The real magic of Watamu is that it remains relatively undeveloped and is home to several key protected coastal reserves. The area is home to an active conservation community that works to protect these all-important areas.
Watamu Marine National Park
Watamu Marine Park was one of the world’s first National Marine Parks, established in 1968. The main protected area is 300m (980ft) from the shore and encompasses coral reef, expanses of sea grass, caves and the waters of Mida Creek. The park is home to over 600 species of fish, coral gardens and many invertebrates and crustaceans. The park is fantastic for diving and snorkelling, and was designated as a UN Biosphere Reserve in 1979.
The park is managed and protected by Kenya Wildlife Service. All official information and park fee details can be found on its website.
The park and its surrounding oceans are home to dolphins and migratory whales. Dolphins are often seen from boats, or when stand up paddle (SUP) boarding through the park.
Another key species frequently seen in the park are sea turtles, for which Watamu is world famous. Species visiting the park include the green, hawksbill and olive ridley, and on rare occasion leatherback turtles. The beaches of Watamu are vital protected nesting sites for these creatures.
Watamu is home to the world-renowned Local Ocean Trust, which protects the turtles, their habitat and the entire ecosystem. It runs a rescue and rehabilitation centre, and works with local fishing communities to ensure that turtles caught in fishing nets are safely returned to the sea. It also protects nests to ensure that hatchlings safely reach the ocean.
A visit to its centre is a must for any visitor to Watamu, and it also has opportunities for volunteer eco-visitors to assist with its projects.
Local groups also work to protect birdlife within the beaches, tidal areas, estuaries and creeks of Watamu. The locally based A Rocha Kenya runs a research centre and carries out vital conservation work locally.
Arabuko Sokoke Forest
Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve and National Park is the largest remaining coastal forest in Eastern Africa. The entire reserve covers 420km2.
This beautiful and peaceful forest is a blend of Brachystegia Woodland and Cynometra. The forest is home to many different rare species of birds, mammals, butterflies and plants.
There are more than 270 bird species, and over 260 butterfly species and over 600 plant species in the forest. A small herd of elephant frequents a watering hole within the forest.
The forest has many endemic species, including the extremely rare Clarke's Weaver and Sokoke Scops Owl, which are only found here. The Sokoke Pipit, East Coast Akalat and Amani Sunbird are also considered endemic. Rare and unique local mammals include the Aders' duiker, Sokoke bushy-tailed mongoose, and golden-rumped elephant shrew.
The park and reserve are managed and protected by Kenya Wildlife Service.