Zuru Kenya is a sophisticated, high quality, visually impacting travel, leisure and lifestyle Blog. We seek to raise the profile of Kenya by showcasing its diversity in cultures, tastes, wildlife, stunning landscapes and more!
Our passion for travel drives us to highlight what makes Kenya a top tourist destination (not only in Africa but worldwide) and the premier of wildlife safari. Our aim is to bring you relevant travel content that features Kenya's fascinating history and culture, her people, amazing sights & sounds and beautiful regions designed to aid you in planning and/or enjoying your trip to this beautiful country
2018 has started off on a high note for us and we’re delighted to announce that Zuru Kenya has been nominated in the Kenya Travel Awards 2018 by Jumia Travel! We’re up for Best Destination Website, and we’re pretty excited about it.
The awards aim at promoting Kenya’s tourism sector, and responds to the need of encouraging hoteliers to improve the quality of their services for further advancement of their respective destinations.
“By organizing these African Travel Awards, our mission is not only to recognize and reward the merit of local tourism stakeholders, but also to provide a credible benchmark for the African tourism industry,” said Joe Falter, CEO of Jumia Travel.
We’d be thrilled if you showed your support and voted for us. The process is straightforward and voting should take just a few minutes – all you will need to do is click the link, enter a few details and submit your vote. Anyone is welcome to vote, so please do feel free to share the link with your family and friends – it would be hugely appreciated! Plus Bonus! All voters will automatically be entered into the Awards’ prize draw, where you could win a stay in the winning hotel – oh my!
Voting closes on 26th January, with winners being feted at a ceremony which will be held on February 1st, at Fairmont the Norfolk from 6PM. In other Jumia Travel countries, the awards will be held simultaneously on the 25th of January; in Lagos, Algiers, Dakar, Abidjan, Accra, Douala, Dar es Salaam, and Kampala. Vote now!
“I go by Moses Obanda, a landscape and travel photographer with six years of experience. I enjoy reading books and obviously traveling. I’m a bit socially awkward but once I’m behind the camera, I can conquer the world. I have a bachelor’s degree in communication from Africa Nazarene University, graduated in 2014.”
Zuru Kenya: When did your love for Travel photography crop up and what exactly sparked it?
Obanda: When I was a second year student in campus. That’s when I realized my heart was in Travel Photography. Before that I was into a lot of pencil drawing but once I picked up the camera, I fell in love and was amazed by the fact that I could visually illustrate what I had in my mind.
How often do you travel?
I try to travel at least once a month. Worst case scenario, once every two months dependent on whether I have the money to travel.
Since getting into travel photography, are there any hurdles that you have encountered along the way?
I personally think that there are more hurdles in Travel Photography than in any other form of photography. For starters, it’s quite expensive. So there’s that. Then you might find yourself treading in dangerous and unsafe places just to get the perfect shot. There’s also the issue of security when travelling to remote areas and then of course the weather is always unpredictable! All that aside, when your heart is fully in it, these obstacles become just but miner details that make your journey and the outcome even more adventurous.
What kind of DSLR do you shoot with and do you always have a camera with you?
When am not shooting with a Nikon D5300, I have with me a Canon 6D. Yes, I always have a camera with me. It’s the most essential item for me; especially when I leave town.
Which of your photographs is your personal favorite and why (what’s the story behind the making of it?
I took this photo a while back when a couple of my friends and I had gone camping in Maasai Land. We stayed there for a week and on our last day while walking back from our hike; I spotted from a distance, a Maasai herding his cows on a hill. As I wanted to capture him and the hundreds of cows by his side, I started running towards him trying to get as close as I could for the perfect shot. Unfortunately, by the time I got a clear shot, only two cows were left standing beside him. Nonetheless I was lucky to have captured it the way I did; a perfectly balanced-out piece of art. I consider it one of my most priced images.
Your 3 favorite places to photograph so far and why?
My favorite places to photograph are Maasai land, Watamu and Amsterdam. These places not only have rich histories but also conducive environments to photograph. Locals here are also always welcome to a photograph or two.
The one place in Kenya you’d go back to over and over again?
