“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”. -Marcel Proust.

If Mombasa were a person, it would be an old swahili man with a wealth of knowledge and delightful ancient tales, we hope. An old man rich in culture, displays of with pride and takes you back to a historic era.

You have probably visited Mombasa town and delighted in its rich scenaries. The sandy beaches, the luxurious hotels, night life and array of munches, crisps Mhogo, Viazi Karai, and Madafu. You have also shoved the idea of exploring away from this norm.We had too, until we opted to look at it with a new set of eyes and to tell a different story.

OLD TOWN

“Yeah, I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road I’m gonna ride till I can’t no more” Ha!

This is the throne of the old man we introduced. He sits behind a creek and if you listen keenly you will hear the sound of waves of the indian ocean and if your guide knows his ways well you will have a glimpse of it too.

The streets of Old town take you through buildings that were erected back in the medieval times. The streets are quiet, mostly isolated but with aromas of the Swahili family dishes. The inhabitants of Old town are a mix of local Arabs,Asian, Portuguese and British settlers, which explains the nature of the architecture;raised balconies, wooden windows, large coral walls and Arabian arched doors. It is this that makes it a hub; besides learning of the times when it was an important Islamic Portland.

A striking element is the Arab-inspired doors which were a symbol of Swahili art in the decoration of doors and other domestic items.Within old town you will also come across the first post office, the oldest Mosque and the first hotel in Kenya. The post office was used by the indiansresponsible for the railway line to send money back home. Other charms in old town are the antique, curio shops and fish market which depict the economic activities of the communities in old town;fishing and carpentry. A walk round old town can be wrapped up with grabbing a meal/drink at the Forodhani sea front restaurant. Relax and enjoy the palpitating pulse of the sea.

History lovers will be in awe at the uniqueness and richness of this place.

MOMBASA BUTTERFLY HOUSE.

The Mombasa Butterfly House is a butterfly park located in the grounds of Fort Jesus. The doors of the Mombasa Butterfly house were officially opened in 2012 as an exhibition centre for live butterflies.  The pupae of the insects are bought from a Kipepeo Project in Gede, Kilifi County.  “Kipepeo” is a Swahili term meaning butterflies. The Kipepeo project was initiated to enlighten communities living around the Arabuko Sokoke area on matters of conservation.

 “Initially, the communities around the forest were not keen on matters of conservation. They needed land for settlement and cultivation as a way to support their livelihood. As a result, they would cut down the trees in the forest for timber and settlement.” Says Mr. Salim, who is one of the guides at the Mombasa Butterfly House.

The Kipepeo Project changed the perspective of the communities and provided an alternative source of income and sustainable living; without destruction of the tropical forest- Butterfly farming. Currently, there are 700 butterfly farmers who collect and breed the insects from the forest for export of their pupae to Europe and the USA. The Arabuko Sokoke forest is home to about 260 butterfly species.

However, the main challenge for these farmers is that the Europe and USA market are seasonal. During Winter and Summer, the butterfly houses are closed because butterflies cannot withstand the extreme weather. Mombasa Butterfly house, which runs all year round, comes in to support the market in such situations  when the farmers have surplus pupae that cannot be exported.

The butterfly park showcases tropical butterflies and forests. It is an ideal space for nature lovers to visit, enjoy spotting butterflies and learn about the coastal biodiversity. A tour around the old town is not sufficient without popping into Mombasa Butterfly House. The best time to visit the museum is between 9 a.m and 12.00 pm.

Our visit had us learn a lot; from their metamorphosis (stages of development of butterflies), their feeding habits to their distinction in size, shape and colour. The lifespan of a butterfly is about 2weeks to a month.

Fun fact: Butterflies that feed on Nectar are stronger than those that feed on fruits.

To support the sustainability of the Mombasa Butterfly House Project, a visit attracts a fee of Ksh. 200. There is also a gift shop that has beautiful affordable souvenirs. Most of them are butterfly themed. Photoshoots by photographers and their models can also be done at Ksh. 500.

NGUUNI NATURE SANCTUARY.

Nguuni Nature Sanctuary is located in Bamburi area, Kiembeni. It houses Conservation programs supported by Bamburi Cement Limited, among them the Nguu Tatu Wildlife Sanctuary. Nguu Tatu is a Swahili term for three hills, hence the sanctuary is named after the three hills that overlook the area.

Lafarge Eco System’s Mission; is to rehabilitate the Bamburi quarries to showcase environmental responsibility while involving neighbouring communities and other stakeholders. Thus, they have taken part in different projects of The North, South, and Central Quarry, Vipingo and Nguu Tatu. These restorations have given birth to Forest Trails (Formerly North Quarry), Haller Park( Formerly South Quarry), Butterfly Pavillion, Breeding House and Reptile Park making them unique educational tour allures.

We headed to the Sanctuary in the evening for a sundowner experience. This is the perfect timing as the giraffes make their way to the picnic area for feeding and guests are allowed to feed them. Should this not entice you, this is also a bird-watching paradise that happens from 5:30-6:30 pm.

We were amused to glimpse at the giraffes roam freely, (never expected such an experience in Mombasa! You know! ) Quite frankly, we didn’t wait to get a brief from the tour guide. I can’t recall the number of times we were so near the giraffes making fun of them and recalling, should they take one foot forward we’d have had to take seven or so for us to be alive. Peep us running for our dear lives. Haha!

Our guide informed us that back in 1996 about 100 Maasai Ostriches were introduced in the sanctuary to diversify utilisation of the Nguuni Reserve.

This was a perfect time to learn about some fun facts about this flightless bird. If you don’t know; they have three stomachs, they secrete urine separately from faeces, are the fastest runners of any bird and this seems to be the only fact we knew of, people race each other on the back of ostriches with special saddles, reins and bits. Spot Cynthia’s little feet? Nelly’s self-belief is as much as the guy at the corner. “Can’t risk my life!”

Other animals in the sanctuary are; eland, oryx (these two have their own separate farms), waterbucks, more than 200 species of birds and hundreds of butterflies.

ACTIVITIES:

Picnic in the wild

Barbecue experience in the bandas.

Sundowner experience

Camping and Game Drives

Charges for Nguuni Sanctuary is Ksh 350 for residents Ksh 800 for non- residents.

We would like to appreciate Bamburi Cement for their tremendous work in turning quarries into ecological paradises. Slowly but surely, Sustainable Tourism is being achieved!

This is indeed a nice hideaway, tucked out of the hustle and bustle of Mombasa City! Looking forward to hearing about your experiences when you visit the place. Yes, to hidden gems?


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