Matador community expert Nikole MacGregor recommends these five spots in Mombasa, Kenya.
I’VE LIVED IN MOMBASA for almost five years, working with non-profit organizations. When I need to tear up the dance floor, or my husband needs his Tusker beer fix, these are the clubs we go to.
This European-owned nightclub is about 20km north of Mombasa City in Mtwapa, a small, expat-infested community obsessed with partying and drinking beers at all hours of the day. Casaurina is just as packed on a Tuesday night as a Saturday.
Get a table in the raised section on the left side of the club. Here the tables are tall enough that you won’t knock them with your knees — and spill everyone’s drinks — whenever you sit down, and you have a great view of the dance floor.
This is one of the biggest ‘pick-up’ clubs for old Europeans and young Kenyans. Be prepared to see white, wrinkly hands groping the butt cheeks of sexy, seemingly under-aged young ladies.
Before 11pm, the DJ plays tacky 80’s music. But when the night starts hotting up, he plays a fun mixture of local Kenyan tunes, dance music from other parts of Africa, and tons of Rihanna.
Drunken locals (of both sexes) will try and seduce you on the dance floor. You have two options: turn your back and dance closer to your friends, or join in by playing a light-hearted game of cat and mouse on the dance floor. You are the mouse.
Cover: 100 KES on an ordinary night. 250 KES if there is a special event. (1 KES ~ 1 cent.)
Contact: +254 0734872968 / [email protected]
Location: In Mtwapa. Heading north on the Mombasa-Malindi road, it is on the right side of the road just after the Mtwapa Bridge.
2. Bango at Naiz
On Wednesday nights, the legendary Mzee Ngala and his band play bango at Naiz, also in Mtwapa. Bango was created by Ngala himself, and has become a local anthem for the coastal people. At first, the music sounds a little disjointed, and it’s hard to make out a smooth melody. But give it a couple minutes and you will begin to feel the trumpets, saxophone, bongos, keyboard, and male voices all come together.
Bango comes with a very specific dance style. It’s easy.
Bango comes with a very specific dance style. It’s easy. Take a step to your right and then pop your right butt cheek to the back slightly. Do not pop it out to the side and don’t bend your torso forward. Then take a step to the left and pop back your left butt cheek. Step and pop, step and pop, step and pop.
The music is quite slow so you should be able to keep the beat. You can mix it up a little by stepping backwards or forwards or slowly turning around. You can hang your arms to the side or bend them at the waist. But all the movement should be in the hips and the butt. You dance alone, not touching anyone, but you can dance beside or across from your partner.
The songs all sound pretty similar to me, so it’s hard to know when one song ends and the next begins. I tend to steer clear of asking anyone to dance, so I can avoid the awkwardness of trying to figure out when the song ends and it’s appropriate to go sit down.
If the step and pop isn’t working out, don’t worry. The band does take long breaks throughout the evening to down a few beers. In the meantime, the in-house DJ plays the hottest tunes and, of course, lots of Rihanna.
Location: Across from Casaurina in Mtwapa, along the Mombasa-Malindi Road.
Your taxi driver picks you up at the hotel. You tell him you want to go to Bob’s. He knows exactly where you mean. As you enter the gates of the small parking lot for that mall you were at earlier in the day, you remind the driver that you want to go to Bob’s, not shopping again. “Madam,” he says, looking confused, “This is Bob’s.”
The small parking lot has turned into a cozy, sophisticated-seeming club. Warm lights bounce off the brown canvas tents sheltering the round bar tables beneath. Middle class Kenyans are drinking cocktails and wine and discussing the latest in technology, business, travel, and politics. If you’re lucky, a group might ask you to join their table.
The warm-up act is a local band, serenading the crowd on the sidewalk with some laid-back soft rock. Around midnight the DJ takes over and the transition from retail parking lot to dance floor is complete. Dance under the stars to local mega hits like Kigeugeu, or Nigeria’s notorious Ashawo. Don’t worry — the DJ will play Top 40 hits too, including Kenya’s beloved Rihanna.
Bob’s is also home to Mombasa’s first ice bar. This may sound appealing in Mombasa’s barely breathable heat, but the only thing icy about it is the air-conditioning. The drinks are just as cold outside in the parking lot as they are inside the ice bar.
Cover: 100 KES.
Contact: +254 721542953
Location: In the shopping complex on Links road across the street from Nakumatt City mall.
4. Big Tree
Bring a buddy to this beachside disco, preferably one of the opposite sex. Like Casaurina, Big Tree is one of Mombasa’s biggest ‘pick-up’ clubs, and the scantily clad young ladies can be aggressive in their pursuit of a white man to be their sugar daddy. If eye contact and winking don’t work, expect an opener along the lines of, “You look a little lonely over there, big guy, shall I join you?” And if that doesn’t get your attention, the next stage is full-on booty insertion and body-grinding in your personal space.
There are plenty of young beach boys with Bob Marley dread locks just waiting to make you feel like the most precious gem along the Indian Ocean.
Ladies don’t escape without pursuit, either. There are plenty of young beach boys with Bob Marley dread locks just waiting to make you feel like the most precious gem along the Indian Ocean. That’s why it’s necessary to have a friend, preferably one that will give off the impression you are taken.
Big Tree’s large beachfront patio sticks out onto Pirates beach, the most popular public beach in Mombasa. Sunday is beach day for the locals who skip church, and after a day in the sun, the crowd moves into Big Tree and creates a booming Sunday night. The dance floor is packed with hyper, barefooted Kenyans getting their groove on to the latest hits in the country and worldwide.
Sitting right on the beach is beautiful, but the service is terrible. The closer you sit to the bar or the kitchen, the faster you will be served. We sometimes order three rounds of drinks at the same time so we don’t have to keep summoning the waiter over.
Cover: 100 KES
Contact: +254 727227420 / [email protected]
Location: Head north on the Mombasa-Malindi road. Soon after the Bamburi Cement factory, you will see a Big Tree sign on the left side of the road. Turn right and follow the dirt road. Big tree is located at the very end of the road.
5. Il Covo
Il Covo is like a flashback to a high school house party. The downstairs is a lovely family restaurant with some of my favorite Italian food in Mombasa. The disco upstairs resembles a large living room, with framed photos of all things Italian covering the walls, arched ceilings guiding you to the bathrooms and lounge areas, and old fashioned curtains covering the windows. The bar is a small counter in the corner with a couple of beer fridges, and the DJ plays on a small table right beside the bartender. Balloons and Christmas lights are strung across the ceiling for decoration.
The club attracts a variety of Mombasa cliques and is an especially big hit with the local Indian population. The upside of this is that there are fewer predators sharking the dance floor. The downside is that you will likely get a drink spilled down your back while being pushed around the overcrowded dance floor.
Almost every weekend, a new local or international DJ plays in the club. The music is bass-heavy and tends more towards techno than other clubs in Mombasa. But fear not, you are still sure to get a good dose of Rihanna.
Cover: 300 KES
Contact: +254 725452686 / @IL_COVO
Location: Bamburi Beach, Mombasa. Head north on the Mombasa-Malindi road and turn right at the Kahama Hotel. Drive down the dirt road, past Kenya Bay Beach Resort, and you will find the gates to Il Covo.