Mtwapa is in Coastal Kenya
People who want to spent their holidays at the wonderful beaches of Kenya and to go on a safari tour have to decide whether to go to South Coast or North Coast, which simply means south or north of Mombasa. While the South Coast has the nicer beaches and more primordial nature the North Coast around Mombasa and Mtwapa offer much more action and activities.
Mtwapa is a dusty place, about 15 km north of Mombasa and one of the fastest growing communities in Kenya with about 50,000 inhabitants. This is partly due to the lack of modern public transport (tram, metro) in combination with the chaotic traffic in Mombasa and the associated development of urban suburbs to new centres. On the other hand many Europeans settle there and bring development. Mtwapa is known as “the village that never sleeps”. Even long after midnight the pubs are busy frequented and even sellers are in the streets and a lot of people walk around. It is the centre of night life and prostitution in the area of Mombasa. Because of many Europeans building homes for retirement or spending winter time there, the place has become trendy for Kenyans too, and real estate prices and construction activity have risen dramatically.
The climate in Mtwapa is tropical wet and warm. The best travel time is from late November to mid-March. After that it gets uncomfortably hot with increased humidity. The worst travel time is in the main rainy season from April to June. Due to lack of sewerage in no time the roads are flooded and muddy and it is difficult to make any excursions. Mostly it rains only briefly and then the sun is shining again, but also continuous rain for days may ocour. In the resulting puddles, the mosquitoes multiply abruptly and the malaria and dengue fever risk increases. Also in the 2nd rainy season, October-November, you have to reckon with inconveniences.
Most people come to Mtwapa via Mombasa airport. After leaving the airport in Mombasa, many eager young men want to carry your luggage to the waiting vehicle. Do not accept these offers. Some of these luggage carriers require up to Ksh 1000 for services rendered. It is just a few metres away, and you can take a free luggage van with your luggage.
The cheapest way to reach Mtwapa from Mombasa is by minibuses (matatus) at about Ksh 100 (2017). Mtwapa is the terminal station for Matatus going from Mombasa centre (Post Office) via Nyali direction north coast. By taxi you will need Ksh 2500-3000 from Mombasa airport to Mtwapa. With Uber about Ksh 1500-2000.
Anyone wishing to sail the Kenyan coast and anchor at Mtwapa creek with their own or rented boat must obtain the relevant permits from the authorities.
Motorbike taxis are used by most people within the village at about Ksh 25/km. The bicycle taxis (once common there) are not operating anymore. Normal taxis are Ksh 50-100/km and tricycles (Tuktuks) about Ksh 50-75/km (depending on road condition). A much cheaper alternative to regular taxis are the shuttle services Uber, Taxify, Little, Mondo Ride, MaraMoja. You can get fares online and thereby avoid getting overcharged, as many taxi drivers like to do to tourists.
There are some car rentals in Mtwapa and Mombasa. The prices are Ksh 2500-3000 per day. You can also hire a driver with the car, which is highly recommended, if you have problems with left-hand drive or want to be more relaxed with the chaotic traffic.
- 1 The Creek. A bay that has beautiful tropical flora and fauna and some small marinas. The place is famous for bird watching and is used as a starting point for deep sea fishing tours. Some good restaurants offer well-known seafood dishes on their terraces overlooking the bay. Don't forget to drink a beer at one of the restaurants (Moorings, LaMarina, CobbaCabana) at least. It's a totally different environment from the touristic beach bars and they can easily be reached by taxi from the beach hotels.
- 2 Jumba Ruins. The ruins are about 5 km from the centre of Mtwapa as you walk down to the sea. Jumba is a picturesque ruined village about 600 years old. The remains of houses and mosques are in a picturesque woodland setting near the seaside. The beach and the restaurant there are "must see"
- 3 Nguuni Sanctury, ☎ . The Nguuni Nature sanctuary is 4 km from Lafarge Bamburi Cement on the Nguu Tatu Hills and is the home to many animal, like giraffes, elands, oryx, waterbucks, ostriches and many different birds. It is a very good place to experience nature and safari feeling on foot. The wetlands with small lakes are an interesting place for bird watchers, who have the opportunity to observe many different species of birds. Large Doum Palm crowned by Leopard Orchids are scattered in the grassland. It is also a wonderful place for a nice afternoon with friends or family or just for a long walk followed by a sundowner. You can book the barbecue place for Ksh 2,000 for private parties. For Ksh 1200 you can hire a safari vehicle for 1-1.5 hours for animal watching. Transport entrance to the picnic area: Ksh 250. Entrance fee Ksh 500.
