Turtle Watch on the North Coast of Kenya. Where Tourists are helping to raise awareness of the sea turtles and other marine animals
Our experience of the turtles in Watamu was quite by chance. I’d been invited to spend a week in Watamu with friends, where we’d all spent a week soaking up the sunshine, swimming, eating homemade Italian ice-cream and visiting some local Kenya attractions. It was our last day and my daughters were keen to head for the bright lights of Mombasa where we’d booked two nights at a large busy hotel where they were desperate to discover Mombasa and to enjoy the “kids club”
As we said goodbye to our friends and drove out of Watamu, we stopped at the local shop where, by chance, we found out about the nearby Turtle Watch. We were told that if we waited for just a few minutes we could go along with the rescue team, collect some turtles and then release them into the sea. My youngest daughter was not pleased – the bright lights of Mombasa beckoned! After a little persuasion, we all embarked on what turned out to be an amazing afternoon and one which none of us would ever forget.
We joined two of the wonderfully dedicated Turtle Watch staff, who drove us to a nearby fishing village, which in itself was an amazing experience. Here, the local fishermen produced an enormous turtle that had been caught up in the fishing net.
The fishermen were paid a small amount for their catch, and the turtle was weighed, measured and other data was noted down. We visited another village, collected another turtle and then, drove the poor dehydrated turtles to the Watamu Marine Reserve. Next was the release. Quite thrilling to us all, we were allowed to carry the (smaller) tortoise down to the water edge, where it was so exciting to see them swim into the crystal clear water of this protected marine habitat. It was truly a day to remember.
By participating in this type of activity, tourists are helping to raise awareness of the sea turtles and other marine animals living all along the coast. If left unchecked, these pristine coastal habitats are in danger of being developed so fully, that the Kenya marine life and their habitats may not survive for much longer.
Tourists who help the Turtle watch program raise awareness and put pressure on potential developers and local officials to show that maintaining a healthy ecosystem along the coast is attractive to tourists and has financial benefits. By collaborating with local communities, local fishermen are also seeing a financial benefit by protecting the turtles. So next time you feel like staying along the coast in Kenya check out where the local Turtle Watch centre is, so you can help these amazing creatures while enjoying the Kenyan sun, sea and surf.
Where to stay in Watamu:
Ocean Sports (a few metres away from the Turtle Centre)
Hemingways Resort (upmarket and classy hotel well known for the deep sea fishing excursions)
Turtle Bay Beach Club (extremely child friendly with close ties with the Turtle Watch Program)