Humpback whales are the most majestic animals in the ocean, and can be seen in the Watamu Protected Area on the Kenyan Coast, as well as several other species of whale
Ask any tourist to name the Big Five of Kenya, and they will no doubt give you the usual list of animals. Although visitors to Kenya are aware of its beautiful beaches, coral reefs, fishes and sea turtles, not many know that 22 different species of dolphins and whales have been identified in Watamu and the rest of Kenya which could easily be included in the "Marine Big Five"
The good news is that Kenya, over recent years, has been recording new species with some including humpback whales which are apparently on the increase, due to reports from sports fishermen with the Kenya Association of Sea Anglers reporting with to the Kenya Marine Mammal Network. The Kenya Marine Mammal Network is run by scientists at Watamu Marine Association with Kenya Wildlife Service in Watamu and Kisite National Marine Parks and Reserves who record the marine mammal hotspots for Kenya. This information is not only important to conservation but also to attract visitors such as you to the Kenyan coast to see our resident dolphins and the annual migration of humpback whales.
Research has meant that Watamu in 2011 was able to start Kenya’s first whale watching tours, run from the local hotels and through sports fishermen and is proving increasingly popular and Kenya Wildlife Service have therefore developed good dolphin and whale watching guidelines in an effort to protect marine mammal populations.
The whales have also meant education opportunities for budding young Kenyan citizen scientists, such as Michael Mwang’ombe and Kahindi Charo from Watamu who not only analyse the information, but get to present it at international scientific and conservation conferences.
It is quite an occasion each year as Humpback whales are first sighted along the coast of East Africa in early May in Mozambique travelling north as they make their annual migration north from Antarctica.
It is believed that they travel to warm tropical inner reefs for protection to enable them to breed and give birth to their calves, which remain with the mothers for about two years, until weaned. They then make the return journey in October, swimming over 4,000km to the cold food-rich seas of Antarctica, their main feeding area. These magnificent marine mammals can reach a length of 15 metres and weigh around 30 tonnes (about six times the weight of an elephant). Watching them in their natural environment leaping out of the water, sometimes in pairs, or larger family groups, is an unforgettable sight. Also amazing is that these marine giants mainly feed on small fish like sardines and small shrimp like creatures called krill.
To quote recent visitors to Watamu, the experience is "more exciting than great white shark watching in South Africa", while "watching these magnificent animals with young calves jumping out of the water is a natural beauty to behold" They can sometimes even be seen from land in Watamu, as you sip a cold beer at the bars of the local hotels, in the Watamu Marine Park.
Do you want to spot humpback whales in Watamu? They can be seen in July and August. Please contact Turtle Bay Beach Club (Tumu - firstname.lastname@example.org) or Watamu Marine Association ( Jane – email@example.com).