Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Southern Kenya

South & East Kenya

  • Arawale National Reserve
  • Tana River Primate National Reserve
  • Boni National Reserve
  • Dodori National Reserve
  • Shimbs Hills National Reserve
  • Arabuko Sokoke National Park
  • Amboseli National Park

Shimba Hills National Reserve

The Shimba Hills thrust nearly 450 m out of the coastal plain, an enchanting other world, lonely and remote from the heat below. The Hills are about 45 km south west of Mombasa and although not significantly higher than the coastal beaches they are remarkably cool; breezes from the Indian Ocean rise over the eastern escarpment with invigorating freshness. This pristine wonderland of rolling meadows and forests of giant primeval trees harbors a wide variety of wildlife, including some 500 elephant who favour the refreshing fruit of the borassus palm. There are lion and leopard often heard but not frequently seen. But the most distinctive of the Reserve’s many species is perhaps the rare and impressive Sable antelope, found in the same habitats as several large herds of buffalo. Whilst never numerous in Kenya it is unlikely that viable populations exist other than in the Shimba Hills. Closely related to the Roan antelope which it resembles it is, in fact, slightly smaller. Both sexes carry the 100-160 cm horns which rise vertically before curving backward in a pronounced arc.

Picnic sites on either side of the escarpment provide entrancing views – to the east overlooking the distant turquoise of the Indian Ocean and to the west, on the right day, hazy vistas of the vast plains with the Taita Hills rising out of them like a misty giant and beyond them, on days of exceptional clarity, the mighty mass of Kilimanjaro. Unspoiled and one of the least exploited of all Kenya’s game reserves, the combination of rolling grasslands and forest, of hill and valley and the shadowy animals make the Shimba Hills a delight for all nature lovers.

Shimba Lodge provides not only night time game viewing with an artificial moon but escorted walks through a true fairyland.

Accommodation:

Shimba Lodge, 67 beds

The Reserve is easily accessible from all the south coast hotels and from Mombasa.

Arabuko Sokoke National Park

The park is a small (6 sq. km) part of the Sokoke Arabuko forest which is a strip of indigenous coastal forest running parallel to the sea from just north of Kilifi to Gede. Gazettement of the park in 1991 was designed to protect two rare species of mammals, Aders’ duiker and the yellow-rumped Elephant Shrew as well as a number of bird species both rare and local. These include Sokoke Scops Owl and the Sokoke Pipit.

Amboseli National Park

Amboseli National Park, at the foot of Africa’s highest mountain, 5895 m Kilimanjaro, is one of the most popular of Kenya’s national parks. It lies some 240 km south-east of Nairobi very close to the Tanzania border. The snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro rising above a saucer of clouds dominates every aspect of Amboseli. Gazetted as a national park in 1974 it covers only 392 sq. km but despite its small size and its fragile ecosystem it supports a wide range of mammals (well over 50 of the larger species) and birds (over 400 species). Years ago this was the locale around which such famous writers as Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark spun their stories of big-game hunting in the wilds of Africa. It is also the home of the Maasai people, those tall, proud nomads whose legendary prowess in battle and single handed acts of bravery in fights with wild animals has spread across the globe. Perhaps more than any other community in Kenya the Maasai have learned to live in complete harmony with their environment and the wildlife which surrounds them. All round the park are occupied and abandoned manyatta – Maasai villages – quickly built out of bent poles and sticks and plastered with cow dung and equally swiftly abandoned when the grazing is finished and the herds must move on. A part of the Park is composed of a dried-up lake bed which in the shimmering heat produces mirages. Swamps and springs, fed by underground rivers from Kilimanjaro’s melting snows, form permanent watering places for the wildlife through times of drought. The lake bed is subject to sporadic floods and noxious salts in the gravel bed are dissolved to serve as a deadly poison for what is left of the local woods; very few of the fine acacias, once a feature of this region, remain.

The snows of Kilimanjaro, white and crystalline, form a majestic backdrop to one of Kenya’s most spectacular displays of wildlife – lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, cheetah, buffalo and hosts of plains’ game, creating Kenya’s most sought after photographer’s paradise. But the Park’s popularity is also causing serious concern. The combination of wildlife, tourist vehicles and Maasai cattle are destroying the delicate but precious grassland. Park rules now insist that vehicles stick to roads and tracks. The Park’s best game runs are around the swamps and there is a fine lookout on Observation Hill which offers views over the whole of the Park and beyond.