Game Parks and Reserves in Kenya
About Game Parks & Reserves in Kenya: Part II
Protected areas in Kenya are comprised of National Parks, Reserves, and Game Sanctuaries administered by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) as well as gazetted Forest Reserves, which are managed by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). The KWS-administered areas are protected for wildlife conservation and comprise 8% of the country. The gazetted Forest Reserves comprise another 2% of Kenya. 80% percent of these forests are natural, while the remainder are plantations. Despite this allotment of protected land, about 70% of the nation’s biodiversity resources are found outside of Game Parks and Reserves and remain at risk. Kenya is endowed with tremendous biodiversity. It has about 2,500 species of animals to include: 1,133 birds, 315 mammals, 191 reptiles, 180 freshwater fish, 692 marine and brackish fish, and 88 amphibians. It has 7,000 vascular plants species and more than 2,000 fungi and bacteria. 1,100 vascular plant species, 14 mammalian and 8 bird species are endemic to Kenya. 113 bird, 51 mammals, 8 amphibians and reptiles, and 26 fish types are either endangered or threatened.
Highlights of Safari in Kenya: Part II
It is a strange and grim cycle of alternating prosperity and adversity that keeps balance of the wild. We have among these creatures, far advanced in the scale of evolution, organized into three broad family groups. The first makes attack its means of defense and its method of maintaining its existence. The second trusts to speed, brill agility, or to that deceptive appearance called “protective mimicry”. This, of course, is the largest group, which is subdivided into many groups. The third trusts its armor, or outer protective garment, to protect itself from any imminent danger. The immense area covered by Game Parks and Reserves in Kenya is a convincing answer to those who wish to observe these varied species in their original surroundings and best fitted habitations. A lens into the savage and brutal elegance of nature, governed by simple rasping rules.
16. Amboseli National Park
The 392 km2 Amboseli National Park is especially held dearly by photographers against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and its flat terrain. Administered by the local Maasai through Kajiado County Council, Amboseli expands over the dry savanna plains and contains enormous wildlife resources. The park derives its name from the Maasai’s equivalent of “dry river bed” in reference to Lake Amboseli – which over dry weather is smooth enough to drive across and only forming the shallow Lake Amboseli in the rain season. The smooth lake bed makes it easy to drive across to one of Amboseli’s useful observation points, consisting of a small hill that overlooks the major swamps, simply known as the “Observation Hill”. Moreover, it is equally easy to get lost crossing the dusty lake bed, and to avoid getting lost it is advised to follow the tracks. Amboseli National Park is famous for its elephants, buffaloes and rhino population. For accommodation, there is something for everyone at Amboseli. From Namanga, it is a 70 kms drive to Meshanani Gate. Via Emali, it’s reached through the Kimana (Olkelenyiet) Gate, which is a 231 kms drive from Nairobi.
17. Kakamega National Reserve
The most popular route to Kakamega National Reserve is via Isecheno Gate, 18 kms east of Kakamega Town through Kambiri Market. This is well signposted. From Eldoret, the easiest route is via the Kapsabet-Chepsonoi-Mukumu Road. Either way, both routes arrive at the mid-western edge of the Kakamega Forest Ecosystem, which is open year round, daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm (charges: citizen-300, Resident-600, Non-resident USD 22). The biologically-flush 44.5 km2 Kakamega National Reserve harbors more than 400 bird species, rare and endemic tree species like the Elgon teak, Red stinkwood and African satinwood, and plenty of monkeys. As a destination, this forest has pieced itself together as a sanctum for nature-lovers, where amazing beauty unfolds around every bend. What’s more, there is genuine serenity and tranquil solitude about this forest. Nature takes center stage. It is about the wide-band tropical bird songs of the rain forest? or the sunlight piercing through the forest canopy? or the majesty of an untravelled waterfall? or even perhaps, its viewing deck at Bunyangu Hill that overlooks the roof of the forest? There is plenty to enjoy here. Kakamega National Reserve is both a scenic and exploratory park, where trippers can opt to scout by walking, riding or driving. There are three accommodation options within the Kakamega Forest Ecosystem – at Isikuti and Udo Guest Houses, and Rondo Retreat. It’s found 18 kms from Kakamega, off Kakamega-Webuye Road.
18. Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve
Covering 420 km2 and marching with Mombasa-Malindi Road from near Kilifi to Gede, the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is the largest and last surviving fragment of the coastal forests in East Africa. Likewise, it is Kilifi’s most important forest. 6.1 km2 inside the forest is designated as a National Reserve managed by Kenya Wildlife Service as well as a 2 km2 patch taken by National Museums of Kenya principally for the preservation of the historically important Gede Ruins. The bracing beauty of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is best enjoyed on walking safaris which take walkers through the motley collection of endemic species of insects, butterflies, birds, rare hard and soft wood trees. It has a meshwork of well-marked walking trails, with more than 30 kms of driving tracks traversing the different forest sections. The Kenya Forest Service guides offer captivating insights on its anatomy and history including some of the traditional rituals still carried out here and the ancient medicinal properties of many of its plants, on a walking trip that culminates at Nyari Viewpoint with unprecedented views over the forest canopy. Mida Creek, a beautiful tidal inlet with 6 species of mangrove trees, is less than 1 km from the entrance to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. The main gate is found 110 kms from Mombasa City, and just 20 kms from Malindi Town.
19. Watamu Marine National Park
Established in 1968, the 10 km2 Watamu Marine Park enclosed by the 213 km2 Malindi National Marine Park and Reserve is a charming underwater world of incredible colours. Watamu Marine Park covers the areas around Blue Lagoon, Turtle Bay and the birding paradise of Mida Creek. Further offshore, stretching northerly, the Malindi Marine Parks and Reserve is well-liked for scuba-diving. Popular activities at Watamu Marine National Park: snorkeling, skiing, glass-bottomed boats rides, exploring the islands and Mida Creek. The area around Watamu has plenty of reasonable rentals and resorts to include Watamu Beach Hotel, Turtle Bay Resort and Ocean Sports Resort. Watamu Marine National Park is situated 115 kms from Mombasa City near the entrance into Mida Creek.
20. Malindi Marine National Park and Reserve
Access to the Malindi Marine National Park is through Casuarina Road south of Silversands. This is just 5 kms from Malindi township, taking Exit 4 (Casuarina Road) at the roundabout. Revered as the “green turtle paradise”, it was the first Marine Reserve established in Kenya, in 1968. Today, Malindi Marine National Park and Reserve is recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, both for its diversity of marine life and flora and for its efforts in conservation. Some of its prolific marine life include crabs, corals, sea urchins, jellyfish, sea stars, and sea cucumbers. Varieties of coral species include Acropora, Turbinaria and Porites. Of interest here are the many hop-on hop-off glass-bottomed boats taxis that cruise along the shoreline and off-shore to some idyllic snorkeling spots, where the range of variegated, beautiful, and bizzare marine life is open for inspection.
21. Kisumu Impala Sanctuary
This is located just 3.1 kms from Kisumu Museum via Busia Road onto Awour Otieno Road and Tom Mboya Road. It can also be easily reached using various options on the labyrinthine network of roads in Milimani including via Achieng Oneko-Harambee Roads and Ring Road-Harambee Roads. Gazetted in 1992 as a national sanctuary, the 1 km2 Kisumu Impala Sanctuary set along the eastern shores of Kavirondo Gulf hosts an impressive variety. It was primarily set up a holding area for animals that require special protection and care, in this fast-growing region. It also provides a safe and sound grazing area for hippos from Lake Victoria. It sits across from Kisumu International Airport, on the western side of the Gulf, and north of Dunga Beach. Hallmarked as “a lake shore walk with the impalas”, a term derived from the herds of impalas which roam freely in the sanctuary, it offers a pleasant afternoon’s trip. The sanctuary has plenty of other animals to include: hogs, ostriches, monkeys, jackals, hyenas, duickers, hippos, zebras, lions and cheetahs, and over 115 bird species recorded. It offers a surprisingly pleasant game viewing experience far more than its size suggests.
