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Whale Watching

  • Max 5 HoursDuration
  • Watamu, KenyaLocation
  • EasyDifficulty

The well-publicized event of the wildebeest crossing from Tanzania into Kenya’s Masai Mara occurs annually and attracts millions of visitors every year, and research of the ocean has unveiled a simultaneous marine migration event of the humpback whales.

Since 2011 we have been able to monitor the numbers of whales arriving, from the seas of Antarctica, humpback whales arrive along Kenya’s Indian Ocean Coast, travelling as far north as Somalia. Migration months are between July and October, with the peak in August. This is a wonderful and coincidental opportunity for visitors to witness two phenomenal migrations in August both on and off land.

The whales in Kenya arrive to breed and calf, mothers hugging the tropical coastline to protect calves from marine predators. It is thought that they travel from along the Shimoni Archipelago in the south to the north of Kenya and beyond to Somali waters. Taking advantage of this information KMMREC researchers working with KWS, and Hemingways Watamu in 2012 embarked on the first whale watching tours in Kenya to initiate marketing of the Twin Migration - Whales to Wildebeest. During the migration the humpbacks can be seen all along the coast, but are most easily sighted in Watamu.

KMMREC works with responsible operators and offers a guiding service in collaboration with Hemingways Watamu tours, to provide extra insight into the world of these charismatic animals, who can breach up to their entire length.

Contact Mike for more information
It is important to keep in mind that mother humpback whales bring their calves to the protected waters of Kenya in order to keep them safe and within a stress free environment. When watching the whales, for captains and researchers, the top priority is that they remain calm around the boat and are the least bit disturbed. The guidelines required for captains are as follows:
  • Approach the animals at a steady speed cut speed, slow right to the speed of the animals. Do not rev the engine.
  • Do not pursue, head off, or encircle whales or cause groups to separate.
  • Move your boat with care around the animals. Do not make erratic movements.
  • Do not surround the animals. No more than 3 boats should be within 100 metres either side of a them.
  • Approach the animals from the side and slightly to the rear. Frontal approach is forbidden.
  • Do not approach calves. Do not persue the calf or mother when they move away.
  • Do not spend more than 20 minutes with the whales.
  • Do not chase. If a whale surfaces very near your boat, stop or slow down.
  • If you notice signs of disturbance, move away and leave alone. Do not repeat interaction with animals that appear disturbed.
  • Key signs of disturbance:
    1) attempts to move away from the boat,
    2) regular changes in swimming direction or speed,
    3) hasty dives
  • Give the animals the choice to approach you. Many marine mammals are sociable and curious animals, they may choose to move towards people and boats. Tour operators are trained to allow the animals to decide contact with vehicles or people. They should not initiate.
  • When observing is finished, move away slowly.
  • Entering and swimming with marine mammals is strictly FORBIDDEN! This can cause stress for mothers and calves and put you at risk.

Due to great results from citizen science data collection, Kenya was invited to contribute to the International Whaling Commission Whale Watching Handbook. In addition, in 2019 the IUCN determined that the Malindi Watamu Marine Protected Area is an Important Marine Mammal Area and warranted the need of protection.

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