15 Must Visit Places in Watamu
Watamu means ‘The Home of Sweet People’. Watamu is a relatively small town is located in Kilifi County about 120 kilometers north of Mombasa City and 25 kilometers south of Malindi town along the Kenya coast. Tourists flock Watamu to bask in the pristine and beautiful white sandy beaches. In Watamu, visitors can also undertake in water sports and diving excursions in the marine park and also marvel at the expansive mangrove forest on Mida Creek endowed with rich marine life and rare sea turtles. Guests can also visit the Arabuko Sokoke Forest, the largest remaining dry coast forest in Eastern and Southern Africa. There are many excellent tourist accommodation facilities that exist in Watamu. While visiting Watamu, we recommend that you visit the following attractions;
- Arabuko Sokoke Forest: With a size of 420km2 Arabuko Sokoke Forest is the largest remaining section of a continuous dry coastal forest found in Eastern and Southern Africa. It is a unique habitat characterized by an enormous flora and fauna biodiversity. Three different, distinct forest vegetation types as well as several seasonal pools provide habitats for over 600 plant species, 52 mammals species, over 230 birds species and 80 amphibian species. Arabuko Sokoke Forest is very popular with bird watchers. Most of them come to see the Clarke’s Weaver, Amani Sunbird, the Sokoke Pipit or the shy Sokoke Scopes Owl.
2. Gede Ruins: The ruins of Gede are relics of the one of the Arab-African settlements found along the East African coast. Taking a guided tour through the ruins and the museum, will teach you a lot of interesting things about the fascinating culture of the Swahili people and the ancient town they constructed. It is best to combine your visit to Gede with a trip to the Kipepeo Butterfly House on the grounds as well take in a traditional dance performance by Randu Giriama Dancers which is situated just outside the ruins entrance gate.
3. Mida Creek: Recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) where migratory birds from Europe and Eurasia find a place to rest as they migrate. The bay at Mida Creek expands across 32km2. It comprises of different types of habitats that are influenced by the tide, for example mudflats, sand flats. Open shallow waters and mangrove forests. The Mida Creek Boardwalk and Bird Hide is a suspended walkway amongst mangroves that offers and opportunity to view bird and marine life.
4. Bio-Ken Snake Farm: The farm is a research centre that deals with reptiles, snake and snake bites. Established by the late James Ashe and his wife Sanda, James was a former curator of the National Museums of Kenya and expert on Kenyan reptiles, snakes and insects. The farm has one of the largest snakes collection centers in East Africa. At the farm guest can handle harmless snakes, watch chameleons and tortoise.
5. Kipepeo Butterfly House: The Kipepeo is Swahili for Butterfly; the kipepeo project is a community based project that was established in 1993. Its headquarters is situated at the Gede Ruins National Monument and Museum Site. Kipepeo intends to improve the livelihoods of local communities living adjacent to Arabuko Sokoke Forest through generating alternative income possibilities. The butterfly farmers raise butterflies until the insects pupate and then bring the pupae to the project centre where Kipepeo staff packs and exports them to butterfly houses in Europe, Japan and the USA. The project runs an attractive butterfly house in which a variety of beautiful butterflies found at Arabuko Sokoke Forest are on display. They also have a honey processing room where guests can learn how honey and candle from beeswax are produced.
6. Watamu/Malindi Marine Park and National Reserve: Recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Watamu/Malindi Marine Park was established in 1968. The park was not only the first marine to protect coral reefs in Kenya and also along the East African Coast. Scuba divers and snorkelers are able to discover the colorful coral gardens; you can also sun bath along the beaches, take part in windsurfing, go for boat excursions and engage in dolphin and whale watching and if fortunate see the rare green sea turtle. From October to March whales and dolphins are near the Kenyan coast and it is the best time to see these animals. The best time to go for snorkeling in the coral gardens is during low tide and for visiting Mida Creek is during high tide.
7. Sabaki River Estuary: Located north of Malindi town is where Kenya’s second largest river; the Sabaki River meets the Indian Ocean. Because of the conjunction of freshwater and saltwater, a mosaic of different habitats has developed. The estuary has huge sand dunes situated about 200 to 300 metres inland from the shore. Some parts of the dunes are still on the move while others are fixed in their position by growing vegetation. The estuary is recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and is an excellent place to view waterfowl. The best time for birding are around the high tides because it brings the wading birds.
8. Dabaso & Dabaso Rock: Dabaso lies on the southern part of Mida Creek and borders the main road leading to Temple Point. Dabaso is an excellent place for bird watching and it is ecologically a part of Mida Creek where many waders and waterfowl can be seen during high tide and its also an attractive site for forest birds due to the trees and bushes that grow on and around Dabaso Rock. The most impressive feature of Dabaso is the Dabaso Rock. Historically and culturally it is a holy and spiritual site for the Giriama people. While visiting Dabaso, you can consider visiting Sita Community Snake Farm.