The one place in Kenya that I would go again, is Maasai Land, I have actually gone there twice and am going again next year for another expedition.
Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
My inspiration is drawn from ‘creatives’ in general, not just photographers. Writers, poets, singers; people who chose to pursue their passion and are excelling at it. When it comes to photography however, I’m mostly inspired by fellow young budding photographers.
Individuals like Philip Kisia of Pelz photography & Annemiek Van Der Kuil to name a few, big names in their own right, successfully paving their own path in photography. I’m very appreciative of the fact that they are always at my disposal when it comes to feedback on my work and I can certainly attribute my growth to them.
My family and friends also inspire me a lot by way of their support. My sister Doreen makes a point to like every picture that I post and that gives me life.
What do you look out for as a result when taking your photos and how do you get your photos to speak that?
I always try to capture the mood of the situation and of the people in my focus. Portraying that moment to my audience – be it a moment engulfed in sadness, happiness or despair, that very instance in time, just how I see it, is what I strive to showcase.
What are a few tips you would give someone who wants to pursue travel photography?
Make certain that this is the path you truly want to follow; it will be quite a thrill – obstacles and all. Keep in mind that you also need to be open minded. Learn about other people’s cultures every chance you get and don’t worry about money too much. As cliché as it may sound, it’s not always about the money, when you want to do something and your intentions are right then it will all fall in place eventually.
What does your next year look like in terms of places you plan to visit, and why have you picked those as the first destinations?
I’m looking to visit more African countries, probably start with Zambia. Before that though, I intend on travelling to Turkana and the North Eastern part of Kenya; those are the only places in the country that I am yet to visit hence why they top my ‘places to go’ list for next year ( God willing of course!). I’m very much into African history and would love to simply explore the continent and learn more from its history.
Peak season is fast approaching. If you haven’t booked yet, Dennis Carruthers is happy to let you in on tips to help you navigate this beautiful country without breaking the bank.
#1. Don’t travel at peak season if you can avoid it.
So we know the mention of peak season would suggest that you get right on it and book your travel before you are left out of the action but to be honest, the best time to save money on travel to Kenya is off-season on the tourist calendar. The country has tropical climate throughout the year, so anytime goes. Unfortunately, this might also mean missing some engaging experiences. The peak season falls in mid June through October (The best time for safaris and the famous wildebeest migration takes place in July) and mid December to February.
#2. Travel with a group
Individual costs are higher when you travel solo. You will still pay the same for things such as taxi fares and guides. A shared tour also offers the advantage of shared costs. Service providers such as safari operators will still charge you for a dedicated guide and vehicle when you travel alone. You can save on the accommodation budget as well as meals when shared. Additionally, group tours carry more bargaining power even on the ground.
#3. Look for tour packages and special offers
Tour operators frequently run discounted campaigns and specially organized tour packages. Take advantage of these, as they are cheaper than standard rates. Expect minor sharing challenges. For example, a tour operator may decide to pack eight passengers in a van, the standard tour vehicle, instead of the usual six. This lowers the cost as you pay per seat and not for the whole car alone.
#4. Evaluate your accommodation options
Kenya offers excellent urban hotels such as the Intercontinental Hotel and the Nairobi Hilton alongside two and three-star establishments with elegant facilities and service. Additionally, there are numerous luxury camps and lodges, but since we are in the business of cost saving, why not book yourself a chic budget boutique hotel or better yet stay at a rental, shop at the farmer’s market, live like a local and save on your meal tab. Kenyans are also very hospitable people and if you are lucky, you might just land yourself a host for your stay – try couchsurfing. Feel free to also compare your dining options away from your accommodation.
#5. Plan your itinerary in advance
Which sights excite you the most? How do you want to get there and for how long? A layover of a few hours is different from a week’s safari. Some destinations require travel outside of the major cities e.g. Lamu, Maasai Mara Game Reserve, and so on; Batch together destinations within the same locality to maximize time and save on cost.
#6. Research pricing and costs in advance
Knowing the average price of key services will increase your confidence. In Kenya, you can bargain the prices on any product or service unless the provider firmly insists it is fixed, which is rare. Brush up on your bargaining and negotiating skills. For example, a day’s meals should cost you around a $10 or lower if you try local meals and double that for a day’s alcoholic drinks.
