway that crosses the Kenyan interior, built by the British in 1901. Mombasa is situated on an island linked to the mainland by bridges and surrounded by a natural harbour where commercial shipping mixes with traditional sailing dhows.

The main Mombasa holiday attraction is the commanding 16th-century fort protecting the entrance of the harbour, Fort Jesus, whose remnants relay the story of a historic struggle for control of the coast between the Portuguese and Arabs. Behind this, on Treasury Square, is the Government Game Department's Ivory Room, exhibiting elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns, hippopotamus teeth and other animal trophies confiscated from poachers or taken from dead animals on the reserve.

Mombasa's Old Town retains a strong Arab flavour and is the true heart of the city, with an intricate pattern of winding streets alive with the colours of the traditional wrap-around clothing, crammed with faded houses and street sellers, and filled with the heavy scent of spices. It is best to visit the Old Town with an official guide when on holiday, as mugging is not uncommon.

As a large city, Mombasa operates as the holiday hub of the coastal tourism trade, despite its lack of attractive beaches, so most visitors stay long enough to look around before heading either north or south to one the beautiful beach resorts nearby.

Information & Facts

English is the official language but Swahili is the national language, with 42 ethnic languages spoken.

The unit of currency is the Kenyan Shilling (KES), divided into 100 cents. It is not advisable to take Kenyan Shillings out of the country, as they are difficult to exchange elsewhere. Travellers cheques in Sterling or US Dollars are recommended for your trip to Kenya. US Dollars in particular have become commonly used in many of the country's main hotels and safari lodges. Foreign currency can be changed at banks, bureaux de change and hotels; easiest to exchange are US dollars, pounds sterling or Euros. Street exchange merchants should be avoided as they are operating illegally. Banks open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm and on the first and last Saturday of the month. Banks and bureaux de change at the international airport stay open 24 hours. Credit Cards (American Express, Visa and MasterCard) are accepted in the larger hotels and stores, and some camps and lodges. ATMs are widely available in Nairobi and the major towns.

The vast Tsavo National Park is only an hour's drive from Mombasa along the main highway to Nairobi, and for administrative purposes is divided into the East and West. Covering 8,422 sq miles (21,812 sq km), the park is home to giraffe, buffalo, antelopes, monkeys, many exotic birds and Kenya's largest herds of elephant. The elephant often look startlingly red, covered in the dust and mud of the region's ruddy soil. Visitors are also likely to see rhinos - after being virtually wiped out by poachers in the 1980s their population now numbers almost 200, most are found in the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. Poaching has now practically been eliminated and the elephant population is also increasing; there are now around 5,000 animals, up from 3,000 in 1985, but still short of the 25,000 that are estimated to have roamed the park in the 1960s. In one of the park's pools is an observation tank from where visitors can get a close-up view of hippos, crocodiles and tropical fish in their natural habitat.

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