Head to Mombasa with Qatar Airways for a winter sun destination that has everything from culture and sightseeing, to safari, beaches and wildlife…
There’s something about Mombasa that has always made us want to visit. A melting pot of cultures and languages from all round the globe, this is a travel destination that thrives on having so much to offer. An exotic hub of culture, hot weather and natural beauty, it sits on the Eastern coastline of Kenya, bordering the Indian Ocean which makes it a popular destination for beaches and exploring its rich marine life. Mombasa is a tropical haven that is a far cry from its capital Nairobi, a slightly indolent hub it will draw you in and enrich every moment you spend there. Nature flourishes, the sun shines and the safari scene is unmissable. Here is what happened on our recent trip to Mombasa with Qatar Airways and just why you need to visit for a dose of winter sun…
To get there
We flew with Qatar Airways to celebrate their inaugural route from London to Mombasa – and would recommend you do the same. Qatar Airways now fly to over 160 destinations, their most recent addition being Mombasa in Kenya; a direct flight from Doha international airport now makes it all too easy to soak up that winter sun.
An upgrade to business class is definitely worth the extra cost, not only for on board the plane but the integrated travel experience including priority boarding and access into the exceptional airport lounge. From the very outset my treatment in Qatar’s hands was superb, I cannot emphasise enough how attentive and friendly all the staff were on all four of my flights; my every whim was tended to and I was waited on hand and foot.
As for the business class carriage of the plane, it entirely lived up to, and in many ways exceeded my expectations; the individual booths offer a level of comfort you wouldn’t have dreamt possible on a plane. The seats are large, fully adjustable to your personal preference and of course completely recline to make a very comfortable bed! Being able to sleep on a plane is one thing but to actually have a good night’s sleep on a plane is an entirely different ball game, and Qatar have nailed it. I woke up feeling refreshed with no horrible crick in my neck! Even the little extras you come to expect on long haul flights were on a different level including a Brics travel case full of luxurious products for the long journey and even ‘The White Company’ Pyjama set. Qatar’s dining service, and I call it dining service because it is like being in a restaurant, is outstanding. The menu accommodates a variety of dietary requirements and the wide range of food is excellent in both taste and presentation.
There is still a level of the unknown regarding Mombasa as a travel destination and it truly is a place that should be more widely known as a holiday destination because it truly has so much to offer; towns steeped in African history and culture, beautiful white sandy beaches, mountains, lakes, rainforest and of course the magical African savannah. With over 40 national parks and reserves, including 6 marine reserves, anyone with an interest in the natural world will be well catered for.
Our first stop on the tour was Sarova Whitesands Hotel, only a short 40 minute journey from the airport. The hotel has stunning views of the ocean and a seemingly endless stretch of silky white sandy beach. The hotel boasts two beautiful pools, a children’s pool complete with a flume as well as an adults only pool, perfect for when you need a little break from the kids. The Hotel is large and has many places to chill out besides your room, various open seating areas both inside and out all with a vibrant ambience perfect for families, couples or friends. The rooms are light, spacious and you can choose whether you would like a pool, garden or sea view.
A restorative night’s sleep in a plush double bed at Sarova Whitesands Hotel paved way for for the next activity on the agenda, – a historical day trip to Fort Jesu. This is a site filled with beautiful architecture and a fascinating tale to match, told by a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide who gave us an in depth history of how the Portuguese were ousted from the premises during a long siege by the Omani naval and land forces. From here we took a walk through the old town of Mombasa, this charming area of the city was filled with gorgeous, slightly dilapidated, old colourful houses and our guide filled us in on yet more cultural heritage. There are some local shops if you wish to get a few authentic souvenirs and it’s safe to say my luggage weighed much more on the return journey.
The second half of the day was spent at the sister Hotel of Serova Whitesands – Serena Beach a mere 20 minute journey further down the coast. Serena beach is more of an adult hotel suited to couples or friends as they limit the number of children so it doesn’t become overrun. There is a superb 5 star a la carte restaurant with an outlook over the beach which served the most sublime seafood, freshly caught and cooked to perfection. To truly make the most of the glorious sunshine and crystal clear waters I would recommend taking a trip out on one of the catamarans – the warm salty sea air does absolute wonders to cure those winter blues. There are also paddle boards and pedalo’s to hire for those just wanting a quick paddle about on the water. For those of wish for a gym session whilst on holiday there is a fully equipped onsite gym and for those those who like to fully unwind and relax there is a fabulous spa set in a quiet, tranquil part of the hotel which offers a wide range of treatments.
