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Wonderful Watamu

Watamu has some of the finest white, sandy beaches in East Africa.

Best time to visit: July to September, December to April

Safaris: Volunteer Vacation, Village Immersion, Bird Watching Safari

Activities: Bird Watching, Snorkeling, Diving, Windsurfing, Butterfly Safaris, Cultural Visits

Accommodation: Larsens House, Baraka House

Temperatures:
Day: 22-26° C, 72-79° F
Night: 8-11° C, 46-52° F

Watamu is a small village located on the Kenyan coast, approximately 120 km north of Mombasa and 25 km south of Malindi. The area has developed an international reputation for its white-sand, reef-protected beaches, which line the Watamu National Marine Park.

Established in 1968 as Kenya's first Marine Park, Watamu has developed into one of the world's best snorkeling and dive spots. The Marine Park boasts over 600 species of fish in just 10 square km, although the reserve area itself spreads out over more than 32 square km in total.

It is virtually impossible to snorkel in Watamu without seeing at least a few dozen species inside the main reef; divers outside the fringe reef stand an excellent chance of viewing the magnificent whale shark and Manta rays that are seasonal visitors.

If underwater exploring is not your style, not to worry! From windsurfing to dolphin watching boat trips, gentle walks to explore the rock pools or simply lying on the beach, the Watamu beach offers something for everyone.

In addition to the Marine Park itself, Watamu is within 10 km of two other special natural reserves, Mida Creek and Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, and one fascinating site of archeological interest, Gede Ruins.

The Mida Creek reserve is formed of extensive mangrove forests, warm shallow waters and large areas of mud flats at low tide. This area hosts not only many local birds, such as greater flamingo, yellow-billed stork, great white egret and malachite kingfisher, but is also the winter home of many migrants such as the crab plover, curlew sandpiper, whimbrel and sanderling. The osprey and African fish eagle are often overhead. A bird-lovers paradise, Mida Creek is also the spot to watch the spectacular African sunsets whilst sipping an icy cold drink at the end of an active day.

The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is East Africa's largest remaining area (420 square km) of indigenous coastal forest. The Forest contains six species of globally threatened bird, including the Clarke's weaver, which is found nowhere else in the world. Rare mammals are also present, including the golden-rumped elephant shrew, bushy-tailed mongoose and Ader's duiker.

Rarely seen but also found in the Forest are elephant, buffalo, leopard and hyena and over 260 species of butterflies. The Forest itself is made up from Cynometra, which forms thick forest and thickets on the red compact soils of the Western area, and the more open, shady trees of the Brachystegia woodland on the Eastern side. With several picnic spots and shady walking paths, the Forest is a favorite spot for many.

Gede Ruins, an archeologist's delight, was one of the ancient Arab towns that dotted the East African Coast. It dates from the late 13th or early 14th Century and was finally abandoned in the early 17th Century. Excavated since 1927, many areas have been revealed, including the Great Mosque, the Palace, several residential houses and pillar tombs. Surrounded by tall shady trees, a walk through Gede is a must for anyone interested in Kenya's history.

Watamu offers a number of places to stay which suit most budgets, ranging from bed and breakfast guest houses to a five star hotel.

With so much natural beauty, complimented by smiling friendly people, Watamu is certainly wonderful!

Copyright Melinda Rees of Eco-resorts

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