I am in love with the Indian Ocean, a love so deep I have written poetry about it. I love the coast and I always make sure that I always go there at least once a year. There is something about the coastal region that just relaxes me. I don’t know what precisely it is, whether it is the salty scent of the ocean, blended in with warm clear blue water, the sandy white sandy beaches, the beautiful sea life and clear blue skies that make me make a voyage year after year to the coast to discover a new destination every year. In 2014 Tiwi had blown my mind with its serenity and last year the destination was Watamu. The great thing is that I was linking up with friends I had met for the first time the previous year and bringing some of my friends along for a holiday they would never forget. The coast has the things I love: the food (food is bae), the ocean, swimming, the henna tattoos and it is also a fun destination to explore and discover. There is so much to learn and every visit is different.
Watamu is located North of Mombasa town along the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. Watamu is a small town and it lives up to its Swahili name Watamu- ‘a home of sweet people’. I was also told that the name Watamu was also derived from the slave trade era when Arab slavers used sweets to entice the local people with sweets, and then capture them to sell them as slaves.
We were staying at a Lodge named Saba Saba Lodge which is in the heart of Watamu. Saba Saba sort of looks like a small white castle. Saba Saba lodge is a beautiful place with an open plan lounge, decorated Swahili furniture, with African touches all around including the paintings all around the lounge and the décor in the rooms. The Lodge has nine rooms which all have different designs and most are ensuite.
We had planned a group holiday so all the rooms where taken up by friends of our host Njooro. We had planned for a 3 nights 4 days of fun and I was looking forward to soaking in the sun and having a great time. Since we were arriving at different stages we were the last group to arrive. My friend and I got a downstairs bedroom. My first surprise was that my bed was made out of stone. It was pretty comfortable though.
Watamu Saba Saba Lodge has lush great gardens that overlook Watamu creek. There is a kitchen where one can make their own meals if they want. We had a chef for the weekend so all we had to do was eat, sleep, swim, relax and explore. Apart from the day when we went to Mida Creek we had all our meals at Saba Saba. The meals were simple but delicious. The staff was courteous, and friendly and they definitely make our stay the best thing ever. I have to say the service at Saba Saba was one of the things that will make me go back.
There is a pool in the beautiful garden surrounded by tropical trees and flowers. That pool and I were pretty good friends during my visit as it was a great place to cool off and just float away, leaving all my troubles behind. It was also a great place to catch up on my reading as there were sun beds next to the pool. Next to the pool is a bar where one could get a cold drink to cool down. The great thing about having a bar (we had paid for all-inclusive) was that we could have a pool party and not have to go out. This is what we did for 2 nights. On the third night, we went out to party with the locals.
The Lodge is on a coral-like reef that has a magnificent view of the ocean and all you can see is the ocean for as far as your eyes can see. There were sun beds where one could sit to watch the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. At night, we were able to see the beautiful stars twinkling brightly in the sky over the ocean, so bright in a way you would never see them in Nairobi. Just looking at that night sky was worth the visit to Watamu.
We spend a lot of time on the sun beds and around the pool but being adventure lovers we had to venture out of the Lodge to go see more of Watamu.
On the first day we went to the love islands. On Sunday, we decided to go swimming in the Love Islands. We decided to walk and along the way, we saw some beautiful houses and hotels. People have invested in property in this area. When we got there the tide was out and we could wade through pools of water to make our way to the famous love islands which are only accessible when the tide is out. The 7 islands are not far from Watamu Beach. There is incredible marine life in the water including baby octopuses, shells and starfish of different types and colours. There were patches of water and dry land. We swam in the warm pools of water for hours. We also got to do some sand scrubs – where you use the sand as a scrub and let the sea water heal your skin.
The islands get their names because apparently, lovers would come to swim in the little pools and then climb up the islands for some privacy. One of the islands where we went to sit has a sort of cove, where lovers might stay in the shade and have a romantic moment. We found some women selling some jewellery. Some people climbed the steep stairs (which were a bit scary to climb up) to get to the top of one of the islands. To climb up to the island we were on to see the magnificent view one had to be hoisted up by some of the local beach boys. I was like it was not that serious so I declined to be pulled up. I was not that brave and stayed down at the cove.
Watamu Marine Park and Reserve. One of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life was the Watamu Marine Park and Reserve. This internationally renowned place managed by the KWS managed park has protected coral gardens, and rich marine life which includes Whale Sharks, Manta Rays and Sea Turtles. There are so many things to do including kite surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, water surfing, snorkelling and glass-bottomed tours. You can also into the open sea for exploration boat rides and scuba diving tours.
