Our Malindi Adventure
This is Brian, a special correspondent. I will be covering our weekend tourists’ trips and contribute ideas to her posts throughout our African Adventure. Today we traveled by van approximately 120 kilometers north of Mombasa to a beach town named Malindi. It took us a little over 2 hours to get there and the roads were nice and smooth. Our first stop, on the outskirts of Malindi, was at an ancient ruin named Gede.
Gede ruins are the remains of a Swahili town, typical of many towns along the East African Coast. It traces its origin to the twelfth century but was rebuilt with new outer walls in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries during the emigration of many citizens of Kilwa to the coast. With its numerous inhabitants, the town became wealthy and it reached its peak in the fifteenth century. This enormous wealth is evidenced by the presence of numerous ruins, comprising of a conglomeration of mosques; a magnificent palace and houses all nestled in 45 acres of forest. Many of these houses showed evidence of wealth with indoor toilets, bathtubs and other abandoned trappings. It was first visited by Sir John Kirk, a British resident of Zanzibar in 1884. Over forty years later in 1927, it was declared a Historical Monument.
Gede was definitely worth the stop. There was a beautiful and eerie tree at the entrance of the ruins, that was growing into a crumbled coral wall. Our guide told us at the very beginning of the tour that local Kenyans stay away from the ruins because they believe there haunted… I agreed with this notion especially after Michelle slipped down the stairs of an Acai tree-fort for no apparent reason (or maybe she is just a little clumsy). The actual ruins were mostly just coral walls with names for the former rooms and buildings on signs. Not very impressive or pretty and the heat was stifling. One of the highlights was feeding the local monkeys and I even convinced one to jump on Michelle’s head. We also danced with locals as they played on their drums for an impromptu performance for a small fee.
We then headed to the heart of Malindi. Our first stop was at a local fisherman’s village. The men seemed excited to see us and showed us all around their village on the beach. I enjoyed going into their grass weaved huts and it was impressive how much cooler it was inside. We then went down to ‘the Golden Beach’ where they showed us how they have been fishing for hundreds of years. Two men go about 100 yds into the ocean with a large hand woven net & stretch it between them over ~20 feet and see what they capture. On their first try they caught 3 small fish. The beach was beautiful and had interesting reddish clay sand that Michelle said looked like a Glitter Bomb had gone off over. There were no condos or large building on the beach and the large coconut palms swayed beautifully in the background. There was also a pier that everyone jokes is an unfinished bridge to India. I couldn’t resist doing a flip off the end of the pier and was glad I opted on this instead of diving because the water ended up being very shallow.
Malindi’s most famous monument was our last stop of the day, although it wasn’t particularly impressive. The bell-shaped Vasco da Gama Pillar, erected by the Portuguese explorer as a navigational aid in 1498, stood out on rocks marking the entrance to the old port . The coral pillar is topped by a cross made of Lisbon stone, which almost certainly dates from da Gama’s time, and stands on the rocks at the northern end of Casuarina Beach. From the rocks there are beautiful views along the coast.
I completely forgot the historical significance of Vasco’s journey from eighth grade world history… so here it is wikipedisized. Vasco Da Gama, a Portuguese man born in 1460’s was a great explorer in his time. He brought to light that there is an ocean route on the Indian Ocean. At the time, it was thought that the Indian Ocean was not connected to other seas. It is of importance to note that Portugal was at the time the leading maritime nation in Europe. (Shout out to Jaoa!!) Vasco Da Gama discovered the route to India from Europe via Africa. They city of Malindi marks the last stop in Africa before Vasco Da Gama sailed across the Indian Ocean to India in 1498. He actually first landed in Mombasa but the locals were very hostile due to his four ships having crosses on their sails which to the Swahili people signified murder and death. He received a much warmer welcome in Malindi and hence constructed the pillar.
Overall, Malindi was a great day trip. I wouldn’t spend more than a day there but heard that we missed out on some great snorkeling at local reefs. I really enjoyed learning more about the history of Malindi and hope you do too…