A Birdwatchers Guide to Birding in Kenya
Birding in Kenya – The Long and Short of It
Birding in Kenya is one of the finer outdoor activities, the ornithologists priding themselves on a healthy selection of great locations in Kenya for spotting birds. ‘The job’, they say, ‘is to not blink and be as patient as it takes’. By all accounts, in recent times, the art – or pattern – of birding, or birdwatching as some may want to call it, has grown. With the result startlingly good. It has become one of the most promising ideas away from the traditional game safaris. “There are as many kinds of birders as there are birds. They range from intense perfectionists who travel the globe at the drop of a hat to see a species never seen, to a casual weekend hobbyist who enjoys watching birds at a backyard feeder or a nearby greenbelt” – TPW. With 11% of the planet’s bird species, almost 1,100 different varieties, Kenya is not a shabby birding destination either. Many birders take to its most promising birding destinations at the lakes on the Rift Valley System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to some of the world’s great ornithological areas.
The catch here is that, the hundreds of thousands of flamingo lining these lakes are the center of interest. Even if the newbies don’t understand how the birding thing works, it’s hard not to be intimately drawn. But even without the flamingo at the Lakes (Magadi, Naivasha, Elementaita, Nakuru, Bogoria, Baringo, Logipi and Turkana), the remaining birdlife is still fabulous – the pelicans, cormorants and fish eagles, among many. For the uninitiated birders [most of us] watching for birds is like to trying to decipher an impenetrable language. Even so, birds appeal to our intellectual curiosity, most of us inherently drawn to the dazzling and divergent beauty of birds, their complex behaviour and varied songs; each as singular, evocative and pleasing to the ear. In fact, just a few visits on birding excursion lets almost anyone to adapt new skills without learning intervention. More than that, you don’t have to be rich to go birding. All you really need is a great location, a good guide, and a pair of binoculars. The real beauty of birding is that it presents an intellectual challenge because there are plentiful of species.
Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley
“Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley, a natural property of outstanding beauty, is comprised of three interlinked relatively shallow lakes (Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita) along the Rift Valley and these cover an area of 32,034 hectares. The property is home to thirteen globally threatened bird species and some of the highest bird diversities in the world. It is the single most important foraging site for the lesser flamingo anywhere, and the nesting and breeding site for great white pelicans. Almost 1.5 million flamingo moving from one lake to the other. The lakes are also home to not less than 100 species of migratory birds and support globally important populations of Black-Necked Grebe, African Spoonbill, Pied Avocet, Little Grebe, Yellow Billed Stork, Black Winged Stilt, Grey-Headed Gull and Gull Billed Tern. This is an integral part of the most important route of the African-Eurasian flyway system where billions of birds travel to from the northern breeding havens to African ‘wintering’ sites.
Birds are the eyes of Heaven
The fun. The really fun thing about birding, is the challenge to identify as many birds as you can. And there are many species to contend with. Ornithologists estimate there are between 9,000 and 10,000 species of birds across the world. So if there’s one trait where birdwatching can’t be surpassed, it’s variation. But there are also lots of clues to aid the birder pick them out: Sound, color, shape, size, place of sighting, behavior cues, time of year, time of day. What’s more, the unconstrained nature of birding makes checking of the list relatively easy. That means that it can be mingled with most outdoor pursuits simply by keeping a watchfulness on the landscape. It can be a shared hobby among family, friends and birding companions, but rather commonly you can compete with yourself. “Not to mention the hand-eye coordination you develop when using binoculars on a moving object. You have to be nimble to get on to the bird and to get your binoculars focused correctly. Flying birds, especially those that fly away from the observer, present special challenges. Birding, as a sport is non-consumptive and nondestructive to the environment. It results in no negative impact on the environment, and doesn’t harm the target in any way. Spotting and identifying a bird – even when misidentifying a bird – does not hurt anybody or anything”.
