Part bustling coastal centre, part historic Swahili settlement and part sleepy, laid-back beach resort, Malindi is Kenya’s second largest coastal town after Mombasa. It sits approximately half way down the Kenyan coast, close to the mouth of the Sabaki River, 120 kilometres north of Mombasa and 130 kilometres south of Lamu.
Malindi Town Centre
Among Malindi’s main attractions are its beautiful white-sand beaches and the Malindi Marine National Park & Reserve – this, the oldest marine park in Kenya, covers 213 square kilometres of ocean and shore – with abundant brilliantly-colourful fish, organ-pipe coral, green sea-turtles and beds of Thalassia seagrass.
Malindi Marine Park
Visitors can also enjoy glass-bottomed boat rides, snorkelling on the coral reef, surfing, PADI diving and other water sports and activities. Malindi is also a main centre for deep sea and big-game fishing – for marlin, sailfish, tuna, sharks and many others. Malindi Sea Fishing Club is open to non-members, has an excellent bar and is a good place to find out more about the sport.
Malindi – Game Fishing
Malindi has become known for its large Italian population and the town has a number of excellent boutiques and delicatessens and places to eat. The narrow streets of the old town provide good shopping for colourful fabrics, Swahili antiques and traditional furniture, while more trendy boutiques and galleries along with cafes and supermarkets are to be found along Lamu Road. There is also a large tourist market for crafts and souvenirs. Favourite and recommended restaurants include The Old Man and the Sea, The Baby Marrow, La Rosada and The Osteria.
Often used as a trading post and port city for foreign powers, Malindi has a long and eventful history. In 1414, the town was visited by the fleet of the Chinese explorer Zheng He – Malindi’s ruler responded by sending back an envoy with a giraffe as a gift for the Chinese Emperor.
Vasco da Gama Pillar
Also given a warm reception was Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama who came to Malindi in 1498 to sign a trade agreement and to hire a guide for his voyage to India – he erected a large coral pillar on the seafront which stands to this day. In 1499 the Portuguese established a trading post in Malindi and the town remained the centre of Portuguese activity in East Africa until 1593 when they moved their main base to Mombasa.
To the south of Malindi the Gedi Ruins are the ancient remains of a substantial Swahili Arab town dating from the 12th Century. Once a thriving and well-planned community of at least 2500 people, with a magnificent palace, several mosques and many large stone houses, the people of Gedi grew rich on trade with India, China and Europe, but the town was mysteriously abandoned in the 17th Century. Malindi also went into decline in the 17th and 18th Centuries, but the town began to prosper again in the 19th Century as a centre of the slave trade under Sultan Majid of Zanzibar.
Just north of Malindi and a few miles inland close to the village of Marafa is the picturesque ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ – Malindi’s answer to The Grand Canyon – a dramatic series of rock formations and gorges. The 4,300-hectare Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is situated to the South West of the town and is the largest single block of indigenous coastal forest remaining in East Africa – it forms the centrepiece of a world-renowned habitat for rare and endangered mammals and birds.
Arabuko Sokoke Forest