22. Ndere Island National Park
This is found 25 kms from Kisian, taking a left turn shortly after Holo Market at Got Kodero Nyabondo Nomiya Church, and there from through Nyaguda and Bodi Markets before arriving at Kamuga Bay for a short boat ride to the island. A good pair of binoculars will better the experience at Ndere Island National Park ten-fold. Besides its diverse wildlife, on a pleasant weather day, one can glimpse the skyline of Kampala, in Uganda, in the distant horizon. Among its other pleasant sights include views of Nyakagera, Rambugu, Osope, Maboko and Mageta Islands and Homa Hills. The 4 km2 Ndere Island National Park is mostly covered by grassland that supports a good variety of grazers like the semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelope, water bucks, impalas and warthogs which can all be seen happily roaming the park. The lake shore supports plenty of wildlife that are home in the water including hippos, Nile crocodiles, several fish species and snakes. “Over 100 different species of birds can be seen here including the African fish eagles, the black headed gonoleks and the grey headed kingfishers”.
23. Mwingi National Reserve
Previously known as Kitui-North National Reserve, sometimes dubbed as the Mwingi North National Reserve and more proper as Mwingi National Reserve, this occupies about 745 km2 in the northeast edge of Kitui County. It is one of four protected and contiguous areas which consist the larger 4,400 km2 Meru Conversation Zone alongside with Meru National Park (in the north), Bisanadi National Reserve (northeast) and Kora National Reserve (east). As a result, this Reserve is a designated as a “wilderness zone” by Kenya Wildlife Service which allows for fly camping, camel and horseback safari. The Reserve is flanked on the northern frontier by the River Tana. Due to the fact that Mwingi National Reserve is bordered by other reserves, it is frequently visited by various game from the neighboring parks. Animals that are found in Mwingi Reserve include caracal, elephant, hippo, leopard, lion and different antelope species among others”. Traditional game viewing is still extremely restricting and there is no accommodation. Trippers aiming for the reserve must have a strong wish to venture off the grid. It can be accessed via C93 Mwingi-Kathwana Road turning off at Kamuwongo Centre and through Kyuso Village or via Meru National Park.
24. South Kitui National Reserve
The 1,831 km2 South Kitui Reserve National Reserve is situated 30 kms east of Mutomo on the eastern edge of Kitui, and 10 kms north of Tsavo East National Park. Gazetted in 1979, and placed under the trusteeship of the defunct Kitui District Council, there was little development invested hitherto, but of a more recent development it has become a focal-point for conservation and efforts to revamp it are currently on-going. It had been, for five decades, an extensively degraded, encroached and ravaged area. Like Mwingi National Reserve, neither is at all well known. Both lack accommodation and easy access routes through their dense and dry bushland habitations. In 2013, during the aerial census of elephants carried out in Tsavo-Mkomazi Ecosystems which include Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Chyulu and Mkomazi National Parks, South Kitui National Reserve and Taita, Kulalu and Galana Ranches, a total of 12,866 elephants were counted – 12,843 in Tsavo Ecosystem and 23 in Mkomazi National Park representing an increase of 15% over three years with an annual average increase of about 4.9%.
25. Shimba Hills National Reserve
Either using the turnoff at Waa or an alternative one just 2 kms ahead, Shimba Hills National Reserve is about 16 kms off the A14 Likoni-Ukunda Road along the C106 Kwale-Kinago Road through Kwale Town; the county’s headquarters. From Kwale Town, it’s a short 3 kms drive to the park gate. Established in 1968, in part to save the Sable antelope, the 300 km2 Shimba Hills National Reserve also supports a motley collection of wildlife including species of the rare Roan’s antelope. Into the bargain, it is also one of the most scenic in Kenya with rolling hillocks, open grasslands, and patches of rain forest overlooking Indian Ocean. There is plenty to enjoy on a walking safari around the reserve including stellar views of Pengo and Taita Hills, Shimba Range, the Coastal Plain, convergence of the seven rivers, the rain forest and Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary. By far, the crowning-stroke for trippers to Shimba Hills is a visit to well-liked Giriama Viewpoint en-route Sheldrick Falls, with breathtaking out and out views of the disparate ecological gamut. The 20-rooms tree-house style Shimba Hills Lodge is the prime lodge at Shimba Hills National Reserve. It’s open daily year-round. Park charges are Shs. 300-Citizens, 600-Residents and USD 22-Non Residents.
26. Diani-Chale Marine National Reserve
“This marine park was established to safeguard its delicate coral reef, excellent coral gardens, and fish species. It incorporates a range of marine activities like traditional dhow fishing trips, snorkeling, sailing, other non-motorised water sports as well as glass-bottom boat marine life safaris” – Kenya Tourism Board.
