Malindi and Watamu Marine Parks were the first Marine Protected Areas to be established in Africa in 1968, and they were both designated as Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO in 1979. Although they are situated adjoining each other, the two parks are managed separately as two distinct Marine Parks, both contained within the larger Malindi Marine National Reserve, (213 sq km) which encompasses the coastline and forms a buffer zone between the Marine Parks and the ocean beyond.
Lying just 2km off Casuarina Point on the northern Kenya coast, Malindi Marine National Park (6 sq km) beckons visitors with the promise of untold underwater riches to be discovered. On the mainland, beautiful Malindi beach, which forms a part of the Marine Reserve, stretches up and down the coast for kilometres, providing the perfect spring-board to the National Park, and a host of water-based activities.
The clear blue waters of the park hide a thriving marine bio-system, which includes fringing reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves, and lagoons filled with stunning brightly-coloured coral gardens, just bristling with intriguing sea creatures. There are mudflats to explore, marine birds to watch, excellent snorkelling in the fringing reefs close to the shoreline and some of the most enjoyable scuba-diving sites to be found off the Kenyan coast.
If you are not ready to commit to underwater exploration, you can still enjoy seeing the superb coral reefs and gardens from the comfort of a glass-bottomed boat.
Read what other visitors have to say about Malindi Marine National Park:
The main emphasis at Malindi Park is on exploring the bounty of the under-water wonderland, but there are also plenty of things to keep visitors busy above the surface. These are some of the activities you can look forward to:
Glass-bottomed boat excursions
Bird watching at Mida Creek
Sunbathing on Magic Island
Visits to Arabuko-Sokoko National Park
Gedi Ruins and the Butterfly farm
Shopping at the Malindi Tourist Market
Keen scuba divers can look forward to exploring various very rewarding dive sites, including a wreck which lies in fairly shallow waters and has become a home for several shoals of fish. The most popular dive sites are all located about 15 to 25min by boat from the shore. Coral Garden, Marine Park and Tewa sites all have a maximum depth of 11mt, making them suitable for beginners. At Turtle Point and Papa Point you can drop down to around 16mt, and The Channel has a maximum depth of 23mt. All equipment is available for hire from several Scuba Diving centres, and lessons are available.
Snorkelling is by far the most popular activity at Malindi – all you need is your snorkel and some fins (available for rental) and you can set off to enjoy an amazing and safe marine adventure. There are some spectacular coral formations in the fairly shallow waters of the Coral Garden, which are just 300mt offshore and are accessed by boat.
Snorkelling here is suitable for even the most amateur visitors, provided that you are a competent swimmer. (Less confident swimmers should use a life jacket, which will help them to float effortlessly above the coral gardens). More experienced snorkelers will also find some amazing reef sites to explore on the windward side of North Reef, where the reef slopes down to a depth of 18 – 20mt. The best time to snorkel is two hours on either side of low tide, when the underwater marine display is at its best.
Glass-bottom boating excursions make it possible for everyone to join in the fun.
There is a good variety of water sports to be enjoyed off the Malindi Beach, including water-skiing, jet-skiing, para-sailing, surfing, wind-surfing and even kite-surfing. Keen fishermen can go deep-sea fishing (Hemingway put Malindi on the map as a game fishing destination back in 1934!) Note: No fishing is allowed inside the Marine Park, but limited fishing is allowed in the Marine Reserve area.
Keen birders should not miss visiting the Mangrove Boardwalk at Mida Creek, in Watamu National Park, just 20km south of Malindi. Mida creek is a large salt-water lagoon, merging with a huge Mangrove forest which provides habitats for many endemic and migratory bird species, as well as a breeding ground for endangered Turtles. The Boardwalk tour (guided) will take you along a 260mt suspended boardwalk to a rustic hide where you can spend some time watching a wide variety of marine birds. Canoe excursions over the mud-flats are also available.
This is a rather unique experience! The island, which is situated inside the Marine Park, is so called because it appears and disappears magically with the tides. At low tide the sandbank pops out of the ocean and makes the perfect place for sunbathing, surrounded by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
Just a short distance from Malindi National Park you will find the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, which contains a somewhat unique stretch coastal forest. Arabuko is great for hiking and bird watching, and you may come across some of the rare endemic animals that live there.
Both of these attractions can be visited on a interesting half-day tour. Walk through the extensive ruins of what was obviously a thriving coastal Swahili city, dating from about the 13th century, which appears to have been abandoned in the 17th or 18th century. Surprisingly advanced architectural techniques are evident in the many well-preserved relics of palaces, mosques, wells and houses. The Butterfly Farm is a co-operative initiative between the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Arabuko Sokoke community, and is well worth a visit. You can also buy some great silk products to take home!
This artisan market is one of the best places along the coast to shop for authentic Kenyan arts and crafts. There are more than 50 stalls to browse and you can see many of the craftsmen at work.
There is a tantalizing variety of superb coral to be seen below the waters of Malindi National Park. Just to give you an idea, 145 species of hard coral have been recorded on the North Reef alone! Expect to see beautiful examples of Boulder Coral, Organ Pipe Coral and Staghorn Coral, among many others.
The reefs are literally inundated by thousands of beautiful sea creatures. There are over 300 species of fish, including:
Also look out for:
Turtles (Loggerhead, Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley)
Dolphins (Spinner, Humpback and Bottle-nosed) are regular visitors to the park, and depending on the time of year you visit, you could also be lucky enough to see the enormous algae-eating Whale Shark, and migrating Humpback Whales.
Marine Birds in the park include Roseate and Bridled Terns, which nest on Whale Island, and many shore birds.
There are numerous resorts to suit all budgets spread along Malindi Beach,(including a KWS campsite with some bandas (cottages) available for hire if you are on a strict budget). Two of the most popular resorts are:
Diamonds Dream of Africa is a stylish 4-star beach resort near the centre of Malindi. The style is a delightful blend of Indo-Arab architecture complimented by distinctly refined Italian influences. Most of the 35 rooms are actually junior suites, offering Jacuzzi bathtubs, private patios, air conditioning and free Wi-Fi. If you can tear yourself away from the beach and the underwater treasures of the marine national park, you can be pampered at the Thalassotherapy Spa or just relax around the pool.
Driftwood Beach Club is situated just at the edge of Malindi town and is the perfect resort for families, offering several 2-bedroomed cottages with private pools, three luxury villas and several en-suite, air-conditioned cottages with either sea or garden views.
Both resorts offer a wide range of activities including diving and snorkelling excursions into Malindi National Park, glass-bottomed boat trips and various beach sports.
There are daily flights from Nairobi to Mombasa, and from there you will be transferred to your resort by road in less than an hour.
Are you ready for the best beach holiday of your life? Don’t even think of visiting Kenya without including a relaxing beach break at wonderful Malindi. Our team of Kenya Travel Experts will put together the perfect beach and bush itinerary starring Malindi Marine National Park, to suit your interests and budget. Call us now!