We left the KWS Kisite Marine Park office, in Shimoni, full of excitement about what the day held in store for us. Our plan was to visit the Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve and then drive on to Malindi, where we would spend the night. Despite my excitement, the exhaustion from being on the road the last few days had me dozing off as soon as we left Shimoni.
I had been napping for only a short time when I sensed the car come to a halt: we were at the KWS Shimba Hills National Reserve office. Groggily, I got out of the van and followed the rest of the group inside to say hello to the warden. We didn’t stay long. After exchanging a few pleasantries, we were back in the van and once more on our way to Mombasa Marine Park.
I slept again until we reached the Likoni Ferry (who can sleep through the hustle and bustle of the ferry terminal?!). I am glad I woke up because it was here, while waiting for the ferry, that I tasted kashata, a delicious Swahili coconut and (in this case) peanut brittle, for the first time. A few kashata bars later, we were on the ferry and crossing to the other side.
We didn’t have any business on Mombasa Island itself (I just found out that Mombasa is an island so I had to throw that in here somewhere! 🙂 ), so we simply drove through, crossing New Nyali Bridge, on to Mombasa’s North Coast.
Our first stop on the North Coast was the recently renovated Nyali Mall, now called City Mall. A bigger better version of its former self, this 4-story complex built around the old strip mall could rival any of Nairobi’s newest malls.
I am not exactly sure why we stopped at City Mall, but I took the opportunity to walk around and explore. At City Mall, I saw the usual suspects—Woolworths, Nakumatt, Safaricom, etc.— but I also saw specialty stores such as a toy store, a lingerie store, and a sports store. I was impressed!
I didn’t have lots of time at City Mall, so I walked through very briefly. One thing that kept drawing my attention though was a gorgeous restaurant/cafe on the ground floor called Cafesserie, which I knew I would have to come back and visit one day.
Done with the short stop, off we went to Mombasa Marine Park. We got to the KWS Mombasa Marine Park office with no time to waste: it was already afternoon and we still had to get to Malindi before the end of the day. We quickly changed into our swimming gear and headed off to the marine park.
Mombasa Marine Park
Gazetted in 1986, Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve is one of Kenya’s newest marine parks. The park itself covers an area of 10 km2, but is surrounded by a 200 km2 marine reserve. What’s the difference between a marine park and a marine reserve? You can find that answer in my previous post about Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park & Reserve.
We accessed Mombasa Marine Park through Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach, which was characteristically bustling with activity. Since we had little time to spend in Mombasa, we immediately waded through shallow water (one of us who did not want to get his trousers wet was carried by a beach boy!) and off we went, in a boat, to the park.
It was only a short boat ride to Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve, and no sooner had we set off than we came to a stop. As we peered over the side of the boat, we could see little fish swimming about in the water all around us. It was a surreal experience. Someone gave us slices of bread and encouraged us to feed the fish.
Feeding Fish at Mombasa Marine Park
Feeding fish in the ocean is an experience that tickles the soul (for lack of a better expression). I remember that it was this same activity, a few years earlier at Malindi Marine Park, that encouraged me to reevaluate my life and make more room in it for life’s simpler pleasures. Again, it’s one of those experiences that I don’t think words can do justice to (at least not my words), so just for you, here’s a short video that I took that day.
Underwater at Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve
We soon ran out of bread for the fish but were nowhere near done with our experience at Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve. Upping the ante, we put on some snorkeling gear and…jumped in with the fish. It was an exhilarating experience! All around us were hundreds of little, colorful fish; beneath us were all manner of coral; and as I dipped my head into the water, I saw even bigger fish swimming further below.
The underwater experience at Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve did not rival what I had seen at Kisite Marine Park the previous day. Given that Kisite Marine Park is said to have the most vibrant marine life on the Kenyan coast, this shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to me.
Still, it was an interesting experience in its own right. Here, the water was deeper than at Kisite and the fish were bigger. Although the coral reef was not as colorful as at Kisite, the coral too were larger. I particularly liked the colorful parrotfish and seemed to have struck my first inter-species friendship with a brightly colored blue and pink parrotfish that seemed to swim along with me and want to play. 🙂
We swam around Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve for about an hour and then it was time to go back to shore. As we waited to drive on to Malindi, we took a moment to enjoy Kenyatta Beach. Some of us got henna tattoos—mine was of a scorpion—and we enjoyed some street food as we made our way back to the van. The potato-lover that I am simply LOVED the viazi karai, flour coated spiced potatoes, doused in chili sauce that were delicious!
Want to know more about what East Africa has to offer in terms of beaches? Then read: Sun, Sea, Sand—East Africa’s Best Beaches.
We stopped once more at City Mall to buy provisions at Nakumatt before heading to Malindi. We were in for a treat that night because one of the male bloggers decided he’d make chapatis for us—from scratch—for dinner. Well-stocked for our stay in Malindi, we continued on our way.
Arriving in Malindi
We got to Malindi a little after 8 p.m., but even in the dark of night, Malindi showed us her beauty. As we drove into the KWS Malindi Marine Park office, the placid still ocean glistened in the moonlight. No sooner had the car stopped than we all ran off to the beach.
Malindi’s beach is by far my favorite on the Kenyan coast (yes, I know I haven’t been to Lamu yet). Unlike the hustle and bustle (and uncleanliness) of Mombasa beaches, the beach at Malindi is secluded, peaceful and a haven of tranquility. It was so nice to see, so soon upon my arrival, that Malindi’s beach was still as beautiful and as charming as I remembered it.
After a short stint at the beach, those who’d volunteered to make dinner went ahead to do so, while I went off to catch some shut-eye (can you tell I was tired all day?). Although I lay down for a while, I didn’t get any sleep because the mosquitoes wouldn’t let up for even a minute! After tossing and turning for a while, I gave up irritated and went off to brainstorm how I’d fend off the mosquitoes later that night.
On the subject of sleep, have you ever wondered how to get your mattress the perfect combination of firm but soft? Read more here: Sleeping Mattress Tip: Use a Mattress Pad.
Soon enough, our dinner of piping hot chapatis and delicious curry stew was ready. I had dinner with the rest of the group, did some dishes—it was only fair after such a delicious meal—and off I went to bed for the night.
Though I made it to bed immediately, the lure of the beach was hard to resist. At 4 a.m., somehow I was still up, having gone back to the beach, and hadn’t slept a wink yet! I finally got to bed again (for the third time that night) and, this time, caught some shut-eye thanks to my well-devised plan-against-the-mosquitoes. 🙂
I was up at 8 a.m. again to experience Malindi by day, but…that’s a story for another day (which you can now find here: KWS Marine Park Tour Day 4: Malindi Marine Park & Reserve).
Until then, I wish you a great start to your year!