List of Important Birding Areas in Kenya
1. Lake Bogoria National Reserve
As is the disposition with flamingo, they are unpredictable in their comings and goings, and one cannot be certain of their presence, but, at the 107 km2 Lake Bogoria, their spectacle is open for inspection year-round. The lake’s claim to fame is as a veritable flamingo water. At times, the flamingos assemble here in hundreds of thousands. The unmistakable epic pink line made by its flamingos has honoured Lake Bogoria with endless praise as the ultimate ornithological destination in Kenya. Historically, the largest congregation of these flamingoes assemble when the Lake’s waters are lowest, between August and early October.
2. Lake Baringo National Reserve
The 101 km2 Lake Baringo 25 kms north of Lake Bogoria is famed for its jazzy diversity of birds and its grandiose beauty, once described by John W. Gregory (British geologist & explorer) as the most beautiful view seen in Africa. Its other unique feature is a little-known wonder located high above its cliffs. The basalt cliffs of Lake Baringo are also famous among bird-lovers as one of few places in Kenya to spot the exotic Verreaux’s eagles; christened the African black eagle. “The cliffs of Baringo are their favourite haunt because these birds of prey are among the most prey-specific of any avian predator, hunting for rock hyraxes.”
3. Trans Mara Forest
Bomet County butts up against a long stretch of the great Mau Forest Complex, home to a variegated array of flora and fauna including the rare Yellow Backed Duicker that is endemic to the 2773 km2 Mau. The 344 km2 Trans Mara Forest is an outlying part of the Mau Complex, which encompasses seven forest zones of Mau Narok, Maasai Mau, Eastern and Western Mau, South and South West Mau and Bomet’s Trans Mara Forest. Nyakweri Forest is the largest remaining forest section of Trans Mara District and forms part of the dispersal area of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Despite its faunal interest of 200 bird species and 50 animal species, both Trans Mara and the Mau itself are underdeveloped.
4. Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is comprised of a 682 km2 Forest Reserve and a 50 km2 Park. This inter-territorial extinct volcano along the border with Uganda is Kenya’s second highest mountain at 4,321 ms. Mount Elgon National Park is designated as a UNESCO Man-Biosphere Reserve and an Important Bird Area (IBA). Although there are exceptional views of Mount Elgon across Bungoma, most of the park sits in the neighbouring Trans Nzoia County. And although it contains plenty of wildlife, and elephants in particular, Mount Elgon National Park is essentially a scenic park and its relatively gentle gradient presents little challenge for anyone who is fit. Chorlim Gate is located 91 kms from Bungoma.
5. Sio Siteki Swamp
Midpoint between Busia and Bumala, near Matayos, is an oddity among Busia’s places of interest. Call it a miraculous anomaly! And there is a startled feeling of enchantment about the Sio Siteki Swamp which mysteriously turned into a lake less than five years ago, yet, it holds a prolific display of avifauna and aquaflora.
6. Samia Hills
The southern part of Busia is covered by a range of hills comprising the Samia and Funyula Hills which run from the north-east to the south-west terminating at Port Victoria. These form a very conspicuous topographic scape. Samia Hills – seen between Sio Port and Port Victoria – are the most prominent of Busia’s volcanic igneous rocks, which underlay most of the county. These hummocky hills and their associated colluvial basin stand out prominently to the east and southwest areas of Funyula and Bunyala and are marked by deep valleys made by the major rivers – Nzoia, Yala, and Sio – on their dendritic drainage to Lake Victoria. For tourism, the Samia Hills are designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and the Muungano Development Environmental Conservation Forum have put in place some initiatives to conserve and protect this landscape by re-planting indigenous trees. The Samia Resort at Funyula, with prepossessing views of these hills and the bucolic boonies, offers satisfactory accommodation.
