The Malindi area and the North Coast offer excellent opportunities for wildlife safaris. The beaches themselves are good birding country. The waters of Mida Creek near Watamu is a paradise of waders and shore birds.
Arabuko Sokoke ForestOne of the best destinations for game viewing is the Arabuko Sokoke Forest, south of Malindi near Gedi and Watamu. This is a wonderful reserve, full of rare and unique species.
The forest is good for birding, with endemic species including the exceptionally rare Sokoke Scops Owl and Clarke’s weaver. The reserve is occasionally visited by herds of elephant and the occasional leopard, but more common mammals include the Sokoke bushy-tailed mongoose, Aders Duiker and the Golden Rumped Elephant Shrew.
There are extensive walking trails and raised viewing platforms for visitors. There is also limited vehicle access. Excellent local Guides are available for walks through the reserve.
The Gedi Forest station is a wealth of information, operating nature trails, guiding services and providing good advice on local wildlife.
Mida CreekAn ideal way to spend a morning or afternoon in Watamu is to visit the mangroves and estuaries of Mida Creek. This creek is home to a fantastic range of bird life, and there are countless winding channels and estuaries to explore. There is an extended wooden mangrove walkway along the creek shore, with highly trained local guides and informative signboards along the way.
The walkway is run by a local conservation charity AROCHA and is accessible from the main Malindi road. Excursions can be arranged from local hotels.
Kipepeo Butterfly FarmAt the Kipepeo Butterfly Farm at Gedi, a conservation project works with local people to produce butterflies for the international market. The farm is an interesting place to visit, with lots of good information on local conservation.
BioKen Snake Farm in WatamuAnyone with an interest in Snakes should definitely visit BioKen Snake Farm in Watamu. This farm produces snake venoms for antivenin purposes, and has a wide range of local species on display. The Farm is run by James Ashe, who has devoted his life to the study and protection of snakes, and has a wealth of local knowledge on the subject.
Bioken is the base for Kenya Snake Safaris, an outfit that specializes in safaris tracking, catching and releasing the 'Big Five' African snakes: The Python, Cobra, Puff Adder, Boomslang and Mamba. These camping safaris are a real adventure, visiting some of Kenya's best wildlife regions, and incorporate game viewing, bush walking, river rafting and visiting remote villages and sacred sites.
This safari should not be missed by anyone looking for a real African adventure.
Bird WatchingThe Malindi-Watamu area is very popular with birders, and specialist birding safaris. Mida Creek, along with the beaches of Watamu and are a feeding area for Western Reef Heron, Lesser Crested Tern, and shorebirds such as the Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper and Greater and Lesser Sandplover. Offshore Whale Island is an occasional breeding ground for Roseate and Bridled Terns.
To the North, the Sabaki rivermouth attracts Madagascar Pratincole, Sooty Gull and the Lesser Crested and Saunder’s Tern.
Outside Malindi, near the Marafa Depression is the Dakatcha Woodland, considered an important bird area and sanctuary for the Southern banded Snake Eagle, Sokoke Pipit and Clarke’s Weaver.
Turtle HatchingThe beaches of Watamu are a major nesting site for sea turtles. The turtles drag themselves ashore several times a year, and make their way onto the beach where they dig nests and lay clutches of up to 100 eggs.
The eggs are gently buried by the mother using her rear flippers, after which she returns to the sea. After around 60 days the eggs hatch, and the tiny hatchlings emerge and scurry across the sand to the safety of the ocean.
These turtles are now an endangered species, and loss of nesting habitat through development and egg raiding by poachers continues to threaten the local population. Several concerned locals are now making efforts to protect the turtles of Watamu.
Major efforts are now being made to undertake education on Turtle Conservation in local communities and schools. Local conservationists now also collect freshly laid eggs from nesting sites and move eggs to secured areas for incubation in the sand. At the time of hatching, the hatchlings are carried to the sea and delivered to the waves.
Additionally, turtles accidentally caught in fishing nets are now tagged and released to sea, with fisherman rewarded for rescuing rather than killing the turtles.
These determined efforts are making a real difference and may well save the Watamu turtle population. many beachside hotels, guesthouses and homestays are actively involved in these efforts. Ask locally for advice on tourist properties involved in these programs