Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve

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Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve

Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve, encompassing approximately 10 square kilometers, is situated in the coastal town of Watamu, Kilifi County, Kenya. It’s positioned about 300 meters offshore, offering easy access to its coral-rich waters and diverse marine life, and is part of a complex marine and tidal habitat along Kenya’s north coast enclosed by the Malindi Marine National Park and Reserve.

The marine park is known for its Green turtles nesting on its beautiful sandy beaches. The Marine Park does not have a specific entrance. Instead, it can be accessed from various points along the beachfront in Watamu.

The park’s clear turquoise waters are home to various marine life, including over 500 different fish species. With its crystal-clear waters and fascinating coral reefs, the park is a fantastic destination for beach lovers, snorkelers, and nature enthusiasts.

By Flight, Watamu Marine National Park can be through Malindi Airport, situated 25 kilometers away. Regular domestic flights from Nairobi, available through Jambojet take about 1 hour. A short 30-minute taxi ride from Malindi Airport to Watamu can be arranged.

By Road, enjoy a scenic 120-kilometer drive via the A109 and B8 highways, taking around 2.5 to 3 hours from Mombasa to Watamu. If coming from Malindi, a quick 30-minute drive covering 27 kilometers via the B8 road gets you to Watamu.

What fish are in Watamu Marine Park?: Watamu Marine National Park has a multitude of marine wildlife for nature enthusiasts. Explore the vibrant coral gardens while snorkeling, witness the nesting and hatching of Green turtles on pristine beaches, and marvel at the diverse marine life, including grouper, damselfish, lionfish, octopus, parrotfish, and more.

Humpback dolphins and whales also contribute to marine diversity.  The crystal-clear turquoise waters provide an enchanting setting for beachgoers and snorkelers alike, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a close encounter with nature’s wonders.

What is there to do in the Watamu Marine National Park?: Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve offers a variety of activities for visitors. Some of the activities include:

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: Watamu’s underwater realm is a snorkeler’s and diver’s delight, with coral reefs bustling with life. The park’s waters are a sanctuary for diverse marine species, offering a visual feast for underwater explorers.

The Watamu Turtle Watch: This initiative is dedicated to the conservation of sea turtles, involving the community in protecting these creatures. Visitors can engage in educational activities and sometimes witness turtle releases.

Glass Bottom Boat Rides: Glass bottom boat rides provide a glimpse into the aquatic world without getting wet. These rides are perfect for all ages, offering a peek at the coral reefs and their marine inhabitants.

Water Skiing and Windsurfing: The park’s conditions are ideal for water skiing and windsurfing, offering excitement for those seeking an adrenaline rush on the water’s surface.

Sun Bathing on the Sandy Beaches: Watamu’s beaches are known for their pristine sands and inviting waters, perfect for relaxation and beach activities in a serene setting.

Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve has some Nearby Attractions that you may also want to visit. Most of the tours that visit these attractions begin from Malindi. Some of the attractions are:

Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve: The Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve is a biodiverse area, home to unique species like the golden-rumped elephant shrew. It’s a key conservation area, preserving a variety of habitats and endemic wildlife.

Gede Ruins: Gede Ruins are historical remnants of a Swahili town, offering insights into ancient East African culture. Visitors can explore the stone structures and learn about the region’s past.

Kipepeo Butterfly Farm: Kipepeo Butterfly Farm is a community project that conserves the Arabuko Sokoke Forest by breeding butterflies for global exhibits. It supports local livelihoods and promotes conservation.

Sudi Island and Kirepwe Island: Sudi and Kirepwe Islands are part of the Mida Creek Estuary, known for their rich birdlife and mangrove forests. They offer a peaceful retreat and opportunities for bird-watching and cultural visits.

Bio-Ken Snake Farm: Bio-Ken Snake Farm is a research center focusing on snakes and antivenom. It has a large collection of snakes and provides educational tours, emphasizing the importance of these reptiles in the ecosystem.

Notes

* Accommodation is available within the park. Lodges such as Turtle Bay Beach Club and Kasarifa Villas are great options to choose from.  But you also can find plenty of options in Watamu town.
* If you don’t have your own snorkeling and scuba diving equipment, you have the option to rent it within the park.
* Big Game Fishing competitions are held in the marine park from December to March which is the prime fishing season.
* Turtle nesting and hatching is usually an all-year-round activity but is highest in summer between May and August. However, it is important to know that the sighting can’t be guaranteed.

Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve Facts

Watamu Marine Park Ecosystem

The ecosystem of Watamu Marine Park is linked to its coral reefs and marine fauna, each playing a crucial role in the park’s environmental health.

