Trans Nzoia County

Attractions in Trans Nzoia County

19. Saiwa Swamp National Park

Established in 1974, the small 3 km2 Saiwa Swamp National Park is indubitably Kenya’s smallest National Park, created principally to protect the Sitatunga; a rare aquatic antelope. Saiwa Park encloses a tract of swamp, containing some of the last remaining rare Sitatunga in Kenya. “Seats have been fixed up in trees surrounding the swamp so that visitors can sit and observe these long-hooved, aquatic bushbuck”. The swamp itself, fed by the Saiwa River, features a lovely blend of forest that can be explored by means of a raised wooden boardwalk. KWS operates Saiwa Swamp picnic site, Sitatunga campsite, and the Tree Top Hut (a self-catering tree house). There is also the privately-run Sirikwa Tented Camp which is located just 6 kms from the turnoff into the park. Saiwa Swamp National Park is worth visiting on any trip that plans to take in Mount Elgon National Park. It lies 24 kms northeast of Kitale via A1 Kitale-Kapenguria Road.

Tree House at Saiwa Swamp N. Park. Image Courtesy of Karibu Kenya
Tree House at Saiwa Swamp N. Park. Image Courtesy of Karibu Kenya

20. Kapolet Fishing Camp

The settlement of Kapolet is found east of Saiwa Swamp National Park, north of Sibanga Shopping Centre and immediately south of Kapcherop Forest and can be reached using either A1 Kitale-Kapenguria Road or C48 Kitale-Cherangani Road. Found along the Kapolet River, the time-honoured Kapolet Fishing Camp with eye-catching montane vistas of the magnificent Cherangani Hills offers an inexpensive base for the avid fisherman, and the nature-lover, to spend a day in the health-giving countryside. Set off-the-beaten-track, Kapolet is famed for its trout fishing and is within reach of Rivers Muruny and Chepkaitik which are also prime waters where the Barbel Rainbow trout, Tiger and Nile Perch were a common-catch in the 1980s. Kapolet Fishing Camp is managed by the Kapolet Fishing Association. The Kapolet Fishing Camp is located 32 kms east of Kitale.

21. Cherangani Hills

Covering 1,141 km2 and traversing four counties, the spectacle Cherangani Hills Biosphere is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Kenya and the floral-jewel of Western Kenya. In Trans Nzoia, the Cheranganis are represented by the 40 km2 Kapcherop Forest lying between Kapenguria (northwest) and Kapcherop Centre (southeast).  Kiptaberr Hill, rising above Kapcherop Centre and close to the Kenya Forest Service station, is one of the great launches of the Cherangani Hills Ecosystem. The hill is a spectacular single giant rock (and stopover point for migrant birds) that is a fetching watchtower for nature lovers and birdies alike. All along its north-south march from Elgeyo Marakwet County deep into West Pokot County, the enamor of the iconic Cherangani Hills is marked by precipitous hillocks with heavily gullied forested tops which in some sections become sheer cliff walls. It gathers-up the western wall of the Great Rift Valley from where the Elgeyo Escarpment terminates it and extends it northerly into Uganda. Its abounding forests contribute significantly to the nations economy as an invaluable water catchment, and the headwaters for Rivers Nzoia, Weiwei, Muruny, Turkwel, Kerio and Kapolet.  It is comprised of thirteen large forests: Kapcherop, Kapolet, Chemurkkoi, Cheboyit, Embobut, Kaisungor, Kipkunur, Kiptaberr, Kapkanyar, Sogotio, Toropket, Kerer and Lelan. Cherangani Hills offer a heart-warming roadside attraction along the A1 Kitale-Kapenguria Road.

Spatial distribution of the Cherangani Hills Forest Ecosystem
Spatial distribution of the Cherangani Hills Forest Ecosystem

22. Barnley’s Guest House

This is located 25 kms northeast of Kitale along the A1 Kitale-Kapenguria Road, about 2 kms outside the boundary with West Pokot County. The cozy and rustic Barnleys Guest House, set on a fine 5-acre forested property with a profusion of variegated flowering plants, is both a place to escape and take one’s ease as well as a jumping-off place to seek new adventures.  It is run and managed by the Barnleys family who have lived in Kenya for the last 78 years. The main house, a refurbished colonial-style country house, is inviting and timeless. The mature gardens and ancient trees complement it well.  There is also an old farmhouse with two double guest rooms and additional detached furnished tents.  Aside from taking in the beauty of the lovingly-cared-for gardens around Barnley’s Guest House guests can enjoy walks around the farm or explore nearby places of interest including Cherangani Hills Reserve and Saiwa Swamp National Park.

Barnley's Guest House. Image Courtesy of Nomad Africa

Tim Barnley began Sirikwa Safaris with a love of birds and his dream to make Western Kenya a sought after birding treasure for the sighting of 350 species of birds. The culture of old Africa exists still in the nature and land of this area. Listening to the stories of the lives of Jane and Richard brings one close to the history of this remarkable place.

23. Kaisagat Viewpoint

The brisky 40 kms excursion from Kitale to Kapenguria commences with a pass over the emblematic corn fields of Kitale before it takes on the only steep climb along this stretch, close to Makutano-Kapenguria Junction. Beyond that climb, the gradient through West Pokot is a slope, where one loses 4,600 ft. in altitude from Kitale to Lodwar. Just 9 kms before Makutano, there’s a unique attraction, nearby the Sokomoko Centre. The Kaisagat Viewpoint, overlooking the craggy escarpment, with Muruny River snaking its course, offers a great roadside vista to appreciate the fine landscapes and ecological gamut of the county. For here, the belt of semi-arid county stretches north-east to meet the scenically-splendid hillocks seen in the background. Kaisagat, although little-known, may be on the breathtaking panoramic vistas seen around the southwest region of West Pokot.