Malindi Marine National Park is claimed to be the oldest marine park in Africa and indeed the first of its kind in Kenya. Fringing reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, coral gardens in the lagoons, mudflats, dolphins and turtles make it a priceless Kenyan gem that should never miss on your coastal bucket list. Here is a guide to four things you can do when you visit.

1. Scuba Dive, Snorkel, Deep-sea Fish

Malindi Marine Park offers diverse water sporting activities such as deep-sea fishing and snorkelling. Various outfits are on standby to provide these services at a fee. The clarity and quality of the water here make the park one of the best places in the world for scuba diving.

2. Do the Mida Creek Boardwalk

The boardwalk at Mida Creek is a particularly interesting one here. It is an initiative of A Rocha Kenya, a non-profit which works with local communities in this area. A Rocha built the boardwalk through its Arabuko-Sokoke Schools & Eco-Tourism Scheme (ASSETS) programme which helps keep local children in school. Some of the earnings from tourist visits go to pay school fees for the children. It also encourages local participation in the protection of Arabuko-Sokoke, East Africa’s biggest and last remaining coastal forest and the associated tidal inlet of Mida Creek.

3. See the Ocean From a Glass-bottom Boat

Enjoy glass-bottom boat rides in the Indian Ocean and see if you can spot more than 600 species of fish that call this place home. There are 145 types of hard coral, 12 species of echinoids, 135 types of gastropods and 200 species of benthic cover algae to see as well.

4. Visit the Vasco da Gama Pillar

The 500-year-old Vasco da Gama Pillar marks Vasco da Gama’s last stop in Africa before he voyaged across the Indian Ocean to India in 1498. This pillar was the second one he built after the destruction of the first at the palace of the Sultan.

The 1,483-acre Malindi Marine National Park and the Watamu Marine Park were the first Marine protected areas to be established in Africa in 1968. They also became designated Biosphere reserves in 1979. The reserve, which engulfs the park, stretches a further 52,633 acres. It extends 5 KM into the sea and 30 KM along the coast.

Getting to Malindi Marine National Park is easily done by road from Malindi town. It is a 110 KM drive from Mombasa town. If you prefer to travel by air, Malindi Airport is the place to land. Explore this coral garden soon! Check the Kenya Wildlife Service website for current entry rates.