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Kenya Marine Parks
The first marine national parks in Africa were established in 1968 on Kenya's magnificent Indian Ocean coast, north of Mombasa town.
Mombasa Marine Park And National Reserve
Mombasa, a coral island off the coast of Kenya, has beautiful coral reef and marine life; this makes the whole experience of diving and snorkeling awesome. Mombasa has also a deep harbor called the Kilindini, which serves as a docking station for vessels serving the East African trading regions.
The area where the diving and snorkeling occur is north of Mombasa, extending from around the Mtwapa creek all the way south to the entrance of Likoni; this area is called the Mombasa Marine Park and National Reserve. In 1986, the Kenyan Government officially extended Mombasa Marine Parks and National Reserve to its well-deserved status. Mombasa Marine Park encompasses 4 square mile, while the National Reserve extends 77 square miles.
The Mombasa Marine Park and National Reserve's pristine beauty has been kept in check by the efforts of the Kenya Wildlife Service. The depths for diving and snorkeling vary between 30 feet to 1000 feet. The reefs are of different types; there are multicolored hanging reefs and large corals, which complement the soft smooth sandy bottoms. Snorkeling in shallow depths will display the coral reefs close to surface, providing sustenance to small marine life which otherwise would be unable to survive.
The Marine life at the Mombasa Marine and National Reserve is incredible. Plenty of diverse fish life can be seen by snorkels, divers, or from the "glass bottom boat". The glass bottom boat, we have to admit, is a fun experience. It makes the cautious come to an understanding regarding the complexity but yet the perfection of the interactions between water and marine life that live in it. On the other hand, the divers get to experience, first hand the large pelagic game fishes like the barracuda; the snorkels get an awe of the brightly colored tropical fishes like snappers, both yellow and red camouflaging with similarly colored corals and sometimes even completing the white corals which present an unrepresentative beauty well-deserving of picture taking.
Kisite Marine Park And Mpunguti Marine Reserve
Kisite - Mpunguti Marine Park and National Reserves are found off the Kenyan coast, 75 miles south of Mombasa. This Marine Park and Reserve has been a center of discussion for European marine biologists because of its increasing number of new fishes species and corals being documented and particular because of the marine environment still being intact. There are currently around 250 varieties of marine fish and over 40 varieties of coral species documented.
Mpunguti and Kisite, which jointly gained their status as a Marine Reserve and Park in 1978, actually consist of the Inner and outer Mpunguti Islands and Kisite Island. A dhow transports you over to the shallow marine reserve from the coastal mainland, where you have the opportunity to witness the clarity of water and awesomeness of diverse number of marline life. Kisite - Mpunguti Marine Park and National Reserves is loved by snorkels and divers because of the ease of viewing (but not touching or examining) and picture taking. Deep sea fishing lovers can travel further down south to the Pemba channel to catch large barracudas and kingfish.
In the Kisite - Mpunguti Marine Park and National Reserves some of the commonly seen fish include: large numbers of pelagic fish, butterfly, parrot, rock cod, angel, manta ray.Turtles, dolphins, reef sharks are also seen. The pristine coral varieties are impeccable; corals like staghorn, brain, liliac-blue, mushroom, and lavender present unique photo taking opportunities. The colorful beauty of the coral, complimented by the large number of yellow and red tuna and snappers are unmatched.
The are other two main Marine Parks, Malindi and Watamu, are a total of approximately 8 square miles. The Marine National Reserve encompasses the parks from south of Malindi town to Watamu. The 82 square mile reserve includes a large mangrove inlet called Mida Creek with a 100 feet-wide strip of mainland. This part of the coast has some of the finest unspoilt white coral beaches in the world. Podanus palms and the wispy casuarinas trees skirt the high-water line, and the occasional headlands of dark limestone split the shore into bays, coves and lagoons, each with its fringe of shimmering sand.
Inside the protective fringing reef, the water is warm and entirely safe for bathing. Between two seasons of trade winds, the sea is often a clear glass palette of dappled greens and blues. The park has extensive coral gardens which blossom fully at night when the polyps emerge from their hard limey shelters; the coral is also a haven for beautiful shoals of reef fish.
Malindi Marine National Park Located In Malindi, Kenya
The Malindi Marine Park starts at its southern end, stretches from Leopard Point for a mile to a spot just south-west of Sand Island; then northwards for a mile along Stork Passage to beyond the tip of North Reef, and from there back to the beach at Chanoni Point. The coastline of the Park is an attractive coral-sand beach. Low tide exposes more sand and patches of seaweed, broken by shallow pools and channels. Between the shoreline and the two main reefs, North Reef and Barracuda Reef, runs Barracuda Channel. The water here is deep for normal goggling, but the sandy bottom with its rich growth of seaweed harbors numerous shells, particularly the common spider conch, which may often be seen on the shallower edges of the Channel.
