Having hosted Vasco da Gama’s fleet in 1498, Malindi has been welcoming strangers ever since. It’s a bustling town that doesn’t quite have the architecture of Lamu or the easy-going charm of Watamu, but it makes up for it with several worthwhile historical sites, its own Marine National Park and some fantastic stretches of beach. Beloved by Italians – many of whom have settled here (particularly Sicilians back in the 1970s, allegedly fleeing from Interpol).
It is a melting pot of local cultures with a rich and fascinating history. Wander through the alleys of the atmospheric old town, dine on terrific Italian food beside the Indian Ocean or take a plunge into the crystal-clear waters of the national park, and you’ll discover for yourself that Malindi is quite the charmer.
The Marine National Park is an ideal day trip for divers and snorkellers alike. Northwest of Malindi is the spectacular Marafa Depression, locally known as Nyari and popularly known as Hell’s Kitchen. An extensive series of sandstone gorges and sheer gullies, this unique and otherworldly landscape has become part of local folklore.
The thick jungles of the Arabuko Sokoke Forest reserve hide a world of wonders. In the cool of the forest winding paths will take you in search of rare endemic birds and mammals, and visiting herds of Elephant. The forest holds another secret, the lost town of Gedi, a deserted trading Swahili town hidden deep in the forests, whose winding passages and crumbling walls tell of a long and mysterious past.
Sawa Sawa dhow excursions
Experience a full day trip on a Sawa Sawa – an authentic, hand-built East African dhow, made in Mozambique. Prepare for a fantastic day of sailing, exploring secluded malindi beach spots, snorkelling, a seafood lunch, and even a sundowner drink should you desire.
Visits to Marafa Hell’s Kitchen
The Marafa Depression is locally referred to as Nyari, ‘the place broken by itself. Temperatures can get to scorching levels during the day, hence the alias ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. The naturally shaped stone columns and shifting colours of this unusual sandstone mini-canyon was once the location for many ancient sacred rituals.
Local legend has it that there was once a town located in the depression. Now, worn away by wind, rain, and floods, the sandstone shows layer-cake-like colours of white, orange, deep crimson and pink. A visit to the gorge is particularly memorable at sunset when the hues are highlighted against the ribbed gullies of the sandstone.
Watamu Marine National Park
Watamu National Marine Park is Kenya’s first aqua-park. Featuring over 600 species of colourful fish and other sea creatures in addition to coral reefs and gardens, the marine park delivers an aquatic explosion of colour for the snorkelling enthusiast.
Your experience can extend above the water too; over 100 species of birds can be spotted along the shore in addition to turtles and dugongs. You also have the option of sunbathing on the untouched sandy beaches, or go water skiing or windsurfing
The Gedi ruins remain a mystery to archaeologists. Proving that ancient African society was intricate and advanced, the Gedi ruins have all the markings of an ancient cosmopolitan settlement. Thought to have been founded in the early 13th century.
Archaeologists have also found Ming Chinese vases at the site, along with Venetian glass and other artefacts from all over the world. Coral-brick houses, a palace and even an impressive mosque remain as clear evidence that the Muslim inhabitants of the coastal Kenyan town were worldly merchant traders who developed an incredible society; all of which has now been left in a ruinous state by time and climate.
The Falconry of Kenya
The Falconry of Kenya is a private zoo that offers visitors a chance to get close to a large collection of birds of prey and other animals. Discover creatures in their enclosures, including a 200-year-old tortoise, eagles, falcons, goshawks, owls and peckers.
In Malindi The Mida Creek is an impressive 20 mile (32 kilometre) inlet with wide beds of seagrass and coral. It hosts an expansive range of fish species and feeding sea turtles, and in the mangroves smaller streams and inlets provide a refuge for crabs and birdlife.
Mida is best explored by boat as you may even chance upon feeding flamingos. The creek is also an incredible kayaking destination due to the endless small channels and passages through the mangroves. The central broad water is also ideal for water skiing and wake boarding.
Along the shore, the Mida Creek Conservation Community runs a local crab farm and crab shack restaurant serving very popular dishes, including their famed crab samosas which can be enjoyed on the boardwalk and deck built over the mangroves with views across the creek. This is the perfect place for sun-downers.
‘Kipepeo’ is the Swahili word for butterfly. The Kipepeo Project showcases butterflies, moths and pupae as well as other live insects. It promotes and sells the honey and silk cloth produced by members of the local community. You can stop by for an encounter with these delicate creatures or just purchase some merchandise locally – Kenyan-made souvenirs.
Bio Ken Snake Park
The Bio-Ken Snake Park is primarily a research centre that studies reptiles; with a key focus on snakes and snake bites. The park houses the largest known collection of snakes in East Africa.
Watamu Turtle watch
Watamu Turtle Watch is a local wildlife reserve responsible for the protection of approximately 50 hawksbill and green turtles that lay their eggs on Watamu Beach. Stop by for an informative tour on these beautiful sea creatures and how the local community is involved in their conservation. The trust’s sea turtle rehabilitation centre treats injured or sick turtles. Once they are strong enough to be returned to the ocean, they are taken to the beach and released.