Living up to its name, Watamu (Watamu-“home of the sweet people” in Swahili) is a tiny town off the coast of Kenya that is full of sweetness. The rest of the world could take a lesson from this extremely pleasant place. The people are generally, easy-going, kind, helpful, and generous both to each other and to strangers. It is a multi-cultural mix of the world at large. There are residents from around Africa, Europe, North and South America, Australia, The Middle East, Asia, and even a few from the Polar Regions.
What initially makes Watamu an interesting place for anyone with a sense of curiosity is the biodiversity of plant and animal life. This may be because it is a micro-climate of its own kind. It is not as hot as Malindi or Mombasa both of which are close by and when it hits 25 Degrees Celsius the residents complain it is cold. Even when it is raining, the cold doesn’t smack you in the face as it does in other regions of the country.
This allows for flora and fauna of all sorts to flourish in the town and the marine life is also quite the treat for oceanographers and other adventurers. From whales to eels and dolphins the ocean here is quite a treat. Several currents mix so the water temperature is warm, and the winds are just the right amount to cool one off without having to grab a coconut tree for grounding.
The sand is white and fine only spoilt in a few areas by human interference i.e. garbage. Interestingly, the garbage collected along the shores is mostly not even from Watamu. There have been many instances of garbage from other continents washing up ashore. The cross current in the deep ocean parts tends to pick up this intercontinental trash and sometimes it ends up on the Watamu shore. Luckily for the town, there are numerous environmentalist groups/organizations such as – The Watamu Marine Association that do their best to clean the beach and educate the locals/residents on the importance of cleaning up the beach and recycling.
The mix of people and cultures in this small town means that the food available is a smorgasbord of deliciousness. You will find eateries that serve Italian, English, Indian, Arab, Indigenous, Upcountry, Mexican and African food. The same goes for the drinks too. They come from all over the world, you just have to know which little kibanda to go to and you will find something exotic to try out.
Accommodation is varied both in style and cost. The choices include renting/leasing an entire castle to being simple and making do with AirBnB types of all kinds like tents and little huts. Whatever your budget and style preference you will find it here and it will be totally worth it. On the whole, it is pretty laid back and chilled out and very easy to never want to leave.
The night scene isn’t as active as it once was due to COVID restrictions although it might pick up as the disease starts to wane and no longer be a pandemic. This doesn’t mean that the restaurants and other eating places are shut; it is mostly the nightclubs and such that had to shut down. However as stated, the situation is gradually changing since most of the COVID restrictions in Kenya and abroad have been lifted.
Watamu is fantastic for both the vacationer and the academic. There is so much to see, experience, and study in such a small town. Of course, just like anywhere else except heaven, it has its undesirable qualities such as a very enthusiastic mosquito population and a recent influx of Indian crows. They are seasonal though, and Kilifi County does try its best to control things as best as it can. The good completely outweighs the few bad things so again completely worth it to come and check out Watamu
Lastly, it is said that Watamu offers incredibly beautiful sunrises and sunsets. This is not an exaggeration. It may in fact be an understatement, the pinks and peaches of the sunrise and sunsets are breathtaking. They make for a great way to start and end the day. It is a wonderful place to visit and to live in. Try it for a few days and see if you don’t tear up as you leave the sweetness of it all. There’s a Swahili saying that goes,”Watamu ni kutamu ukiingia hautoki.” Transliterated this means, “Watamu is a sweet place, once there you never leave.”