- 4 Haller Park. This nature park about 10 km from Mombasa at Bambouri holds a variety of plant and animal species, and serves as a recreation spot for tourists and locals. Haller Park plays host to a variety of wildlife including hippos, giraffes, buffalos, antelopes, monkeys as well as smaller mammals and birds. The park consists of a game sanctuary, reptile park, small demonstration fish farm area, palm garden, crocodile pens and a giraffe viewing platform, offering a variety of attractions at the various points to educate and entertain the visitors. The diversity of vegetation is considerable, from mangrove palms and majestic indigenous shade trees to coastal forests. You can walk the Bamburi Nature Trail. Feeding times: giraffes 15:00, hippos 16:00, crocodiles 16:30. Ksh 1400.
- 5 Mamba Village. Lunapark and crocodile farm with about 20,000 crocodiles of all ages and sizes, crocodile feeding, horse riding facilities for children, terrarium, botanical garden and other small attractions. The complex, although not very well maintained, is well worth seeing. One should not have too high expectations of all attractions. Ksh 1000.
- Most tourists visit Mtwapa because of its unique night and day life. Mtwapa is known as the "village that never sleeps" with all kind of entertainment that tourists expect to find, like discos, bars, restaurants, and also prostitution. Mombasa and especially Mtwapa are known for sex tourism. You will find contact with Kenyan women and men on the beach or in the beach bars, who try to bind themselves to a tourist in search of a better life. Money, not sympathy, is what they are looking for. Take the usual precautions against HIV infections if you decide to have sex in Mtwapa.
- Boat trips into the creek (~Ksh 5000), hire a sailing boat or deep sea fishing. All start in the immediate vicinity of Moorings Restaurant.
- Watersports: at Kanamai and Shandzu Beach, diving, snorkelling, surfing, etc.
- Glass bottom boat tour plus snorkelling at Mombasa Marine Park. Park entrance fee: USD 17, tour costs Ksh 1500-2000.
- Mountain bike tours around the creek.
- Karting: 5 km south of Mtwapa at Bamburi Beach
- Paint Ball: Information at the kart track in Bamburi
- Children's playgrounds: There is a place right next to the bridge over the creek, opposite the Mtwapa Police. A larger Lunapark is located towards Mombasa at the entrance of Mamba Village (Left Rd., At the Nyali Golf Club). The Wildwater Adventure Bath nearby is also popular with children.
- Walking: Mtwapa town is too noisy to enjoy walking. The 4-km walk along the beach starting at the Maridadi Restaurant near Kanamai to the Sand Castle Beach Bar at the end of the beach near Kikambala is a real pleasure, as the beach is only frequented by locals and very few tourists. Therefore you can enjoy quiet walking without being bothered by beach boys or souvenir sellers.
- Safaris: There are good travel offices in Mtwapa but it might be good to also check the offers of the big companies situated in Mombasa or Diani Beach. Most common safari destinations from Mtwapa are Maasai Mara, Tsavo East National Park, Tsavo West National Park and Shimba Hills National Reserve. The Tsavo National Parks are easy to reach from the coast by car and you will find here basically all the animals. Tsavo East is more open, with many animals. Tsavo West is rocky with many shrubs and relatively few animals in interesting landscape. Amboseli is quite flat, often dusty, with a large swamp area and spectacular views of the Kilimanjaro, many elephants. This park is more recommended in combination with the Tsavos, but you should then plan several nights. Masai Mara are mostly flight safaris, with short distances, all animals to find, usually even better than in the other parks. You can also drive in each park with your own car or a rental car. This is cheaper than guided safaris, but you also have less wildlife sightings. But there is also the possibility hire a guide. At the park entrances or at the park hotel you can ask for guides. The main routes in the parks are mostly well signposted, but on the small slopes you can quickly lose your bearings if you do not know the area.
