Malindi, the country's second-largest coastal town, is 120 km (75 miles) north of Mombasa and has been an important port for hundreds of years. In ancient Chinese documents, "Ma Lin De" is referred to as a stop on the trade route. The town battled with Mombasa for control of the coast, which explains why Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama received such a warm welcome when he landed here in 1498 but was given the cold shoulder in Mombasa. The Vasco da Gama Cross, made from Portuguese stone, sits on a promontory on the southern tip of the bay. Malindi has become very much an Italian holiday destination, and although it’s laid-back, it has a somewhat seedy atmosphere, and sex tourism is rife. That being said, the beaches are picture-postcard-perfect, with white sand and coconut palms, and there are some good restaurants in the town and some excellent resort hotels. Old Town is a great place to hunt for colorful fabrics, antiques, and sandals, and the beach is clean and attractive, although it does get a bit seaweedy in spring. Malindi has two nearby parks, Malindi Marine National Park and Watamu Marine National Reserve. These are marine parks, where you can watch fish and coral from a glass-bottom boat or snorkel, but the collection or destruction of shells is strictly forbidden. It also offers deep-sea fishing and other water sports. It's an easy place to get around because there are lots of tuk tuks (auto rickshaw) and boda bodas (bicycle taxis), which are everywhere day and night.
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