Chasing whales and catching kingfish – Kenya’s marine life makes for an epic sea safari

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Catch of the day: Writer Sadie Whitelocks with a kingfish

Sadly, it’s not a whale but there is a frenzy of excitement on the boat as one of our fishing lines pulls tight.

A young deckhand wrestles with the line and, with one final tug, a 4 ft-long kingfish flips and flaps on to the deck.

‘You can take that back to the hotel restaurant and they’ll cook it for dinner,’ Captain Alfred says happily, as he continues his own wrestling match with the barrelling waves.

After admiring our catch, I divert my attention back to trying to spot humpback whales, the main reason I have ventured to Watamu in Kenya.

The waters off the small town, about an hour’s flight from Nairobi, are home to the marine ‘Big Five’. The checklist includes dolphins, sea turtles, rays and sailfish, with the whales being the star attraction.

For decades, local fishermen have known about the graceful creatures congregating in the waters off Watamu during their annual migration from Antarctica. But it was only in 2011 that scientists became aware of the site and a research programme was born.

It is mid-September and I am a little late in the season, as the whales begin their return south in July, after enjoying a few months of sunshine.

But, ever the optimist, I booked a whale-watching trip after hearing that three whales were spotted the day before.

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