We paid for a local boat service to take us to Mida Creek/Sudi Island/ and Watamu Marine Park. We negotiated for Ksh. 2000 per person for the boat ride and this included the ride, the food, and snorkelling and park fees for the marine park. Our boat which was named Jabulani, had a friendly crew that kept us entertained all through. One must pay for KWS Park fees, as they patrol the waters and ask for the receipts to show that all the people have paid to be in the park. We actually met them and they asked to see our receipts.
There is nothing as fantastic as having a group that loves to have fun. We sang along with the crew as they sang for us, and we took photos as we pretended we were sexy models posing for a shoot. The brave were also able to sun bath on the boat rooftop.
When we reached the place where we were to snorkel the boat stopped. There was already another boat there. We watched in fascination as the crew threw bread crumbs and all of a sudden there were beautiful fishes of different colours and sizes in the water. As soon as the bread crumbs were over the fish were gone. This happened repeatedly.
It was time for us to swim with the fishes. The braver people got into their snorkelling gear and jumped into the ocean. Some of us like me are not used to swimming deep in the ocean so we waited and took turns with the floaters. I have never snorkelled before and this was my first time. It was amazing to be underwater, watching the beautiful sea creatures fight to get some food when the bread was thrown in. We swam around the boat, looking at the different fishes. Just as we were getting the hang of it we had to leave. But it is definitely one of those things I loved and must do again. I can’t even describe the feeling; it is just one of those things I must try again.
This was one busy day and the boat went from the deep sea to a shallow spot where for around 45 minutes we would swim and play in the water. The water was warm, with pure white sand and blue water that was mid-thigh. We then sailed to Mida Creek for lunch.
On our way, there we saw a magnificent green mangrove forest. We were having lunch on a little Mangrove island called Mida Creek. This is a place where people stop to picnic or have food cooked. The place has bandas where visitors can sit, a kitchen area where food is cooked and an area where there are some locals selling jewellery/artifacts. We found people already grilling seafood. We sat down in some bandas to wait for our food to be cooked.
Mida Creek is a saline lagoon that merges with a mangrove forest. It is a breeding ground for fish, home to various birds, and it is also a reserve for aquatic flora and fauna. Apparently, there is a boardwalk where one can take a guided tour, which provides a magnificent view across the creek or take the canoe ride which is what my friends did.
Our delicious lunch was made up of prawns, chicken, mchele nazi and viazi. Depending on what you negotiate you can get seafood like lobster and octopus. This would make your boat package more expensive and we had negotiated down from Ksh. 3000 per person so that was not in our package. But these coastal people are generous and the food vendors gave us a few bits of pweza (octopus) and lobster to share. The food was fresh, tasty and yummy. It was worth every shilling.
We were given options on whether to go on a canoe ride through the creek to see the mangrove forest. The boat would only a few people at the time so people had to take turns. I wanted to go but some of us were left when we went to check out the facilities. You must pay a small fee for that, I think it was 200 per person. The guys said it was great so if you ever have the chance to try it you should try it.
After having such a good day it was sad that it had to end and we went back to Watamu. Our crew members sang to us in Swahili. They used their makeshift drums to sing us some Swahili tunes including Jambo Bwana. We started dancing chakacha and having fun as we sang along to the songs. It was the perfect end to a great evening.
On the last day, some of my friends went to Gede ruins which are not far from Watamu. Gede was an international trading post. It features the lost civilization that lasted from the 14th to 17th centuries. Gede Ruins are managed by the National Museums of Kenya. There is also an adjacent indigenous forest which was a sacred site for traditional rituals and sacrifices by communities living in the area. There are Giriama traditional dancers to entertain visitors. There is a Snake Park open to the public that features the largest collection of snakes in East Africa.
Other things people can do in Watamu.
Sardinia 2 is located within Marine Park. It is a private club and one can make arrangements to take a boat ride from here to go spot dolphins or even swim with them.
Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve. If you love bird watching then the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve is the place to go. This is a habitat for rare and endangered mammals and birds. There is also flora and fauna used by the locals for herbal remedies and timber. You can also check out the butterfly farm located within the forest.
Watamu is one of those destinations which once you sample you must go back. There is a reason it is one of the favourite destinations for tourists from around the world. You can take a bus to get there from Nairobi or take a flight to Malindi or Mombasa then come down by a taxi, or tuk-tuk. Whichever way you choose to get there, make sure you visit Watamu to get the utamu of this lovely coastal destination.