Mombasa Marine National Park: a thriving offshore reserve
Do an internet search for Mombasa Marine National Park and your screen will be flooded with images of perfect azure blue. The beautiful waters in this part of Kenya, one of the most spectacular protected oceanic areas in Africa, is a haven for marine wildlife – and that makes it a paradise for windsurfers, water-skiers, divers and snorkelers too!
The offshore reserve is spread out over 210 square kilometres, an enormous area to explore. Since it was established over 20 years ago in 1986, Mombasa National Park has worked to preserve the fragile coral reef that stretches along the Kenyan coast, and it is now a wonderful place to spend a personalised Africa holiday.
Starfish, octopus and jellyfish abound, and the various colours, shapes and sizes of the coral attract a range of incredible fish. Some to look out for include the striped zebra fish, multi-coloured angelfish and the celestial blue and green parrot fish. If you’re lucky you may even see some larger marine life attracted to the warm Kenyan waters, such as sharks, dolphins, various turtles and rays.
As well as wildlife spotting opportunities, you can experience a range of activities at the Park including scuba diving and snorkelling. Kenya’s reefs are recognised as one of the world’s top three dive sites in the world, the others being the Great Barrier Reef and the Red Sea Reef. Due to the crystal-clear water and warm temperatures, wreck and night dives are extremely rewarding. If you’re looking to raise your adrenaline levels, why not try water skiing or windsurfing. For those who are looking to partake in activities from the comfort of dry land, why not go on a bird watching safari or simply sit and relax on the crystal white sand and catch some rays.
The beaches that border Mombasa Marine Park are some of the finest in Africa. Two of the most popular are Shanzu and Watamu Beach. If you are at Mombasa during turtle breeding and hatching season, it is an incredible experience to go and watch these slow-moving animals lay their eggs – or, around 60 days later, you can see the babies leave for the ocean for the first time after hatching. Other pristine beaches can be found on both the north and south sides. Stretches of coast with direct access to the marine park include Nyali Beach, Bamburi Beach and Kenyatta Public Beaches.
The weather at Mombasa Marine Park is warm and humid all year round, so it is an attractive prospect whatever time of the year you are planning to visit. To ensure your trip is a knockout success, there are several items that it is advisable to bring with you. If you’d like to paddle around in the water, make sure to pack sandals or flip flops so your feet are always protected from the reef. The sun shines strong here, so bring sunscreen to protect you from any sunburn. Make sure to pack a snorkel, mask and fins if you have them, but if not, they are widely available to hire. Lastly, don’t forget to bring a go-pro or underwater camera so you can capture all the spectacular marine life to enjoy again once you’re back home!