The coral reefs in Watamu Marine Park are the foundation of the marine ecosystem. These structures which are about 300 meters from the shore, are composed of over 150 species of hard and soft corals, such as brain corals, fan corals, and sponges, creating a foundation for the park’s marine life. The reefs provide shelter and food for many species, and their health is essential for the sustainability of the park’s ecosystem. 

Watamu Marine Park’s marine fauna includes a vast array of species that rely on the coral reefs for survival. The park’s waters are teeming with life, from the smallest plankton to the largest whale sharks. This biodiversity is not only important for the ecological balance but also for the park’s attractiveness as a premier destination for marine wildlife observation and research.

Together, the coral reefs and marine fauna create a dynamic and interdependent ecosystem that is vital for the park’s environmental integrity and economic value.


Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Watamu Marine National Park is during the dry seasons, which run from January to March and from July to September. These periods offer the most favorable weather conditions for exploring the park’s natural beauty.

The clear skies and calm seas make it perfect for snorkeling, diving, and enjoying the pristine beaches. Additionally, these months coincide with the hatching of sea turtles, providing visitors with the unique opportunity to witness this remarkable event. 


Location | How to get to Watamu Marine Park

Watamu Marine Park is located on the scenic coast of Kenya, near the town of Watamu in Kilifi County. It lies approximately 140 kilometers north of Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city, and is easily accessible from there. The park is situated about 300 meters offshore and is part of a complex of marine and tidal habitats along Kenya’s north coast.

By air, one can fly into Malindi Airport, which is a mere 25 kilometers away from the park. Regular domestic flights from Nairobi to Malindi take about an hour, and from there, it’s a short 30-minute taxi ride to Watamu.

For those who prefer the scenic route, a drive from Mombasa to Watamu is equally rewarding. It’s a 120-kilometer journey via the A109 and B8 highways, taking approximately 2.5 to 3 hours. Alternatively, if you’re starting from Malindi, a quick 30-minute drive on the B8 road will cover the 27 kilometers to Watamu.


Marine Wildlife

The marine wildlife in Watamu Marine Park is a diverse and vibrant collection of species that thrive within and around the coral reefs. The park is a sanctuary for green turtles, which use its beaches as nesting grounds.

The coral gardens are bustling with an array of fish species, including parrotfish, angelfish, groupers, lionfish, and snappers, which contribute to the park’s reputation as a snorkeling and diving paradise. Seasonal visitors such as whale sharks and manta rays add to the park’s allure, making it a hotspot for marine biologists and nature lovers alike.


Bird Checklist | Birdlife

Watamu Marine Park has over 100 species of birds adorning the coastal skies and landscapes. The park’s cultivated gardens, bushlands, and shambas serve as a habitat for a variety of birds, including the commonly seen Black Kite soaring overhead, while the Common Bulbul, White-Browed Coucal, and Speckled Mousebird are often spotted scuffling in the undergrowth.

The vibrant Yellow Canaries and Golden Palm Weavers add a splash of color to the greenery, and the Lizard Buzzard and Lilac Breasted Roller are frequently observed perched on poles and wires, making Watamu Marine Park a birdwatcher’s paradise.


Watamu Marine Park Opening Time

The park is open between 06:00 am and close at 06:00 pm daily.


2024 Watamu Marine Park Entrance Fees

Nationality

High Season (July to March) Low Season (March to June)
Adult Child/ Student Adult Child/ Student
East African Citizen/ Resident 300
Kenya Shillings
150
Kenya Shillings
200
Kenya Shillings

150
Kenya Shillings

Rest of Africa

15 US Dollars 5 US Dollars 15 US Dollars 8 US Dollars
International Visitors 25 US Dollars 10 US Dollars 20 US Dollars 10 US Dollars

Notes

* Child refers to persons from three years but below 11 years
* Resident refers to persons of other nationalities residing in Kenya with valid documentation from the Kenyan government
* Citizen – A native or inhabitant of East African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South-Sudan) with valid identification documents or passport
* Daily – Fee paid for a single entry to a national park, national reserve, or sanctuary and which shall be valid for no longer than twenty-four hours


Where To Stay in Watamu Marine Park |  Watamu Accommodation

When visiting Watamu Marine Park, you have a variety of accommodation options to suit your preferences and needs:

Turtle Bay Beach Club: This is an all-inclusive resort located directly on the beach within the Watamu National Marine Park. It offers a range of amenities, including a pool, restaurants, and various activities for guests.

Kasarifa Villas: Adjacent to the Turtle Bay Beach Club, Kasarifa Villas provides a more private and self-catering option. Each villa has its pool and is just a short walk from the beach, offering a luxurious and intimate stay.

Hotels in Watamu Town: For those who prefer to stay in the nearby town of Watamu, there are numerous hotels ranging from luxury to budget-friendly options. You can find accommodations that offer beautiful views, swimming pools, and easy access to local attractions. Some options available are:

Alawi Boutique Hotel: Alawi Boutique Hotel offers a luxurious beachfront experience with an outdoor pool, an on-site restaurant, and well-appointed rooms, some with sea views. It’s known for its excellent service and prime location.