- Mtwapa also has nice beaches with beach hotels or beach bars which are not crowded and perfect for relaxing: 1 Kanamai-Kikambala Beach: A scenic beach with typical palms and white sand. Once a centre of tourism is now only frequented by locals. To reach there is best by taxi as the road is quite rough. 2 Jumba Ruins Beach: a small but very nice and lonely beach. 3 Beach Africa: small beach at Mangroves, at low tide you can walk to Cobba Cabana along the beach. It's a very nice walk. 4 Cobba Cabana Beach: not really clean beach at Mangroves, frequented for swimming by locals but nice place to make a walk. 5 Shanzu Beach: is a very scenic beach and less frequented than Bambouri Beach. Day and night life is there but less than at Bambouri beach. reachable even with motorbike taxi. 6 Bamburi Beach: the most lively beach near Mombasa, good day and night live, often crowded by locals, many hotels, pubs, beach bars, beach boys and beach girls, sellers, reachable by Matatu. At Big Tree Beach Bar you can hire a locker to enjoy the beach without your belongings getting stolen while you are in the water. At low tide you can go at the northern end of the beach around two rocks to Shanzu Beach. The tidal range between low tide and high tide is very pronounced on the Mtwapa coast! If you want to go for a walk along the beach, you should inform yourself in advance about the tides, because it can happen that the way back is cut off through the returning tide.
Money: At the ATMs in Mtwapa all popular international cards work fine and at all banks cash can be exchanged. A good place for banks and ATMs is the Mtwapa Mall. The exchange course at the banks is better than in hotels where you can also exchange money. When banks are closed there are some shops with good rates next to the Cheers Restaurant in Bamburi along the main road to Mombasa. In larger shops and hotels you can usually pay with credit cards.
Like in all of Africa, haggling is common in small shops. Especially if you are an obvious foreigner, the initial price is usually higher than what is normally paid for the merchandise.
- Souvenirs: At the beaches, sellers will offer you things whose trade and export are prohibited under the Washington Convention on Species Protection, like claws of lions, certain sea animals, butterflies, shells, and starfish. Even if one finds mussels, starfish or snails on the beach, they can be protected species. In case of doubt, leave it. The penalties are very high. Woodworking, clothing, handicrafts, etc. can be purchased without hesitation. In all hotels, along the streets and at the beach of Bamburi and Shanzu, there are stands where crafts and country-style clothes are offered. The prices and the choice of these articles are by far better at the places described under "Buy" in Mombasa.
- Food: The best shopping, especially for international food, is the Tuskys shopping center in Bambouri and the Naivas supermarket, both 12 km south of Mtwapa. German bread and good rolls are available in the "Wellfit Bakery" where you can also enjoy a delicious coffee with a Northern European cake. The café or bakery lies diagonally opposite the "Catholic Church" in Mtwapa. The largest supermarkets in Mtwapa are the Tuskeys with a large assortment. The small one is on the main road in the centre of Mtwapa, the big one in the Mtwapa Mall at the northern end of the village. For the purchase of vegetables and fruits there is a small market and many stands along the main street. However, the prices are quite high and for bigger purchases of fruit and vegetables the way to the Kongowea market (just before the bridge to Mombasa) is worth it.
- Pharmacies you can find along the main street called Chemist, also hardware shops and a fruit market.
If you are looking for things to buy and cannot find a shop just ask one of the Tuktuk or motorbike taxi drivers.
- Tip: about 10 percent of the invoice amount is common as a tip, but only if the food tasted good and service was good. On safaris it is common for the whole group in the vehicle to give about Ksh 1000 together per day, if you were absolutely satisfied with the driver.
- Waiting time: In many restaurants it can take an hour from ordering until food is served, as everything is prepared freshly. Therefore take enough time to eat calmly and if you are very hungry take a starter.
- Those who want to eat on low budget should mind the old saying for all tropical areas: "Cook it, peel it or forget it".
- 1 Jumba Ruins Monsoons. Very good restaurant (Italian, seafood) next to the ruins at the seaside. Very nice surroundings, very quiet, higher price level, run by an Italian.
