The Spectacular whale watching Season Begins in Kenya’s Coastal Waters
As the famous wildebeest herds bravely embark on their extraordinary journey, crossing the treacherous Mara River and facing dangers from crocodiles and strong currents, another equally remarkable migration silently unfolds beneath the waves. Majestic giants of the marine world, humpback whales gracefully glide from Antarctica, spanning approximately 5,000 kilometers, to make their way to the warm waters of Kenya’s coastline.
This epic migration requires the whales to navigate treacherous ocean currents, evade predators, and endure a long, foodless journey. However, their determination and instinct propel them forward, mirroring the same tenacity displayed by the wildebeest on land.
The humpback whales’ arrival in Kenya’s waters coincides with the peak season of the Great Migration, creating a harmonious display of migration on both land and sea, commonly known as the Twin Migration.
The Great Migration itself is a spectacle of extraordinary proportions. With over 1.5 million wildebeest accompanied by zebras and gazelles, it covers an impressive distance of 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers) from Tanzania to Kenya’s Masai Mara. These animals face constant risks, from surviving on vast savannahs to navigating perilous river crossings while constantly under the threat of predators.
In Watamu, the arrival of humpback whales is a major highlight of the marine calendar. Weighing up to 30 tonnes and measuring 15 meters in length, these majestic marine giants undertake a remarkable voyage to reach the tranquil tropical waters of Watamu. Here, they find an ideal environment for breeding, feeding, and socializing, thanks to the abundance of food resources and opportunities for courtship behaviors.
The coastal town of Watamu, located just 140 kilometers north of Mombasa, offers the perfect vantage point to witness these magnificent creatures. The Malindi Watamu National Marine Park and Reserve, along with Ngomeni, a coastal town just north of the park, serve as ideal locations to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants.
The whale-watching season in Watamu begins in July and typically reaches its peak between August and October when humpback whales grace the shores of Kenya. These months offer the perfect window to witness humpback whales leaping out of the water, sometimes in pairs or larger family groups, creating an awe-inspiring and unforgettable sight. Known for their acrobatic displays, humpback whales engage in activities such as leaping or “breaching” to communicate, play, or rid themselves of skin parasites, resulting in a captivating show for lucky observers.
In addition to humpback whales, Kenya’s coastal region is also home to various species of dolphins. The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and humpback dolphins can be spotted throughout the year, while spinner dolphins make seasonal appearances in select locations. The Kisite-Mpunguti National Marine Park and Reserve and the Malindi Watamu National Marine Park and Reserve are key areas for dolphin watching, offering a chance to witness this fascinating marine spectacle.
Thanks to the dedicated efforts of individuals like Jane Spilsbury, Watamu has witnessed the emergence of a flourishing marine tourism industry. Inspired by tales from local fishermen about dolphins and whales, Spilsbury and her husband embarked on a mission to help document and raise awareness about the marine life in the area. This endeavour led to the establishment of the Watamu Marine Association in 2007, a collaborative initiative involving hotels, fishermen, divers, and the public. Their continuous efforts have contributed to the preservation and conservation of dolphins and whales in the region, ensuring that future generations can continue to marvel at these incredible creatures.
The synchronous presence of the wildebeest herds and humpback whales during their respective migrations creates a harmonious display of movement and life. Witnessing these two incredible phenomena is a testament to the wonders of nature and the interconnectedness of different ecosystems.
If you haven’t visited Watamu yet, now is the perfect time to plan your trip to Kenya’s coastal region between the months of July and October. This period marks the low tourism season, presenting several advantages for visitors.
The decreased number of tourists during this time allows for a more serene and personal encounter with nature. With fewer crowds, you can establish a deeper connection with the marine environment and witness the migrations undisturbed, creating a truly unforgettable experience.
Furthermore, the low season brings the advantage of reduced prices for accommodations, tours, and activities. This affordability enables you to make the most of your trip to Watamu while keeping your budget in check.
During these months, the weather in Watamu remains pleasantly warm, with average temperatures ranging from approximately 23 to 28 degrees Celsius (73 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit). Although there may be occasional showers, they are typically brief and have minimal impact on the overall experience. In fact, these refreshing rains can add a touch of rejuvenation and enhance the natural beauty of the coastal landscape.