Marafa Depression

Top choice canyon in Malindi

One of the more intriguing sights inland from the north Kenyan coast is Hell’s Kitchen or Nyari (‘the place broken by itself’). About 30km northeast of Malindi, it’s an eroded sandstone gorge where jungle, red rock and cliffs heave themselves into a single stunning Mars-like landscape. You can take an organised tour, take a taxi (KSh9000), drive, or catch a morning matatu (minibus) from Mombasa Rd in Malindi to Marafa village (KSh200, 2½ hours) and walk for 20 minutes.

The depression is currently managed as a local tourism concern by Marafa village, with the steep admission costs going into village programs. A guide will walk you around the lip of the gorge and into its heart of sandstone spikes and melted-candle-like formations, and tell the story of Hell’s Kitchen. Which goes like so: a rich family was so careless with their wealth that they bathed themselves in the valuable milk of their cows. God became angry with this excess and sank the family homestead into the earth. The white and red walls of the depression mark the milk and blood of the family painted over the gorge walls. The more mundane explanation? The depression is a chunk of sandstone that's geologically distinct from the surrounding rock and more susceptible to wind and rain erosion.

There are two very basic places to stay if needed (KSh1000), plus a restaurant right next to the gorge.

If you come by private transport, it’s worth making a day trip of it and enjoying the beautiful African countryside, with its fields of maize studded with chunky baobab trees, mud houses with makuti roofs (thatched roofs of palm leaves) and cattle herders tending their beasts.