- 2 Moorings. Very good restaurant (international, seafood, pizza) on a floating boat at the creek. Very beautiful environment. Also recommended for vegetarians. Higher price level
- 3 Maridadi. Restaurant and bar: great restaurant in an idyllic location alongside the Kanamai-Kikimbala beach at the Salama Beach Resort, offering a novel twist on African cooking. Higher price level
- 4 Mumtaz. Simple but great local food, also for take away.
- 5 Porini. A good place to have really African lunch with a visit to the Aldabra giant tortoises. It is situated about 4 km after the Mtwapa Mall direction Kikambala. You can spend part of the long waiting time for food (>1h) at the restaurant well by viewing the giant tortoises or taking a garden tour.
- 6 La Marina, ☎ . Excellent restaurant (international, seafood) with nice view on the creek, but a bit pricey. The restaurant has a floating boat where guests can also be served. Higher price level
- 7 Makuti Hidden, ☎ . Good and cheap food, nice simple ambience, relative quiet and clean. Also many German dishes.
- 8 Bahari Gates. A beer garden bar and roasted meat joint in large attractive well laid-out very pleasant gardens.
- 9 Fast food. The well-known Kenyan fast food chains (Chicken Inn, Pizza Inn) have a branch at Kenol filling station on the main road.
- 10 Mtwapa Paradise. Very popular restaurant of white tourists in the center, good prices, large portions, but relatively dirty and many flies
Cigarettes and alcohol: international cigarettes and a wide range of globally known alcoholic beverages are available but there are also very good local brands, which are significantly cheaper than the imported goods.
- 1 Casaurina. In this nightclub partying and drinking beer goes on at all hours of the day. Casaurina is just as packed on a Tuesday night as a Saturday. This is one of the biggest ‘pick-up’ clubs for old Europeans and young Kenyans. Usually locals (of both sexes) will try and seduce you on the dance floor.
- 2 Club Lambada International. Great music, bikini pool dance, great service, easily accessible.
- 3 Big Tree. A few kilometres south of Mtwapa at Bamburi Beach. Dance club directly at the sea front with a very good atmosphere and super sexy dance contests. A good place for a budget outing but not really suitable for families because of tourists hanging around with local prostitute girls. The place can be pretty crowded over the weekend. You can hire a locker for Ksh 100 (which you get back at the end off the day). Then you can enjoy the beach without fear that your belongings get stolen while you are in the water. Also Cheers Club and Sheba nearby are a good place too.
- 4 Beach Africa. Simple beach bar and hostel. The view and location (directly at seaside) are amazing and the food is good. A relaxed atmosphere makes it a unique place. The accommodation is adventurous (one can sleep in the tree house, which is open). It's a backpackers place, so don't expect hotel hospitality. However, the environment isn't really safe!
- 5 Cobba Cabana. Simple beach bar with international visitors, loud music and tropical flair direct at the seaside. Saturdays: campfire with music. Sunday: from the afternoon music and party.
- 6 Naiz. Across from Casaurina, along the Mombasa-Malindi Road. Good music, good vibes, favorable drinks. Popular with people from the region.
For normal beach tourism, Mombasa-Bamburi/Shandzu Beach (5 km to the south) and the Kanamai-Kikamballa Beach (7 km to the north) are more pleasant places to stay than in Mtwapa town. It's a party place for people that prefer night life over beach life and for many often retired Europeans that want to spent several months to escape from the winter cold in their countries and need cheaper accommodation than the luxury beach hotels.
Prices for housing start at €20/month for huts without any comfort outside the centre to about €300/month for comfortable flats in a nice environment. Flats are usually mediated by real estate brokers. Prices for hotels and guest houses are listed in the well known Internet booking sites or airbnb. Cheap simple rooms with cooking facility and private bathroom start from Ksh 1000 per night.
In all accommodations, things of value and cash should never be left in the room, but only in the hotel safe!
- 1 Serena Beach Resort & Spa, Shandzu Beach
- 2 Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort
- 3 Salama-Beach-Resort
- 4 Jumuia Conference & Beach Resort
- 5 Severin Sea Lodge
- 6 Voyager Beach Resort
- 7 Boko Boko
The large all-inclusive hotels do not allow any local guests at the hotel. If you are looking for a place to stay where guests are allowed, then you have to go to smaller "girl-friendly hotels" without a "joiner fee", in which companions can spend the night without additional costs. Such hotels are referred to as "girl-friendly" or "guest-friendly" in Kenya.
