In case you are looking for a place to relax or relocate to, beaches are an excellent environment for holidaying. Beaches offer a variety of recreational opportunities for billions of people across the world. Swimming, surfing, boating, walking, beach sports, fishing, beach bombing, bird-watching and sunbathing are part of the common activities beachgoers enjoy.
Watamu is a small coastal town with an average population of 30,000 (according to the 2019 census). It is located on Kenya’s coastline, 105 kilometers north of Mombasa (Kenya’s oldest city) and 15 kilometers South of Malindi (on the Indian Ocean Coast of Kenya).
Is Watamu worth visiting? What else is located here? How big is Watamu? How does someone even get there? What about the name itself, Watamu. Where did it originate from and what does it even mean? Read on to find out more about the white sandy beach located in Kilifi County.
What Does Watamu Mean In Swahili?
Watamu is a word of Swahili origin. “Wa” is a prefix signifying plural of people, “Tamu” is a Swahili word connoting delicious. Therefore, Watamu loosely translates to sweet people or gentle people. The top destination’s name can also be taken to mean a place of beauty, peace and pleasure as the popular Kenyan coined phrase “Watamu Patamu” implies.
It is widely believed that the area got its name from the friendly nature of the inhabitants; the Swahili people who are known to be gentle and kind. Other people tend to believe that the name up in the past when the Arabs used treats entice the Africans before capturing them as slaves. The Arabs are said to have docked at the Coast of Kenya in the 13th century and had much of the area under control by the 18th century. The original Watamu dwellers were the Giriama and the Arabs who would later intermarry giving rise to the Baguni (Bajuni in Swahili).
How Big Is Watamu?
Kilifi county covers an area of 12,246 square kilometers. Watamu is a small village town located in this county and it had a population of around 30,000 according to the 2020 census report. The village lies between Watamu Marine National Park and Arabuko Sokoke National Park (two protected areas), a vibrant tropical forest and pristine beaches. There are at least 16 hotels and resorts with between a two to five star rating and private villas in the cosmopolitan town.
How Do You Get To Watamu?
Thanks to Kenya’s developed modes of transportation, travelers are presented with a variety of options when reaching their destination. To get to Watamu one has a number of options considering where they are coming from. If one has flown into the country with the intention of only visiting Watamu, they can do so either by road, air or rail. By air, which is the fastest way, Kenya Airways, Fly560 and JamboJet all offer daily flights to Malindi Airport. Watamu is about a thirty minute drive away from the airport. A taxi from Malindi Airport to Watamu beach will cost between 2000 – 3000 Kenyan shillings (around $25-35).Travelling by road, which is the longest way, is a journey that takes around 8 hours. You can either drive, take a taxi or bus. By bus it cost roughly between $13 – $19.
By train, you will use the SGR train to get to Kilifi by alighting at the Mariakani station and then proceeding to Watamu by road.
You can also fly from Nairobi to Mombasa which will be slightly longer, then proceed to Watamu and the drive will take around 90 minutes. By taxi it costs roughly between $70 – $90 to get to Watamu from Mombasa airport.
Once in Watamu, getting around is a breeze. You can hire a taxi which can be booked via hotel or staff from rental houses or can be dialed from your location. Bikes can also be hired and they present a fascinating way of exploration. You can also explore the local area on foot to get a real feel of the village town environment.
Is Watamu Worth Visiting?
The coastal beach of Watamu is famous for its wonderful white sand beaches, beautiful coconut palm trees, crystal clear waters, cool ocean breeze and gentle waves. All accommodation options pride themselves in sustainable and responsible tourism, from numerous boutique hotels and resorts to luxurious private homes and villas. In 2012, CNN Travel ranked it as the second best sand beach in Africa.
Watamu also boasts of rich culture and history of the Italians, Arabs and African. The cuisine is also a fusion of African, Arab and Italian in meals such as the pizza and ice cream. The beaches, home to numerous turtle species, are a perfect place for swimming, snorkeling and tanning sessions.
What Else I Located Here?
Minus the beach, there are a lot of other attractions and activities that take place at Watamu. Located 1 km off the Coast of Watamu Beach is the Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve. The conservation was founded in 1968, and extends for 42 square kilometers along the coast, and is offered legal protection by the Kenya Wildlife Service. It contains at least 1000 different species of fish including dugong, manta ray, whale shark and Hawksbill, Ridley and Olive turtles. There are also 110 species of stony coral, countless invertebrates, crustaceans and molasses.
Gedi Ruins is another popular attraction in the Watamu area. The 13th century Swahili village, which was abandoned about 600 years ago, is beautifully overgrown with indigenous tropical forest trees such as tamarind and baobabs.
Bio-Ken Snake Farm and Laboratory is another place of interest for both local and international tourists. The center is renowned globally for the variety of snakes in its possession such as the black spitting cobra, puff adder, black mamba and many more. The center also offers emergency services to snake bite victims throughout the region.
Water activities are also a major attraction to Watamu. You can rent a Swahili dhow for a day trip to see dolphins during the morning hours while enjoying brunch on the boat or take a sundowner sail along Mida Creek on Dew of the Sea while enjoying Swahili dishes. Watersports such as snorkeling, diving, water skiing, wakeboarding, kitesurfing and stand up paddle boarding are viable options for one to try out. Tribe Watersports, with 18 years of experience, is a world-class training center and the number one destination of watersports in Watamu.