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A Week of Outdoor Adventure In Watamu, Kenya

There is plenty of outdoor adventure in Watamu, Kenya. The sand is like cornstarch, the water temperature is 85 F, and when the tide is low, you can walk out into the ocean beyond small islands with the water barely up to your knees. There is excellent snorkeling and a variety of dining along the shore, and the locals say “Hakuna Matata” because everyone is taking it easy.

A small island at low tide.
At low tide, you can walk out into the ocean beyond small islands, where the water barely reaches your knees.

We stayed six nights in a “stunning beachfront apartment” AirBnB on Blue Bay beach, a short walk from the Watamu Marine National Park. During the day’s peak heat, the beach was quiet from around one to four each afternoon when most tourists, almost all Italian, would take a siesta in their air-conditioned rooms at the neighboring Lily Palm Resort.

A boat and two people walking on a beach.
The beach was quiet in the afternoon when the mostly Italian tourists were taking a siesta.

We started our days on snorkeling safaris. Snorkeling was the best and so easy, with no fins needed, as you drifted in the gentle current through clear water, over reefs just a couple of feet below you, teaming with complex, healthy corals and an overwhelming abundance of colorful, small to large fish. It was also very inexpensive.

A boat full of people.
Skip the cattle boat full of novice divers and negotiate a private snorkeling trip.

While many tourists would pay $100 each to join a crowded cattle boat of novice divers, the trick was to walk over to the park entrance and engage the services of one of the many boat captains wearing the official Federation t-shirt and anxious to negotiate a fantastic deal. We rented an entire boat for four people to go diving and tour up Mida Creek for four hours for only $90. Another day, two of us rented a boat for just $50.

Hand-dug canoes in the water.
Mida Creek, more like a river, has dancing flamingos and scenic views at Catapilla Island.

The only hassle was paying the park entrance fee, which, like most attractions in Kenya, required using the eCitizen website. The trick to using this website on an iPhone was to turn off the pop-up blocker in Settings. After paying the online fee, you must check in at one of the three entry gates at Blue Bay, Turtle Bay, or Temple Point, where they copy down the info you already typed into the website.

A local boy pointing to a rock that looks like a turtle.
Hire a guide to show you the coral reefs at Turtle Rock.

Another snorkeling option was to walk from the Blue Bay entry gate down the beach past the overpriced Hemingways Resort to Turtle Rock, named after its resemblance. Swim out through the seagrass meadows to the giant brain corals, where you will find thousands of fish of at least thirty different varieties, giant clams, puffer fish, the blue-spotted stingray, and a blenny watching the two-foot diameter anemones with colorful damsel fish swimming in and out.

A man walking to a restaurant on the beach.
Our favorite restaurant was Kokomo Beach Bar.

The snorkeling was also impressive in Blue Bay at low tide along the perimeter of the farthest island in barely a foot of water. After your morning adventure, Blue Bay has several options for lunch, but don’t be in a hurry. We had a tasty seafood platter, chicken, ugali, and rice at Dunje Beach Da Mario Restaurant. It took over an hour to get your food, and we still don’t know where they cooked it. There appeared to be no refrigeration at the little food spots, although they had ice chests full of cold Tusker beer. For dinner, our favorite restaurant was the Kokomo Beach Bar, where a Lebanese owner made the best hummus and octopus appetizers. After shopping at the Blue Marmalade market, we also ate back on our AirBnB.

A group playing soccer on the sand.
Relax and watch the locals play an intense soccer match in the sand.

For those who read about how the locals harass you to buy things on the beach, we found an easy solution. Whenever someone approached, we raised a hand and told them not to waste their time on us because we were leaving today, a simple and effective fib.

A group of fishermen removing fish from a net.
There is always something interesting to watch on the beach, like these fishermen removing their catch from a net.

Blue Bay in Watamu was about relaxing on the beach, enjoying a local brew, watching the locals play an intense soccer match in the sand, sitting in the warm water at high tide, and hiking along the sea at low tide. It was for people who like to eat fresh fish, soak up the sun, and enjoy a culture far from home.

A woman laying in the warm water.
As the tide rises, the warm water is a great place to hang out.

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Hi. We are Paul and Cindy, two biologists, fit and over 50, who enjoy exploring, photographing, and blogging about our outdoor travel. Our journey is to find outdoor activities that are away from crowds, kind to nature, and authentic. We carry backpacks, stay in clean accommodations, and feel that good food is as important as good friends.

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