Kenya has a total of three marine parks within its borders, two of which are enclosed within the Malindi Marine National Reserve. The Malindi Marine National Park and Watumu National Park are situated along the Northern coast of the country and tend to be counted as one park, given their joint incorporation within the Watumu Marine National Reserve. Established in 1968, this was one of Kenya’s first-ever marine parks, and the mystical marine complex is comprised of sandy beaches, lagoons, coral reefs, coral gardens, coral cliffs, and the Mida Creek Mangrove Forest. This is not the place to go in search of big game, but the park still has some spectacular sights to offer if you do make the trip.
The Mida Creek forest attracts a variety of birdlife, with over 100 species to be found there. Birds to keep your eyes peeled for include the Black Kite, Speckled Mousebird, Yellow Canary and the Lizard Buzzard. But the real draw for many to the park is its turtle population, and those with an interest in turtles should consider a visit. The park runs a monitored turtle watch program that has helped ensure that the main beach remains a nesting site for endangered sea turtles. Turtle species that visit or nest here include the Green turtle, the Hawksbill, the Leatherback, and the rare Olive Ridley.
The coral gardens at Malindu Watumu begin just 300 metres from the shore and are home to a staggering 600 species of fish. They also contain a host of crustaceans, mollusks and over 150 species of coral, both hard and soft, including brain corals, fan corals, and sponges, which provide fuel for the park’s sea creatures. Over the entire reserve, there is said to be more than 1000 fish species, as well as whale sharks, octopus, and barracuda. Visitors can snorkel and dive on the reef, provided that they don’t disturb any of the marine life, and an afternoon of taking in its vibrant colors, sights, and sounds is not to be missed. (See our article on the best diving Africa.)
Malindi Marine National Reserve cost
Entry to the park is $15 for adults and $10 for children and students.
Getting to Malindi Marine National Reserve
Malindi Watumu is 120km north of Mombasa and 28km south of Malindi. Driving along the main Mombasa – Malindi road, turn towards the Indian Ocean and the park sits 11km from the main road.
The nearest town to the park is Malindi, a seaside town set along a strip of tropical beaches which are popular with holidaymakers in search of sun. If you’re wishing to fly into the area, the nearest airport is also located in Malindi.
Highlights of Malindi Marine National Reserve
What draws many to the park is its population of green turtles. The exotic coral gardens are another highlight for those who wish to dive in and explore beneath the surface of the water.
Activities at Malindi Marine National Reserve
Activities on offer at Malindi/Watamu include fun watersports you wouldn’t necessarily associate with a safari break, like windsurfing, snorkeling, water skiing, and diving. Those who prefer to stay dry can take a glass-bottom boat ride for spectacular views of the coral and its inhabitants.
When to go to Malindi Marine National Reserve
The park is pleasant to visit year-round, with an average temperature of between 22 – 34 degrees., but the best time to visit is during the dry season, which June – September and January – March are the dry months, but The key rainy seasons are between April – June, and October – December.
Where to stay at Malindi Marine National Reserve
There isn’t any accommodation provided within the park itself, so visitors will have to head to nearby Malindi to spend the night. There is a wealth of accommodation in the seaside resort, ranging from budget B&Bs to luxury resorts.