About 24km south of Malindi, Watamu is another popular beach village with sandy beaches and plenty of hotels, though the atmosphere is a lot more resort-like than in Kilifi. Offshore, are the southern part of the Malindi Marine Reserve, and the un-spoilt forests of Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve and the Swahili ruins of Gede are both a short distance away.
The coast here is broken up into three separate coves divided by eroded rocky headlands. Each bay becomes a broad white strand at low tide, and many people walk across to the offshore islands. Like the southern resorts, Watamu inundated with seaweed at certain times, but the sand is usually clear from December to April.
Although Watamu is a primarily a package resort, Swahili fishers still moor their dhows just meters from the sunbathing tourists and a village of mud-walled houses sits immediately behind the resorts. You’re equally likely to see a herd of goats or an expat’s sports car on the main road.
Most resorts are south of Watamu, on the road that runs down to KWS headquarters, but the Watamu Beach Hotel and the cheap guesthouses are reached by beach Way Rd, which leads down to the old village and is lined with souvenir stalls. The old village itself is something of a maze, with unofficial street names in graffiti (look out for cash money road and new Blab la bla Rd 2000), but the main track is easy enough to follow.
There are now no banks in Watamu, so your only options are the forex bureaus at the big hotels and Tunda Tours. If you need to use an ATM, Your nearest choices are in Kilifi or Malindi. The post office is on the Gede road.
Sights at Watamu
Bio Ken snake farm and & laboratory
This excellent snake farm is by far the best of all snake parks situated along the coast. The late James Ashe, who was a reptile expert and former curator from the national museums of Kenya, established the farm. Ashe achieved such level of recognition in his field that he even has a bush viper named after him.
The farm is a nonprofit organisation, providing free antivenin wherever it is needed in Kenya. As well as touring the facilities, staff can take you on a day safari to look for snakes in their natural habitat (Kshs 4500) The centre is just north of Watamu village on the main beach road.
Watamu Marine national Park
The southern part of Malindi Marine Reserve, this marine park includes some magnificent coral reefs and abundant fish-life. It lies around 2km off-shore from Watamu. To get to the park you’ll need to hire a glass-bottomed boat, which is easy enough at the KWS office, at the end of the coast road, where you pay the park fees.
For marine park trips, boat operators ask anything from Kshs 1800 to Kshs 3500 per person, excluding park fees; it’s all-negotiable. All the big hotels offer ‘goggling’ (snorkeling) trips to non-guests for around Kshs 1500. The best are the snorkel safaris run by zoologist Richard Bennet from the turtle bay discovery centre at the Turtle bay Beach Club.
The extensive mangrove forests around Mida Creek, just south of Watamu, support a huge number of bird species, including the spectacular malachite kingfisher, yellow-billed stork and African fish eagle. Its paradise for bird watchers and there is also some good snorkeling and scuba diving at the mouth of the creek.
The head of the creek, the best area for viewing water birds, is reached by a dirt road opposite the Mida entrance to the Arabuko Sokoke Forest reserve. The guides who work out of the reserve can organise guided walks in the mangroves.
Many people also come here on boat tours (arranged through Watamu hotels), which visit a boardwalk and picnic ground on Sudi Island. Turtle Bay Beach Club’s Discovery centre runs tours for Kshs 2750 per person.
Several species of marine turtle lay their eggs on the beaches around Watamu and Watamu Turtle Watch, part of the Local Ocean Trust, has set up initiatives with local people to protect these threatened animals. Female turtles lay thousands of eggs here between January and April.
Contact the trust if you are interested in seeing this incredible spectacle or volunteering with local projects.