MALINDI  is a town on Malindi Bay, in southeastern Kenya. Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama stopped at Malindi on his way to India in 1498 and erected a pillar that remains overlooking the harbor, however precariously, to this day. Still popular with Europeans, Malindi is famed for coral reefs that lie just 1,000 feet off its shore, best seen at Malindi National Marine Park or nearby Watamu. Game fishing, surfing and simply relaxing on the beach are popular local pastimes. The narrow streets and market of Malindi's old town are worth a visit.It sits amid a string of tropical beaches dotted with hotels and resorts. Malindi Marine National Park and nearby Watamu Marine National Park are home to turtles and colorful fish. Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve harbors elephants and more than 200 species of birds. Near the forest, the Gede Ruins are the remains of an ancient Swahili town.

ATTRACTIONS:

Vasco da Gama Pillar

More impressive for what it represents (the genesis of the Age of Exploration) than the edifice itself. Erected by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama as a navigational aid in 1498, the coral column is topped by a cross made of Lisbon stone, which almost certainly dates from the explorer’s time. There are good views from here down the coast and out over the ocean.

Marafa Depression Hell's Kitchen

One of the more intriguing sights inland from the north Kenyan coast is Hell’s Kitchen or Nyari (‘the place broken by itself’). About 30km northeast of Malindi, it’s an eroded sandstone gorge where jungle, red rock and cliffs heave themselves into a single stunning Mars-like landscape. You can take an organised tour, take a taxi drive, or catch a morning matatu (minibus) from Mombasa Rd in Malindi to Marafa village (2½ hours) and walk for 20 minutes.

Malindi Marine National Park

The oldest marine park in Kenya covers 213 sq km of powder-blue fish, organ-pipe coral, green sea turtles and beds of Thalassia seagrass. If you’re extremely lucky, you may spot mako and whale sharks. Unfortunately, these reefs have suffered (and continue to suffer) extensive damage, evidenced by the piles of seashells on sale in Malindi. Monsoon-generated waves can reduce visibility from June to September.

Malindi Museum

Part of the Malindi Historic Circuit, this moderately interesting museum has some displays on underwater arachaeology along the Kenyan coast. Upstairs, you can delve into the world of the nine Mijikenda tribes that inhabit the coastal region between Tanzania and Malindi, and learn how they worship, whom they exorcise, and what their daily lives are like.

Portuguese Church

This thatched-roofed church gets its name because Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama is reputed to have erected it in the 15th century, and two of his crew are supposedly buried here. It’s certainly true that St Francis Xavier visited on his way to India. Go to the Vasco de Gama pillar first to get the key from the caretaker.

Malindi Pier

This long tongue flicks out into the Indian Ocean. It's a low-key highlight of a stroll along Mama Ngina Rd. On weekends, families wander arm-in-arm and kids dress up and pose in makeshift photo studios.

House of Columns

This building is a good example of traditional Swahili architecture and contains a peculiar exhibit on marine ecology – on the first and only coelacanth ever to turn up in Malindi waters.