The hotel is also responsible for running a turtle conservation effort, they are very passionate about the project and ensure the utmost is done to make sure as many baby turtles as possible make it to the ocean after hatching. Sadly we didn’t get to see the turtles as the eggs weren’t due to hatch for another month or so – I was informed that mid January to mid February is the best chance to witness a hatching.
The following morning the day began at Haller Park nature trail which gave us our first taste of the wild. Monkeys roamed through the park as well as giant tortoises; one of which was over 150 years old. The other animals the park has to offer include, giraffes, hippos, crocodiles and the emblem for Qatar airways, the elegant Oryx.
The next leg of the journey took care of one of the top activities on my bucket list, a safari tour. Our next accommodation was Aruba Lodge, which is located in the heart of Tsavo National park, so the Safari tour began en route – one of the most impressive Hotel entrances we’ve ever seen! There isn’t anything that can quite prepare you for just how intoxicating safaris are, once you get your first taste it always leaves you wanting just a little bit more. There is not much that beats getting up close and personal with the likes of cheetahs, elephants and giraffes just to name a few. Watching nature documentaries at home doesn’t even come close to seeing the real deal, it’s truly mesmerising. I could have spent an eternity just watching the cheetah’s relax and play whilst shading from the midday heat but sadly the sun had to set at some point.
The Aruba Lodge is completely out in the sticks making you feel truly immersed in the surroundings, the rooms are simplistic but clean and comfortable. They are harmonious with natural surroundings, with vibrant African touches throughout making them even more charming. The whole feel of the place captures the essence of being in the heart of the savannah which is compounded through the scurrying feet of many tiny colourful geckos and birds and of course more monkeys. One of the lodges greatest features is the presence of a watering hole right on the doorstep, renowned for attracting herds of elephants, sadly due to the rain we didn’t have the pleasure of witnessing this first hand.
As the evening drew in we were treated to a sundowner mocktail, complete with campfire, set far enough away from the lodge that you felt devoid of any modern distractions, so you can simply admire the splendour of the sun setting over the savannah. With a drink in hand and delicious appetisers to get the evening started I knew I was in for a magical experience. The next morning we were offered the same service over breakfast, and again the 360 degree views did not disappoint.
Already starting to feel sad about the prospect of leaving such a wonderful vibrant country, I was not prepared for the pick-me-up in the form of Medina Palms Resort.The last stop on our jam packed tour and although I thought it impossible, it made me fall in love with Kenya more than ever. Medina Palms is a beach resort comprised of various exquisite villas and the spacious 3 story villa in which we stayed has everything you could possibly need for a holiday. The design of the villas is light, airy and with clean lines making it absolutely beautiful; The ground floor comprised of a fully equipped kitchen, a large lounge/diner and the master bedroom. The middle floors had two large bedrooms with en suites and the roof had a Jacuzzi, sun lounger area, dining area and chill out area complete with comfy sofas. The hotel boasts the most amazing pools I’ve ever seen – three pools all linked together with an infinity pool at the end with a gorgeous view of the ocean, I could have gazed out to sea forever. They have their very own beach bar offering a delicious range of drinks and there was nothing better than relaxing on the beach with an ice cold mojito in hand. The dining experience at Medina Palms is superb with utterly divine food as well as service and friendliness of the staff which goes above and beyond.
It was with a heavy heart that I packed my suitcase the next morning to head back to the airport for our Qatar flight back to the UK. Mombasa had opened my eyes to what a diverse and beautiful destination it is for not just a safari break, but for so many other types of holiday too. It’s a destination you can make what you want out of and you are guaranteed an unforgettable experience. Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach break, a cultured and historical trip, to be at one with nature at a safari, or a bit of everything, you will find just what you are looking for.
Book your flight to Mombasa Kenya here.
Flights from London Heathrow to Mombasa via Doha.
Economy – £698
Business – £2,919
We were invited to enjoy our Mombasa trip by Qatar Airways – however all opinions are our own.