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Tranquil Malindi entices tourists

Malindi has pristine, golden beaches which offer a quiet, relaxing hideaway for our guests,” said Kevin Kelly, a staff at Pine Court Hotel in Malindi town.

He was my guide for the day, assisting me to explore the small, historic resort town. The beach has a golden colour, a little different from the white Diani Beach sands in South Coast.  In Malindi, the beach ends at the estuary of River Galana to the north.

From the moment I arrived in this “little Italy”, I felt like I was surrounded by rich culture and history. Pine Court Hotel, where I spent my vacation, was at the centre of all the popular tourist attractions and ancient buildings.

How can I forget to mention the magnificent beach, where I spent the better part of my afternoon sipping a refreshing cocktail?  It is said that this friendly town was founded around the 1st century AD and came under the Portuguese influence in the 16th century following the discovery of Malindi by European explorers led by Vasco da Gama in 1498.

The Sultan of Oman relocated to Zanzibar some 200 years after Portuguese and later on the British arrived in the 19th century. Last but not least, we have the Italians, who today comprise the largest international community in this ancient town. It is said that the first bunch arrived in the town in 1978 and ever since, the wide, unspoiled, golden sandy beaches together with the perfect weather have proven an irresistible attraction to the Italian holidaymakers.

Unfortunately, their private villas as well as cottages on the other hand have apparently crippled the hotel industry in Malindi. The town today is Italian-oriented.  Many residents understand the language and some speak it even better than their mother tongue as it is their means of earning a living.

It is clear that tourism would have long died in the North Coast were it not for the Italians. “The Italians took over after the Germans and Swiss stopped coming to the resort town from 2003 due to fears over terrorist threats,” said Tony Kithi, Pine Court’s general manager, in an interview I had with him.

As for the meaning of the name Malindi, while some say that it connotes ‘a lot of wealth,’ others say it means ‘holes’ in reference to the caves along parts of the Kilifi coastline.

It was amazing visiting the Vasco da Gama Pillar, the place where the Portuguese explorer met Malindi authorities to sign a trade agreement as well as hire a guide for the voyage to India in 1948. After 1499, Malindi became a resting stop for the Portuguese on their voyages to and from India.

Though the pillar stands up to this date, there have been fears by conservationists that soil erosion might make it crumble into the Indian Ocean.

The Portuguese built a chapel here too, making it the first church in Kenya. I browsed through the huge open-air curio market and not only admired but supported the amazing residents who create the intricate carvings and handmade jewellery.

I felt like an honoured guest when I returned from the long walk in town and found my king size bed at the hotel decorated creatively, inviting me to have a perfect stay. The rooms are specially designed for luxury travellers and are equipped with a flat screen TV, mini bar, and coffee making facilities as well as a spacious bathroom with hot shower.

I found the Wi-Fi fast and perfect since the backbone of the hotel is business travellers. I loved the view of the beach from my balcony, my best moment being the view of the sunrise. At night, I was treated to ice cream with fruit juice smoothie and later on ate fried fish with fries at the hotel’s seafood restaurant.

Hamisi Pondo, the chef in charge of the restaurant, took me through the cocktails and mock tails that are served in the restaurant-cum -bar, which open at night. The restaurant specialises mostly on seafood and the intimate and romantic ambience in the gazebos perfect for a romantic date.

And oh, how Malindians love to party.  The town is famed for its vibrant nightlife. “A great percentage of our clients are locals hence we ensure that we serve a mixture of all cuisines, African food being the most popular,” said Pondo.

Ample parking and security is available at the hotel and you need not to worry about the staff, as they will make your stay in this place memorable. It felt like I was leaving home by the end of my stay and I’m sure you’ll feel the same when you opt for this hotel during your vacation in Malindi resort town.

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