Kakamega is home to the only remaining pocket of the equatorial tropical rain-forest in Kenya. For a long time the forest has baffled many researchers and scientists by how it has been able to survive despite being cut off from the larger Gunieo-Congolian tropical rain-forest. The forest once stretched across Central and East Africa. Kakamega forest has become a best choice for many zoologists, botanists and present day’s Janes and Tarzans.
The expansive forest lies near the Kenya-Uganda border. It is home to a great variety of flora and fauna. Documented research shows there are over 150 species of trees, 170 shrubs, 60 species of Orchid. 9 of the 60 orchid species are only found here. A most common tree you are likely to come across at this forest is the famous Elgon Teak.
Over 480 species of Butterflies and 600 species of Moths are notably present. Some of the delightful to watch animals you ought to look for during your visit to Kakamega forest include; Pottos, Colobus monkeys, Giant forest hedgehogs, Bush pigs and Debrazzar monkeys. Birds are also in plenty and include the Black billed Turaco, Grey parrots and Blue headed bee-eater.
According to KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) that manages the reserve, a variety of snakes such as the Rhinoceros Horned Viper, Black Lipped Cobra, Gabon Viper, Forest Cobra are also found there.
Kakamega Forest National Reserve is serene and a paradise for nature loving individuals. Its diverse eco-system is very conducive for hiking, birding, camping, nature walks and photography. Due to the dense vegetation cover and rains at times, driving may be a challenge. January, February, August and September are the best months to visit due to dry weather. However, visits are recommended all-year-round.
Where to stay
There are affordable accommodation options, both in and outside the reserve. Kenya Wildlife Service runs a number of self-catering bandas, guest houses and camping sites.
The Udo Traditional Huts and Guest House
Strategically tucked in Kakamega Forest, they are ran and managed by KWS. Udo Traditional Huts and Guest House offer you a perfect opportunity to interact with nature. There is a big hut that hosts 4pax. The smaller huts and guest house accommodate 2 pax each. All have electricity. The big hut goes for ksh.4000 and $60, the regular huts and guest house are ksh.3000 and $40 per night for residents and non-residents respectively.
Isukuti Guest House
Isukuti self-catering guest house is also located in the forest reserve and managed by KWS. It has electricity and holds a capacity of two. It’s accessible via Kitale-Webuye-Kakamega road. The cost per night is ksh.4000 for residents and $60 for non-residents.
The reserve has two public camping sites namely; Biota and Udo. Both have capacities of 40pax each. Each has permanent facilities that include an ablution block, communal kitchen and water.
All KWS bandas and guest houses are booked at KWS Headquarters in Nairobi or via this link.
Golf Hotel, Kakamega Town
Located in Kakameag town, about 15km away from the forest, the Golf Hotel is a modern hotel. It has 60 en-suite rooms, a swimming pool, WLAN, satellite tv and notably, a 9 hole golf course.
Rondo Retreat Centre
Rondo Retreat Center is a Christian center ran by the Trinity Fellowship, a Christian society committed to communication and conservation. The Center has 15 en-suite double rooms, another three double rooms sharing a large bathroom in the main house. The entire place is dotted with antique prints and photographs, local paintings, crafts and fabrics offering a refreshing ambience for a perfect getaway. Its close proximity to the forest and the ‘old style’ architecture makes your stay there exemplary natural. As for the friends of the bottle, alcohol is not served here.
Kakamega Forest National is approximately 7 to 8hrs northwest of Nairobi. It’s easily accessible by road. By air, one can opt to fly via Kisumu or Eldoret airports. There are two 45-minute daily flights from Nairobi to both airports. When visiting the reserve, it would be a great idea to add Saiwa Swamp and Mt Elgon to your itinerary to enjoy a complete adventure experience.