The gorgeous town of Malindi is located about 120 kilometres from Mombasa on Malindi Bay. It is one of Kenya’s top tourist destinations that has earned the nickname ‘Little Italy’ for the number of Italians that choose to visit and settle in the region (A fascinating story linked to the Italian-owned Broglio Space Center way back in the 1960s and 80s). With lots to do, fabulous food and vibrant people, here’s everything you need to know before you set off!
For Nomads looking to fly, Malindi Airport serves this destination and receives daily flights to and from Nairobi, Mombasa and Lamu via Kenya Airways, East African Safari, Fly540, JamboJet and Air Kenya. Private charters are also available. Flight time is approximately 1h 10m from Nairobi and taxis can be organised for at the airport to get you to your stay.
Taking the train from Nairobi? It takes approximately 5 hours on the SGR to get you from Nairobi to the Mombasa-Miritini Station. From here, taxis may be organised for the 2 hour drive into Malindi and cost between 11$-18$
Lastly, for those hitting the road, the drive to Malindi is rather long with a 566km stretch between Nairobi and Malindi (approximately 9 hours)
Things to Do
1. Visit Hell’s Kitchen- Marafa
There are several stories around this curiously named local phenomenon. Depending on who you ask, the Marafa Depression formed as the result of the punishment of a wealthy family from the Wakiza Clan. The family, arrogant and careless with their wealth, bathed themselves in the valuable milk of their cows. God became angry with this excess and sank the family homestead into the earth. The white and red walls of the depression mark the milk and blood of the family painted over the gorge walls. Gory story isn’t it?
Others will tell you that a once vibrant village existed here but was traded off in exchange for a miracle. The people of the village as instructed by seers left the village leaving behind a woman who stubbornly chose to stay. The village disappeared shortly after, leaving a canyon and the towering red mounds in its place. It is said that you can still hear the lone woman from time to time.
In actuality, the geological wonder 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, that make it particularly striking at sunset.
2. Explore Malindi Marine National Park
A treat for ocean lovers, the Malindi Marine National Park is managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service and hosts 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 ocean paradise.
3. Stop by The Vasco Da Gama Pillar & Portuguese Chapel
Synonymous with Malindi is the Vasco Da Gama pillar, built by and named after the renowned Portuguese explorer. Located on the seafront road along the beach in Shela Neighbourhood, the pillar was first erected at the Sheikh’s house. It was later removed and re-erected where it is today. The pillar and the cross are both made from original Portuguese limestone and are a nod to the Age of Discovery.
It is speculated that it was built as a landmark for those following the sea route to India. Built in 1498, about a century before Fort Jesus in Mombasa, it is one of the oldest European installations in East Africa.
Close to the pillar is also a makuti thatched church also built by Vasco Da Gama in the 15th century. Famous visitors of old include St. Francis Xavier who visited and used the chapel enroute to India. Today, the chapel is still sometimes used by local Catholic churches for special masses in remembrance of St Francis. People also travel from all over the world and country to pray in this small church because they believe that St Francis Xavier’s spirit still resides there.
4. See the Malindi Pier
Located on golden Buntwani Beach is the Malindi pier. Another iconic landmark in the region, the 70-year-old concrete pier is centuries younger than the Vasco Da Gama pillar but still worth a visit. For years the pier has been a major tourist attraction for both locals and foreigners, who come to take photos, enjoy the oceanic views, swim, fish or simply stroll along the sandy beach.
5. Visit Ndoro Sculpture Garden
Tucked away in a tropical garden of frangipani, palms and casuarina is another one of Malindi’s gems. Ndoro Sculpture Garden is a permanent outdoor exhibition owned by African Art expert, journalist and curator, Carola Rasmussen. Majority of the pieces within the garden are busts masterfully carved from ‘African Jade’ originating in Zimbabwe. As you walk through the garden’s winding paths, the faces morph and shift, expressing artful differences in emotion, age and origin. The site also hosts a small shop where you can pick up a gorgeous keepsake.
It should be noted that visits to the sculpture garden can only be made through appointment by calling 0798461564 or by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Visit the Falconry Kenya
Located right off Lamu Road near Moriema cottage is The Falconry. As the name suggests, this is a private zoo that is primarily dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of birds of prey. You’ll see eagles, falcons, owls, goshawks, peckers and for the more adventurous, you can even carry some of them. A guide is present to ensure the safety of guests and the birds during this activity. You will first be kitted with a glove (you certainly don’t want eagle claws in your skin) and piece of meat that attracts the birds which then land on your arm.
In addition to birds, the site has crocodiles, tortoises, monkeys, monitor lizards, and a snake enclosure that parades green mambas, pythons, and cobras. You mustn’t leave without seeing the oldest occupant of the zoo as well, a giant 200-year-old Aldabra tortoise originating from Seychelles.
7. Have a Picnic at the Mambrui Sand Dunes
Just an hour’s drive away from Malindi town is Mambrui, an ancient Arabic-style seaside town located about 15 kilometres out. It is home to the Mambrui sand dunes, a Kenyan Coastal treasure reminiscent of a Middle Eastern post card. Stroll along the golden sand and catch a glimpse of the Sabaki river by the ocean before setting up your picnic.
Explore more of the town with the Nomad Team in Malindi Mamma Mia!
Places to Eat
From carpaccio fresh from the sea to hearty risotto and decadent tiramisu, Osteria is certainly one of the best places to go for great Italian cuisine. The seafront has bot indoor and outdoor seating as well as a pool making it perfect for families looking to dine and spend the day out in the Malindi sun.
Located on Mama Ngina Road, Baby Marrow is a charming makuti-thatched restaurant decorated in beautiful contemporary art and an elegant yet warm and casual ambience. Also specialising in Italian cuisine, house specialities include smoked sailfish, pizza bianca, vodka sorbet or Sicilian ice cream. The jungle bar is also a good spot for a digestif.
If you’re looking for a little taste of the nightlife in Malindi, we’d suggest Rosada Beach Bar. Known for great pizza and amazing views to enjoy as you sip on a chilled cocktails. Dinners in Rosada are also possible on Saturday and Sunday evenings, while lunch is available daily.
The climate in Malindi is tropical making it warm all year round, with a cooler season from June to September, when the daytime temperatures are around 28 °C (82 °F), and a hotter and humid season from November to April, when the daytime temperatures are just above 30 °C (86 °F), with May and October as intermediate months. There are also two main rainy seasons with the long rains occurring between April-June and short rains around December.
Best Time to Go
While Malindi is a popular destination to visit all year round, May-October is the ideal time to go due to a number of factors such as pleasantly warm climate, cost of travel and accommodation, as well as less tourist traffic as you avoid the peak holiday season.