Does Nairobi’s mind blowing selection of safaris and mountain-top excursions have you feeling a little let down? Of course it doesn’t - they’re awesome. Who’s writing this? Anyway, the point is: just because Kenya’s literal capital also happens to be its adventure capital doesn’t mean you’re better off expending all your exploratory energy there. Mombasa, dear traveler, is for much more than just lounging on the beach. Take its coastline, for instance. Unbeknownst to many first time visitors, there’s a vast coral network that thrives just off this part of the East African shore. Yes it may not be Australia or the Caribbean, but marine reserves like Mombasa and Watamu (slightly farther north) offer divers and snorkelers the opportunity to explore everything from brain coral and sea turtles to reef sharks and wrecks. And when you factor in a wealth of other water sports and some available mangrove forest sea-kayaking not far to the south (Avicennia), the area’s not off to a bad start.
But suppose you’re not the ocean-loving type, what then? Well, there are a few relatively tame options you could check out depending on which way you’re headed. To the north, just west of Watamu, you’ll find the Arabuko Sokoke Reserve: a large area of dry coastal forest home to some cool hikes, scenic cliffs and abundant wildlife (mostly the avian variety). In the opposite direction, the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary provides an easy way to see one of Africa’s Big 5 in action, albeit in an environment that’s very much catered towards Mombasa’s sizable tourist population. You may be better off heading to nearby Shimba Hills National Reserve, where exotic vegetation, beautiful waterfalls and a plethora of interesting creatures make for one of the more unique safari experiences in the country.
And speaking of safaris, we’d be remiss not to mention the flagship of Mombasa’s adventure-arsenal: nearby Tsavo National Park. This gargantuan landmass (actually 2 parks in 1, Tsavo East and Tsavo West), is the epitome of the Kenyan safari experience, and offers all the sights, sounds and experiences you’d hope to find in a journey to the heart of untamed East Africa. So no matter which way you cut it, though it may lack the notoriety of its neighbor to the west, there’s enough outdoor action available around Kenya’s second-largest city to make you reconsider spending all that time lounging at some beachside bar. In practice this little nugget of wisdom may prove harder than it sounds, but trust us: the rewards will highly outweigh the sacrifice.