- Volunteer service: Many young people want to work in social institutions for a certain time in Kenya, preferably on the coast. It should be clear that it is not a question of making better work than the local people or of "developing aid", but of learning from each other. Most of the reputable organizations do not take anyone under one year, because especially when working with children attachment and relationship is important, and in short-term stays, only work for the local people is caused without giving anything. As Mtwapa is a relative safe place and many foreigners live here its a popular place for volunteers too. Be aware that there are many fake organizations that are only after the money of the volunteers! Its is hopeless to look for any payment as young unskilled volunteer.
- Internet and telephone: In most hotels there is Wifi, often however only at the front desk. If you want to be independent of the hotel network, or you need a faster network, there is a shop with the Kenyan network providers Safaricom and Orange above the Tuskys supermarket in Bamburi. These offer Internet bundles and also SIM cards for mobile phones very cheap. Passport is required for registration. If you often have to call home or for business, a Kenyan sim card is very worthwhile too for the phone. One saves the high roaming charges, and with a Kenyan phone card long distance calls are in most cases much cheaper than from a foreign mobile.
- Power adapter: In Kenya, the British three-pin plugs are used (220 V). It is advisable to buy an adapter with voltage protection at your home country. Voltage fluctuations are common in Kenya, and so mobile phones or computers are protected against it. At Tuskeys you can get the appropriate adapters in Mtwapa, but without the voltage protection.
- The power supply is not always guaranteed in Mtwapa and it comes again and again to power outages. Therefore, you should definitely have a powerful (solar) power bank for your mobile and a flash light in your luggage.
- Photos: To take photos of people, ask for permission, also at night in the pubs. Prohibited are photos of military and public facilities such as police stations, banks, and ferries. Be careful! In Mtwapa some of the well known pubs are next to banks. Taking pictures in front of the pub might be risky.
- Beach boys: Along the beaches of Bamburi or Shanzu, there are always quite a number of them who want to sell something. Even if the majority is very friendly, you might feel very annoyed after some time. Best is to ignore them totally. Just do not answer to them, not even "no thanks" or anything else. This is, of course, impolite, but they will stop molesting you. On the beaches of Cobba Cabana, Beach Africa or Kikambala are almost no beach boys and there you have your peace and can walk around or lie in the sand unencumbered.
- Bathing: Depending on the tide the sea can sometimes have high dangerous waves and currents and undercurrents should not be underestimated. Especially when the water runs out, one should not swim too far. Even though there is a lot of prostitution at the beaches in Mtwapa, nudism or going topless is prohibited, as is sex at the beach at night. The police understand little fun here, and takes firm action.
- Beach shoes: At low tide you can undertake wonderful hikes on the coral reef, especially at Kikambala Beach. Since the coral rock is quite sharp-edged, shoes are advantageous. Simple beach shoes made of soft plastic are, however, completely unsuitable, because on the coral reef also live sea urchins, whose long and pointed spines can easily pierce the plastic soles. Old sandals with thick solid soles are more suitable.
- Invitations: Going as a white guy with Kenyans to a pub in Mtwapa or a restaurant it is expected that you pay. If you invite a Kenyan out to a restaurant, you are also expected to pay their transport costs, especially if you are a man inviting a woman. If you do not want to do that, then first check it out! If you are invited home to locals, the guest gift should be according to the occasion. To bring nothing is offensive! Better generous than greedy! This is, of course, only for family visits. Visiting "beach boys" or "beach girls" is another matter.
- Diarrhea: Hardly anyone is spared from diarrhea during a tropical journey. Rarely it is at the foreign food, but mostly at the enjoyment of too cold beverages. In almost every pharmacy in Kenya "Dia Stop" is available. These tablets help immediately and reliably.
- Sun protection and mosquito repellent: Sun cream is very expensive in Kenya, so it is better to bring it with you. Its very important to use due to the strong tropical sunshine. Mosquito sprays, on the other hand, are cheap and good in Kenya. Except in the rainy season, there are very few to no mosquitoes in Mtwapa and at the hotels at Bamburi or Shanzu Beach or even on safari. Especially the legs should be protected.
