Last winter we decided to explore a new spot for kitesurfing: Watamu in Kenya. It’s not an exaggeration that this place is truly amazing! Not only that it offers perfect kite conditions … also the surroundings, the landscapes and the culture are so worth to discover.
As we already did some kite trips to Egypt, El Gouna, Hamata and Safaga it was not our first journey to Africa. But, to be honest, Kenya was something completely different. It felt like entering a complete new world. Read more in the following!
Kitespot Watamu, Kenya:
Where is it?
Watamu is an old fishing village at the coast of the Indian Ocean, located about 100 km north-east from Mombasa. It’s not very touristic but offers everything you need. It lies 30 km to the south from Malindi, which is one of the earliest fishing settlements in Kenya.
The way from Mombasa airport to Watamu is about 2,5 hours by car. There is also one airport in Malindi which is about 20 minutes away. Several airlines offer flights from european airports to Mombasa (usually with one stopover in Istanbul), like Turkish Airlines or Ethiopean Airways.
Wind & weather
Ok, let’s start with weather and wind – the most important topics for us kiters! I’d say most of the time the conditions are quite perfect for kitesurfing, both in summer and winter, interrupted by two rain periods.
There are two main trade wind seasons: From December to April there’s the Kaskazi which is a warm wind that blows from North East and reaches about 20 knots. Usually this wind starts at 11 a. m. and lasts till the evening.
The Kuzi season is from June to September, and this wind which blows from South East is the stronger one – it comes with up to 30 knots. When the Kuzi blows it’s also time for good swells … and the locals say the conditions then are epic for waveriding.
In Watamu you always have side- or side-onshore conditions with both Kaskazi and Kuzi.
What you should know: There are these two rain periods from March till May and from November to December, which are not the best for kitesurfing.
Watamu: The kitespot
Turtle Bay (also known as Garoda Bay) is the name of the long beach – about seven kilometres – where you find the kitespot(s) of Watamu. It’s a protected Marine Park area as sea turtles have their nests there.
Everyday anew I was impressed when I arrived at the spot – cause it’s like in paradise: White sand and turquoise blue water – all over. And the “Whale Rock” in the background. I’d say it’s almost kitschy!
The kitespot is protected by a reef, ca. 500 m off the beach. So depending on the tides you have perfect flatwater lagoon or a little bit of chop. There are also some sandbars inside the lagoon which also help to create butterflat freestyle playgrounds.
The shallow waters inside the lagoon are of course very beginner- (and kite-teacher-)friendly too. When the tide is high it is also possible to go over the reef into the deep water areas. On the beaches you have more than enough space for safe launching and landing.
Additionally you’ll find some other spots like Mida Creek where you can go for flat water kiting or – when there’s no wind – for a SUP tour or kayaking through the mangrove forest.
When you are looking for good surf, then you can go to Malindi. When it’s low tide they get up to three metres and with a bit of luck you can have epic surf conditions – that’s what the locals say.
Get some more impressions of the spot here:
Which clothes should I bring with me?
Water temperatures are always warm, up to 30 degrees during the whole year. So no long wetsuit needed! Day temperatures are about 35 degrees or more, in the evening it’s still warm during Kaskazi time – but during Kuzi season it gets colder, so it’s clever to throw some long trousers and sleeves in your bag too.
One thing that’s super important when you go kiting (or even just swimming/SUP or whatever) in Watamu: Use the highest sunscreen protection factor that you can get. Due to the closeness to the equator the sun is super strong. Believe me, I’m really quite insensitive to the sun, but even though I put on a 50 I got really burnt. So the best it to putt on a thick coat of sunscreen and reapply it regularly or even wear something long for kitesurfing, especially if you kite for some hours – like a surf legging or at least a long-sleeved wettie!
Zinc for the face (if you don’t want to look like a ghost, you can use coloured zinc paste that blocks the sun from especially vulnerable areas like nose and cheeks) Get more information about skin- and haircare for kitesurfers here!).
And yes, it’s recommended to bring some effective mosquito-repellent – altough I have to say that we had hardly any mosquitos during the time we spent there. I used the mosquito cream and spray for two times and then not anymore, cause to be honest I forgot about it – and I really didn’t notice any difference. All in all I had two stitches in more than two weeks.
Where to stay?
