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The Entrance to an Ancient Harbour

on Wednesday, 10 November 2010. Posted in Mombasa

The Entrance to an Ancient Harbour

Mombasa Island (a 15 square kilomtere coral outcrop) has two ports. The modern Port Reitz in Kilindini is located on the southern side of the island and services the majority of modern ocean going vessels. By far the older and more historic port is that of the 'old harbour', more recently named Port Tudor after the British Royal Navy captain who surveyed the area. Tudior Creek is the name of the channel seperating the northern side of Mombasa from the northern mainland.

The 'old harbour' is a natural deep water port - sheltered from the prevailing winds, and ocean waves - a calm harbour for vessels over thousands of years, and remains operational to this day - mainly serving some of the larger 'jahazi' dhows, as well as coastal reefers.

Due to the reliable monsoon 'trade-winds' powering vessels up and down the East African coast - natural harbours became areas of great importance, Mombasa being no exception, with records of this harbour going back some 2,500 years.

View of Mombasa old harbour entrance from Fort JesusIn 1498, Vasco da Gama (on a mission set by King Don Manuel of Portugal to find a sea-route to India) arrived in Mombasa with his fleet of four Portugese warships. This 'discovery' of Mombasa by the first European would lead to 500 years of turbulence and war for Mombasa. In 1593, the Portugese built a fort to guard the harbour mouth in order to protect Portugese trade and military ships.

Fort Jesus stands guard to this day - and is an unmissable monument towering over vessels that glide through the harbour waters.

A visit to Fort Jesus, or to English Point on the northern mainland, gives a great view across the harbour mouth. Not much imagination is required to conjure up a sense of the immense history of this small waterway - and what myriad of untold stories have taken place here.

Ship passing Fort Jesus, Mombasa

Ngalawa passing Fort Jesus, Mombasa

Sunset over Fort Jesus, Mombasa

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