We often marvel at the natural beauty around us, but what about the beauty that is not as easily seen? The colors, shapes and sizes in our oceans are just as spectacular. Watamu Marine National Park in Kenya is a just the place to go for anyone looking for water sports, incredible beaches and an underwater wonderland.
The Marine Park was established in 1968, and is governed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. This makes it the oldest marine park in East Africa. It covers an area of 229 km², and can boast with having a very large variety of species visiting or living in its borders. In fact only the Great Barrier Reef can outmatch it. Not surprisingly it is recognized internationally as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The village of Watamu is found 120km (75 miles) north of the city of Mombasa and 25km (16 miles) south of Malindi. It is also close to Tsavo National Park, making it a perfect choice for a bush and beach combo safari.
What can I see at the Marine Park?
- Snorkelers are spoiled here. There are so many species to marvel at inside the reef and further out to sea. Roughly 600 species, and other underwater critters live here. A great place to snorkel is at the ‘Larder’ in Turtle Bay. It is a series of about 6 large coral heads and home to many species.
- Divers should look out for Whale Shark and Manta Rays, but they only visit seasonally. November is a good time to look out for them.
- Coral gardens in brilliant colors.The coral gardens are very close to shore at a mere 300m (984 feet). There are over 150 different corals to see including, brain and fan coral and some sponges.
- Parrotfish eat the coral reefs. The digestion over millennia of the reefs has resulted in the white sandy beaches that Watamu can boast about today. In fact Watamu has been voted one of the top ten beaches in the world.
- Also seen are young Butterfly and Angelfish, Morays, Lionfish, Snappers and Octopus.
- Spot Turtles, Whales and Dolphins.
- The water temperature will vary between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius (68 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit). The coldest months are June through October and the warmest December through May.
Protect the Turtles
One of the largest conservation efforts at Watamu is to protect the sea turtles. There are three species that live and nest here, the Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles. The conservationists such as Watamu Marine Association (WMA) have developed a relationship with the fishermen who often snag a turtle in their nets. They are encouraged to call the conservation volunteers immediately when a turtle is caught. They then meet the fishermen on the beach, measure and tag the turtle before releasing it and compensating the fisherman. This way the turtles are not killed, and the fisherman can pay for any damage to his nets or time lost not fishing. Sometimes visitors can see the Leatherback turtles that pass through the area.
A good thing to know is that the turtles nest on the beaches which is why they are patrolled. The nests may not be disturbed. The patrols are done at night. There is no particular nesting season so patrols are constant.
A host of activities are available on the beaches and surrounding area.
- Water skiing
- Scuba diving
- Sun bathing
- Beach walks
- Big Game Fishing
- Whale spoitting in Season. Humpback whales migrate past the coast June through December
- Dolphin spotting
- Mida Creek Boat trips
- Horse riding through the village
- Arabuko Sokoko Forest Nature Reserve visits
- Visit the town of Malindi
- Visit the Gedi Ruins
Watamu is probably one of the best kept secrets on the Kenyan coast and definitely worth discovering.
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Author: Principle writer – Celeste Wilson
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