We’ve been in Kenya with a group of people as part of a kite camp, so everything was perfectly organised. The place where we stayed is called The Kite Houses – and oh gosh, it was just amazing there. The houses and rooms and surroundings are so incredibly beautiful that you can’t stop looking! It was also perfect to hang around and come down after kiting. We had breakfast and dinner there, made by a private cook, and every single meal was super tasty.
Also the location was nice cause it was only a five minutes walk to the beach (we had our kite stuff at the Watamu Kiteboarding station). There are also some resorts along the beach, like Garoda Resort, Medina Palms or Ocean Sports Resort.
Some words about the internet connection: The WLAN-spots are not the fastest – for checking your mails etc. it’s ok, but if you want to properly work or to up- or download something the limit is reached soon. So for me this was a challenge, as I always take my work with me and have to publish articles from there and upload heaps of pics.
Well, if there are not a lot of people using the net you may be lucky. Otherwise you have to exercise patience (which is also a good thing sometimes).
Here’s a small glimpse into the lifestyle at the Kite Houses:
What else to do?
I know it’s hard for us kiteaddicts when you have a day without wind … but anyway, in case it happens you have to make the best of it! And don’t worry, there are heaps of activities you can do around Watamu. So even if e. g. your partner does not kite Watamu is a nice place for holidays!
You can go big game fishing, diving, snorkeling, SUP, kayaking, exploring the nature of Arabuko Sokoke Forest, visit the Watamu Turtle Watch, join a sundowner cruise at Mida Creek or make a safari to Tsavo East National Park which is only a few hours away. The lively coastal town of Malindi is also worth a visit – not only that it offers nice shopping possibilities, due to it’s italian influence you’ll also find some good pizzerias and gelaterias there.
The best way to find out details about safaris and trips is to ask at the place where you stay.
Here are some impressions of our safari:
If you want to get around in the area, e. g. to another kitespot or to the supermarket, there are lot of tuk-tuks. They take you everywhere you want and the prices are very low. You can also choose a motorbike taxi, those are even cheaper – but to be honest it’s not so easy to feel safe on one of these.
Eat and drink
As I already mentioned the place where we lived with the kite group in Kenya (The Kite Houses) had a private cook who prepared a fresh breakfast and menu every evening – including fresh fruit like mango and papaya, lots of vegetables, local fish and chicken.
But also from the food outside we weren’t disappointed! Not only in Malindi but also in Watamu you’ll notice a strong italian influence – so all around the area you will find heaps of pizza and other italian dishes in the restaurants, especially in the hotel resorts. As there are a lot of italian tourists the taste of the food (and the coffee!) has to be italian-like. And yes, it is! Every italian dish I ordered was pretty good. And compared to Europe quite cheap too – like a salad with a bunch of raw tuna for the equivalent of about 5 Euros.
A place that you should also visit when you are in Watamu is the Restaurant in the Kobe Suite Resort which offers super nice food and a great view to the sea … especially for a romantic dinner in the evening!
If you want to cook on your own there’s a well-stocked supermarket in the village center that offers also a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. As Watamu is an old fishing village it’s easy to get fish and seafood at very low cost.
You want to check out the nightlife? I can’t say a lot about this topic cause we’ve only been to one club, the Comeback in Watamu. This one is half out- and half indoor, has a very cool tropical interieur, offers good and inexpensive drinks as well as food and the music is nice too – if you aren’t allergic to reggae and dancehall. We heard that also the Kalahari club has nice food but haven’t been there.
The currency is KSH (Kenyan Shilling), 1 Euro is about 121 KSH. There are cash points or you can change your money in the Casino in Watamu.
What else about this place?
All in all the area of Watamu is just impressive and stunning – I’m happy that I could visit this place, see the landscapes and get some insights in the culture too.
Everything (ok, not the hotel resorts) is very authentic, and it’s so interesting to see how the locals live there and how their daily life is. You see people sitting next to the street and work there, you see the pulsating live in the village. Quonsets that host shops and and clay buildings without windows everywhere – these are the traditional houses.
When you go on safari you’ll see how the poverty increases the more you get out of the “touristic” area. Yes, I have to admit that all this made me feel more than humble. People don’t own a lot of things there but they are happy and always super friendly – that’s my experience.
If you want to check our video from this kite trip to Watamu, here it is: Video – Kitesurfing in Watamu
I hope that I could give you some useful insights into the kitespot Watamu! Feel free to contact me if you need more information.