Barracuda Reef lies on the shoreward side of the North Reef, which protects it from heavy seas, and is constantly washed by the flow of water through Barracuda Channel. The lowest tides expose the tips of only a few coral heads, the rest of the reef shows up as a smooth slick on the surface.
The main bulk of the Malindi National Park reef appears to be potato coral, which, on the shoreward side, looms up from about 30 feet. There are the stately branching staghorn corals, delicate spiky-looking finger coral; rounded lumps of intricate brain coral; the madrepore species with their pink tips and the circular mushroom corals. Less popular as a fish home, and not so common as the other corals is the fungus coral. It derives this unattractive name from its resemblance to the flat, fan-shaped fungus that sometimes grows around the trunks of trees. There is a large and very spectacular outcrop of this coral on the Barracuda Reef.
Where there is coral, there are coral fish seen in colorful crowds. Perhaps the easiest to pick out will be the Moorish idols. Their striking black and yellow stripes, pointed snout and long trailing dorsal fin would be hard to miss in any crowd and their stately progress sets them apart from the general bustle. There are also localized fishes, which rarely stray far from the protection of their chosen havens. The little black and white coral fish, sometimes called bulls - eyes or sergeant - major fishes are usually found hovering round a clump of madrepore coral; the beautiful anemone fish, pinky-gold with a pale dorsal stripe, make their home among the tentacles of stinging sea anemones. Also seen, the clown fish, similar in shape to the anemone fish but its colors are rich brown, a couple of sky blue stripes and orange fins, which lives among the tentacles of the anemone. A third fish to be found with anemones is the domino fish, marked, as its name implies, with three white spots on a black background.
Many of the coral fish have favorite holes in or under the coral, but use them mainly for resting or for hiding when danger threatens. Over, around and among these more static creatures flows a bewildering variety of fish of every conceivable shape and color. At first the observer retains only hazy impressions-a shifting blue-green veil of demoiselles, a splash of yellow butterfly fish, the brilliant blue streak of a cleaner wrasse, blue and yellow, red and green, striped, spotty or blotchy. All these can be seen by, non-swimmer from the comfort of a glass-bottomed boat; however, if you are diving with facemask and flipper, you may find richer life still under overhanging pieces of rock or coral like the spiny lobster or the beautiful feathery scorpion fish.
Malindi National Park North Reef
This is the main reef in the Malindi park, lying parallel to the shore for about two-thirds the length of the Park. Much of the reef is exposed at low tide which leaves a low and flat rather desolate-looking surface of old coral with a layer of deposit and patches of weed.
On the shoreward side of the northern end of the reef there are stretches of sand-bank, and towards the sea from this point is a large inlet, shallow at its entrance, but four or five feet deep in some parts.
In this sandy inlet, particularly around the edges are clumps of coral. Fish coming into the area during high tide are trapped there. All this can be seen clearly through the crystal water from the edges of the pool, but the water is deep enough to swim in if you wish to take a closer look.
A common sight here is a cluster of young Moorish idols. When adult, these fish seem to be much less gregarious, but the young look most attractive swimming in a group. The fish trapped by the tide, some quite large particularly the parrot fish, are rather more nervous than when viewed in open waters; there is a constant flurry of fish racing up and down.
In the ankle-deep water around the entrance to the inlet, you may see tiny octopi retreating into holes or eels racing for cover. Under the loose stones, live minute and often bizarre shaped crabs, some small shell, sea anemone and brittle star fish. Turning the stones, will reveal that but it is important to replace the stones back into its position, or else the creatures will die from being exposed to the sun.
At the southern part of the Malindi National Park's North Reef is a large inlet. This area is the Coral Gardens; the water in normally shallow and clear. Shell collecting had damaged this region, but the region is returning back to its original state. Here you can find the spider conch. They are little tough to spot because their dirty mossy backs blend well with the weeds. If you turn it around, you will see the pink inner surface. Towards the entrance of the coral gardens, the water is a little deeper, which brings in shoals of pelagic fish.
Malindi National Park South Reef
At the southern end of North Reef, the main platform is Potato Coral. The surface here has worn out, and on it grows other varieties of corals. Most numerous perhaps are the finely branched Finger Corals, Madre pores and the curious Mushroom Corals. Over them swarm the shoals of coral fish. But surely the greatest attraction on this part of the reef, for the more adventurous swimmers, is the outer edge where the great bank of coral slopes steeply away to thirty or forty feet, with the sandy bottom continuing to slope, less steeply, into the depths of the channel.