7. Yala Swamp
Yala Swamp, which is situated in the south-western corner of Busia County, is one of Kenya’s most important wetlands. Covering about 200 km2, it is a major natural resource for wetland eco-tourism. Its formation is a result of backflow of water from Lake Victoria as well as flooding of the Rivers Nzoia and Yala. The swamp is mainly fed by River Yala which flows right through the swamp with a small contribution from River Nzoia in the north-eastern section of the swamp. Contiguous with Siaya County, this ecosystem also encompasses three lakes – Sare, Namboyo and Kanyaboli – in Siaya. It is an Important Bird Area, according to the Bird Life International and is also an indigenous habitat for the rare semi aquatic Sitatunga. Until the mid 1960’s, Yala Swamp covered a total of 17500 ha as natural swamp. However, between 1965 and 1970, 23 km2 were reclaimed as farmland by Ministry of Agriculture and Lake Basin Development.
8. Mwea National Reserve
Looking out south to Kamburu Dam and Machakos County is the 42 km2 Mwea National Reserve, which is a haunt of wild open grassland, scattered acacia and baobabs with a few far-between rolling hills. Kamburu Dam, situated on its east and southeast, harbours an interesting variety of fauna and flora, notably of its crocodiles and hippos. A boat can be hired from park gate to explore Kamburu Dam. Also found at Mwea National Reserve is the confluence of Thiba and Tana Rivers. It is home to more than 200 species of birds including the rare Hinde’s babbler, endemic to Kenya. Created in 1979, M.R.N hosts a good concentration of wildlife including elephants, kudus, antelope, giraffe and Burchell’s zebra. An electric fence has been put up in some sections to keep wildlife in and poachers out. From Embu Town, it is reached on a good 41-kms tarmac road to Mavuria through Gachoka and Kiritiri, then on a 15 kms road which runs parallel to its northern boundary upto the park gate. There is a longer alternative route from Nairobi via Thika, Matuu, and Masinga Dam (160 kms) on a good road which is surfaced until Masinga. 10 kms is covered on all-weather road to Makima Gate.
9. Mbasa Islands
Only minimally utilized, the two small rocky Mbasa Islands are widely-known as a bird sanctuary, where over 100 bird species have been recorded. “Mbasa is home to a wide variety of wetland birds, including long-tailed cormorants, fish eagles, marsh harriers and little white egrets” – Lonely Planet. Bird gatherings are thickest at sunset, when birds return to roost. Tucked between Takawiri and Rusinga Islands, no one is allowed to live here. Trippers only visit and go round the islands on boats. In turn, the birds mainly depend on the fishing villages for food, as they mostly depend on the worthless parts discarded by the fishermen.
10. Lake Magadi
Famous for its amazing scenery and plenitude of birds, notably of its thousands of flamingos, the lunate 100 km2 Lake Magadi occupying a large alluvium filled valleys caused by large faults is also the southern most of Kenya’s Lake System in the Rift Valley. At most times, it is marked by a long shimmering coconut-ice white band, upto 80 yards in width. On close inspection this is seen to be trone, the deposit from which soda ash is obtained; which mixes with the beds of clay.
11. 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.
12. Isecheno Nature Reserve
Isecheno Nature Reserve lies within Kakamega Forest Ecosystem in the middle locus. It occupies about 138 hectares in the mid-west part of Kakamega Forest Ecosystem, while Yala River Nature Reserve in the southern area occupies 538 hectares. Isecheno Reserve is characterized by natural forest with low historical disturbance and access difficulty. The area not only forms a good representation of local forest types, but is very ideal for research work as well as a safe refuge for species undisturbed by anthropogenic activity. It contains both forest glades (Kalunya Glade is marked by numerous shallow pits) and riverine forests. It has a canopy lookout tower to enable visitors appreciate the upper forest canopy. It is also a useful birding hideout, and with some luck to spot its two endemic bird species: the beautiful African Grey Parrot and the very rare Black billed Turaco.
