Ocean waves splash onto the rocks that keep Vasco da Gama’s monument upright. The morning sun is up and the shores of Malindi are well defined in its splintering light.

In the distant horizon, fishermen in boats are bringing in their haul from the ocean. Just above them, falcons and other birds of prey hover in anticipation.

“They are waiting for fish to come close to the surface of the water, then they’ll launch at them and get a meal for the day. A life for a life — the birds have to survive, and so do the fish,” our tour guide says with wry humour.

We are strolling along the shoreline of the tranquil Indian Ocean, on a walk back in history — to the time Vasco da Gama and his men decided to pitch camp on the East African coast.

The monument put up in his honour, a rock hard, tower-like slab of concrete, is conspicuous in its snow-white exterior. Below the pillar, manmade tunnels allow the ocean’s water to wash under the pile of earth it rests on.

Then I notice an unusual phenomenon: Almost a kilometre into the water is a green field, oval in shape. There is no water on it. It is so elegant-looking that it would bring thoughts of a match to football diehards.

“The field is formed at certain times of the year. It doesn’t happen often as the formation depends on the movements of the moon. And it also doesn’t remain visible throughout the day — it will be totally submerged by midday,” says the guide.



“Is that supposed to be magic?” I ask with the naiveté of a mainlander.

“Not at all,” the guide laughs at my stereotypic understanding of coastal happenings. “Right now, the tide is out. Soon, it will be rushing back to submerge this whole place,” he says as he gestures at the surrounding beaches.

This explanation is followed by a rich scientific narration of magnetic fields and the actual size of the earth.

It is nothing I really understand, but I will take it. Yonder, on the distant shore, we spot some tourists being assisted to navigate sodden sands and the spiky reefs dotting the walking trails.

As we amble on, the grating massage of the sand is more than a natural treat for feet more used to being caged in shoes. The turquoise ocean water is a reminder that lovers of tropical sandy beaches don’t have to look beyond our shores to find a picturesque paradise. It also shows me how visitors like Vasco da Gama and company would be drawn to this place.



This site is part of the Malindi Museum grounds. At just Sh100 per person, the museum is virtually a free getaway.

Malindi Museum, also the Tourism Information Centre for the town, is a treasure trove of knowledge about the surrounding area. The seafront building is believed to have been put up in the late 19th century, and has its own interesting history, having once housed a district officer’s headquarters, a fisheries office and even a hospital.

The walk along the coastline unearths the mysteries of the sea. We come across several species of crabs, mostly hermit crabs, scurrying around in the sand and near small pools along the beach.

I pick a clamshell, but the guide asks me to put it back because it is still alive. Though it looks like a rock-hard encasing of nothingness, apparently there is a living creature within.

“We are asked by the authorities to conserve live organisms,” the guide says. “The only shells you are allowed to collect are those with no life.”

And so, I collect a few souvenirs to show to my upcountry kin.

As the ocean waves continue to pound the sand, we notice a surge in the ripples. Every subsequent wave seems heavier and more powerful.

At noon, with the sun beating down, we start our walk back to the Vasco da Gama monument. By this time, the green pitch of nicely lying grass is no more — submerged by rising waters.

For beach first-timers like myself, it is a bizarre occurrence to witness. The guide tells me that by evening, the whole place will be covered with ocean water.

The fishermen are rowing back to the mainland, and commercial motorboats are doing their final laps, their passengers taking in the last rays of the sun.

Before we head to the airport to catch our flight, we capture images of sunny Malindi to take back to our currently rainy homes.

Malindi might not be Rio de Janeiro, but the heat, the sun and the view have a lasting impression on any visitor.

Photo: kenyatravelsites.wordpress.com