#7. Do as locals do
Hotel vans and tour operator services can get expensive. Although there is no government-run public transport system, locals use numerous alternatives. These include urban public transport vans, cross-country buses, and a revamped passenger rail service.
Things to note: The local currency is the Kenya shilling. One US dollar is roughly a hundred Kenya shillings.
About the author
D Scott Carruthers, a graduate of Western State University loves photography, exploratory travel and blogging about his adventures and journeys.
There’s only one thing better than an actual wildlife safari adventure, and that’s going through all your photographs on your return. Shooting photographs of wild animals is an art form and it can be extremely gratifying when you get extreme close ups of the big five or an action shot of a kill. Not only is it cool to boast to your friends about what you’ve seen, but you’ll have all these amazing memories of your trip to look back on forever.
Any African safari produces the perfect opportunity for memorable photo taking. Here are some photography tips for your next safari.
#1. Make Sure You Have The Right Gear
Having the right photographic gear while you’re on your safari is essential. You’ll want to capture a number of different shots, which will require a variety of lenses. You’ll also want to ensure that everything is easily accessible. If you don’t have a proper camera bag that fits your camera and gear, it would be a wise investment. Then you only need to remember to take one bag on the game vehicle with you and everything will be within reach. In your camera bag you’ll want to pack:
Lenses with lens covers or caps
Cables for instant transfer to your tablet or laptop
Camera cleaning equipment
#2. Zoom Lens Is A Must-Have
Make sure you have a great zoom lens on hand in order to capture shots that are further away from the vehicle than a standard lens can capture. You don’t want pixelated photos, but want to be able to enjoy every detail down to a lion’s whiskers. Anything from a 200mm to a 500mm is your most popular choice and is still manageable and easy to carry around.
#3. Pack Extra Batteries And Memory Cards
What could be worse than spotting an incredible sighting such as a leopard in a tree or a mother hyena feeding her young… and you realise that your memory card is full? Frantically trying to delete photos from your memory card could result in you deleting something worth keeping. A dead battery is the absolute worst and it’s totally avoidable. Ensure you have a spare, charged battery and memory card in your camera bag to avoid any missed shots.
#4. Use Your Guide’s Knowledge To Your Advantage
Your safari guide or ranger will have expert, intimate knowledge of the bush and will – in most cases – be able to tell when you’re about to encounter an animal. They can track animals from kilometers away and also hear or see them long before you do. Alert them to the fact that you’re seeking that elusive photograph and they can give you a heads up when the opportunity is approaching. They can also position the game vehicle favorably for your photographic benefit.
#5. Be Camera Ready At All Times
Make sure that the shutter speed and aperture are both ready and set for you to take photographs at will. Then when the moment arises, you simply need to perfect your composition, focus and snap the shot. If you’re not comfortable working with a manual setup then you can always set your camera to automatic and simply point and snap as and when you see the perfect moment.
#6. Avoid The Flash At Night
It sounds counter intuitive, but the flash can blind the animals temporarily, which can be really dangerous for prey and tame game. It also makes the animals eyes come out red or white in the photograph, which isn’t very appealing.
#7. Practice Before The Drive
Take a few practice shots before the drive at different angles and with the light coming from different directions. Make sure you’re happy with your setup and that you’re aware of how the direction of light and angle of the shot will affect your end product. The sun behind you will always produce the best shots, but isn’t always possible. Take full advantage when conditions are perfect and take as many photos as you can.
Of course you can always edit your photographs afterwards, but the best shots are those that require minimal tweaking.
Guest Post courtesy of TourRadar, an online marketplace for travelers to compare and book multi-day tours.
Nairobi is probably the most popular destination in Kenya, and with good reason. The city known as a place of cool waters is famous largely for blending the country’s largest urban area with the nature that brings so many tourists to this part of the world. As such, it’s known largely for outdoor attractions: the national park, the Uhuru Gardens, the giraffe center and elephant orphanage, and even some of the authentic markets. These are the main draws to the city.
