Posted in travel

Malindi-Watamu vacay: Mida Creek

NB: //There were actually two more posts before I concluded the marathon vacay writing but shit happened. I was so exhausted, why lie. Longer working hours, side hustles, cold, deprived sleep, I needed to pause.

Malindi-Mombasa highway is a gem of a road if only you keen on travelling during the day and not night. You will be wowed by the huge Arabuko forest and a few kilometers away to the left is the murram road to the Mida Creek. You can easily access this hidden spot with the help of a tuktuk or motorcycle that can be boarded at the Gede stage. Activities within the creek include bird watching, canoe ride, island exploration and board walk.

Signage from the Malindi-Mombasa road

Charges are as follows: Non residents Adult 300 Child 200 Student 200; Residents 200 100 150 and Citizens 100 50 50 respectively. Guide fees: 1-4 people Ksh 500; 5-20 people Ksh 1,000. Canoe (1-2 hrs): 1 person Ksh 700 ; 2 people Ksh 1,000.All proceeds go to supporting ASSETS (sending local kids to school, training community groups in alternative livelihoods, running environmental education programmes in schools and reforesting depleted mangroves.)

It is very windy once you get here but the wide ocean view makes one forget all about it. Mangroves speak volume alerting one that you have arrived to the mangrove hub. We got here just after a sea turtle had been rescued by fishermen. This was a rare occurrence spotting one just near the shore. However, the fishermen here are alert on conserving the endangered species that is so common for poaching as it has got the sweetest meat. We watched in awe as it waited for the Watamu Marine personnel to arrive and take it back deep into the ocean where it belonged. Our guide then went on to do his honor of touring us.

Views from the entry point
Rescued sea turtle

Mida Creek is a marine reserve established in 1968 and in 1978 it was handed over to the Marine Biosphere Reserve. There are four natural elements found at Mida: Mangrove forest, sea grasses, sand flat and corals. Mida is an oval shaped lagoon connected from the Watamu open sea which is 32km square totaling to 1,600ha. There is a ‘door’ that acts as an inlet or outlet.

Been the World’s most productive mangrove ecosystem, it has the 8 types of mangroves found in East Africa that amount to 9. The ninth can be found at Lamu. Not all mangroves thrive in water as I discovered; some do well in high salinity (zone closer to the mainland) while others in low salinity. A blend of fresh and salty water is key for the mangrove survival. The water from the ocean gets to the mainland only twice per month, during the full moon and new moon.

At the mainland I got to spot the mangrove roots while my tutor classified the mangroves further into white, yellow, red and black each having different roots. The red, black and yellow mangroves belong to the Rhizophoraceae family and are mainly used for construction while the bark of red mangrove can be boiled to cure asthma. On the other hand, white mangrove is used by bees for making honey as they get attracted to the many holes in it plus its roots is used in making canoes. Moreover, its seeds can be boiled to cure stomachache. Other important aspects of the mangrove was that it can be used to make animal fodder, firewood, helps combat climate change, cleaning sea water by trapping litter and is a suitable ground for juvenile fish. Land crabs are common here as you find them wandering from one hole to another.

Another wonder was the different mangrove seeds where mangroves are dichotomous and viviparous meaning their seeds germinate while still attached to the parent tree. As for the white once ready their seeds fall to the ground, produce roots and the cycle continues into more mangrove production (they first appear round and have pneumatophores) whereas for the rest, their roots grow from the branches going down in that when ready they detach and fall to the ground implanting itself-aerial root. The next stop was at a mangrove nursery where potential buyers come to get some.

Yellow mangrove. The small brown roots near it resemble those of the white mangrove
White mangrove seed
Yellow mangrove roots
Yellow,red and black seed that later shoots to roots. (Spot the brown bud with a green stem)
Nursery contains the red and yellow mangrove
The long white branched mangrove behind this yellow shrub is the white mangrove

At 260 meters long came the wooden board walk which was the most exciting thing on this mangrove side. Surrounded by mangroves on both sides, the walk provides a wanderer with more knowledge like lichen that would make one think of bird nest but this would clearly mean the creek has fresh air in it. At the end of the canopy, islands, inlets as well as outlets channels come into display. If you lucky to get a speed boat (can be arranged) since canoes are not my cup of tea with high water levels, then a trip to the 3-4 islands would be mind blowing. ‘Kireku’ island (the nearest also visible) was a slave island used by Arabs plus a museum exists there. According to my source, there are people living there who used to be fishermen with rich Swahili culture whose children attend schools but for secondary level they have to cross over the channel using motor boats provided by the County Government. (I have to be back for this). Charges are Ksh 1,500 to go to the Island.

Views from the end of the board walk
Board walk
Mangroves sorrounding the board walk. More like the red mangrove
Views while doing the board walk

We then descended the shallow end where I was taught about water crabs which are edible and not the land crabs, shells belonging to oysters could be spotted in the water mangroves and then came the movie part, breaking of shell to eat/drink the oyster (cause I see in movies they just drop it in then swallow); I must confess it was the most disgusting thing I have tasted so far. Salty, slippery, yuck!

Guide breaking the oyster shell

With no shoes, we started another journey towards the starting point but this time via the ocean. Here we were lucky to encounter birds that roost on the mangroves wading. More than 100 species of birds come to Mida. Many migrant birds stop over here during the non-breeding season. Most famous is the Crab plover that flies to Mongolia the other half of the year. Others live here all year round like herons, flamingos, storks and sacred ibis. At low tide they spread out to feed in the mud and sand. As the water rises higher they move to higher ground.

Bird watching far away into the ocean

Our tour ended by buying souvenir and having our feet washed and dried by the amazing young men at the entrance. Fish is also cooked here but you have to tell them in advance before you kick start the tour for preparations.