Abora Cottage: Abora Cottage is a private three-bedroom bungalow set in tropical gardens with a pool. It provides a serene atmosphere with the inclusive services of a cook and housekeeper, ideal for a relaxed stay.

Watamu Marine Park Activities & Nearby Attractions

Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve offers a multitude of activities to its visitors. The activities include:

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve is a snorkeler’s and diver’s paradise, offering an underwater spectacle of coral reefs teeming with marine life. The park’s clear, warm waters are home to over 150 species of hard and soft corals and hundreds of species of fish, making it an ideal spot for both beginners and experienced divers. Diving into these depths, one can encounter everything from the tiniest clownfish to the majestic sea turtles, and even the occasional dolphin or whale shark.


The Watamu Turtle Watch: The Watamu Turtle Watch is a conservation effort that protects sea turtles and their habitats. With programs like turtle nest monitoring and bycatch release, the initiative has been instrumental in rescuing and rehabilitating thousands of turtles. Visitors can participate in these conservation efforts, learn about the turtles, and sometimes even witness the release of these magnificent creatures back into the ocean.


Glass Bottom Boat Rides: For those who prefer to stay above the water, glass bottom boat rides offer a window into the vibrant marine ecosystem of Watamu. These boats provide a unique perspective of the coral reefs and their inhabitants without getting wet. It’s a family-friendly activity that allows everyone, regardless of swimming ability, to appreciate the beauty of the park’s underwater world.


Water Skiing and Windsurfing: Watamu’s breezy conditions are perfect for water skiing and windsurfing. Enthusiasts of these sports can enjoy the thrill of gliding across the water’s surface, powered by the Indian Ocean’s winds. The park offers designated areas for these activities, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all.


Sun Bathing on the Sandy Beaches: The sandy beaches of Watamu are as inviting as they are beautiful. With soft white sands and crystal-clear waters, these beaches are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and simply relaxing. The coastline stretches from Jacaranda Bay to Short Beach, offering a variety of spots for every preference, whether it’s a quiet place to unwind or a lively spot for beach sports.


Near Watamu Marine Park, visitors can explore a variety of attractions that offer a blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and conservation efforts:

Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve: The Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve is a precious ecological treasure located on the coast of Kenya, near Watamu. It is the largest remaining fragment of dry coastal forest in East Africa, making it a hotspot for biodiversity.

The forest is home to a variety of endemic species, including the golden-rumped elephant shrew and the Sokoke scops owl. With three distinct forest types – mixed forest, Brachystegia, and Cynometra – the reserve supports different communities of flora and fauna, offering a rich experience for nature enthusiasts.


Gede Ruins: Gede Ruins are the remains of a Swahili town that thrived from the 12th to the 17th century. Located within the Arabuko Sokoke Forest, these ruins are a significant historical and archaeological site near the Kenyan coast.

Visitors can explore the ancient mosques, palaces, and houses made of stone, and learn about the Swahili culture that once flourished in this region. The Gede Ruins provide a fascinating insight into the past and are a testament to the area’s rich cultural heritage.


Kipepeo Butterfly Farm: Kipepeo Butterfly Farm is a community-based project that promotes conservation and supports local livelihoods around the Arabuko Sokoke forest. The farm breeds butterfly and moth pupae, which are then sold to exhibit in insect parks globally.

Visitors can tour the farm, learn about the life cycle of butterflies, and see a variety of beautiful butterflies and moths up close. The project demonstrates the tangible link between conservation and community development.


Sudi Island and Kirepwe Island: Sudi and Kirepwe Islands are part of the Mida Creek estuarine system and offer a slice of authentic island life. These islands are known for their lush greenery and rich birdlife, making them perfect for bird-watching and nature walks.

Visitors can explore the mangrove forests, visit local Giriama villages, and enjoy the tranquility of these less-traveled destinations. The islands also provide opportunities for kayaking and learning about local conservation efforts.


Bio-Ken Snake Farm: Bio-Ken Snake Farm is a research center located just outside Watamu, specializing in the study of snakes and anti-venom research. It houses the largest collection of snakes in East Africa, including some of the continent’s most venomous species.

Visitors can take guided tours to see the snakes, learn about their role in the ecosystem, and witness the process of venom extraction for antivenom production. The farm also provides emergency care for snakebite victims and educates the public on the importance of these reptiles.

Booking & Reservations Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve Contact

Mobile: +254-721-242-711
WhatsApp: +254-721-242-711
Reservations: +254 718-179-967
Email: info@africanspicesafaris.com
Website: https://africanspicesafaris.com

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