Coast, Safaris, Fauna & Flora

General Information about Kenya

Coast, Safaris, Fauna & Flora in Kenya
Coastal Strip along Diani at the South Coast of Kenya. Photo Courtesy

The Coast of Kenya

Kenya’s national boundary of 3500 kilometers includes 536 kilometers of coral-fringed coastline, with the country offering four marine parks and five marine reserves. The coastal assets include: 830 km2 of lush coastal forests, floodplain wetlands; 51 km2 of mangrove forest ecosystems, abundant in Lamu; 12 species of seagrass; and 50 km2 of coral reef protected under two marine parks and two national marine reserves. Mombasa City, a place and situation that is unique to Eastern Africa, is the largest coastal town and the main hub. Its situation at the coastal terminus of the railway from Uganda and as the primary port of East Africa has provided it momentum to grow exponentially. Hitherto, Mombasa City, situated at a point along where the coastal reef is broken, and where the ships reach safely, was utilized by Arabs who were first to use the island for urban settlement and they constructed the first harbour. So that by the time the Portuguese explorers reached Mombasa in the fifteenth and sixteenth century, Mombasa was defensible and thriving as a trading outpost. The 536 kilometers coastline divides conveniently into six area. These are: South Coast, Mombasa Island, North Coast, Kilifi, Watamu/Malindi and Lamu. Judging by the rate of hotels and resorts in all these areas, the Coast Region of Kenya is now the most liked touring destination in Kenya. This was not always so, probably because communication, water and other infrastructure came first to the North Coast. They are now available to the six areas – efficient, diverse and widespread as one could hope. Today, Diani (in South Coast) is Kenya’s finest beach and has been voted as Africa’s best beach destination for six years consecutively. It has a wide range of accommodation varying from middle-market beach resorts to the last word in sophistication and comfort in private beach cottages. Away from the ocean, there is plenty to interest the traveller to the Coast Region of Kenya.

Kenya’s Protected Reserves

Protected areas are comprised of National Parks, Reserves and Sanctuaries administered by the 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 eight percent of the country. Gazetted Forest Reserves comprise another two percent of the country. Eighty-eight percent of these forests are natural, while the rest are plantations. Despite this allotment of protected land, about 70 percent of the nation’s biodiversity resources are to be found outside protected areas and remain vulnerable to degradation. Of a more recent development is the creation of more than a hundred privately-run wildlife conservancies which look-out for wildlife outside the Parks and Reserves and also integrate nifty community responses to the conservation matrix. That in mind, it’s no secret that Kenya is among the first-rate safari destinations and it certainly has enormous touring resources. There are no less than 50 Reserves / Parks that cover approximately 11% of her land surface area. Kenya is avowedly a grand arena to experience the wilder places in whichever direction you take. The sharp contrast in Kenya’s ecological gamut is perhaps responsible for the variety in Kenya’s spectacular parks. A National Park is an area set aside for conservation in perpetuity and which farming, livestock keeping and human residence are barred. Specifically, although 35 percent of Kenya’s wildlife is found in nationally protected areas (Kenya Wildlife Services’s jurisdiction covers only 4.9 percent of the total land mass in Kenya), 40 percent of the wildlife is found in privately protected areas.

Coast, Safaris, Fauna & Flora in Kenya

Kenya’s Faunal Diversity

For conservation, the country has set aside some 47,674 square kilometers in 29 National parks, 27 Game Reserves, 4 Wildlife Sanctuaries, and 100+ Wildlife Conservancies. Kenya is one of the world’s best destinations for bird watchers, and it has the famous annual wildebeest migration. The area is endowed with tremendous biodiversity. The country has approximately 25,000 species of animals; including 1,133 birds, 315 mammals, 191 reptiles, 180 freshwater fish, 692 marine and brackish fish, and 88 amphibians, as well as 7,000 species of vascular plants and more than 2,000 fungi and bacteria. 1,100 species of the vascular plants, 14 mammalian species, and eight bird species are endemic to the country. 103 bird species, 51 mammals, 8 amphibian and reptile species, and 26 fish species are endangered or threatened. Kenya is home to the big-five.

Hirola or Hunter's Hartebeest in Northern Kenya.  Photo Courtesy
Hirola or Hunter’s Hartebeest in Northern Kenya. Photo Courtesy

Kenya’s Floral Diversity

Low plains form Kenya’s north and extend southeast to the coast. In the center, south and southwest of the country the plains rise into fertile highlands. The Great Rift Valley, which travels north to south, bisects the western half of the country. The major ecosystem of the highlands is montane forest, while the arid and semi-arid lowlands are comprised extensively of woodland, brushlands, savannah and grassland, mainly of the thick thorn-bush type with little grass, wide-spaced valleys and scanty inselbergs. Large tree, like Acacia, are mainly found only along its drainage ways. What is inexhaustible, on an unprecedented scale, is scattered shrub and grasslands spreading out in unbroken patches of tens of kilometres at a time, and which supports a sizeable amount of wildlife. Closer to the coast, there are discontinuous but significant patches of dryland forests. The coast is divided between sandy areas and mangrove forests, while offshore Kenya has abundant seagrass beds and a coral reef system. Kenya’s freshwater resources are divided between lakes, notably Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana, and several rivers. Tea is one of the most important exports of East Africa and it is particularly important in Kenya. Although there are a few areas within Kenya where tea is a major crop, for example, Nyeri, Nandi and Kiambu Counties, over half the land growing tea in Kenya is cultivated in Kericho. Tea, forests and coffee never wander too far from one another, and these three are almost always spotted hand in hand. Of the area of 582,646 km2 which Kenya covers, 2008 km2 are covered by natural and exotic plantation forests; so the forest cover is 3.4% of the total land surface and 15% of the high potential land. Out of this, 1700 km2 represent indigenous forests, 122 km2 exotic plantation forests, 124 km2 privately owned forests, and close to 613 km2 mangrove forest.

Continue Reading…

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