Mombasa County

Discover Mombasa County

Spatial Location of Mombasa County in Kenya

Brief Overview of Mombasa County

Mombasa, a term commutably used to refer to the county, the city and island, is the smallest county in Kenya (231 km2) but far important than its size suggests. The island, continually occupied since the 6th century, is sited at a point where the coral reef is broken, sheltering a fine coastline with deep-water anchorages on both east and west, and where ships can reach the port city safely to a well-protected harbour, is now Kenya’s second largest city, after Nairobi. Its unique situation at the coastal terminus of the railway from Uganda giving access to the hinterland and the modernization to international standards of its airport gave it further impetus to grow rapidly. Mombasa survived the Arab and Portuguese conflicts and began to thrive, especially after 1896, when the construction of the railway to Uganda began. Mombasa City is now too important to be restricted to its little island of approximately 14 km2, and much new building continues to take place on the mainland which it is connected to by a causeway, bridge and ferry. Mombasa, a forward-looking city, island and county, with a far-reaching history, has an all important part to play in the economy of both Kenya and the rest of Africa because of its excellent city facilities and as a leading tourism hub.

Visitors to Mombasa County and the coast region of Kenya are generally one of two kinds. Either they are foreigners who fly into Mombasa Airport or sail into the passenger harbour at Mombasa as a base from which to enjoy the coast; or they are residents or expatriates from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda who travel to Mombasa for one or two week’s relaxation. For the North or South Coast bound traveller Mombasa City is less of a holiday destination than a necessary logistic. Nevertheless, it has plenty to interest the travellers. Communication is well developed, most parts of Mombasa County being served by up to date, standard motorable road in addition to Mombasa International Airport and the railway terminus. No matter the origin, travellers find that Mombasa Island and its surroundings have splendid attractions. On the island itself, eye-catching in the sense that virtually every downtown building is painted blue-and-white, are found the picturesque Old Town, with its beige and pink hues contrasting with the modern city, where narrow, winding streets and tiny mosques converge at Fort Jesus. Attractive beaches and great outdoor parks lie within easy reach of the island and many prefer travel into the city during the cooler part of the day.

As we now know, Mombasa City is located on the island that is separated from the mainland by Tudor and Kilindini Creeks. Over the years, the urban area has expanded well beyond its original footprint within the island, with the growth of Port Reitz and Kilindini Harbour, further up the same inlet and mainlet. It is connected to the mainland by the Nyali Bridge in the north, the Likoni Ferry in the south, and in the west by the Makupa Causeway. Across the Likoni Ferry into Kwale County, just a short distance from Mombasa City southerly heading, are found Shimba Hills National Reserve and Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, where wildlife can be seen in plenty, and the much-acclaimed beaches at Diani. The coastal road from Mombasa to Lunga Lunga – the most southerly town in Kenya – distance from Mombasa City 100 km along the A14 trunk Road, runs along the centre of the coastal plain throughout much of its lengths passing through the coastal retreat areas of Diani and Msambweni. Across Nyali Bridge northerly heading along B8 Mombasa-Malindi Road the road also runs along the coastal plain, past many attractions of interest in Kilifi County, like Mtwapa, Takaungu, Kilifi, Watamu, Gede and Malindi, distance from Mombasa 116 km.

View of Nyali Bridge, Tudor Creek and Indian Ocean.  Photo Courtesy of Travel Kenya
Nyali Bridge, Tudor Creek and Indian Ocean. Courtesy of Travel Kenya

Salient Features of Mombasa County

  • County Number 1
  • Area – 230 km2
  • Altitude – 160 ft
  • Major Towns – Mombasa
  • Borders – Kilifi, Kwale
Mombasa County Map