13. Chagaik Arboretum
Chagaik Arboretum in all direction seems to a be perfect patch to rest and relax, on shaded area, some of which are set under hundred year old trees. Even more gracious, is there are no charges. Among the highlights at Chagaik Arboretum include its plenitude of birds from the adjoining Mau Forest Reserve, its lovely indigenous forest patch, its radiant botanic gardens, riparian and Chagaik Dam.
14. Kereita Forest
The 47 km2 Kereita Forest, also known as Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, marching with the southern end of Aberdare Range and eastern ridge of the Rift Valley, is the paragon of the primeval forests in Kiambu. Among its vast interests, Kereita is also designated as an Important Birding Area and contains at least 120 bird species including: Turacos, shrikes, cuckoos, and the fanciable Abbott’s starling.
15. 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 and more than 30 kms of driving track traversing it.
16. Mangea Hills Forest
This tiny 5 km2 acroamatic Mangea Hill Forest (sometimes spelt Mwangea) is an isolated patch within the lowland coastal forests situated just 15 kms west of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest an that’s also listed as an important birding areas. Over 125 species from 41 families were recorded in the Mangea Hills Forest Survey of 2009, with its expected species estimated at about 189. Among the commonest bird species seen here are: Tropical Boubou, Zanzibar Greenbul, African Pied Wagtail and White-throated Bee-eater. “It is one of the coastal forests thought to still harbour a sprinkling population of the Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew.
17. Mida Creek
The picture-postcard tidal inlet of Mida Creek, which is lined on either side by mangrove forest, covering 32 km2, is a part of Watamu Marine National Park. Internationally recognized as a sanctuary for shorebirds, with over 200 species, Mida is also a veritable sanctum of beautifully contrasting flora both seaward and landward. The mangrove forest at Mida Creek covers 17 km2 and accounts for 25% of mangrove forests in the Coast Region of Kenya. The tropical-scape of Mida Creek is best enjoyed on local dhow boats and on stand-up puddle boards.
18. Falconry of Kenya
The Falconry of Kenya harbors a respectable assemblage of avifauna to include falcons, eagles, goshawks and owls; among the 41 species found here. Originally established as a snake and bird sanctuary, Falconry later specialized in birds of prey. Today, its main focus is to rehabilitate sick and injured birds. Falconry of Kenya is one of only three such destinations in Kenya, along with the Raptor’s Centre, in Nairobi, and Naivasha Owl Centre, in Naivasha. It is especially worth a visit by birding enthusiasts. “The most exciting of all the night birds being the Barn Owl, which flaps its tail while asleep mimicking a swaying leaf to shroud itself from the enemy”. Caller to Falconry get to view these majestic birds close-up, feed the birds, and assist in helping the birds develop their muscles – as a falconer. It is found only 3 kms beyond Malindi close to Malindi Police Station.
19. Nyangweta Forest
The 104-hectares Nyangweta Forest found in the southern region is Kisii’s only gazetted forest. Aside from its hilltops which have been rubbed-out by decades of uncontrolled grazing and destruction, the Nyangweta Hill and the adjoining Ibencho Hill piece themselves together as a pleasing landscape. Both these hills are designated as birding sites. Nyangweta Forest was planted with commercial pine, cypress trees and eucalyptus in 1958, and which were ready for harvesting after 30 years, in 1988. However, following the intervention of stakeholders, the local people and the Friends of the Nyangweta Forest to protect and conserve it, Nyangweta Forest was eventually gazetted in 2017 and designated as protected.
20. Kisumu Bird Sanctuary
Between April and May, the plenteous swamps around Lake Victoria become a central breeding ground for a throng of bird species. Among the most notable species are the breeding colonies of cranes, herons, storks, cormorants and egret, which are among the umpteen of swarms which flock the Kisumu Bird Sanctuary that is unofficially tagged as the areas around Dunga Hill and Beach.
21. 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”.
