Watamu - North Coast of Kenya
A new resort, Crystal Bay stands on an impressive bay, adjacent to the Watamu marine park. The resort offers 59 rooms, two swimming pools, two restaurants, a 'Mind and Body' treatment centre, each soccer and beach volley ball. The resort is ideally placed for visits to the Mida Adventure Centre, the Gedi Ruins, Watamu Bio-Ken snake park, Tsavo National Park (East) and Malindi Town.
The Swahili coast, a glorious ribbon of silver and sapphire, crashing surf and bright coral, is steeped in a turbulent history pre-dating Da Gama. The Swahili culture, a fabulous fusion of Arab, African, and Portuguese has created a pace of life, a style of cuisine and a mosaic of architecture, heritage, myth and magic that is found nowhere else in the world.
Location and seasons The hotel is 90 minutes from Mombasa and 30 minutes from Malindi Kenya's north coast, one of her most popular beach holiday destinations, offers clear blue sea, marine parks, excellent water sports, coral reefs, monsoon winds, numerous hotels and beach resorts, family vacations, sun n sand, cultural and beach travel and more. Close to Mombasa, it is also within easy reach of Malindi, Lamu, Diani and many other popular Kenya safari resort hotels.
Beach vacation facts The Kenyan coast is roughly divided into ‘North and ‘South' of the island city of Mombasa.To reach the south coast, it is necessary to cross from the island of Mombasa via the Likoni Ferry (10 minutes) to the start of the south coast beaches. The link to the north coast is via the Nyali Bridge, which leads from the island (via the suburb of Nyali) to the north coast.
The north coast features features: Nyali Beach Kenyatta and Bamburi Beaches Shanzu beach Kilifi Watamu
Beach facts: Hottest time is between November and March, rainy season is May and June (hotel closed 01 May to 15 June); sea weed on beach and strong winds May /August. September to November is cool and pleasant.
Wonderful Watamu The popular coastal resort of Watamu (20 minutes/24 km from Malindi) centres around the small town of Watamu, home to an exotic mix of local residents, visiting Maasai warriors, Italians, Germans and the remains of the old British settlers. The 8km white sandy beach, fringed by palm trees, and lapped by the sapphire-clear waters of the Indian Ocean, has been voted one of the top ten beaches in the world. Here the coast is broken into three separate coves, each divided by a rocky headland. Between each headland is a broad white sandy beach - ideal for swimming, snorkelling and water-sports. To the north, lies Mida Creek, an unspoilt area of mangrove forests, ideal for birdwatching.
Watamu Turtle Watch Programme; is a community based marine conservation organization, which works for the protection of endangered sea turtles and their marine environment. Allied to the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee and the Fisheries Department, the programme offers education on turtle-friendly fishing methods, plus offering rewards for the preservation of eggs and nests.
Gedi ruins, the ‘precious' place Founded in the late 13th or early 14th century, the ruined Swahili town of Gedi is located about 4km north of Watamu. Meaning ‘precious' in the language of the local Galla people, it is thought to have flourished in the mid-15th century. Obviously a prosperous town at that time, it hosted sultan's palaces, sunken gardens, a fabulous selection of grand merchant's houses, a large Friday mosque and some exquisite examples of Islamic pillar tombs. Then, in the 17th century, it was abandoned, some think quite suddenly. Theories abound as to why this happened, one being that the residents fled in the face of an imminent invasion by the Galla - who were known to be cannibals.
Today, the picturesque ruins are spread over several acres, dotted with ancient baobab trees and surrounded in dense coastal forest in which monkeys swing. Believed to be haunted by a strange ‘beast' which stalks visitors as dusk falls, excavations in the ruins during the 1940-50s revealed an extensive array of domestic, religious and commercial structures including a palace with sunken courts, fortified walls and a deep well. Finds included glass and shell beads, gold and silver jewellery, coins, porcelain and local pottery. Within the inner and outer wall is a nature tail with some 30 indigenous trees. Next door to the Gedi Museum (which houses the many finds) is Kepepeo Butterfly, a community project linked to the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, which hosts a Butterfly Pavillion, 260 species of butterfly, an education centre on the life of butterflies and illustrations of how the local community has been trained to breed pupae, which they sell to butterfly projects all over the world.
