Kenya’s port town of Malindi is known for its Swahili-inspired architecture, laid-back atmosphere, fresh seafood, pristine beaches, and sunny weather. Here are the top things to see and do in this popular beach destination.
The best time to visit Malindi is between mid-November to mid-April and mid-August to mid-October. It’s about an hour-long flight to cover the 250-plus miles (400-plus kilometres) from Nairobi, or around nine hours by car.
Experience a full day trip on a Sawa Sawa – an authentic, hand-built East African dhow, made in Mozambique. The day trips take a minimum of two and a maximum of 10 people per trip, and make for an exceptional beach escapade. Prepare for a fantastic day of sailing, exploring secluded beach spots, snorkelling, a seafood lunch, and even a sundowner drink should you desire.
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.
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. The more adventurous visitor can take the chance to hold, pet and even feed the birds. The Falconry of Kenya also has a snake enclosure that houses pythons, green mambas and cobras. In addition, the site has crocodiles, monkeys and monitor lizards.
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, it was a city complete with streets, running water and a sewage system. 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.
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.
‘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.
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. Located just 35 minutes’ drive outside Malindi, this is definitely a trip worth making for those in the mood for an adventure.
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
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.
Reconnect with art and nature with a walk around the Ndoro Sculpture Garden. With nearly 300 extraordinary local sculptures depicting stone creatures and heads set in a beautiful and serene garden, it’s the perfect place to while away the time. Visits are by appointment only and the owner will show you around personally. There is also a small shop with some good quality gifts on site.