Malindi is situated 120 kms northeast of Mombasa and is an interesting mix between a historic Swahili town and a modern holiday centre. Located on Malindi Bay at the mouth of the Galana River, the largest urban centre in Kilifi County is nowadays the most northerly of Kenya’s main coastal resorts. It has been developed to cater for both local and foreign tourism, with Italy and Germany being particularly important markets. Its lively hotels and bars mean it is well set up for the hedonist on holiday.
Malindi is an ancient Swahili trading port that fell under Portuguese influence in the 16th century. At the harbour stands the Vasco Da Gama pillar, a cross carved from Lisbon stone, which was erected by the pioneering Portuguese explorer, after he landed at Malindi in 1498, for navigational purposes. In Malindi lies the charming old town and it’s narrow alleys, wooden carved balconies, 17th century architecture and old houses that are still lived in for centuries.
The Juma’a Mosque (reputedly built on the site where slaves were auctioned weekly until 1873) stands alongside a pair of 15th-century pillar tombs of a type unique to the Swahili Coast. Opposite this lies the Malindi Tourist Market, one of Kenya’s best spots for talented craftsmanship displaying, leather, bead work, paintings, carvings and unique crafts that would be worth your time to browse through over 50 stalls.
On the waterfront, opposite the main jetty, the Malindi Museum is displaying several rare wooden totems as erected by the Gobu subtribe of the Mijikenda, housed in a colonnaded three-storey building that started life as an Indian trading centre in 1891. Further on stands East Africa’s oldest church, the small Portuguese Chapel of St Francis Xavier, built in 1542 and surrounded by a small but very old cemetery.
The Mnarani National Monument is a Swahili ruin notable for its 13th-century pillar tombs and a pair of mosques inscribed in a mysterious Arabic script known elsewhere only from one site in Tanzania. Reached via a steep flight of 104 stairs, the monument is shaded by a giant baobab claimed to be 800 years old and the largest tree of its type in Kenya.
In the North of Malindi, lies the Sabaki River Estuary, the last segment of the Athi-Galana-Sabaki River, one of the longest rivers in Kenya. The estuary itself covers an area of about six kilometres and has sandbanks, mudbanks, dunes and seasonal and permanent freshwater pools, mangroves and scrub. The mouth of the Sabaki River offers a rich diversity of bird species, including many rarities and spectacular numbers of gulls and terns.
In the South, the Malindi Marine National Park forms a continuous protected coastal area ideal spot for divers and snorkellers alike. Africa’s oldest marine reserve, Malindi Marine National Reserve protects 213 km2 of offshore reefs and open water, running south from Malindi to Mida Creek. The park is endowed with magnificent resources such as fringing reefs, coral gardens in the lagoons, sea grass beds, mangroves, mudflats, marine mammals, turtles and various species of shorebirds. Visitors can also enjoy glass bottom boat rides, snorkelling, camping and beach walks in this veritable paradise.
35 kms northwest of Malindi is the spectacular Marafa Depression. Known locally as Nyari - “the place broken by itself” - it was once a great sandstone ridge worn by wind, rain, and floods into a series of jagged gorges. The layer-cake colours of the sandstone reveal whites, pinks, oranges, and deep crimsons, making the gorge particularly striki
Well served with its domestic airport and highways, the coastal town of Malindi is the place to stop during your travelling between Mombasa and Lamu.