Having left the magical Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park, it was time to move on and we were excited. We could not wait to see what Mombasa Marine Park had in store for us. All packed up and settled in the tour van, we set off amid endless chatter among the group members. The look of fulfillment from visiting Kisite park as well as the anticipation of what was to come, was evident in their faces.
The roughly 2 hour journey back to Mombasa was relatively short. We were treated to incredible views of sisal plantations, gently sloping landscape and the breeze that help break the humidity brought about by the coastal temperatures. We got to catch what we had missed out when we arrived at Shimoni in the cover of the night.
We made a quick stop at Shimba Hills National Reserve which is a tiny reserve tucked in the Shimba hills 15Kms from the coast. This little gem is special because its small size does not stop it from having the highest population density of African Elephants in Kenya! Not only that, this reserve is home to 50% of the rare plants found in Kenya. Since this post is all about marine parks, I will save the details about this tiny gem for another post.
We proceeded towards Mombasa and the vast landscapes were soon obstructed by buildings and homes. The breeze had ceased to blow and the humidity was getting to us..we could not wait to dip into the ocean. The Mombasa beach/Kenyatta beach was our starting point and the public had come by the numbers. The shoreline was dotted with people out to relax, enjoy the breeze and frolick in the water. We were ushered into a KWS boat that was to take us to the park itself.
We got an overview of what the marine park and marine reserve are all about. The Mombasa marine park is the most visited marine park in Kenya that covers 10 Km2 while the Marine reserve covers 200Kms2. Mombasa marine park has numerous snorkelling and diving spots, all of them offering spectacular views of the underwater life. It is in these waters that you are likely to see stunning corals, lobsters, octopuses, turtles, snappers, starfish, barracudas (yikes!), an occasional shark and many many schools of coral fish.
Our skipper fired up the engine and off we went skimming over the waters as we took in the beautiful architecture of the luxury resorts that lined the shore. On the other side, we could see surfers taking advantage of the waves crashing a distance away. The turquoise water was unbelievable clear. I have to admit though, I was beginning to feel a sense of disappointment since this park was not living up to Kisite Mpunguti’s beauty and magic.
That disappointment was quickly replaced with amazement as soon as we anchored. On the side of the boat, we could see schools of the most beautiful, colorful coral fish swimming curiously around the boat. I had wondered why we got loaves of bread at the shore…at this point, the bread was brought out and boy did we feed the fishes.
So agile and free they looked as the deftly moved around us that I could not longer resist the urge to take the plunge. Armed with full snorkeling gear, the plunge was taken and I now know why this is the most popular marine park in Kenya. This beauty of this park is beneath the surface…I am talking schools and schools of colorful fish swimming around minding their own business.
Some ’stood still’ defying the current and keeping the perfect position as if waiting to be called out. Others chased each other through the coral. There would be a sluggish one here and there but they all contributed to the vibrance of the coral garden. We alternated between snorkeling and feeding the fishes for hours. None of us wanted to leave this magical underwater scene.
But the tide was coming in and the waters were getting choppy..it was time to head back! . On our way back, the KWS patrol noticed that there were dhows that had taken surfers further out to sea. This was dangerous in so many levels because if anything was to happen to the surfers, the paddle and oar propelled dhows would not get to the surfer in time. Essentially, the surfers were on their own with no way of getting help in case of any emergencies.
The stern guide ordered the dhow back to shore with a severe reprimand and promise of further disciplinary action. I have to say I was impressed at how well the KWS team is handling the conservation and maintenance of these parks.
Wondering how much it will cost you to enjoy this experience? For the East African Citizens both adults and children get to pay 100Kshs, The East African Residents pay 300Kshs for the adults and 150Kshs for the children. Non Residents will pay 15 USD for the adults and 10 USD for the children. Snorkeling and diving equipment are available for hire. How affordable is that!!!
Safely back on the beach, we got to sunbath and get henna tattoos. Those you have to be careful to ensure that you get exactly what you want. I was a victim of an arrogant artist who swore he could paint a falcon tattoo only to end up with some creature that looked like a cross between a hen, pig or something in those lines. It was a hilarious moment but in the end, i settled for something less intricate that he managed to deliver.
As we left the beach, we got to dabble with the coastal cuisine as we indulged in “Viazi Karai” which are deep fried potatoes that you get to spice up with liquid chili and Mkwaju (juice from the tamarind fruit) that gives a tart flavour to the delicacy. A sip of coconut juice also help complete the coastal feel.
We all bundled up into the tour van and set off to Malindi Marine Park. A place I found as romantic as it was breathtaking.
Of course we can help you plan your Mombasa Marine Park Trip