If you happen to visit Nairobi, however, there’s always the chance that the weather will keep you indoors, or that you’ll simply be interested in breaking up your trip with a day away from nature exploration. In such a case it helps to know about the indoor attractions that are available, even in a city known largely for nature.
Banana Hill Art Gallery
Because there are so many natural wonders to enjoy in Kenya and the surrounding countries, some might be surprised to learn that this country is actually particularly well known for its numerous art galleries. The Banana Hill Art Gallery in Nairobi showcases the work of over 70 artists and sculptors largely from Kenya and the East African region. Having been opened some 11 years ago, the art gallery makes for an excellent exhibition of contemporary African art. Paintings and sculptures alike show off some of the best tendencies of artists from this part of the world, and make the gallery a perfect place to explore on a rainy day (or otherwise!).
Panari Sky Center Ice Skating
You don’t exactly think about ice rinks when you imagine a vacation to Kenya. Nevertheless, ice skating is very much an option, and can be a great change of pace from exploring the city and the surrounding country. Particularly if the weather is just getting a little too hot for you, you might want to duck in for a few hours of skating.
This is a casino just outside the main part of town that has it all: table games, slots, jackpots, roulette, etc. The slots in particular will be recognizable even if you’re not much of a casino person. This is because we’ve seen a lot of these slot games make a successful transition to smart devices, and therefore into mainstream gaming culture. At Finix, you’ll find some of these newest and most popular games, in addition to a generally festive atmosphere that’s always a nice break from the city. You don’t have to put much money down to enjoy the environment (and perhaps a few cocktails as well).
Nairobi National Museum
As stated, the area is known for a lot of art galleries. But the Nairobi National Museum is less of a painting exhibition or a demonstration of contemporary art, and more of a tribute to Kenya’s history. There are outdoor attractions (a hiking trail and botanical gardens) for nicer days, but if you’re looking to duck inside for a few hours there’s a lot of fascinating art and history to be enjoyed. You’ll find paintings, sculptures, artifacts, and explanations of numerous pieces significant to Nairobi and Kenya as a whole.
This is a restaurant in town, but a very unique one that international travelers in particular will enjoy. That’s because the menu is very authentic, offering African ingredients and preparations done to perfection. A lot of guests rave about the environment, which makes for an experience that is fun and intimate. It’s a terrific place for a bite to eat, and for a prolonged meal if you’re escaping the weather for a little bit or for any other reason.
Kenya actually has about as strong a reputation for beer as any place in Africa. Thanks to the famous Tusker Lager, one of just a few African beers that are well known outside of their home territories. It’s not uncommon to see pictures of tourists enjoying this beer, or even to run into people wearing Tusker shirts, having traveled to Kenya at one point or another. As a result of the much savored kenyan brew, the brewing scene in the country has garnered great recognition which has seen smaller more custom breweries crop up. All the more reason beer lovers will enjoy Brew Bistro; a place where one can enjoy a larger range of Kenyan beers in a clean, modern, miniature brewery. It’s a very fun option day and night, and a nice way to enjoy yourself indoors.
For a many reasons the enhancement of spiritual nourishment, self discipline and piety. We acknowledge that our lives are transformed for the better on account of the seclusion, simplicity, self reflection and introspection provided for by the holy month.
There’s no denying though that you can be a difficult month. We always start off enthusiastic – that doesn’t last long to be honest. Refraining from essentials of daily living is hard enough.
So when enthusiasts um, pass on impending travels to islamic populated regions (Kenyan Coast) during the holy month, it’s no offence to you.
You see, the experience is just not as it were outside of Ramadan.
The uber friendly, super generous hospitality that is the norm at the coast is not assured. You may on occasion, regrettably run-in with some grumpy locals who possibly will place blame for their wanting service and temper flaring on the rigours of saum. Understandably though, the searing temperatures at the coast can really do you in.
It is for this reason perhaps that some traders choose to close up shop the entirety of the holy month. City streets are pretty dull too. Did I mention that the savory Swahili delicacies that you’d be probably looking forward to indulge in don’t come by easy during the day? Basically if you choose to explore the coast during Ramadan, you are in essence committing to somewhat of a day travel fast yourself. That shouldn’t faze you though.
