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Malindi & Watamu Marine National Park & Reserve

This cannot be less than natural beauty, the endless sand, the reefs, the lot, are completely unmatched in the world.'

Ernest Hemingway.

Africa's first marine park and one of the world's last great natural marine reserves, Malindi Marine National Park and its sister water-world, Watamu Marine National Reserve 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.

Fact File
Altitude: sea level.
Area: the total area of 261 sq km comprises; Malindi Marine National Reserve 213 sq km; Watamu Marine National Reserve 32 sq km; Malindi Marine National Park 6 sq km; and Watamu Marine National Park 10 sq km.
Location: Kilifi District, Coast Province, 118 km north of Mombasa on Kenya's north coast.
Gazetted: Watamu Marine National Reserve 1968.
Malindi Marine National Reserve 1976 (declared a UN Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1979).
Climate: hot and humid.
Vegetation: algae, microscopic marine plants, marine angiosperms, mangroves, palms and casuarinas.
Fauna: various crabs, corals, molluscs, cowries and marine worms.
Birds: Whale Island is a nesting ground for roseate and bridled tern and there are numerous shore birds.

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 snorkeling 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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