22. Ewaso Narok Wetland
The Ewaso Narok Wetland, or Ewaso Narok Swamp, is formed along the Ewaso Narok River (a tributary of Ewaso Nyiro River) and stretches 25 kms from near Rumuruti Town. Rising in the Aberdare Range, the Ewaso Narok River descend steeply northeastwards to the high plateau and then spreads its waters over the 50,000-hectares expanse of the wetland. “Ewaso Narok Swamp has a very rich species diversity of over 170 bird species, resident and migrant, over 100 plant species and it also provides an important dryland refuge for both domestic and wild animals. The swamp also provides socio-economic products such as plant matter for building material. The result of its land use transformation has been ecosystem alteration, habitat modification and of destruction both for wetland and rangeland species”. The rivers in Laikipia County flow largely to the north. Both Ewaso Narok and Ewaso Ngiro Rivers flow across the Laikipia Plateau in the central part of the county. Nanyuki and Engare Ondare Rivers head on the slopes of Mt. Kenya and flow northward in the eastern part of Laikipia. Engare Ondare River forms the east boundary. All these rivers eventually flow into one, the Ewaso Ngiro, outside of Laikipia and, it in turn empties into Lorian Swamp.
23. Mukogodo Forest
Formerly known as Dorobo Reserve, a term referring to the cave-dwelling Yiaku Community and its first-known inhabitants, the 303 km2 Mukogodo Forest is among the best-kept indigenous forests in Kenya and which is protected by the Council of Maasai Elders as a greatly valued forest. “Its rolling hills blanketed in indigenous trees are home to 45 mammal species to include prolific elephants, buffaloes and leopards, as well as, around 200 bird and 100 butterfly species”. For centuries the local Yiaku Community watched over and protected the forest.
24. Lake Kenyatta
There are two small lakes in Lamu County: Lake Amu and Lake Kenyatta. Both these lakes are a vital source of fresh water with many opportunities for survival and growth, and have traditionally supported fresh water fisheries although this is now faced with siltation challenges resulting from farmlands encroaching the riparian. Also known as Lake Mukunganya, the little-known Lake Kenyatta at Mpeketoni covers about 5 km2 fringed by indigenous trees and shrubs used by the natives mainly as wood fuel. Its faunal profile includes almost 140 recorded bird species and plenteous marine life like tilapia, clarias, prottopterus, hippos, bucks and plains game. Lake Kenyatta is found at Mpeketoni just 60 kms before Mokowe Jetty. Also of interest at Mpeketoni are the historic ruins containing a small step end tomb of four risers, turning the corners at the ends, measuring about 1.5 by 2.5 ms, at the location where ‘Mpekatoni Ruins’ are supposed to be.
25. Nyambene Forest Reserve
The landscape around the Nyambene Forest Reserve is a moving spiritual and cultural site and a biosphere of unprecedented beauty. A sanctum to behold and be captivated by the simple beauty of an unspoiled forest. It also hosts Igombe or Magado Crater. The summit of Nyambene Hill or Range can be reached on a long afternoon hiking adventure. “The birds nesting place or “Gachiuru” as it is locally known, is a bird watchers paradise within Nyambene. Populated with over 10000 nests artistically hanging in acacia trees. The birds are active during the morning hours and in the evenings. Birds to be found here include the great horned owls, balbers, doves, and the greater sage grouse, amongst many others.
26. Raptor Rehabilitation Trust Kenya
Located down the road from Langata Botanical Garden, along Ushirika Road, is the Raptor Rehabilitation Trust Kenya (RRK) established in 2011 to rehabilitate harmed raptors and orphaned birds of prey, and raise awareness on importance of birds of prey. They also teamed up with Peregrine Fund, National Museums of Kenya and Nature Kenya to start the Bearded Vulture Conservation Project under the aegis of Kenya Wildlife Service. Youngies and school-kids are a key platform for RRKs raptor conservation programs. By raising awareness and mastery of birds especially among young and avid birdies, it’s hoped a positive attitude in the future of birds of prey will be fostered. “There was a time when Kenya was a haven for many bird species, attracting ornithologists from around the world. Now multiple species, especially birds of prey, are on a decline and campaigns are on to conserve them” – The Society for Conservation of Biology.
