Kites, Tanks, Tackle: Staying Active in Malindi & Watamu
Snorkeling above the sublime coral reefs in the Marine Park will satisfy most travelers' fascination with the azure waters off the Malindi-Watamu coast. This can be arranged through any of the hotels in Watamu, or you can contact Saidi through Driftwood Beach Club (tel. 042/212-0155, 073/474-7133, or 071/664-7530) in Malindi; he charges $37 (including transfers and park entry fees) for 2 hours of snorkeling in Malindi Marine Park. Going underwater also offers the chance to swim with whale sharks, a big highlight here. Scuba diving is offered by well-established PADI operation Aqua Ventures (tel. 042/32-420; www.diveinkenya.com), based at the Ocean Sports hotel in Watamu and run by Steve and Helen Curtis, who've been here since 1990. The dive sites are all a 10- to 20-minute boat ride from shore; there are around 18 buoyed dive sites, as well as a few seldom-dived, unbuoyed sites. A Watamu reef dive costs 30€, night dives are 40€, and a full-day diving safari with cave and reef diving costs 120€; they also have a number of dive packages, rent equipment, and offer courses all the way up to divemaster. You need to be aware that diving and snorkeling are greatly marred by river silt from March through June, with visibility usually poor enough to keep you out the water entirely. If you're in Malindi, you can contact Upinde Diving (tel. 073/541-8570 or 072/396-2123), which charges 70€ for two dives in a single morning or 320€ for 10 dives over 5 mornings.
A good place to be when you can't go beneath the surface is flying above it. Widely considered prime kitesurfing territory, the wind here lures pro-kiters and kite pioneers to the beach north of Malindi. They come as much for the sense of wild, open space -- at Che Shale, where Kitesurf Kenya operates, there are 5km (3 miles) of deserted beach -- as they do for the dependable winds. Averaging 16 knots (and reaching up to 25 knots) and with around 300 days of wind per year, it's a formidable destination for the sport. There's an 8-month season, with cross-shore and on-shore winds from July through September and January through May. Kitesurf Kenya offers everything from beginner's instruction (with 2-4 hr. of action per day; 300€, including all equipment) to refresher courses and equipment rental.
Finally, some of the country's finest game fishing takes place out of Watamu and Malindi; in fact, the Malindi Coast is among the finest fishing locations on Earth, and game fishing has been truly spectacular in recent years. Wahoo, barracuda, dorado, giant trevally, yellowfin tuna, and kingfish are caught daily. Most hotels will help with arrangements, and Hemingways in Watamu is particularly geared toward deep-sea fishing, but the Malindi Sea Fishing Club is one of Kenya's great hangouts for sport fishing enthusiasts. It's a bit of a social hangout, with lots of focus on the pub (you need to pay for daily membership if you're not signed up; Ksh100 for the day). Midafternoon you can spot the fishermen coming in and weighing their catch. Kingfisher (www.kenyasportfishing.net) is a reliable deep-sea company that has operated from Malindi for more than 4 decades and holds some of the country's most impressive catch titles. Besides daytime fishing trips, they do all-nighters and longer fishing expeditions.