Journey to Mombasa, from Wilderness to Coastal Splendour


Journey to Mombasa, from Wilderness to Coastal Splendour

Marius Fernandes and his family along with the owners and patrons inside ‘Kilindini Bar’, the oldest bar in Mombasa run by a Goan family.


Our journey to Mombasa began with a memorable stay in the wild expanses of Tsavo and the quaint Voi village. After days immersed in the natural beauty and untamed landscapes, we headed back to the train station to board the luxurious SRT Madaraka Express. The one and a half-hour journey to Mombasa was smooth and scenic, setting the perfect tone for the coastal adventure that awaited us.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a friendly Uber driver who swiftly took us to our destination. My daughter, Gemma Fernandes, had arranged our stay at the magnificent Reef Hotel, situated on the white sandy beaches of the renowned Nyali Beach which overlooks the beautiful Indian Ocean. 

This hotel has been managed by the Sondhi family for 40 years who were originally from the former Indian city of Lahore (now Pakistan) offering a legacy of hospitality. The Reef Hotel is not just a place to stay; it’s an experience in itself. With its splendid beachfront setting, it provides an idyllic backdrop for unforgettable memories. 

The hotel boasts excellent facilities including restaurants, business, and meeting amenities. Its prime location next to top shopping malls, golf courses, restaurants, and clubs makes it the perfect base for exploring Mombasa.

The next day, Gemma had organised a city tour for us with a knowledgeable guide. My sister Maria, my son Ashley, and I joined Gemma for a delightful exploration of Mombasa in traditional rickshaws. 

This tour was a highlight of our trip, offering insights into the rich history and vibrant culture of the city. We visited the Central market, one of the most popular and oldest markets in Mombasa where the stalls were overflowing and we purchased Kenyan coffee beans, local spices, Kitanga textiles and handcrafted traditional Masai beads and jewellery. On our tour, we saw the famous Mombasa Tusks on Moi Avenue where our grandparents first visited at the beginning of the last century.

Another notable stop on our tour was the Port of Mombasa, a cornerstone of Kenya’s economy. As one of Africa’s largest ports, it plays a crucial role in trade and commerce, handling vast amounts of cargo ranging from oil and machinery to tea and coffee. 

The port is a vital gateway for both imports and exports, supporting regional trade and providing significant employment opportunities. The revenue generated through taxes, duties, and port charges underscores its importance to the national economy.

Our historical journey also led us to Fort Jesus, where we reminisced about our family’s voyage to Goa on the ‘SS Haryana’ steamer back in December 1967. This area, steeped in history, provided a poignant connection to our past and where Vasco da Gamma first visited in April 1498, before heading to Goa. We visited the Mombasa Club built in 1897, making it the oldest club in Kenya and was exclusively for male whites. Nowadays, many notable Goans are members.

The next day, we ventured to Diani Beach via a ferry. Voted the best beach in Africa for five consecutive years, Diani Beach is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Whether it’s kayaking, jet-skiing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, paddleboarding, or scuba diving, the azure waters of Diani cater to all levels of adventure and skill. The vibrant beachside hotels make it a perfect family getaway.

On our final leg in Mombasa, we visited the historic Goan Mombasa Institute, established in 1905. Our gracious host, Denise Pereira, provided a heartwarming trip down memory lane.

The institute’s vast complex includes restaurants, game rooms, sports grounds, and other facilities. Here, we met Ivan Fernandes and his family, who took us to the legendary Kilindini Bar, the oldest bar in Mombasa which was established by a Goan, A C de Souza, in 1908 and presently run by Maura and Clarence Abranches. We spent a delightful evening reminiscing about Goa and Kenya, celebrating the legendary runner Seraphino Antao, and singing Konkani songs that enchanted everyone present.

This journey to Mombasa, from the wilderness of Tsavo to the vibrant coast, has given us memories to last a lifetime. The blend of natural beauty, historical richness, and warm hospitality has made this trip truly unforgettable. [To be continued]

[The writer is popularly known as Goa’s Festakar due to his pioneering efforts to revive and promote Goan culture through people-oriented festivals]

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