In a word; Paradise. The warm soupy waves of the Indian ocean gently lapping against the pristine white sandy beaches devoid of any other humans was quite simply, perfection. Mr Nomad and I took a last visit to the coast of Kenya, a pilgrimage for peace before our inevitable exodus and Watamu did not disappoint.
Our previous journey to the coast had taken us to Diani beach but this time, we chose to visit the different location of Watamu. This spot is vastly different to Diani in that it is much quieter, with less tourists and its general vibe is geared more for rest and relaxation in idyllic surroundings as opposed to socialising in popular pubs and clubs.
Watamu is a small town around 105 kilometres north of Mombasa, about 15-20 kilometres from Malindi and in the county of Kilifi. It lies on a small headland between the Blue Lagoon and Watamu Bay. It is an area famed for its offshore coral formations which are arranged in different bays and beaches, specifically Garoda Beach, Turtle Bay, Blue Lagoon Bay, Wataumu Bay, Ocean Breeze, Kanani Reef and Jacaranda Beach, all of which are protected as part of Watamu Marine National Park. The beaches are strictly protected as turtle nesting sites. It is known for its amazing snorkeling and diving, with a vast array of over 600 fish species including invertebrates, crustaceans and molluscs.
Our flight from Nairobi was short and uneventful and we arrived into the hot and humid Malindi Airport in good time, early in the morning. The taxi ride to our accommodation took us through barren and sun scorched countryside unlike other resorts and it was much more rural, the population evidently more afflicted by poverty and limited means. In some respects, it was like we were going back in time to when local people were housed in nothing more than hand built mud huts and it was in stark contrast to other areas which attracted many more tourists.
Tarmac roads were in limited supply so the journey to our hotel seemed to take a little longer than expected. Air conditioning in the vehicle seemed non-existent and the humidity was oppressive, hanging in the air like a suffocating blanket. Having the windows open in the car was disastrous and we choked on the dust which trailed our every movement.
Although we had come to expect the burning sun and the intense heat of Africa, we were withering like the unwatered plants and foliage we had witnessed in the taxi ride from the airport.
Watamu is believed to have been inhabited since the 13th Century and is home to the Bajuni people. There can also be found the Gede Ruins, an ancient and mysterious swahili village with historical importance, a reminder that this coastal region of East Africa has been of archaeological significance for many years, evidencing an ancient civilisation.
Our accommodation was stunning. We had been upgraded to a luxury room within this petite boutique hotel with a frontage looking over the ocean, and being able to stroll immediately out onto the beach, we could not have been happier.
We made ourselves at home, ingratiating ourselves at the bar followed by a romantic stroll along the deserted yet perfect beach, the glistening sand between our toes and taking in the crystal blue water stretching as far as the eye could see. It was incredibly quiet, with very few people around and we were able to completely relax whilst hearing only the rushing sounds of the ocean as the tide came in. We splashed into some small rock pools, examining their contents for tiny sea critters and saw a tiny star fish. We also managed to stumble upon a huge puffer fish which had washed up on the shore and whilst it had been dead for some time, it was still rather intimidating.
The following day, after a gentle morning sunning ourselves around the swimming pool, we took a journey to Mida Creek. This is a fascinating tidal inlet which expands across 32 square kilometres with different habitats influenced by the tide such as mud and sand flats, open shallow waters and mangrove forests.
We walked along the most precarious ‘board walk’ ever attempted, trying to take in the sights of the mangrove forests and its hundreds of crabs skittering across the mud flats and trying to feel like Indiana Jones or even, Lara Croft albeit that the skimpy summer dress I was wearing with pathetic flip flops made for some rather ungraceful moves.
This ‘walk’ was more like clinging onto ropes, pulling ourselves along while trying to navigate a dodgy wooden bridge with missing planks aplenty and I can’t say that this was any where near the rest and relaxation I had been craving.
That said, we followed up this amusing episode with sun downers at a local restaurant known as the Crab Shack. This was an interesting venue, built from wood, perched on wooden stilts over the mangroves with a panoramic view of the entire creek. The view was astounding, and Mr Nomad and I sat silently adoring the sun setting on the horizon, the burnt yolky orange seeping away into the darkness.
We decided to take further advantage of this amazing location by embarking upon a boat trip which would include a journey through the marine reserve to allow us to snorkel amongst the sea life, and enjoy a barbeque beach lunch on a tiny nearby island. The glass bottomed boat chugged along with little effort and Mr Nomad and I basked in the sun, sucking up the salty sea air excitedly anticipating a dip in the ocean.
It had been a while since either of us had been in the sea and just like safari’s in the bush, we craved aquatic adventures, and the enveloping feelings of the warm water around us whilst viewing the creatures that lived in the vastness below.
To our amazement, as the boat lurched along, we were joined by dolphins swimming along side the boat, playfully breeching the water, leaping and frolicking around as if reveling in their audience!
We couldn’t believe our luck! This was an absolute delight to witness although trying to capture any photographs of these rapid creatures was difficult as they were cutting through the choppy waters like a hot knife spreading butter. Mr Nomad and I were spell bound by these impressive and beautiful silvery mammals and we were transfixed on them, as they lithely flipped around, splashing us on the boat as if in jest.
After this treat, we were ferried to an area in the marine reserve where we were permitted to leap off the boat and have some fun in the water ourselves. Mr Nomad and I were thrilled to be in the soupy ocean and spent quite a few hours snorkeling, enjoying an enthralling aquatic safari. We spotted too many fish to individually name, but the colourful and vibrant fish life was fascinating. It was uplifting and heart warming to have witnessed dolphins in their natural habitat, and these feelings of joy also translated to the life that lay beneath the waves.
This wonderful day on the ocean was topped off with a delicious barbeque on the beach at an isolated island. Mr Nomad and I feasted on lobster and other splendid sea food (although I had chicken!) and we were treated to a cultural dance by local tribal people to celebrate their heritage. I got the feeling the swaying movements of writhing bodies were celebrating fertility and it was entertaining all the same.
After an exhausting but exhilarating day at sea, we spent our remaining time in Watamu relaxing to the max’ on the beach, sun bathing on the beautiful glistening sand and just chilling out in the most tranquil of settings. It truly was paradise and we could not have expected anything better for our final adventure in Kenya.
We can’t believe the diversity of life in this epic country from what can be found on the vast savannah plains, through to the dense scorched bush and even down in the depths of the ocean. Africa really is a land of contradictions and diversity, with deep rooted cultures and traditions and Mr Nomad and I feel blessed that we have been able to experience what Kenya has to offer.
Our days in this magnificent country are now numbered and our departure imminent, but we feel that we have had a taste of everything Kenyan. Our confidence in embarking on expeditions when travelling across inhospitable terrain has soared, along with coping in extremes of weather and we cannot wait for more challenges to come.
Change is on the horizon for the Nomadic Family Unit and new adventures beckon.