27. Naivasha Owl Centre
Established in 2003, to rehabilitate harmed and orphaned birds of prey and to raise awareness on importance of birds, Naivasha Owl Centre at Kijabe Farm is one three such centres in Kenya along with Falconry of Kenya, in Malindi, and Raptor Rehabilitation Trust Kenya, in Nairobi. The Naivasha Owl Centre is one arm of the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust. The other arm is the Raptor Camp found at Soysambu Conservancy. A day trip here provides visitors a singular insight into the almost mythical birds of prey that include: the fairly large Augur Buzzard, Ruppell’s Griffon vulture, yellow-beaked hawk, the ferocious African fish eagle, and the traditionally feared owl. Over the years, the Naivasha Owl Centre has cared for more than 190 birds. It is located off Moi South Lake Road, taking the turnoff across from South Lake Naivasha Shell Petrol Station into Kijabe Farm.
28. Crater Lake Camp
Activities at the camp are centred around nature and wildlife. There are guided nature walks at the crater and the sanctuary. The bird list is over 400 species, of which it is easy to spot more than 100 species in a day. There are 30 species of wildlife in the sanctuary. At night, hippos come out of the main Lake Naivasha to graze, and it is possible to see the aardvarks and spring hares on night game drives. There is a colony of almost 70 Colombus monkeys existing here. What’s more, for most times of the year, are flamingos covering almost the entire Lake.
29. Lake Elementaita
It may have lost some of its glamour when the flamingos flew and hardly came back but its magic lives on. In 2015, it was named fifth Ramsar Site in the Rift Valley owing to its importance as a birding area: an average of almost 610,000 birds having been counted in the area during the annual census, belonging to more than 450 species of which 80 are waterfowl. The surface increment of the shallow 13 km2 Lake Elementaita is from the Kekopey, Mereroni, Mbaruk and Kariandusi streams, and like Lake Nakuru it is also fed from the water tables.
30. Lake Nakuru National Park
To enjoy its wide ranging beauty and ecological diversity – from its lake, forests, marshlands, open grassland, its cliffs and bush habitat, with over 70 mammal species and 300 bird species – travellers can choose to camp at one of thirteen camping sites operated by Kenya Wildlife Service, or, for a touch of class and luxury, stay at the Sarova Lion Hill Lodge or at Lake Nakuru Lodge. The latter, located at the south-eastern corner of the lake offers accommodation for 120 in family rooms, cottages or suites. Park entry fees: Citizens – Sh. 800, Residents – Shs. 1030 and Non-Residents – USD 60. The most common route into the park is via the main gate, 4 km from Nakuru Town Centre. It is also possible to enter the park from the main Nairobi-Nakuru road via Lanet Gate. The Nderit Gate is used by travellers accessing the park from Masai Mara or L Elementaita.
31. Wajee Nature Park
Just 2 kms beyond Karatina Town en-route Nyeri Town the Mukurwe-ini Road Junction is reached, which is quickest route to Wajee Nature Park. This is one of the oldest alternative sites in the Nyeri Circuit. Its 10-hectares of unspoiled indigenous forest with many planted exotic trees became a park in 1992 before which Wajee was for many years an ancestral land belonging to Jagi Gakunju – CEO of African Air Rescue. In 2008, it was taken over by the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya. Wajee Nature Park also hosts a spectacular concentration and variety of birds and is a relished birding paradise and bio-sphere hosting a mega 126 bird species, to include, four rare bird species: Hinde’s babbler (endemic to Kenya), the African wood owl as well as the seasonally migratory Blackcap warbler and European bee-eater. The nature trail, through tunnels and turns, is bedizened with variegated flora. The park is also home to abounding numbers of squirrels.
