Some companies now offer holidays that combine the glorious beach life of the Kenyan coast with a short cruise from Mombasa to Zanzibar. These are designed to give a taste of the pleasure of life at sea and a fascinating glimpse of East Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Mombasa has a very long history; Roman, Arabic and East Asian seafarers sheltered in its fine natural harbour. For centuries the Old town saw bloody battles between the Portuguese and the Omani Arabs following the Portuguese seizure of the city in an attempt to break the Arab monopoly of the lucrative spice trade. Modern Mombasa, despite its turbulent history, is a fine city, and, with its laid - back Swahili culture, a relaxing one.
Simply the name conjures up exotic fairytale images, and Zanzibar in reality is a bewitching place. This fertile tropical island is clothed in spice plantations and ringed by picture - postcard beaches and perfect blue waters. The capital, Stone Town, is steeped in history; it is a maze of narrow winding lanes and hidden courtyards, minarets and mysterious, massive closed doors. Zanzibar, under the rule of the Omani Arabs, who moved their capital from Muscat, was the world's most important clove supplier. Now, though the sultans and slaves have gone, the spices remain.
Most cruises sail from Mombasa in the afternoon and, after a night on board, provide a tour of the island, visiting Stone Town and a clove plantation. The journey back to Mombasa may allow a day on the tiny coral islet of Misali, off the coast of Pemba, Zanzibar's northern neighbour. This is a marine haven, with idyllic beaches and fascinating nature trails.
WHEN TO GO
June to October
TIME IT TAKES
Three or four nights
Mombasa's Fort Jesus and its museum are a must for anyone interested in the history of East Africa.
Misali is home to numerous species including flying foxes, rare monkeys and turtles.
Stone Town's alleyways, intricate balconies, coffee sellers and the market, full of colour, scent and noise.
The traditional music of Zanzibar is a vibrant mix of African, Arabic and Indian sounds.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Both Mombasa and Zanzibart are Muslim cultures; respect the dress code.
Stone Town has a reputation for robberies so be careful in empty streets.
Queen's lead singer Freddy Mercury was born in Stone Town, Tanzania.