Vasco Da Gama Pillar is the most prominent physical reminder of the Portuguese influence in Kenya after Fort Jesus. It was built back in the year 1498 by Vasco Da Gama a Portuguese explorer who was also the first Portuguese to get to India by sea by rounding the Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. The pillar was named after him.
It remains to be one of the earliest European monuments to be built on the East African coast. Vasco Da Gama built it in appreciation for the warm welcome he was given by the Sultan of Malindi and the locals and also to give directions to the Portuguese willing to go to India by sea. The pillar is located on the coral rock on the shores of the Indian Ocean in Kilifi. It is approximately 120 kilometers from Mombasa City, a safari destination in Malindi. It is managed by the National Museum of Kenya.
It is referred to as ‘mnara’ in Kiswahili, the local language. The pillar remains to be one of the most visited by both local and international tourists making it one of the best safari destinations. It is also visited by students from across the country to learn about the history of the pillar. It is one of the oldest pillars that are still loved and attracts many people. It consists of the Vasco Da Gama pillar, The Portuguese Chapel, The House of Columns, and The Malindi Museum.
It was built before Fort Jesus, which was also built by the Portuguese and is located in the Old Town of Mombasa. The two played different roles but do not differ as much.
Interesting Facts about Vasco Da Gama Pillar
The sole monument now standing was allegedly constructed at Sultan’s palace and afterward moved to its present place. It is known as the Vasco Da Gama pillar. Despite conducting numerous archeological studies, the National Museum of Kenya has been unable to locate the Sultan’s palace.
There is also a security window in one wall that was used to look out for enemies across the ocean.
It hosts 36 graves of sailors and prominent people in the compound; including those of Malindi pioneer Commander Lawford of Lawfords Hotel, first Malindi District Commissioner J. Bell Smith who died on September 1, 1894, and Charles Arnold Frank Matthews, who was buried in 1968, among others.
The chapel is sometimes used by local Catholic churches for special masses once or twice per month in remembrance of St. Francis Xavier. The Malindi Catholic Cathedral is named after him.
The entrance fee for the monument is ksh100 for citizen adults and 50 for children. Non-resident adults pay ksh500 and ksh250 for children. The ticket enables you to access the Vasco Da Gama pillar, The Portuguese Chapel, The House of Columns, and The Malindi Museum. These places are highly recommended for lovers of history and explorers. However, climbing on top of the pillar is highly discouraged for the sake of safety. The Pillar stands as one of the best museums that one can go to.
More impressive for what it represents (the genesis of the Age of Exploration) than the edifice itself. Erected by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama as a navigational aid in 1498, the coral column is topped by a cross made of Lisbon stone, which almost certainly dates from the explorer’s time. There are good views from here down the coast and out over the ocean. – Lonely Planet
Malindi is generally a great tourist attraction area and has a variety of places and interesting activities to do including boat riding. The culture of the Swahili people is also a great experience. The people, the different way of life, and the unique food such as Biriani and pilau, is a lifetime experience that you do not want to miss. If you are looking for your next safari destination, the Kenyan coast should be your next one.