27. Kisite Mpunguti National Marine Park and Reserve
Although there is no wildlife supported on the water-less Kisite-Mpunguti coral islands, callers to this site get to enjoy superb uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean as well as enjoy various activities at the multi-colour coral gardens. The 39 km2 Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve, comprised of 28 km2 Kisite Marine Park and 11 km2 Mpunguti Marine Reserve, was established to protect the scenic islands and surrounding habitats that host a wide range of endemic marine life and breeding migratory birds. The marine park was first created at Kisite in 1973, and in 1976 the boundaries were revised and re-demarcated. In 1978, Mpunguti was gazetted as a marine national reserve following disputes over the loss of fishing grounds caused by the marine park under the aegis of Kenya Wildlife Service. Today, its biosphere covers the four separate islands of Mpunguti ya Juu, Mpunguti ya Chini, Kisite and Mako Kokwe as well as their surrounding coastal areas. Kisite Island, the primary interest of visitors to this place, features an exposed sand bar and the surrounding pellucid waters offer perhaps the most rewarding of snorkeling sites. The park, which is open daily between 8:30 am and 6:00 pm, is reachable by boat from Shimoni and Wasini.
28. Dodori National Reserve
Located north of Lamu Island and contiguous with the Boni National Reserve, the wild and remote Dodori National Reserve is inhabited by a hatful of plains game, three unique varieties of turtles, a multiplicity of migratory birdlife and even some elephants. Although Dodori National Reserve has abundant wildlife, the animals are rather shy because of the rarity of vehicles. The landscape of the 133 km2 Dodori National Reserve is predominated by the native canopy forest which forms a fragment of the great Northern Zanzibar to Inhambane Coastal Forest. Gazetted in 1976 as a national reserve, Dodori National Reserve remains underdeveloped lacking both easy access and accommodation. While this offers an interesting excursion into an unusual coastal flora, it is necessary to go fully equipped and with enough supplies to overcome the complete lack of resources.
29. Kiunga Marine National Reserve
The Kiunga Marine National Reserve, which can be reached from Kiwayu as can Dodori and Boni National Reserves, is a 270 km2 colourful underwater world. Kiunga stands at the head of a long chain of islands running parallel to the coast and making a sheltered navigable channel for about 112 kms. The park itself is comprised of a 60 kms coral reef which runs parallel to it, and close to 50 off shore islands. The greater part of these islands are uninhabited; but there are a number of settlements on the mainland along the coast. The islands, and the coastal strip facing them, represent the farthest northern frontier of the ‘Swahili Coast’. Kiunga Marine Reserve is best known as a safe-haven for populations of the endangered Dugong (also popular as the sea cow) and the bounteous coral reef, home to a multiplicity of fish species that include the wrase, barracuda and rock cod. Kiunga Marine National Reserve is located 48 kms northeast of Lamu.
30. Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park
The relatively small 21 km2 Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park situated 30 kms east of Thika Town, along the A3 Thika-Garissa Road, is dominated by the forested top of Ol Donyo Sabuk Hill. A considerable part of its top, excepting the summit itself, is covered by forest consisting of lofty trees, of which Conopharyngia and Croton are the most important. Plants of the forest floor include Cape peppers, stinging nettles and Aneilema pedunculata (or the “Mickey Mouse” flower). Ol Donyo Sabuk is also known as Mount Kilimambogo, an epithet that answers to the few buffaloes that use this forest as a refuge, grazing outside it after dark. Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park is more scenic than faunal and makes a delightful goal for a weekend trip. The object of many trips here is an active adventure up and down Ol Donyo Sabuk Hill, on an 8 kms ascent which is well rewarded with knockout views at the summit; making up for what little wildlife is found within the park. Here, Mount Kenya stands guard to the north beyond a saucer-shaped valley separating the two. On most days, Yatta Plateau and Mount Kilimanjaro can also be easily glimpsed, immediately south and far southeast, respectively. Westwards, the flat volcanic scrub plains stretch away towards the Mua Hills. A round-trip takes about six hours on a moderate walking pace. Other interests at the Park are the MacMillan Grave, nearby MacMillan Castle and Fourteen Falls.