Brief History of Mombasa County

Perhaps, no town on the East African Coast has had such a varied history as has Mombasa. Africans, Arabs, Portuguese, Arabs again, and the British all thrived here, before finally the wheel turned back to the native Africans, gaining back sovereignty over Mombasa Island. Little is known of the earlier years prior to the arrival of the Portuguese. It is since their period that we have many of the enchanting chronicles of her history. Every newcomer Mombasa, including the Portuguese, faced the formidable people of Mombasa (also known as Mvita or the place of war) who vehemently defended their turf, to their death. Mombasa patently played an important role in the development of Coast Region of Kenya. With the outstanding discovery of new sea routes to India around 1500, the Portuguese, over the next 200 years, foisted new dimensions and dominated the Indian Ocean trade. Other European powers formed trading companies to represent them in various regions in India and along the East Africa Coast. The major companies were: the Dutch East India Company, the British East India Company and French East India Company. When the Portuguese were expelled in 1698, it was another sea-faring empire – the Oman Arabs – from Muscat and Suhar under whose reign emergence and proliferation of Islam along the East African Coast was at full bloom, and destined to change the course of Mombasa.

Unlike the Portuguese whose interests were commercial, not imperial, showing little interest in venturing into the hinterland, the muslim and mixed Afro-Arab traders pushed trading routes to the interior, seeking up-country commodities for onward transmission to Zanzibar and Oman. In 1832, and now a flourishing power under the influential Seyyid Said, the sultanate relocated its base from Oman to the Island of Zanzibar. By the late 1840s, European missionaries and traders had established themselves, without approval, across Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania, and were clashing with slavers on the Congo River. Their arrival at Mombasa was imminent. England was quite happy to keep out of East Africa so long as other European powers did the same. “But in 1884 an unauthorised adventurer upended this balance. The German explorer Carl Peters penetrated inland and, without permission from Berlin, signed treaties with rulers in the hinterland of today’s Tanzania and Rwanda; prompted by proimperialist public opinion, the Kaiser extended a protectorate over the area. The challenge having been raised, Britain moved immediately to block Germany. In the ‘scramble for Africa’, Britain acquired inland colonies and eventually colonised Kenya, but Mombasa was still seen as a gateway – an access point to more important inland areas such as Lake Victoria, the Rift Valley or the fertile highlands around Mount Kenya – rather than as a key centre in its own right. Indeed, the territory now called Kenya was for some years to figure in the minds of British statesman only as the site of a railway, the Uganda Railway” – David Kilcullen

View of a section of Mombasa City.  Photo Courtesy of Daily Nation
View of a section of Mombasa City. Image Courtesy of Daily Nation
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45 Attractions in Mombasa County, arranged as one would visit these - south, north then east - with the aid of in-depth narratives, images, strip maps and distance chart:

Old Town Mombasa, Fort Jesus Museum, Fort Jesus Gift Shop, Mombasa Butterfly House, Santo Antonio de Tanna, Old Port Mombasa, Lighthouses of Mombasa, Sanaa Gallery, Masjid Burhani, Leven House, Africa Hotel, Old Law Courts, Treasury Square, St. Joseph's Fort, Mombasa Golf Club, Mama Ngina Drive Park, Shelly Beach, Mbaraki Pillar, Mombasa (Mbaraki) Cemetery, Kilindini Harbour, A.C.K Mombasa Memorial Church, Holy Ghost Catholic Cathedral, Lord Shiva Temple, Mombasa’s Tusks, Suli Suli Fishing, Makupa Fort, Mayimbo War Cemetery, Nyali Bridge, A.C.K Emmanuel Church, Kengeleni Monument, Bahari Club, Tamarind Dhow Cruise, Krapf Memorial Heritage Park, Mombasa African Memorial, Bombolulu Workshop, Haller Park, Mombasa Butterfly Pavilion, Bamburi Rifle Club, Nguuni Nature Sanctuary, Mamba Village, Nyali Golf and Country Club, Wild Waters, Mombasa Marine Park, Shimo la Tewa Prison, The Moorings, La Marina Restaurant

Geography, Land-Use, Highlights, Population, Roads, Airports, Climate and National Monuments in Mombasa County