Come Iftar the meal after sunset to break the fast, everything comes to life.
Coastal people are very welcoming, giving you an opportunity to enjoy Iftar with different people for the duration of your stay. Street food selling, large feasts in restaurants, huge family parties and gatherings, increased mall shopping (Many restaurants and shopping malls tend to extend their hours at night to accommodate those who had been fasting during the day); night life at the coast is a buzz at Ramadan.
Whilst travel at Ramadan can be a daunting idea, with the reduced daytime activity and tourist traffic, it’s not that bad if you are resilient. Plus you get to enjoy Eid with the locals. What could be more rewarding than experiencing a different cultural perspective?
Whatever your experience nonetheless, either spiritual or travel wise. Ramadan, you have been good to us this year. Come back soon. Till then,
6.00 am – an hour to the designated pick up time, I heave a sigh of relief as I spot the very green, very modern shuttles while we approach the Mombasa Railway station. There had been stories of shuttles that would ferry passengers for free, week long after the train service launch. Pick up points would be the old Nairobi and Mombasa Railway stations. Scheduled pick up time – between 7.00 am to 8.00 am so as to allow passengers enough time to purchase their tickets at the Nairobi and Mombasa termini.
I decided to arrive an hour early just in case this shuttle business was just what it was – a story and I found myself having to organize for other means of transport to the Mombasa Terminus. Sure enough, the shuttles were there as promised, courtesy of the National Youth Service (NYS) although I highly doubt there were any shuttles left by 7.00am. I barely managed to catch the first shuttle out; it seems I wasn’t the only eager passenger.
Train travel has always been very alluring. It’s no wonder Kenyans have turned up in their thousands to sample the #MadarakaExpress for themselves since its launching. Took me back to my childhood days when holidaying meant travelling in a train. Had me wondering whether it would still feel the same as it did during the #LunaticExpress days. Sadly the only faint memory I have of the good old days was the splendid yellow long buns served in the train by the pantry boys. Those were some yummy buns.
The commencement of the train service has nonetheless not been without its tiny hitches. Those should be aired out soon enough though as service picks pace. This post however highlights observations, appreciations and tips that should serve to make the experience of other train enthusiasts seamless.
#1 The Madaraka Express Experience is a pretty sweet deal.
As if having cut down travel time by half doesn’t have you sold yet, the fare charges should have you travelling to and from coast over the weekend just coz you can afford to no?! *Although I can bet a mighty dollar that the fee is bound to go up soon enough.
Did I mention breakfast in Mombasa, lunch in Nairobi and vice versa? The train service is moreover going to provide a truly budget alternative to road transport once the sub-stations are fully functional and the trains operational.
#2 The pre-commute commute can be daunting.
Unless you live within the confines of Miritini or Syokimau, commuting to the respective terminus is inevitable. Reduce the amount of time and money spent on your pre-commute by staying within city limits of the termini.
PS. Traffic bound to be experienced to and from departure and arrival points beats the whole “convenience” of train travel time.
#3 No Signage
There is no signage to steer traffic towards the stations along the highway. I hopped into a syokimau matatu trusting that the conductor would be familiar with the terminus only to find myself at the syokimau railway station. Luckily I had enough time to spare so I walked all the way back to the Nairobi Terminus. If you are for that reason not quite familiar with the area keep in mind to be on the lookout for the station from a distance.
#4 African Timing for who?
If there ever was an invention that would help keep Kenyans in toe when it came to time keeping, this would be it. 9 O’clock sharp the train is off. If you are therefore of the African timing philosophy, you will definitely be left behind. Time waits for no man.
#5 Weekends are a rush
If you plan on travelling over the weekends, be sure to book your ticket early enough. There seems to be a plethora of people journeying to and from coast for whatever reason. Ticketing starts at 7.00 am, incase you’d rather still chance it up and book the day of, make it that you arrive early on, ticket queues start budding as early as 5.45am.
#6 Waiting rooms get crowded.
Given the number of passengers, the waiting lounge can get crowded pretty quick. The pros to booking train travel is that you can show up to the station within minutes of your train’s departure time, avoiding any uncomfortable waiting once the lounges are filled to capacity. Plus concern of being the first in line for a seat in the train is a non-issue.