- Safety: Frequently, employees of the tour operators warn guests not to leave the hotel on their own. It is completely unfounded, and you often get the suspicion that these warnings only serve to ensure that the travellers book the overpriced tour offers, accept bad exchange rates, and shop in the usually only modest but always far too expensive offers of the hotel shops. It is not dangerous to walk around during the day as long as you stay in the tourist areas and don’t enter slums. Mtwapa is a safer place than many other towns in Kenya. The more valuable things you carry around visibly, the greater the danger of arousing desires of thieves. At night always use a taxi to go to the bars or restaurants and back (not motorbike taxi or tuktuk). This is the best way to avoid any problems.
- Passport: You are required to carry identification in Kenya. But you don’t have to carry your passport all time, a copy does well too. Therefore its good to make a copy of the passport on the first day of arrival in the hotel. Important is the first page and the page with the visa, which you get at the entry.
- Visa: If you intend to spend the winter in Kenya, the normal visa, which is valid for 90 days, must be lengthened. This can usually be obtained on-site without any problems by an additional 90 days at an "immigration office". In Mombasa, the office is located at the old harbour in the old town.
- Emergency Numbers: Police, Fire, Ambulance: 999. Tourist Police Mtwapa Sub Base (Opposite Jesus Celebration Centre, Malindi Rd) +254 720 344901, Mtwapa Police Station (at the bridge over the creek, opposite Kendas Hotel, Malindi Road +254 20 3509958. The Tourist Safety and Communication Center offers a 24hr tourist helpline (02-604767) where you can seek assistance if you are in any kind of troubble. Emergency Snakebite Phone Number: +254 718 290 324
- There are several health centres in Mtwapa and a Agakan Hospital Branch near Mtwapa Mall
- 1 Sacred Mijikenda Forest (40 km east of Mtwapa) consist of 11 separate forest sites spread over some 200 km containing the remains of numerous fortified villages, known as kayas, of the Mijikenda people. The kayas, created as of the 16th century but abandoned by the 1940s, are now regarded as the abodes of ancestors and are revered as sacred sites and, as such, are maintained as by councils of elders. The site is inscribed as bearing unique testimony to a cultural tradition and for its direct link to a living tradition.
- 2 Mnarani Ruins.The Mnarani ruins are the remains of two mosques near Mnarani (40 km north of Mtwapa). Dating from the 15th century, the mosques are located on a bluff overlooking Kilifi Creek from the southern side. The settlement at the site dates back to the 14th century, and the site also contains a number of tombs. Manarani is a scenic, peaceful spot well worth a visit and makes an excellent picnic site and has a decent snake farm. Value for money probably depends on your guide.
- 3 Malindi and Watamu, are known for their beaches, which are among the best and most picturesque in Kenya and that and are particularly popular with Italian tourists. In their surroundings are some worth seeing places like: 4 Watamu Marine National Park: is part of a complex of marine and tidal habitats with rich and diverse bird life, fish, turtles and dugongs. 5 BIO-Ken Snake Farm. It is a research centre, which deals with reptiles, especially snakes and snake-bite and houses the largest collection of Snakes in East Africa and is open to the public.6 Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is a 420 km2 coastal forest near the Watamu Marine Park. 7 Gede Ruins are one of the principal historical monuments on the Kenyan coast. 8 Marafa Canyon a vast canyon-like area resulting from soil erosion called also Hell's kitchen.
- 9 Mombasa, with a population of over 1 million, is the second-largest city in Kenya. It is particularly known for its warm and sunny climate, white beaches and coral reef diving.
- 10 Shimba Hills National Reserve: (70 km south of Mtwapa) As one of the largest coastal forests in East Africa after Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, this reserve is rich in flora and fauna and hosts the highest density of African elephant in Kenya. Other animal species found in the area are Sable antelope, elephant shrew, bushy tailed mongoose and other small mammals like fruit bats. The forest is an important bird area and is endowed with forest birdlife while the grasslands hold localized species such as red-necked-Spur fowl, Croaking Cisticola and Zanzibar Red Bishop. The scenic Sheldrick Falls and the dense Mwaluganje Forest are also found here along with four campsites.