The Watamu National Marine Park and Reserve is an astounding piece of paradise that provides credence to the beauty and splendor that is the Kenyan Coastline—established in 1968 as one of Kenya’s first Marine Parks with its governing body being the Kenya Wildlife Service. The Marine Park covers about 229 square kilometers. It is known and spoken of worldwide as a natural beauty, and it boasts of marine life that cannot be rivaled with. The marine area in Watamu is one of the internationally recognized areas protected under the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Against the Great Barrier Reef, it is the only other destination with a greater species list.
Popularly referred to as the ‘Haven of the Green Turtle,’ Watamu National Marine Park and Reserve is located about 90miles north of Mombasa. The Mombasa area is accessible by air, train, or road before being transferred to the park. The coral gardens within Watamu National Marine Park are located just about 300 meters from the shoreline and is home to over 600 species of fish, 110 species of stony coral, and a vast number of crustaceans, mollusks, and invertebrates. Among the most viewed fish species include the parrotfish, which is considered responsible for white sandy beaches themselves due to its ingestion and digestion of the coral reef. The lionfish and the snapper are also common in the area. This is practically heaven on earth for biology enthusiasts because the educational and practical learning opportunities are immense and never-ending.
The larger species found within this paradise are the whale sharks, manta rays, barracuda, octopus, to name a few. It is considered a perfect whale watching spot. The water temperatures vary from 20 degrees Celsius between June and November to 30 degrees Celsius between December and May. During the warmer periods, the whale watching season is paramount because they travel out to mate before heading back to cooler waters. The turtle watching program in Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve serves as an added attraction. It has secured the area as a viable sea turtle nesting site for endangered sea turtles. The turtle species found within the park are inclusive of the green, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles. The rarest of the species is the olive ridley, although they can be spotted once they revert to their nesting sites. Leatherback turtles are harder to spot, although they can be stumbled upon during their migration period.
Reef protected lagoons and amazing white sandy beaches are the main characteristics of the Marine Reserve. It is almost impossible to snorkel at the Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve without spotting a few dozen marine species within the main reef. Those who are drawn to diving are at a more advantageous spot since they stand a chance of viewing the splendid, show-stopping whale shark and the Manta rays when they visit at the turn of the season. November is the best time to visit the Watamu National Marine Park and Reserve.
The reserve is a designated biosphere area and, as such, has inculcated a form of co-existence between the local community and the marine environment provided. It provides a sense of natural excellence and shall only get better as the years go by. Travel to Watamu and experience the mind-blowing essence of this coastal heaven.