Discover Kenya’s colourful canyon – the Marafa Depression

Marafa Depression, Kenya

Did you know you could find landscapes like this in Kenya, only a few miles from the tropical coastline? Intrigued to hear more about a place the locals call ‘Hell’s Kitchen’?

Let me take you back to 2010, when we spent a week in Kenya on our honeymoon, mixing a safari with some boat trips and beach-time. We stayed in the coastal town of Malindi which is kind of an interesting place – lots of Italian tourists, daily markets and watching a live Premier League game in an open-air bar – pitch black at 5pm but still warm which is not a combination you’d find in England!

We’d heard there was a canyon we could visit about an hour away and it sounded different – with no free wifi we couldn’t check exactly what it looked like but we decided to take a chance.

Marafa Depression, Kenya


We quickly turned off the main road out of Malindi, red dust blasting up through open windows as we bounced along rutted roads. When we arrived at the small village of Marafa we parked up at a viewpoint overlooking the canyon and our jaws dropped. This wasn’t what we’d pictured at all! Skinny spines of rock in warm hues stretched out across the horizon as we waited for our local guide to take us on a ‘small walk’ through the canyon. Once we got up close it was easy to spot the different shapes carved by wind and water over millions of years. There are three distinct colours of sand which can be used to leave a mark on your skin: a rusty yellow, white and a reddy-brown.



So how did the canyon get its other name, Hell’s Kitchen? It’s down to the scorching temperatures often recorded at the canyon – up to 50C!

A third name, Nyari means ‘the place broken by itself’ in  the local language, Kigiriama. There’s a local legend about how the place was formed too (thanks to Atlas Obscura for the quote):

‘One day, all the town’s inhabitants received a vision telling them a miracle was coming and to move their town. Everyone moved except one old woman who refused to leave. The abandoned town then supposedly vanished – with the remaining woman still inside – leaving the Marafa Depression in its place.’

It’s worth staying to watch the sunset uncover many more shades to the wild rock formations. There’s a small charge to visit the canyon which goes to the local community.


Have you been to Kenya? Did you visit the Marafa Depression?


I’m linking this post up with the weekly travel blog hop, #wanderfulwednesday. Find the hosts at the sites below and join in every Wednesday at 8am GMT.  Come and join us!

Marcella :

Lauren :

Van :

Isabel :


  One thought on “Discover Kenya’s colourful canyon – the Marafa Depression

  1. July 31, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Marafa Depression seems beautiful and you have a lovely blog!

    • Claire
      July 31, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      Thank you Astha :)

  2. August 3, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    A lovely tale and a stunning place, those sand colours are really intense. But how did you survive that heat?! #wanderfulwednesday

    • Claire
      August 3, 2016 at 3:38 pm

      Thank you! Lots of water and a sun hat (it was *only* 40C when we were there).

  3. August 3, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    What a sight, and those colors! So amazing! Was it that hot when you visited the place?

    • Claire
      August 3, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      It was only 40C, so just about bearable!

  4. August 3, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Wow it’s so stunning!!! Never heard of this beautiful canyon!! #WanderfulWednesdays
    ps. My post is the image that didn’t load properly on the link up! It is safe!

  5. August 3, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Oh wow, I love these kinds of landscapes because the colours win me over every time! The difference in those three colours is also spectacular, what a lovely photo! :D

  6. Ruth
    August 4, 2016 at 6:05 am

    I really like this place. I would have taken the chances to visit!

  7. August 4, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    I’ve never been to Kenya but my boyfriend has. Have to ask him whether or not he’s heard about this place! ;)

  8. August 4, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Wow! I never would have guessed that this was Kenya! I’ve never heard of this canyon. The colors and formations remind me a bit of Bryce Canyon in Utah. Such a cool sight to see! Thanks for sharing and linking up :D

  9. September 28, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Reblogged this on View Kenya.

  10. DiaryOfAUniversityStudent
    January 14, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Amazing place. I was meant to go there last weekend but had to cancel. But I will go there during Easter time hopefully

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