The nationwide overnight curfew that was enforced in March last year as a Covid containment measure has finally been lifted. This spells great hope for everyone as we all try to re-build our lives and businesses, and more so for the travel and hospitality industry. With ripple effects that were felt from the top and down to local communities, this industry went down with a lot of jobs and livelihoods especially at the coast where the economy is mostly held together largely by tourism.
The lifting of the curfew has coincided with a trip that my colleagues and I took to the coast a few weeks back courtesy of Jambo Jet. Reliable transport is one of the strongest pillars of tourism recovery and being a regional carrier, Jambo Jet is well placed and well able to facilitate local tourism which is the next frontier as we get things back together. The hospitality industry is also up and ready to meet the accommodation needs of holiday makers, and some hotels will go further and facilitate activities in local attractions.
We must however remember that Covid-19 is still here with us, and we cannot afford to drop our guard. At Jambo Jet boarding area and the airport as a whole for example, there are sanitizers within small radii, as well as well marked social distancing guidelines. All travelers must have their masks on at all times.
With strict adherence to the right measures, Kenya is open for travel and Jambo jet will take you from Nairobi to Kisumu, Malindi, Lamu, Eldoret, and Kisumu Mombasa direct. The carrier has also since spread its wings to Goma DRC and Kigali Rwanda.
Mombasa is coming alive and tourists, both local and international are trickling back. There are also deliberate efforts to make visitors’ time there more fulfilling and pleasant. It is a large island and though all the tourism spots and activities cannot fit in one post, there are some few that stood out for me.
Double decker tour bus
Until around 8 years ago, I had been a resident of Mombasa for most of my adult life. I had however never experienced the town like I did from atop a double decker sightseeing bus. It helps that I was deliberately in a sightseeing mindset and as much I thought I knew the place, I was willing to learn more. The bus gives you a different perspective of the island, and stops in attraction areas like Mama Ngina Drive, Tusks Moi Avenue and Fort Jesus among others. There is a guide aboard to explain places, their short histories, and what they are best known for. In just a few hours, a visitor will know where to hang out, where to buy spices, pickles and all snacks Swahili, and where to buy lesos, kikoy, Swahili sandals and deras at the Somali market.
The history and culture of Fort Jesus has been digitized and packaged into a 25-minute film which is projected onto one of the outer walls of the Fort from inside. The film has great sound, great narration, and great effects that make it pleasant to watch. I think it is a really innovative way to help people digest the long history of the coast, and is particularly good for kids. Sitting is outdoors on the lawns when weather allows, and this adds an enchanting flavour to the whole experience. This was the highlight of my visit to Mombasa and I would encourage everyone to look out for it.
It is aired at the cost of Ksh.700/- on Thursdays, and Ksh.1,000/- from Friday to Sunday. The show starts at 6.30pm but it is always advisable to arrive earlier.
The sunset cruise
A near perfect way to wind up the evening at the coast is by taking boat, dhow or yacht right on the nick of sunset and usher in the night while on the move. We departed from La Marina Mtwapa and had a calming cruise to Tudor creek, all the way to Mtwapa creek and back to La Marina. Carry drinks and snacks and be prepared for the time of your life.
Serena Beach Hotel
There is no shortage of accommodation options in Mombasa but for this article, we will look at Serena Beach Hotel because that is where we were staying. I will confess that I did not know how culturally inclined the architecture at the hotel is until we were taken on a tour by Serena Hotel’s Head Of Guest Activities Marsden Nzaro.
For instance, the very entrance to the hotel is a replica of Gede Ruins in Watamu. The main door is an elaborate Lamu door that was designed by renowned Lamu based poet Abdul Skanda Mohammed Juma and curved by his grandson Mohammed Kijuma.
There is also a Minaret in the compound and although it is not used for worship, it adds to the overall Swahili environment of the hotel. The streets within the hotel are named after the islands that form the Lamu Archipelago. These and many more touches here and there bring out the rich history and culture of the coast.
Serena Mombasa also has sustainability programs, like a turtle hatchery and rescue center and an interesting beach chess board whose 32 pieces are made of discarded flip flops. Each piece is made of approximately 2,500 flip flops so you can imagine how much beach cleanup a whole chess board facilitated.
To complete a beach to bush circuit, we also went to Tsavo West Game Park where we visited Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary, Shetani Lava Flow, Mzima Springs and Chaimu hils. In the bush the atmosphere was pretty much the same as in Mombasa. Upbeat and hopeful for a complete recovery of the sector.
In conclusion, be it beach, bush, lakeside, or Agri tourism, Kenya is #NowTravelReady. We are not yet there but the fact that we have started means a lot.