Fringed by white sandy beaches and lush, tropical forest, Watamu is a peaceful town on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast. Originally settled as a Swahili outpost, this undeveloped area now lures in travellers looking for a laid-back getaway. It’s a popular destination for snorkelling and diving within the Watamu Marine National Park and is on the doorstep of the wildlife-rich Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve.
Things to do in Watamu
Discover the underwater wonders of Watamu Marine National Park, which was established in 1968 and designated as a biosphere reserve a decade later. You can come face-to-face with around 600 different species of colourful fish in the offshore reefs, which are also home to more than 100 species of stony coral. Green and hawksbill sea turtles inhabit the sand flats of Mida Creek, as do a wide variety of birds.
Want to see elephants in the wild? Head to the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve, which is home to several endemic species that include Clarke’s weaver and the golden-rumped elephant shrew. Savannah elephants, African civets and Sokoke bushy-tailed mongooses also find refuge in the forest, together with baboons and vervet monkeys.
Just north of Watamu’s town centre lie the ruins of Gedi, one of several medieval Swahili-Arab settlements found along Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline. Wander between the stone-built mosques and houses that are enclosed by an encircling wall while hearing about the settlement’s prosperity between the 11th and early 17th centuries.
Getting around Watamu
Watamu is around 30 minutes’ drive from Malindi Airport, which has regular flights to Nairobi. Mombasa International Airport is a 1.5-hour drives away. Taxis are readily available for getting around the town or it’s compact enough to explore on foot and by rental bicycle.