WATAMU can at first sight seem a bit superficial, consisting simply of a small agglomeration of hotels, a strip of beachfront private homes, a compact village shaded by coconut trees, and the beach. There are good reasons to come here, however, including the superb marine park, some interesting wildlife initiatives, youthful nightlife (sporadically) and the beautiful beach itself. Watamu is comfortable with tourists, and despite tourism’s high profile, there’s a discernibly easier-going atmosphere here than at Diani, Malindi or along Mombasa’s north coast. As most of the beach is within the marine park, KWS regulations tend to be more strictly enforced to keep hawkers away.
This is an exceptional shoreline, with three stunning bays – Watamu Bay, the Blue Lagoon and Turtle Bay – separated by raised coral cliffs and dotted with tiny, sculpted coral islets. Watamu is good for diving – and a good place to get qualified, with several diving schools. Out in the Watamu Marine National Park, when the visibility is good, the submerged crags of living coral gardens and their swirls of brilliant fish are still magically vivid, although like elsewhere they are suffering from contact damage and the steady rise in sea temperature.