#7 hit the dining car at the start of your adventure.
“The restaurant car is in coach 6. Kindly wait in your seat and someone will come and get your order shortly.”
Unless you can still sit tolerantly 3 hrs into the journey, the above announcement on rotation, with no food or person to get your order in site, darling find your way to coach 6 whilst the queue is still bearable and before all the café tables are taken. Hunger waits for no man. In my opinion, it seems the caterers are yet to adjust to the overwhelming number of mouths to feed in just one trip, so whilst others are still shuffling for their seats, sort yourself as early as possible. Food pricing is also not to everyone’s taste so if you can, carry your own snacks along.
#8 Game Drive, No park fees, Take in the sights.
Road transport robs you of the allure of long distance travel. More often than not, one would need to psyche themselves up for one tedious Nairobi – Mombasa journey. Train travel, however, has this thrill to it. 4 and a ½ hours in but boy does it pack a punch! A perfect blend of town and countryside, travelling through lush lands and savannah landscapes, in between small, quaint towns, through new construction and forgotten dilapidation, experiencing both rural and urban at one go, simply magical.
Did I say magical, how about a journey through Tsavo East and West National parks, Elephants and numerous other wildlife put in impressive appearances on your train safari. There goes that word again, magical! Perhaps the highlight of the Madaraka Express experience would be at Mtito Andei when the two trains – from Mombasa and Nairobi respectively – intersect and you get to witness just exactly how fast your own train is traversing because honestly when inside the train you barely notice that the train is moving fast paced if at all.
#9 There is Room to Roam
The Madaraka Express train doesn’t cramp your style. You are more than free to walk around and explore other parts of the train as opposed to being confined to an uncomfortable seat your entire trip. Heck, you can even change seats if you want to (although as I came to realize not everyone can be as kind-hearted).
#10 Ready to mingle?
Is it that hard to spark conversations while travelling by bus or is there just something in the train’s air? Perhaps it’s the natural proclivity to converse provided for by the seating arrangement or maybe it’s the pure fascination of the rail travel revolution that has everyone talking. Either way, Madaraka Express not only offers you the comfort of a good face to face conversation, it also guarantees you a new friend or two at the end of the journey.
There’s no denying that across stations, help desks, ticketing booths, uniforms, promotional material, security and overall train service, customers get a good feel of the value-focused attitude of the SGR brand. Unlike the Lunatic “Express“which travelled at a lazy-man’s jog with frequent breakdowns, the Madaraka train service gives a whole new meaning to express. SGR offers an irresistible sense of discovery, of adventure and finer aspects of travel and thrill that long-distance buses and even budget airlines cannot afford you.
Your first #MadarakaExpress Experience is guaranteed to be a memorable one but generally the notion is that you’re responsible for your own experience.
Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.
New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:
How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.
A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.
May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.
May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.
There are lots of things to expect once you land in Mombasa. Cultural diversity, a city rich in history, scenic beaches, a myriad of touristic destinations, warm people…
And then, there is the tuk-tuk.
There’s no missing the tuk-tuk.
Swiftly maneuvering the old city’s narrow cobbled and congested streets, the little sputtering three-wheeled motorized vehicle has undoubtedly become very symbolic of Mombasa. They are everywhere! A multitude of them!
Preferred for their compact size and swift maneuverability, tuk-tuks make wheezing around Mombasa such a breeze. Their ability to negotiate tight corners and park almost anywhere is perhaps one of the reasons that locals favor them as a short-distance mode of transport which allows for convenient door-to-door service. Tourists would especially enjoy the tuk-tuk experience with their small canopy and windowless body providing for full view of the scenic sites while enjoying a breezy ride through the city at a much lower cost.
This little three-wheeler with a capacity for three passengers (but just like a taxi, mostly boards one passenger at a time) has a little space at the back allocated for luggage and in case of bad weather, there’s a drop-down side flap that covers the windowless frame. You will also come to notice that tuk-tuks in Mombasa have a personality of their own, no two are the same. Well of course there are those drivers who prefer to stick with the tuk-tuks original outlook whereas others tend to get a bit more creative with their autos; tricking them out with bumpin’ speakers, flashing neon, graffiti amongst other forms of ‘bling’.
