The popular coastal resort of Watamu (20 minutes/24 kms from Malindi) centers 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.