Who doesn’t love the sight of glorious sea turtles swimming about, coming ashore to nest, their tiny hatchlings scurrying back out to sea to begin the cycle anew? This was a common site on Kenya’s coast but then human intrusion – poaching and accidents threatened the beloved turtles. The local Watamu residents were alarmed at this loss and jumped to the rescue forming patrols of the turtles’ beach nests, ensuring they were left unbothered. It was a first step toward the turtles’ survival.
That was in 1997 when the Watamu Turtle Watch was formed and over the years it has grown to include a turtle rehabilitation center and several programs involving the public in the care and appreciation of the local sea life. Today, Turtle Watch operates under the umbrella of the Local Ocean Trust, an organization dedicated to protecting and saving 50 – 60 nests a year of the hawksbill, green, leatherback and olive ridley turtles.
Over the years, more than 900 turtle nests have been monitored and over 73,000 hatchlings have survived their journey back to the ocean.
The Trust invites guests to visit their Marine Information Centre to view displays, learn about the area’s prized turtles and the efforts being made to ensure their continued survival. The Centre receives about 2,000 visitors a year. You also don’t want to miss the Trust’s Turtle Rehabilitation Centre where sick and injured turtles are treated and eventually released back to the ocean. The only such facility in East Africa, the Centre has treated approximately 500 patients, from minor injuries to spear gun wounds.
The turtles arrive at the Rehabilitation Centre though the Trust’s Bycatch Release Program. Local fishermen are encouraged to contact the Centre when sea turtles are accidentally swept up in their nets. A rescue crew is sent out to evaluate, measure and weigh the turtle. If it’s healthy, the turtle is brought to Watamu Marine National Park for release back into the ocean. If it requires care, it then becomes a patient at the Rehab Centre. So far, over 19,000 local turtle rescues have occurred.
In addition to the above programs Turtle Watch/Local Ocean Trust also runs active education and community outreach efforts. Working with 30 local schools, students get to visit the Centres and learn about anti-poaching awareness with the goal to “Love Their Local Ocean”.
Climate: The temperature range in Watamu is from 24oC/76oF to 320C/900F. There are two rainy seasons – the long rains happen in March/April and the short rains November/December.
Location: The Trust is located on Turtle Bay Road, Plot 203 in Watamu.
Operating Hours: Mon – Fri 9:30 am – 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm. Saturday 9:30 am – 12:00 pm. Closed Sundays and holidays.
Getting there: You can book a tour with Natural World Kenya Safaris in Mombasa.
By air: Malindi Airport is the main aviation hub serving the area.
Marine Information Centre – Besides displays and information about conservation efforts, there’s also a Marine Green Garden, illustrating eco-activities such as a tree nursery and worm farming.
Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Centre – Visit the sea-going patients recovering at this unique nursery. There is also a nearby gift shop.
Watamu Turtle Watch has been an incredibly successful endeavor started by locals to help preserve their precious coast and its living creatures. You can see all their efforts up close and learn how you can join in to help these beautiful turtles survive.
See East Africa’s largest informational and rehabilitation facility. Learn about the Trust’s community outreach programs and how you can help.
We have safaris departing from Watamu to this and other special Kenya Parks and attractions for your Africa holiday.
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Natural World Kenya safaris is Member No.FA/440 - Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) bonding scheme. The scheme is insured to guarantee your holiday safari in the unlikely event that a bonded KATO member ceases operating.