Marine conservation and research




The marine environment in the Western Indian Ocean is exceptionally bio-diverse including habitats such as mangrove forests, beautiful sandy beaches, seagrass beds, and coral reefs. They are also exceptionally threatened by coastal development, climate change, and fishing pressure. A Rocha Kenya works in Watamu Marine Park to understand the status and processes impacting marine biodiversity of these habitats.

We are committed to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and many of our marine projects  are cross-cutting and contribute towards a number of SDGs. In particular, our work is contributing towards a number of targets in SDG14 Life Below Water (Targets 14.1, 14.2, 14.5, 14.7 and 14.A). We are using beach cleanups for plastic pollution to bring about habitat restoration and working in partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service and others to make sure that Watamu Marine National Park is healthy and protected.

Watamu Marine National Park ( WMNP) is one of the oldest  Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the world. Since its establishment in 1968, it has been the subject of a number of scientific studies as well as suffering from a range of modern threats to coastal marine habitats. We have produced a habitat map of WMNP which is the first to show this level of detail and the only habitat map of a Kenyan MPA. Nine habitat categories were mapped; revealing that the most dominant habitat type is seagrass and the least is coral reef. Species lists were collected for fish, echinoderms, molluscs, crustaceans, corals, and seagrass, and species abundances were used to estimate total species richness, species diversity and sampling completeness. There were 18 species across all groups that fall into a category of conservation concern (other than Least Concern or Not Evaluated) on the IUCN Red List and 8 species found which are currently undescribed. The findings of this paper emphasises the importance of non-coral habitats in the WMNP, such as seagrass beds, and the need for more research into the ecology and conservation importance of these habitats.

The summary of our results can be found in our paper published in Atoll Research Bulletin.

Our current research projects include:

We have produced a number of research reports and publications from our work.


Volunteers work from Mwamba Conservation Centre which is ideally situated directly onshore from the Park and within eyesight of the most visited reef, Coral Gardens.

We seek volunteers who are willing to get immersed in all tasks and work in a cross-cultural situation, recognising that marine habitats have intrinsic value, and we can bring healing to the ocean and those who depend upon it.

If you would like to volunteer please visit our volunteer page for more details.


Do you have snorkelling or SCUBA gear lying around the house gather dust? We can put it to good use. The snorkelling kit at Mwamba needs to be replaced so that we can introduce visitors, local leaders, and school groups to the wonder of God’s creation underwater. Please contact us via the Mwamba Guest House with what you have and where you live and we’ll be in touch.



Marine research

Papers and book chapters

Hereward, H.F.R., Gentle, L.K., Ray, N.D. & Sluka, R.D. (2019) Habitat associations of hawkfish: depth, distribution, and density at two sites in Kenya. Bulletin of Marine Science 95: 265–276 LINK

Cowburn, B., Musembi, P.M., Sindorf, V.,  Kohlmeier, D., Raker, C., Nussbaumer, A.,  Hereward, H.F.R., Van Baelenberghe, B., Goebbels, D., Kamire, J., Horions, M., Sluka, R.D., Taylor, M.L. & Rogers, A.D. (2018). The habitats and biodiversity of Watamu Marine National Park: evaluating our knowledge of one of East Africa’s oldest marine protected areas. Atoll Research Bulletin 618: 1–45 PDF

Hereward, H.F.R, Ray, N.D., Gentle, L.K. & Sluka, R.D. (2017). Ghost crab burrow density at Watamu Marine National Park: An indicator of the impact of urbanisation and associated disturbance? African Journal of Marine Science 39:129–133 LINK

Gordon, T.A.C., Cowburn, B, and R.D. Sluka. 2015. Defended territories of an aggressive damselfish contain lower juvenile coral density than adjacent non-defended areas on Kenyan lagoon patch reefs. Coral Reefs 34:13-16. DOI 10.1007/s00338-014-1229-z

Sindorf, V, B. Cowburn and R.D. Sluka. 2015. Rocky intertidal fish assemblage in the Watamu Marine National Park, Western Indian Ocean. Environmental Biology of Fishes DOI 10.1007/s10641-015-0397-1

Sluka, R.D. and P. Simonin. 2014. Marine Capture Fisheries – a call to action in response to limits, unintended consequences and ethics. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 66:203-212.

Cowburn, B., R. Sluka, J. Smith, and M.O.S. Mohamed. 2013. Tourism, Reef Condition and Visitor Satisfaction in Watamu Marine National Park Kenya. Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science 12: 57-70.

Sluka, R. D. 2012. Hope for the Ocean: Marine Biodiversity, Poverty Alleviation and Blessing the Nations. Grove Books Limited, Cambridge. 28pp.

A Rocha Kenya Conservation Research Reports

Kristel S.S. van Houte-Howes. 2005. Macroinvertebrate communities in intertidal mudflats at the Sabaki River Estuary, Kenya: An important habitat for resident and migratory shore birds A Rocha Kenya Occasional Research Report #7. 5pp

Robert Sluka, Benjamin Cowburn, and Colin Jackson. 2012. The Impact of Watamu Marine National Park on Marine Biodiversity & Habitats. A Rocha Kenya Occasional Research Report #24. 18pp.

Benjamin Cowburn and Robert D Sluka. 2012. Impact of snorkeling tourism on marine habitats of Watamu Marine National Park. A Rocha Kenya Occasional Research Report #26. 22pp.

Benjamin Cowburn, Robert D Sluka and Joy Smith. 2013. Coral Reef Ecology and Biodiversity in Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. A Rocha Kenya Conservation & Science Occasional Research Report #27. 14pp.

Hannah F R Hereward and Robert D Sluka. 2014. Testing ghost crab density as a useful indicator of human impacts on exposed sandy beaches. A Rocha Kenya Occasional Research Report #29. 15pp.

Martine Koemans. 2014. Living on the Edge: The relationship between livelihood practises and the national reserves resources. A Rocha Kenya Occasional Research Report #32. 42pp.

Peter Musembi, Martine Koemans and Jack Kamire. 2014. Rockpool Tourism in Watamu Marine National Park. A Rocha Kenya Conservation & Science Occasional Research Report #33. 8pp.

Peter Musembi and Benjamin Cowburn. 2014. Diversity and abundance of coral-associated fish in Acroporid and Pocilloporid corals of Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. A Rocha Kenya Conservation & Science Occasional Research Report #34. 12pp.

Robert D Sluka, Peter Musembi, Benjamin Cowburn, Colin Jackson and Jaap Gijsbertsen. 2014. Marine Research and Conservation at A Rocha Kenya 2010-2014. A Rocha Kenya Science & Conservation Occasional Research  Report #36. 20pp.

Waterbird counts at Tana Delta 5th March 2021
Watamu Marine Protected Area Stakeholder’s Workshop 23rd February 2021
Latest news
Over half a million waterbirds counted since 2000! 20th January 2021
Thank you for your generous support 23rd December 2020