Here the types of fish change dramatically, the coral dwellers being invaded by the pelagic fish of the open sea -- Kingfish and Kole-kole, that sweep past the sloping face and back into the blue haze beyond. Unicorn fish steam haughtily away from the diver, large rock cod flip back into their coral holes and lobsters wave their long white feelers. Even big turtles come and feed on the lower slopes, but on the whole they are shyer than the fish and soon paddle off when approached. It is a most exciting and rewarding place to dive in and within easy reach of the Coral Gardens.
The outer edge of North Reef provides some of the most beautiful diving areas to be found anywhere. There is a platform, quite wide at the northern end, narrower back towards the entrance of the Coral Gardens. Stork Passage runs along the outside of this ledge, bringing large pelagic fish that cruise in and out of view from the deep water beyond the sudden drop of the ledge into the depths of the channel. On the wider part of the shelf, the bottom is fairly flat with a gentle outward slope. It is almost entirely covered by the weird bathmats. It is an extraordinary sight, like scattered carpets flung down, rich brown and gold, blue-white and green, with fans of plate coral and the occasional madrepore or staghorn standing above it.
Fishes are not abundant here, but then gorgeous surgeonfish is common and the sky-blue black and yellow livery looks almost out of place against such a background. As the shelf narrows, the bathmats give way to more and more fan coral, the delicate finger and madrepore and the more robust staghorn. The bottom is broken by gullies, the corals rise up in clumps, and it is possible to find lobsters and browsing turtles. Here again, the numbers of the smaller resident type fishes are small but with the magnificence and variety of the corals, their absence is not noticeable. Also shoals of fish sweep in over the ledge as the tide rises, to return to deeper waters when it drops. It is far less sheltered and easy-going than the Coral Gardens, or even Barracuda Reef. For a truly memorable dive, this is the place.
Watamu Marine Park Located In Watamu - Kenya
Watamu Marine Park is located 14 miles south of Malindi, starting from the mouth of the Mida Creek at the southern end, continuing north to Turtle Bay. The water is fairly clear and shallow, with a sand-weed and coral bottom. At Watamu Marine Park, the small coral gardens lie parallel to the shore, and are not exposed during low tide.
The sea bed displays the brain coral which does not provide shelter for many of the small coral reef, that prefer to hide among the branches of the madrepores, finger and staghorn. Sea anemones, which cover the top of the coral, and clown fish, are found in plenty here. Another unique fish found at the park is the cleaner wrasse which makes its living by picking over the scales of other fishes. This is made possible because of other larger fishes that occur in small numbers. Also seen on the coral are shy octopuses. They quickly slither away when approached so one has to be careful to keep distance from it to see the best show.
The northern end of the gardens has interesting displays of coral. At the edge of the channel, the coral tends to grow in large boulders and spires. They are separated by stretches of sandy or weedy bottom. The other unique corals that can be seen here are finger like corals except that they are purple in color. There are miniature fans of pure white coral, which have the same pattern as window frost and a dark brown variety, which look like cup sponges.
This formidable, jagged island lies at the southern end of the park. The "tail" is divided from the body by a sandy narrow cove and the flat slab on the top of the Island is sparsely covered by grass. Marine lizards, rock crabs, eels and sea urchins are commonly seen here.
A spur of dark gray limestone coral runs out from the south shore across the mouth of the Mida Creek. It is broken by a turbulent channel of water and resurfaces again for around 50 feet towards the center. The little reef rises only a few feet above the water, and is completely covered at high tide; it is between 12 and 15 feet wide. This coral hides the wonderful sights at Watamu Marine Park, the Tewa (in Swahili) or giant rock cod. The current that races past the reef tunnels away at the base so that there is an overhang, the floor of which is several feet below the level of the surrounding sea bed. At the outer end of the Island, the upper surface of the ledge remains underwater at low tide, displaying beautiful anemones, sea-ferns, and coral polyps. The underside of the overhang reveals beautiful vivid reds, yellows and blues of soft coral and sponges.
Searching the tunnels that run through the reef reveals the Tewa. Here you can see the pale widely curved mouth gaping slightly open and fringed with tiny fish. The great bulk of creatures become apparent as your eyes adjust to the dim light. Huge placid monsters around 6 feet long, weighing several hundred pounds with rounded fin and tail moving slowly. There were originally three of these big fishes, giving them their name "Big Three Caves". Now you can see four or more large Tewa and few smaller ones. The name now commonly used is Tewa Caves. The Tewas are seen around reefs, moving majestically through the water, with their satellite shoals of pilot fish.
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