32. Yala Swamp
Standing further up one of the many hillocks that from a low ridge around the 175 km2 Yala Swamp Wetland its scale and beauty are wondrous, perhaps even stupefying. From here, the flat cauldron-shaped ever-green sward comprised of patches of bogs, marshes and swamp always makes an impression. A good pair of binoculars will better this experience ten-fold. Yala Swamp which is one of the most important wetlands found within Kenya is set along the northeastern shoreline of Lake Victoria forming the mouth of Rivers Yala and Nzoia. It also harbours three fresh water satellite lakes – Kanyaboli, Namboyo and Sare. The birds are the star here and the rich biosphere of the Yala Swamp is classified as one of Kenya’s Important Birding Area (IBA). Much to the delight of birders, it is almost impossible to keep up with the diverse and fascinating species of birds at Yala estimated to be upwards of 100, that include: endemic species like great snapper, baillor’s crane, papyrus Gonolek, papyrus canary and yellow warbler. Travellers to Yala Swamp Wetland should also look forward to the vistas of the open water of Lake Victoria from sundry vantage points spread out around the wetland, the cultural passages to Swila and Seje, and boating at Lake Kanyaboli.
33. Dominion Bird Sanctuary
Dominion Bird Sanctuary found within the 17000-acre privately-run Dominion Farm is an impressive nesting ground for abounding migratory and indigenous bird varieties. In 2003 Dominion leased this acreage of lowlands with an aim to produce and sell of rice, other cereal grains and tilapia fish to markets in Kenya and surrounding countries. “Dominion permanently relocated key construction, maintenance, agricultural and management personnel to Kenya and shipped more than 500 tons of state-of-the-art construction and farming equipment from U.S. and Brazil. Construction of paddies and canals continued for years, early batches of rice, corn, soybeans and cotton proving the most commercial viable of the operation. Initial rice crops harvested in 2006 resulted in some of the highest yields per acre ever recorded. At the rate of two crop cycles per year, the farm is expected to produce 90,000 tons of rough rice per annum when at full potential”. The papyrus reeds and rice paddies make for a thriving roosting habitation for its quellas, herons, kopps, pelicans, cormorants, cranes, eagles, hammer kops, plovers and porchads – among many others. Also of interest at Dominion Bird Sanctuary are the remarkable semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelopes and their agricultural tours. Callers to the sanctuary can enjoy a night or two at Dominion Farm Guest House or at the nearby Hawi’s Tented Camp. Dominion Bird Sanctuary is found 17 kms west of Siaya town and 12 kms north of Kadimu.
34. Mumoni Hill Forest Reserve
This is located in the northwest edge of Kitui County and reached 64 kms north of Mwingi Town along the C93 Mwingi-Kathwana Road, at Katse. Mumoni Hill, emerging as a wooded inselberg, rises to 1811 ms (6000 ft) and 700 ms from the surrounding arid scrub land plains. To the north, Mumoni Hill is separated from Kijegge Forest Reserve in Tharaka Nithi by a broad valley cut through by Tana River which lower in the south is dammed to carve out Kiambere Dam – completed in 1987 along the border between Embu and Kitui Counties as part of the Seven Forks Dam Project. Mumoni Hill forms the larger parts of the 104 km2 Mumoni Forest Reserve alongside Muvoria Hill Forest Reserve set in its immediate south. Both these hillscapes were gazetted in 1993 as a forest reserve owing to their importance as a water tower for the densely populated Mwingi North region. For tourism, Mumoni Hill Forest Reserve is a walkers and bird-watchers wild-escape, where colourful birds like raptors, hindes babbler, palied harrier, Somali biome and martial eagles have been regularly spotted. Although still underdeveloped, the reserve is crisscrossed by a vast network of pathways from which nature-lovers can appreciate its rich floral and avi-faunal beauty as well as its fetching mountain scenery. 375 plant species were identified in 2006.