With the much expediency that tuk-tuks offer, why would anyone have a problem with them?
The tuk-tuk invasion if you like, has primarily been a thorn in the side of the county government for a while now with several attempts to steer them clear of some parts of the central business district having been futile. Not only are they noisy but they are also believed to be a major contributor to the congestion of the city’s main streets. Getting rid of them has however not been an easy feat. This is especially so when a large number of passengers utilize them to traverse from one point to another within the CBD itself.
Did I mention Noisy? Many residents tend to fume about the noise pollution and rightly so! The puttering noise that these hardy vehicles make is simply unbearable! Especially if you have to listen to it every second of every day bearing in mind that Mombasa city is not only a business area but also a residential area that houses a large number of locals. Sound proofing makes for a good investment if one resides within the city.
In case you are yet to embark on your own tuk-tuk experience within Mombasa city, we’ve listed some tips below to help smooth along your first encounter.
Things to note:
Don’t just board and pay at your drop-off point.
Have you ever boarded a tuk-tuk only to be asked to pay an outrageous amount upon alighting?
Unless you are aware of the tuk tuk fare, do not attempt the “board and pay later” tactic. As you will learn fast, locals have a way of sniffing non-locals so to be safe, always settle on the fare before you climb aboard, otherwise you will find yourself having to shell out a hefty charge at your destination. Please note that some drivers will tend to note give out the rate firsthand after you ask, responding with “just get in” instead. Be persistent and ask again until they respond with a satisfactory rate.
Familiarize yourself with route fares.
Find out the local rates before hailing a tuk-tuk. It shouldn’t be so difficult to realize the appropriate price by asking the locals – of course some of them will give you rates above the norm but mostly you should be able to get the correct price point. Be careful not to ask the driver the distance or duration of the destination, if they see that you are new to the area they will definitely lie and overcharge you for a distance that you may not have needed to get a tuk-tuk in the first place to get there. It’s also good to note that the locals of Mombasa are majorly friendly and readily willing to assist (unless of course for some elements whom I can neither confirm nor deny to be native locals), so plenty of times responses given should be pretty legit.
Its ok to negotiate!
Familiarizing yourself with the price-points gives you a good advantage at bargaining where you can easily talk the drivers down to a certain level that is satisfactory to both of you. It’s also okay to walk away if you feel the fare is super high. There are plenty of tuk-tuks lined up so if one driver doesn’t budge another one will.
Where to hail a tuk-tuk?
Certainly, not in front of a fancy restaurant or resort I can tell you that much. Some tuk-tuk drivers have a habit of sizing people up and if they pick you up at a somewhat upscale location then that is some extra change for them. If you intend on using a tuk-tuk and are staying at a hotel, do not let the driver pick you up from the hotel’s entrance instead walk to the main road which shouldn’t be very far away. This will give you a better chance of striking a good bargain.
There’s one thing in Mombasa that highly differs from Nairobi and probably other cities and towns, locals familiarize themselves with places and not street addresses. Do not expect an accurate response when you ask for Moi Avenue, Haille selassie, Nkurumah road, Nyerere Avenue or even Tom Mboya Street only a people few can pin-point that out for you if you are lucky. Instead ask for Ambalal, Posta, Nawal centre, Fort Jesus, Ferry and so on…
It is therefore more convenient to tell the tuk-tuk driver the name of the place you are going to instead of the address. The drivers have familiarized themselves with most of the hotels, touristic attractions, market places, office buildings and so on. If you give them the address, you will definitely get lost. That’s a guarantee!
Enjoy your ride!
Once you’ve gained the confidence and are now familiar with the tuk-tuk ways, just hop on, tell the driver where you want to go, give the fare and hop off. It’s that simple. We do not however promise you of a smooth ride all the time; some streets tend to be bumpy, sometimes with potholes and never ending stream of pedestrians. Just hold on tight when the tuk-tuk bounces from one lane to another as some drivers tend to be oblivious of the fact that they have passengers on board.