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The Magical Malindi

Maintaining a strong Swahili identity, Malindi stands on the panoramic sweep of a wide bay, where surfing is possible all year-round (the best months being between late June and early September when the seasonal monsoon sweeps in some truly magnificent rollers).

Established in the 13th century, Malindi is one of the oldest settlements on the Kenya coast. It was here, in 1498, that explorer, Vasco da Gama, first set foot in East Africa, having veered away from his preferred port of call, Mombasa, when his anchor ropes were cut. Da Gamma and his crew were given a memorable welcome by the Omani Sultan, who, Da Gamma reports, provided ‘nine days of fêtes sham fights and musical performances' before sending him off laden with provisions - to Calcutta. During the 1930's Malindi achieved fame as the preferred fishing and drinking haunt of Ernest Hemingway, who famously drank gin at the Blue Marlin hotel and fished for big game fish off the coast.

Today, Malindi is not only an attractive tourist resort, but it is also the venue for the most prestigious of Kenya's big game fishing tournaments. Typically taking place between October and February, they attract anglers from all over the world, all of whom come to do battle with such giants of the deep as; marlin, reef shark, barracuda, manta ray tuna, sail fish.

The area is also a prime dive site, located directly opposite the famous Watamu Marine Park and Reserve, which offers a sanctuary to a wide variety of tropical coral and marine life (leaf fish, frog fish, octopus, crocodile fish, angel and butterfly fish, groupers, barracuda, white-tip reef sharks, manta rays, whale sharks and dolphins. There are 13 dive sites including those in the outer fringing reef, where the diving takes places lies 1.5 km off the beach. Here the top of the reef lies between 7m and 14 m below the water and drops down to a sandy bottom of 22-30m.

Points of interest
The town boasts a Portuguese monument to Prince Henry the Navigator, the Juma mosque and pillar tombs, a number of curio shops, a fish market, a 17th century Portuguese chapel and the Vasco da Gama Pillar, which marks the spot where he landed in 1499. There is also ; a Reptile Park, Falconry Centre, Horse riding Centre, the Malindi Golf and Country club (9-hole), numerous windsurfing deep-sea fishing, and scuba diving schools and the Malindi Marine National Park.

Malindi and Watamu Marine National Parks and Reserves

This cannot be less than natural beauty, the endless sand, the reefs, the lot, are completely unmatched in the world.'
Ernest Hemingway.

Africa's first marine park and one of the world's last great natural marine reserves, Malindi Marine and its sister waterworld, Watamu Marine offer protection to one of the world's most famous coral reefs. Glowing with coral gardens and teeming with vividly fantastic fish, the parks provide a haven for divers, and a window on to the wonders of the deep for snorkelers, swimmers and rock pool dabblers alike.

Fact File
sea level.
Area: the total area of 261 sq km comprises; Malindi Marine National Reserve 213 sq km; Watamu Marine National Reserve 32 sq km; Malindi Marine National Park 6 sq km; and Watamu Marine National Park 10 sq km.
Location: Kilifi District, Coast Province, 118 km north of Mombasa on Kenya's north coast.
Gazetted: Watamu Marine National Reserve 1968.
Malindi Marine National Reserve 1976 (declared a UN Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1979).
Climate: hot and humid.
Vegetation: algae, microscopic marine plants, marine angiosperms, mangroves, palms and casuarinas.
Fauna: various crabs, corals, molluscs, cowries and marine worms.
Birds: Whale Island is a nesting ground for roseate and bridled tern and there are numerous shore birds.

A unique complex of marine and tidal habitats, the Malindi and Watamu marine parks cover an area 30 km long and 5 km wide, and stretch from just south of Malindi town southwards to beyond the entrance to Mida Creek. The widely varied habitats include intertidal rock, sand and mud; fringing reefs and coral gardens; beds of sea-grass; coral cliffs, platforms and islets; sandy beaches and mangrove forests.

North Reef and Barracuda Reef
There are two main reefs, North Reef and Barracuda Reef, both of which enjoy high coral cover and host a startling number and variety of marine life.

Reef life
The reef provides food and shelter for an entire community. A shifting rainbow of small fish, octopus and clams hide in the gaps between the coral; celestial-blue parrotfish use their hard beaks to chew off lumps of coral while a kaleidoscope of snappers, rubber fish, zebra fish, butterfly fish, angel fish and scorpion fish shimmer in the clear waters. Hunting sharks, rays, turtles and starfish also prowl the reef in search of prey while moray eels hide in holes alongside small crabs and wrasses (long, spiny-finned fish).

Turtles, Dolphins and more...
The area is famous for its population of turtles (green, hawksbill, loggerhead, Ridley and leatherback), which can often be found feeding in the lush Thalasia beds of the reef. There is also a turtle-breeding beach immediately adjacent to the KWS Marine HQ where visitors can see young turtles tentatively emerging into the evening light and streaming down to the ocean. Dolphins are also regular visitors to the area (spinner, humpback and bottle-nosed).

Splendid Snorkelling and Glass-bottom Boating
The twin marine parks offer one of Kenya's finest snorkelling venues. Just five minutes boat ride from the shore, the extensive coral gardens can be accessed in glass-bottomed boats operated by members of the local community. Visitor tip: the best time to snorkel is two hours either side of low tide, when the greatest amount of marine life is revealed.

World Renowned Dive Venues
Enjoying perennial warm shallow waters, exceptional clarity, pristine coral and an extraordinary breadth of marine life, the outer edges of North Reef provide five of the most spectacular diving venues in the world.

The Information Centre
The Malindi Marine Information Centre, the first of its kind in East Africa, is open 6am to 7pm daily. How to get there:
KWS Marine HQ is located 5km south of Malindi town at Casuarina Point.


Magical Malindi - Kenya Beach Holiday & Travel Destinations

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