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Malindi-Watamu Biosphere Reserve, Kenya

Malindi-Watamu Biosphere Reserve is part of the Marine Protected Areas of the Kenyan coast. It consists of marine and coastal ecosystems including coral reefs and associated ecosystems such as seagrass beds and mangrove forests that are crucial for the livelihoods of coastal people as well as for the national economy. Coral reefs provide food and income to coastal communities, as well as other goods and services of strategic importance to the national economy including, tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection.

Designation date: 1979


Regional network:  AfriMAB

Ecosystem-based network: 




    Surface : 34,634 ha

    • Core area(s): 1,641 ha (marine)
    • Buffer zone(s): 19,652 ha (marine)
    • Transition zone(s): 13,341 ha (terrestrial)

    Location: 03°14' to 03°25'S; 39°57' to 40°11'E

    Administrative Authorities

    Kenya National Commission for UNESCO

    Dr. Evangeline Njoka
    Secretary General
    P.O. Box: 72107-00200
    Nairobi, Kenya

    Tel.: +254 202229053


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    Ecological Characteristics

    Malindi-Watamu Biosphere Reserve is located on the coast of Kenya about 100 km north of Mombasa. Notable physical features of this biosphere reserve are rock platforms, cliffs and sandy beaches. Mida Creek comprises tidal mud flats with fringing mangrove swamps and the biosphere reserve area, and includes coral reefs and sea-grass beds.

    The region has proven important biodiversity assets as an International Important Bird Area for migrating and resident species. Has coral reef and fish assemblages that or high conservation value, including Red Listed species and endemics. Seagrass beds and inshore rockpool habitats provide nursery areas and as of yet unassessed blue carbon benefits. The mangrove forest hosts the widest range of mangrove species on the East African coast. The area is also on major cetacean migration routes, which warrants good marine stewardship to ensure their safe passage.




    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    This region is one of the main recreational centers of Kenya and local communities benefit from tourism activities. Historically this has been international tourism particularly from Europe, especially the UK and Italy. Many are the beach component of two destination holidays, the other component being safaris in the Kenya’s larger national parks such as Masai Mara, Tsavo, etc.  Major attractions are boat trips, water sports, deep-sea fishing and coral viewing.

    Tourism, though, has a negative side, as well. Corals and shells have been exploited heavily by visitors and local tradesmen for souvenirs. Trampling and anchorage have also possibly caused disturbances on the reef. Furthermore, increasing siltation from the Sabaki River is a major threat to the reefs.




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    Last updated: October 2018