Beach at Mombasa, Kenya 


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We have 100s of photos from ATA's 30th World Congress and tours, plus photo stories of world famous athletes such as Dr. Kipchoge Keino, head of Kenya's National Olympic Committee. Details . Advertise




Mombasa's Magical Sands and Sparkling Sea
Part One - by Jerry W. Bird

When the time came to choose a razzle dazzle, upbeat photo for the cover of Africa Travel Magazine's 30th World Congress Edition, the Kenya Coast fishing scene won hands down. In our vocabulary, it was a keeper! Talk about sensual appeal - one glance and you can smell the salty air, feel the rocking of the wooden dhow, the sun's warm rays and the kiss of a gentle sea breeze on your face. Quick now! Can't you just savor the steamy, succulent red lobster, fresh from the Indian Ocean. In the theater of the mind, that magical scene alone was sufficient bait for us to take off on what became an unforgettable visit to Mombasa. As it turned out many of our wishes and dreams for a pleasant, laid back coastal paradise were fulfilled. Kenya's Minister of Tourism and Wildlife, Hon. Morris Dzoro comes from the area, and informed us of his ministry's far reaching plans for Mombasa itself and other coastal centers. We would also be fortunate in spending some quality time with the Mombasa and Coast Tourism Association and many of its members individually.

From Nairobi by Rail
Despite daily flights from Nairobi to the Coast, we chose to follow tradition by booking a trip on Kenya Railways, once the pride of the British Commonwealth. Since launching the travel series Railways of the World in 1989, I have taken every opportunity to add to my treasury of rail travel experiences in Africa, from Morocco to Cape Town.

Next to the Nairobi Station is a railway museum that contains all the secrets of this historic route, and outside in the yard are some living examples of the original steam engines and coaches that carried passengers across East Africa in their heyday. A large, ornate clock from the period with Roman numerals adorns the museum's outer wall. We bought a book that tells of the railway's birth, when it was known as the Uganda Railway and built using a seemingly endless supply of labor from Imperial India. There are blood-curdling tales of how hungry lions preyed on the workers and at one time seized a railway manager right off the train. The museum is open daily from 8.45 am to 6.45 p.m., including most public holidays. Besides the collection of steam locomotives and rolling stock, you will find many smaller exhibits and models on display. Since the Museum in Nairobi is still rail-connected, restored locomotives have easy access to the main line for working steam excursions.

The Coastal Route
Talk about a convenient schedule with overnight accommodation as a bonus, this is it. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the train departs Kenya Railways Nairobi Station at 7 p.m. and arrives in Mombasa at 8 am the next morning. The return trip is scheduled every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at a similar departure time. We were delighted with the low fares. For example, a private, first class coach room is only 3160 Kenya shillings ($42 US) per person sharing; this include upper and lower berths, a toilet, clothes closet and sink. The rail package also includes dinner and breakfast.

One of the first things we learned is that the Kenya Railway runs on time. Shortly after our train pulled away from Nairobi Station, the dinner gong sounded and we joined the other passengers in the dining car. To our surprise, the metal dinner plates and white linen table cloths so common in Colonial times were still in use. No soda pop, peanuts or cold ham sandwiches for us. While both full course meals served aboard the train are included in the price, there is a reasonable charge for wine, beer or spirits. The dining car passengers were varied, some young girls at the opposite table were from Iceland visiting Africa for the first time; another guest whom we enjoyed talking to was a 90 year old many from Malindi, who was a Kenya Railway official back in the 1940s, We plan to visit him and listen to some great railway stories on our return to the coast, perhaps this fall. The view we observed during the evening meal was of Nairobi's outskirts, however the most memorable vistas along on the historic line went unseen, as the train passed through Tsavo National Park and other scenic areas while the passengers were tucked away in their cozy bunk beds.

We were lulled to sleep in no time by the train's vibration, with the rhythm of the wheels and a fresh breeze coming in from the open window. For added convenience, we had adjoining coaches, each with an, upper and lower berth. It's an ideal arrangement for families with small children. As a rail travel enthusiast I am watching the news carefully as talk of an impending sale is taking place. Someday soon, perhaps this coming year, a wise entrepreneur will discover the value of rail as a tourist attraction, His group will not only upgrade the services, food and facilities, but will add a day time schedule like the Rocky Mountaineer did in Western Canada. Its founder Peter Armstrong, a former bellhop, captured a segment of the Japanese market that no one had even considered at the time. Another great entrepreneurial example is Rohan Vos of Rovos Rail in Pretoria.


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Kenya Stars Shine in our next 4 issues!

Read about Kenya's famous Olympic Athletes of the Century from our meeting with Dr. Kipchoge Keino, head of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya. Other interviews included Tourism Ministry and KTB officials, of Kenya Airways CEO , African Airlines Assn, Kenya Chamber of Commerce, Kenya Tour Operators Assn, Utalii College, East Africa Wildlife Society, Kenya Travel Agents Assn, Great East Africa Auto Rally, Mombasa and Coast Tourist Asson, plus many hoteliers, travel agents, embassies and tour operators. Details


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