"A feast for the senses", said a visitor recently. Kakamega Forest National Reserve is the only tropical rainforest in Kenya, left over from past millennia when dense rain forest stretched from West Africa, across Central Africa and into the highland areas on the west and eastern walls of the Great Rift Valley.
The forest has been a protected area of Kenya since its vital role in the eco-system was first recognized in 1933.
The sheer size and grandeur of these rainforest trees, some over 100 years old, is impressive. The trees create a complete environment for birds, insects, butterflies and wildlife, which are plentiful in this area.
The forest includes some of Africa's greatest hard and soft woods: Elgon teak, red and white stink woods and several varieties of Croton and Aniageria Altisima. Splendid orchids sit amongst the branches of the larger trees.
Walking beneath the lush forest canopy the deep shade is pierced by flashes of color, exotic bird calls, the scents of wood, flower and moss.
The best time to visit is during the rainy season, April to July, when the flowers are at their most beautiful.
There are seven kms of trails with a team of ranger guides to escort visitors through the forest. The walk to Buyango Hill, the highest point in the forest, is a must for visitors. The indigenous trees lining the trails are identified on signs with their local and Latin names.
The Reserve is twice the size of Nairobi National Park with 380 species of plants spread in swamps, riverine and hardwood forest areas, glades and the shallow forest around the edge of the reserve.
About 350 species of birds have been recorded including rare snake-eating birds. Butterflies and snakes normally only found in West Africa can also be seen. Visitors need not worry about meeting them round every corner.
Forest mammals include bushpig, grey duiker, vicet, sunni, clawless otters and some fascinating nocturnal game: Ground Pangolin, porcupines and the occasional leopard.
Kakamega offers an excellent primate viewing opportunity. Black and White Colobus are in plenty and the De Brazza Monkeys (known as 'Karasinga' in Swahili, thanks to its distinctive white beard) can be found in the adjacent Kisere forest area. Many rare species of primates are common. They include the Blue Monkey, frequently seen near the Ishiuki Fall, the Olive Baboon and the Red tailed Monkey.
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