9. Kirepwe Island & Kirepwe Ruins: After Sudi Island, Kirepwe is the second largest of the three Mida Creek Islands. Home to the Kirepwe Ruins, open water-pools and palm trees, it is a very scenic site. The ruins at Kirepwe are almost the same age as the ruins in Gede and so it’s believed they were settled by the same community of people. During your visit you’ll get a fascinating insight into the subsistence lifestyle of these people and the fishing and coconut palm economy. Kirepwe island is a good place for birdwatching but even the journey to the island is an experience, especially if you choose to get their in a traditional dugout canoe. Mida Creek community groups offer special trips to Kirepwe Island including a picnic with traditional food of fish, rice and fresh fruit as well as overnight camping.
10. Old Temple at Temple Point: The relics of an Old Swahili temple to the Kenya Wildlife Service Marine Park office are a sight which you can visit if you are in the area. Like the ruins in Gede the temple is a part of the long cultural history of the Kenyan coast. The Temple belongs to the property of VentaClub – Temple Point you have to ask one of the friendly hotel guards to take you to the temple if you want to take a closer look. The Old Temple provides a perfect opportunity to wander around unexcavated ruins and contemplate the cultural history of the area. It’s a great spot to relax with a picnic and enjoy the natural scenery.
11. Sita Community Snake Farm: Sita Community Snake Farm is a small community project situated at the eastern part of Mida Creek. The collection began as a means to educate the local community about snakes and reptiles found in the area, including which are venomous and harmless, in the hopes of increasing tolerance and decreasing animal deaths. Everyone involved with the Snake farm have vast experience with reptiles and they can conduct reptiles and snake presentations in hotels in Watamu and Malindi in order to educate and inform tourists. The Sita Community Snake Farm is not far from the Dabaso Landing Site and therefore it might be a good idea to combine your visit with a trip to one of the Mida Creek Islands or do one of the many other activities the community has to offer in the Mida Creek area.
12.Watamu Marine Association: WMA is an association of tourism, community and environmental groups working to develop community based tourism enterprises and to conserve marine life. WMA works for the community and conservation in the Watamu Marine Park and Reserve on the North Kenya Coast. In 2007, the local residents, land owners, tourism operators, traders and local communities formed the Watamu Marine Association (WMA) as a non-profit making, voluntary membership association to preserve the natural beauty of Watamu and its environs through promoting sound environmental management practices, conservation education and responsible tourism through various empowerment initiatives.
13. Crab Shack Restaurant: The restaurant is set in the enchanting mangrove forest and is run by the Dabaso Community. The restaurant serves fresh sea food. The Dabaso Creek Mangrove Boardwalk leads you to their restaurant as you enjoy watching birds, shrimps, crabs and other marine life. The best time to visit the restaurant is in the evening as you enjoy the sunset over a cold chilled drink. From the Crab Shack Restaurant, you can also embark on a traditional canoe ride to Mida Creek and other islands like Kirepwe, or Green Island to view birdlife and marine life.
14. Randu Gede Giriama Dancers: Randu Gede Giriama Dancers originally started back in 1976 as a large Giriama Cultural Village located near the Gede Ruins Monument. Over the years, the village reloacted and changed the focus to traditional dancing. They are located just outside the entrance gate to the Gede Ruins Monument on a lively Giriama compound; they perform traditional Giriama dances for visitors in an effort to share their traditional culture to their children and guests. They also make and sell traditional artefact’s and musical instruments our of natural materials such as baobab pods, raffia and reeds which are on offer to guests. The group is interested in improving education of the local people for children and adults.
15. Local Ocean Trust: The Local Ocean Trust is a non-profit organization based in Watamu. The organization is a grassroots project located in Watamu and are passionate about conservation of Kenya’s marine resources because there is a need to protect local sea turtles and the surrounding marine environment. Their flagship marine protection programme is Watamu Turtle Watch which was founded in 1997. They work with local communities include; subsistence fishermen, marine stakeholders and government authorities to protect, advocate, educate and empower. Their Marine Information Centre next to the Watamu Supermarket makes it easy for visitors to stop by before or after shopping. The centre is open Monday to Saturday from 9:30 to 12pm and from 2pm to 4:30pm. You can also visit the Watamu Turtle Watch headquarters at Plot 203, south along the main road towards Temple Point. There are usually tend injured or sick turtles which live in water basins until they are strong enough to be released. The easiest way to see a living turtle during your vacation is to pass by plot 2013.
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