Kakamega Forest covers an area of about 240km2 and was established to protect the only mid altitude tropical rainforest in Kenya, a remnant and eastern limit of rainforests of Zaire and West Africa affinities are unique in Kenya and the forest contains many species found nowhere else in the country.
The forest lies in the Lake Victoria catchment, about 50km north of Kisumu and just West of the Nandi Escarpment that forms the edge of the central highlands. It was first gazetted as a trust forest in 1933 and two small Nature reserves, Yala and lsecheno were established within the forest in 1967.
In 1985, nearly 4400ha of the northern portion of the forest together with the adjacent Kisere Forest were gazetted as Kakamega Forest National Reserve. The forest is an important water catchment area with the lsiukhu and Yala Rivers flowing through it. The terrain is undulating with often steep sided river valleys.
The Kenya Wildlife Service welcomes you to Kakamega Forest National Reserve. In our efforts to maintain and preserve wildlife diversity, the importance of preserving a fragile ecosystem like forests cannot be overstated. With their unique flora and fauna, forests are important resource reserve for genetic banks, the medicine industry, nutrient recycling and C02 sequestation. The loss of such systems would therefore be a great loss to humanity. With this in mind we have put concerted efforts towards preservation of this unique ecosystem. It is our hope that apart from its aesthetic value, its life supporting values will be understood and highly appreciated now and in the future.
Therefore, as you walk along the trails, as you observe the unique and beautiful vegetation, as you walk along the riverside, remember you can and are contributing to the conservation of this important ecosystem. We hope that you will visit again and again for fun, leisure and educative purposes.
Annual rainfall is over 2000mm. Most of this rain falls between April and November with a short dry season from December to March. Rain falls mostly in the afternoon or early evening and is often accompanied by heavy thunderstorms. Average temperatures remain similar throughout - between 15oC and 28oC.
Kakamega Forest National Reserve is a walk through park. With its unique flora and fauna that are highly adapted to the forest ecosystem while you time away, tour guided or self guided nature walks, night walks, bird, butterfly and primate watching, camping and picnicking will keep you glued to this beautiful haven. The national reserve comprises of both Kisere and Buyangu Reserves for a total of 44.399km2. The Reserve is under strict protection management. Being the only remnant in Kenya of the unique Guineo-Congolian forest ecosystem, the park offers unique wildlife and scenic beauty. The falls along the River Isiukhu and the riverine atmosphere along the Isiukhu river trail make you feel relaxed on the trail. Buyangu viewpoint gives a quick bird eye-view of the forest canopy. At the picnic site you can sit back and relax under the grass-thatched rest house while watching water birds at the waterpoint… binoculars are a must carry here. Location Kakamega Forest National Reserve is located in Western Kenya: 15km from Kakamega town along the Kakamega-Eldoret Highway. Access is through the Buyangu gate, which is 600m off the main road. With public transport, visitors can alight at Kambiri junction. Local community cyclists popularly known as "boda boda" offer transport from the junction to the park. If visiting in personal transport, be on the look out for a signpost after 15km from Kakamega town on the highway. What to carry Remember this is a tropical rainforest and visitors should be prepared for any sort of weather condition… but for visitors from Europe, it's not cold in any comparison. Remember also to carry guide books (mammal, bird and butterfly) - some available at the gate house, - insect repellant to keep away insects but not to hate them, a pair of binoculars and for the memories a zoom camera. Don't forget the tents if you will put up overnight or better still spend in our cosy bandas.
For bird and butterfly watchers, this is the place of choice for you. Being such a food rich reserve habitat, the park supports over 300 bird species, over 350 species of trees, 27 species of snakes… our snakes are friendly given the wet nature of the forest throughout the year... no history of snake bites since the park started 20 years ago. The forest is also home to over 400 species of butterflies (about 45% of all recorded butterflies in Kenya), reptiles, mollusks and 7 primate species. With that sort of biodiversity you surely cannot be bored once in the forest. The endangered Turner's eremomela, Charpins flycatcher and the voice mimicking African grey parrot are also found here. The forest is also home to the endangered DeBrazza monkey found at the isolated Kisere Forest Reserve, which is part of the larger Kakamega Forest National Reserve. The majestic black and white colobus monkey alongside flying squirrels, blue monkey and potto (the world's slowest mammal on earth), are among the attractions. Forest bucks, duikers and dik diks are found in this equatorial rain forest.
As a result of the conservation efforts, the forest holds mostly indigenous vegetation. Here you will find the precious Elgon teak, much prized for its hard wood, the stranglers (ficus thoningii) which grow from other trees and eventually strangle the hosts to death, and mkombero, a popular affrodiasc. Large age-old trees are in plenty and found particularly in Kisere forest as a result of early efforts in conservation.
This is a region with a rich culture and history. It is advisable to take the community tour guides based at KWS offices that have a wealth of information passed on through generations to share. The nature trails are also labeled for easy self-guiding.
Where to stay
The forest reserve offers a serene atmosphere for both campers and banda accommodation visitors. The Reserve has 6 simple chalets constructed in the local Isukha community tradition and offer cosy accommodation to a maximum of 14 pax. The facility is also ideal for family as one of the bandas has 4 beds while the rest have 2 beds each. For the more adventurous visitors, camping can never be wilder here. With guaranteed round the clock security, every second would be worth your money. Please note that, new self-catering luxurious bandas will be in place before end of the year. Other accommodation facilities in Kakamega town and the southern end of the forest include, Golf Hotel, Golden Inn, Sheywe Guest House, Rondo Retreat and lsecheno Guest House.
Day Park charges
In order to contribute towards the conservation of this unique biodiversity forest, KWS is charging some gate fees and accommodation fees for the visitors who choose to spend in the forest… and this is very affordable by the way.