Watamu (“home of the sweet people” in Kiswahili) is a small town on the Kenyan coast, 120 km north of Mombasa and 20 km south of Malindi. It has won an international reputation for its pristine white-sand beaches, clear waters, offshore coral formations and reef-protected lagoons, which line the Watamu National Marine Park and Reserve, the oldest and largest in East Africa, covering over 229 square kilometres.
The Marine Park and Reserve is renowned worldwide for its natural beauty and boasts a rich marine life – from visiting Whale Sharks and Manta Rays to three species of Sea Turtle. It is also considered one of the best snorkelling and diving areas on the coast of East Africa. Watamu has been voted one of the three best beaches in Africa and one of the top ten beaches in the World – steeped in natural fauna and flora and with three stunning bays -Watamu, Blue Lagoon and Turtle Bay.
Scuba Diving, Watamu
All kinds of water sports and activities are available in Watamu – from sailing and deep sea fishing to scuba diving, water-skiing, kitesurfing and paddle boarding. Tribe Watersports, situated on Turtle Bay beach is a good first stop and can cater for most of one’s needs – offering tuition, equipment rental and advice.
Kite Surfing, Watamu
There is a good supermarket in Watamu together with a range of local shops, and a bigger selection of shops and boutiques about 30 minutes away in Malindi. Recommended places to eat and drink include the Pilipan restaurant at Mida Creek a little to the south of town, and the bars and restaurants at Hemingways Resort and Ocean Sports on Turtle Bay beach.
Bio-Ken Snake Farm
The Bio Ken Snake Farm and laboratory houses East Africa’s largest collection of snakes and is one of the world’s most renowned snake research centres. It specialises in antivenin research, and also acts as an emergency service for snake-bite victims throughout the region. Well-informed guides lead excellent 45-minute tours of the facility.
The Gedi Ruins are the ancient remains of a substantial Swahili Arab town dating from the 12th Century. Once a thriving and well-planned community of at least 2500 people, with a magnificent palace, several mosques and many large stone houses, the people of Gedi grew rich on trade with India, China and Europe, but the town was mysteriously abandoned in the 17th Century.
Just north of Malindi and a few miles inland close to the village of Marafa is the picturesque ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ – Malindi’s answer to The Grand Canyon – a dramatic series of rock formations and gorges. The 4,300-hectare Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is situated to the west of Watamu and is the largest single block of indigenous coastal forest remaining in East Africa – it forms the centrepiece of a world-renowned habitat for rare and endangered mammals and birds.
Arabuko Sokoke Forest