A few countries are blessed with a threefold abundance of natural life both on land, air and in the water and Kenya is amazingly no exception. In the air, Kenya is endowed with at least eleven percent of the world’s bird species while also boasting of having the largest collection of wild animals of which includes the famous “Big Five” that attracts hordes of wild-rendezvous tourists both from within and outside of the continent.
Kenya’s excellent sea life harbors a multitude of sea creatures seen nowhere in the world. Its Indian Ocean shoreline is truly a jewel that besides being patronized by the young and old for beach activities, it also hosts some world-famous marine national parks.
Managed by Kenya Wildlife Service which is the legal custodian for the country’s sea, air and land jewels, the five marine national parks include Mombasa Marine National Park, Malindi Marine National Park, Watamu Marine National Park, Kiunga Marine National Reserve and the lesser-known Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park. Here, I give you vital highlights about each marine park so that you can have some useful insight into what you should expect to see, how to get there and other fun activities to compliment your visit…
Watamu Marine National Park
Just 15km south of Malindi town lies the vibrant beach community of Watamu. It’s coastline boasts of unspoilt low-key white sand beaches which are among the best on Kenya’s coast. Watamu is also home to one of Kenya’s five marine reserves, the 10 sq.km Watamu Marine National Park whose coral reefs flourishes with diverse sea life having more than 600 fish species, stony coral, invertebrates, molluscs, crustaceans, and much more. The most common sea creatures include green turtles, dugongs, bigger creatures like the whale sharks, manta rays, octopus and barracuda all which reside in the park’s unique coral garden.
Other than sea life exploring, visitors can also enjoy the park’s unspoiled beaches for magnificent views of the Indian ocean while sunbathing. It is among the best in East Africa for water sports like snorkeling, deep sea diving, water skiing and windsurfing and glass bottom rides. There’s also an abundance of birdlife with more than 100 species calling the park their haven. These are the Black Kite, the Common Bulbul, the White-Browed Coucal, the Speckled Mousebird, Bright Yellow Canaries, Golden Palm Weavers, Lizard Buzzard and the Lilac Breasted Roller.
Malindi Marine National Park
As the most popular tourist attraction in Malindi, the 213 sqKm Malindi Marine National Park is endowed with a multi-diverse marine life comprising of crabs, corals, sea urchins, jellyfish, sea stars, sea cucumbers, zebrafish, dolphins and sea turtles. These are sustained by the park’s vast sea resources made of fringing reefs and seagrass beds that are harbored in the lagoon’s huge coral gardens. The park is also ideal for deep sea fishing, windsurfing, snorkeling, camping, sunset beach walks, bird watching, scenic photography, scuba diving, water skiing and glass-bottom boat rides.
The park authorities describe it as the “beautiful slice of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline that provides the perfect getaway” which is absolutely correct given the stunning views it offers both from above and under the water. Visitors to the park are encouraged to take with them items like sandals or flip-flops to protect their feet from the reef, t-shirts and straw sunhats to protect them from the intense sunburn, and some insect repellant.
Mombasa Marine National Park
Christened as a charm of natural beauty, Mombasa Marine National Park lives true to its description and in case the first two marine parks are too far for you to visit you shouldn’t fail this one. Given the fact that it’s located in Mombasa which is described by LonelyPlanet as “the melting pot of languages and cultures from all sides of the Indian Ocean” you should then yearn to visit it.
Some attractions waiting for you include crabs, sea urchins, jellyfish, corals, sea stars, sea cucumbers and several varieties of coral species like Acropora, Turbinaria and Porites. The park is also a bird haven where you can find different seabirds joined by many other migrating birds from around the world. Besides all this, the sea grasses and marine algae are also worthy to encounter. Like in other marine parks, you can also snorkel, dive, sunbathe, waterski, and windsurf in Mombasa marine park. Visitors staying for longer can sleep in the marine campsite.
Kiunga Marine National Reserve
This is the northernmost marine park on Kenya’s long coastline and it’s located about 150 kilometres east of Lamu town in a remote and unspoilt village. Though very remote, those who endure the uncomforts to get there are rewarded with stunning views of the impressive coral reefs and the magnificent sand dunes. The 270 sqkm park has teeming marine life made up of sea urchins, sea turtles, the olive ridley sea turtles, the leatherback, and reef fish.
If you’re thirsty for more ventures, you can also visit Kiwayu island in the Lamu archipelago which is one of the remotest in Kenya where you can view the tidal pools and also enjoy snorkelling and diving in the gigantic pools on the island’s eastern side. Your accommodation needs will be attended to at either Munira Island Camp or Kiwayu Safari Village.
Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park & Reserve
Peacefully nestled within the coral gardens just south of Wasini Island lies this little-known marine park. It’s the only place where a visitor can enjoy the sight of the dolphins flapping graciously in the air. Since it can only be reached by boat, the park is a bit far and is 11kms from the mainland in Kwale County. It has about 250 fish species, 70 resident dolphins and more than 140 sea turtles, whales, 56 varieties of corals, sea grass and gastropods.
Given its remoteness, the 39sqkm park is blessed with unspoilt surroundings perfect for great sunset and sunrise views. It includes many scenic and heavily forested islands which are surrounded by fringing reef. Things to do include sunbathing, snorkelling, diving, birdwatching, camping, and scenic photography. There are three accommodation options; the Shimoni Cottages, and the two campsites Chlobus and Mpunguti.
As you have observed, visiting the third jewel (marine) is equally rewarding as the other two (land and air). There’s a lot to adventure in marine life that many of us are yet to discover but we just lacked the information. Now that you’ve got the right information and that the long-awaited summer is here, its time for you to start planning your next memorable trip to any of these scenic marine parks. You’ll learn a lot about the hidden marine life more than I’ve mentioned here, just go, the world is yours to traverse and explore and if you do so, you’ll only live to tell others like I’ve told you.