The Background Kenya's stunning coastline (485 km from Nairobi) runs 700 km between the Tanzanian and Somali borders and is renowned for its silken white sandy beaches, coconut palms, sheltered lagoons, pellucid blue waters, remote islands, uncharted mangrove swamps and mysterious Arab and Swahili ruins, many of which date back to the 8th Century AD. An idyllic climate cooled by the monsoon, the Swahili coast offers a daily average of 8 hours of sunshine, and the hot steamy climate is tempered by the monsoon winds: the south-easterly Kusi, which blows from April to October; and the north-easterly Kaskazi which blows from November to March.
Accommodation The resort offers 59 rooms (AC hair dryer, telephone safe, private verandah overlooking the garden, telephone, laundry). The rooms are charmingly presented with canopied beds and oriental carpets. 39 Superior rooms, 20 Deluxe rooms.
Dining and bars The Main Restaurant is in the heart of the resort and The Tamu close to the beach that offers a magnificent view of the bay. The hotel offers two restaurants, the main restaurant stands at the heart of the resort, the ‘Tamu' on the beach, and two bars (pool bar and beach bar). The resort offers a variety of dining experiences - from sumptuous buffet selections and themed nights in the main restaurant to excellent bar snacks on the open terrace of the bar. BBQs, beach sundowners, cultural dance performances and first-class seafood a feature.
Child-friendly The hotel welcomes children.
What to see and do Africa's first marine park and one of the world's last great natural marine reserves, Malindi Marine and its sister waterworld, Watamu Marine offer protection to one of the world's most famous coral reefs. Glowing with coral gardens and teeming with vividly fantastic fish, the parks provide a haven for divers and a window on to the wonders of the deep for snorkelers, swimmers and rock pool dabblers alike. A unique complex of marine and tidal habitats, the Malindi and Watamu marine parks cover an area 30 km long and 5 km wide, and stretch from just south of Malindi town southwards to beyond the entrance to Mida Creek. The widely varied habitats include intertidal rock, sand and mud; fringing reefs and coral gardens; beds of sea-grass; coral cliffs, platforms and islets; sandy beaches and mangrove forests.
North Reef and Barracuda Reef There are two main reefs, North Reef and Barracuda Reef, both of which enjoy high coral cover and host a startling number and variety of marine life.
Reef life The reef provides food and shelter for an entire community. A shifting rainbow of small fish, octopus and clams hide in the gaps between the coral; celestial-blue parrotfish use their hard beaks to chew off lumps of coral while a kaleidoscope of snappers, rubber fish, zebra fish, butterfly fish, angel fish and scorpion fish shimmer in the clear waters. Hunting sharks, rays, turtles and starfish also prowl the reef in search of prey while moray eels hide in holes alongside small crabs and wrasses (long, spiny-finned fish).
Turtles, Dolphins and more... The area is famous for its population of turtles (green, hawksbill, loggerhead, Ridley and leatherback), which can often be found feeding in the lush Thalasia beds of the reef. There is also a turtle-breeding beach immediately adjacent to the KWS Marine HQ where visitors can see young turtles tentatively emerging into the evening light and streaming down to the ocean. Dolphins are also regular visitors to the area (spinner, humpback and bottle-nosed).
Splendid Snorkeling and Glass-bottom Boating The twin marine parks offer one of Kenya's finest snorkelling venues. Just five minutes boat ride from the shore, the extensive coral gardens can be accessed in glass-bottomed boats operated by members of the local community. Visitor tip: the best time to snorkel is two hours either side of low tide, when the greatest amount of marine life is revealed.
World Renowned Dive Venues Enjoying perennial warm shallow waters, exceptional clarity, pristine coral and an extraordinary breadth of marine life, the outer edges of North Reef provide five of the most spectacular diving venues in the world.
The Information Centre The Malindi Marine Information Centre, the first of its kind in East Africa, is open 6am to 7pm daily.
How to get there: KWS Marine HQ is located 5km south of Malindi town at Casuarina Point.
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