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Kenya Flaunts Its Magic - Watamu

"Magical Kenya" indeed, as one of the slogans underpinning the Africa Travel Association's four-day World Congress put it back in Nairobi prior to the fam trip to Watamu, all of which were sponsored by Kenya's Ministry of East African Affairs.

Watamu, a village north of Mombasa, is home to the lavish Medina Palms, where 50 contemporary units range from suites to villas. The resort features sequential pools as well as access to a fine beach, snorkeling, dolphin-watching and tag-and-release sport fishing.

Tsavo National Park, Kenya's largest reserve, is a two-hour drive away, and a visit to the closer-by Gedi Historical Monument, the ruins of a 15th-century Arab-African town, testified to the region's multicultural history, today enlivened by monkeys that jump onto heads and shoulders in search of snacks.

Medina Palms and several other reserve resorts belong to the Watamu Marine Association, which resolves tensions between resort operators and local residents, fishermen and environmentalists to keep the reserve pristine. The association also supports a community recycling center. Touring it sounded like a root canal but turned out to be a charming, through-the-looking-glass experience.

A 25-member "Blue Team" consisted of locals who enthusiastically operated several Gyro Gearloose-like but effective waste management and recycling machines. The trunk of a 30-foot-or-so palm tree was clad with plastic flip-flops, whimsical representatives of the flotsam that plagues oceans and beaches worldwide. A long wall of the facility was dominated by 1,000 wine bottles shaped into a larger-than-life -- wait for it! -- bottlenose dolphin.

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