Mombasa, Kenya: The Perks Of Being A Beach Bum

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Mombasa, Kenya: The Perks Of Being A Beach Bum

I love the beach. Even today, years later, the sound of waves breaking onto sand or the trademark smell of salty air takes me back to the beaches in Mombasa, Kenya where I spent a major part of my formative years.

Mombasa hasn’t changed much from my childhood memories – it’s matured from a town into a small city, but its inhabitants are still the same; laid back, friendly and obsessed with the beach. Most of us would proudly call ourselves beach bums – all our free time was spent sunbathing on the sand, swimming in the sea or shopping for swimsuits.

Before I get into the intricacies of the idyllic beach life we lived, let’s drop all the negative associations with the words ‘beach bum.’ We weren’t loafers or tramps dressed in rags; in the Mombasa world, a beach bum is simply someone who loves their beach-time. I’m of the firm belief that everyone has a little bit of a beach bum in them and that, after hearing about it more, you’ll be clamouring to be one too.

Take a moment to picture the brochures and postcards of enticing beaches you see advertised in your local travel agent’s window. That’s exactly (no filters used) what the shores of Mombasa look like. The turquoise sea meets the pale yellow sand in gentle waves, depositing a variety of shells, driftwood and other sea-debris onto the sand. Take a five minute boat ride from the shire and you’ll reach the vibrant coral reefs, fun places to snorkel, dive or peep into fish’s homes.

Many people talk about one-stop shopping destinations, but the beaches in Mombasa went (and still go) way past that. They combined sports, shopping, eating, partying and lounging around, making them the ultimate one stop entertainment destination.

KJ

The tourism industry is well aware of the charms that the Mombasa beaches hold. Thanks to that, there are a collection of hotels, restaurants and night clubs on the beaches with enticing activities – provided you have a good amount of dough to spend. A favourite local destination is Yul’s Aquadrom Restaurant in North Mombasa, next to the luxurious Bamburi Beach Hotel. We’d spend the morning banana boating, jet skiing or wave jumping (the water sports industry is massive) and then troop into the restaurant to gorge on their double XXL pizzas. After two scoops of freshly churned ice cream, we’d be back in the water. Another high end favourite is the Tamarind Restaurant, a fine dining establishment, which prides itself on its exquisitely cooked fresh catch and view of the harbour. As children, we’d love the Tamarind Dhow experience, which serves meals aboard a traditional, iconic dhow with a billowing sail as it sailed around the harbour. We had a ball of a time, running around the deck pretending to be pirates, although I’m not sure the skipper was quite as amused when we demanded that he let us steer…

After living like kings in the first few weeks of the month, you can be sure that our pocket money rapidly dwindled and that by the last few days we had to put ourselves on a shoe-string budget. But, the beach still beckoned – when broke, we’d spend our weekends building intricate sandcastles, playing beach volleyball and racing crabs. One of my favourite past times was ‘hunting’ for food – we’d pry open succulent oyster shells  and have them raw (or with a touch of lemon when we were feeling fancy) and spend hours digging for clams, which were boiled and made into clam chowder. Hint: if you’re after fresh clams, look for small holes in the wet sand near the shoreline – these are left as a clam digs underground. When we were feeling super adventurous, we’d try to catch crabs, but after being pinched a few times we decided that was perhaps best left to the pros – our parents and fisher men.

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Mombasa Beach

Speaking of fishermen, beaches in Mombasa have several sellers roaming around, making the seashore an unexpected shopping destination. There are the fishermen who carry around nets of fresh catch and will offer to clean and cut whatever we’d buy. There were the ‘kikoi’ and ‘kanga’ sellers who’d sell colourful patterned cloth with Swahili proverbs that we’d use as cover ups and beach towels. Tourists were prime baits for shell sellers, who’d offer them exotic Nautilus shells that sometimes had little creatures still living in them. There were even a couple of enterprising hairdressers – raastamen as we’d call them who would fix our hair into dozens of tiny plaits or raastas.

Even some of our school lessons would be on the beach. Our teachers, no doubt as infatuated as us by the sea, would take us there to learn about rock formations or marine life. We’d also visit seaside historical sites like Fort Jesus, which was built by the Portuguese, or the Jumba Ruins or the ‘large houses of the slaves,’ which was also built to detect and battle sea attacks. As children, we’d pay little attention to the history lessons and instead immerse ourselves in pretend battles and games of hide and seek that would almost always end up with someone getting temporarily lost. Looking back, I now appreciate how culturally rich as well as beautiful and activity laden the city’s beaches are.

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Mombasa Market

Many people talk about one-stop shopping destinations, but the beaches in Mombasa went (and still go) way past that. They combined sports, shopping, eating, partying and lounging around, making them the ultimate one stop entertainment destination.

Given the chance, wouldn’t you also want to be a Mombasa beach bum?

Karishma Joshi

Karishma Joshi

A childhood spent in Kenya and India gave Karishma a deep love for nature, culture and an insatiable need to keep travelling. When she's not wandering around the globe, she can be found in Mumbai - vicariously exploring with a good book, playing with her dogs and stuffing her face with sushi and sake.

1 Comment

  • Erika
    Erika

    I’m definitely a beach bum – although the sun doesn’t like me 🙁

    August 27, 2017 at 6:38 pm
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