Kakamega Forest National Reserve

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Kakamega Forest National Reserve

Kakamega Forest National Reserve is a tropical rainforest in the Kakamega and Nandi County of Kenya, northwest of the capital Nairobi, and near the border with Uganda. Nairobi city is located 418 km via Nakuru and Kapsabet (a drive anywhere between 6 and 8 hours). The forest is about 50 km north of Kisumu city and Eldoret is 87 Km by road. Kakamega forest is divided into two separate management schemes. The Kenya Wildlife Service manages the northern part of the forest (the National Reserve) while the Forestry Department runs the southern section (known as the Forest Reserve).

Kakamega forest is best experienced on foot and includes several nature trails that allow for forest walking, camping, hiking, primate watching, bird and butterfly watching, game watching, rock climbing, and village walks. Bird watching is done in the morning (6:30 am – 8:30 am) or evening (4:30 pm – 6:30 pm) in the company of a local community tour guide. This beautiful forest is home to various mammals including bush pigs, giant forest hedgehogs, colobus monkeys, Debrazzar monkeys, and pottos. Some of the birds to be seen here include the Blue Headed Bee Eater, Black Billed Turaco, Turner’s Eremomela, and Grey Parrots. Other attractions include snakes such as Black Lipped Cobra, Rhinoceros Horned Viper, Gabon Viper, and Forest Cobra among others. 

Kakamega Forest National Reserve

Kakamega Forest is a tropical rainforest situated in the Kakamega and Nandi County of Kenya, northwest of the capital Nairobi, and near the border with Uganda. It is Kenya’s only tropical rainforest that covers approximately 240 square km² said to be Kenya’s last remnant of the ancient Guineo-Congolian rainforest that stretched all across West Africa.

Kakamega forest reserve is about twice the size of Nairobi National Park. It is an area of mostly indigenous vegetation that offers unique wildlife and scenic beauty, located about 15km from Kakamega town. The reserve was established to protect only a residue of a really unique forest ecosystem. The word “Kakamega” translates roughly to “pinch” in Kiluhyah.

It was most likely used to describe how the European colonists would eat the staple food, ugali, in contrast to the traditional method of eating it. Ugali is still a popular maize dish that is a favorite in the local cuisine, which is usually rolled into a lump or a ball and dipped into the preferred sauce or stew.

Kakamega is accessible all year round but the best time to visit it is during the rainy season, April to July. Kakamega forest is divided into two separate management schemes. The northern part of the forest (the National Reserve) is managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service while the southern section (known as the Forest Reserve) is run by the Forestry Department.

The KWS entry point is at the North in the Buyangu Area. It is a walking distance of the KWS office which is approximately 2 km from the main road. The Kenya Forestry Service entry gate is in the South in the Isecheno Area. The forest’s major attraction includes birds, insects, butterflies, and wildlife which are plentiful in the area.  

Trees and plants include some of Africa’s greatest hard and soft woods like the precious Elgon teak, much prized for its hardwood, red and white stink woods. There are also notorious stranglers (ficus thoningii) who grow from other trees and eventually strangle the hosts to death. The potent Mkombero tree, a popular aphrodisiac, also grows here.

There are also many species of splendid orchids, with a handful being endemic, which sit among the branches of the larger trees. Flora found in the park includes over fifty species of ferns and 170 other species of flowering plants. Animals include 7 primate species like the endangered DeBrazza monkey that is mostly found at the isolated Kisere Forest Reserve.

Many other rare species of primate are common here such as the Blue monkey, frequently seen near the Ishiuku Falls, the Olive baboon, and the Red-Tailed monkey. Other mammals in the area include the Clawless Otter, Mongoose, Giant Water Shrew, flying squirrels, Bush bucks, Aardvarks, Porcupines, Giant Forest Hog, Leopard, and many more.

Kakamega forest is home to an estimated 360 bird species making it a place of choice for many bird and butterfly watchers. The Reserve supports a myriad of bird species including the endangered Turner’s eremomela, Charpins flycatcher, and voice-mimicking African grey parrot, which are some rare snake-eating birds. Insects are in addition abundant with some very spectacular favorites like the Goliath beetles and Flower Mantis.

Other particularly well-represented groups are ants and Orthopterans. Gastropods, millipedes, and spiders alike are very common too. In addition, a butterfly farm has been set up for these colorful lepidopterans comprised of over 400 species of butterflies, about 45% of all recorded butterflies in Kenya.

27 Snake species that are normally found in West Africa are present in the area alongside nearly thirty other species of snakes. The region is also home to Africa’s largest and most aggressive cobra known as the Kakamega forest cobra.  Other big snakes found in the area include the forest adder, black mamba, and green mamba. Its smaller reptiles include chameleons, skinks, and lizards.

When Is The Best Visiting Time To Go To Kakamega Forest In Kenya

Kakamega Forest National Reserve can be visited year-round. There is quite heavy rain throughout the year, but December to February are the driest months. June to August is an excellent time for bird watching, as many birds breed and display after the rains of April and May. August and September are the best months for butterflies. Migrant birds are present from November to April.

Best Time: December to February and June to July (Less rain and best bird watching)

High Season: mid-December to March & July to October (The reserve never gets very busy)

Low Season: April to June & November to mid-December (Low-season rates may apply)

Best Weather: December to February (Less rainfall)

Worst Weather:  April and May (Wettest months)

2024 Kakamega Forest National Reserve Entrance Fees

Citizen/ Resident Rate Per Person Per Day

Non-Resident Rate Per Person Per Day

Adult 300 Kenya Shillings 25 US Dollars
Child 250 Kenya Shillings 15 US Dollars


* Child refers to persons from three years but below 11 years
* Resident refers to persons of other nationalities residing in Kenya with valid documentation from the Kenyan government
* Citizen – A native or inhabitant of East Africa Countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan) with valid identification documents or passport
* Daily – Fee paid for a single entry to a national park, national reserve, or sanctuary and which shall be valid for no longer than twenty-four hours

Kakamega Forest National Reserve Attractions | Animals | Birds | Snakes | Trees

Kakamega Forest National Reserve attractions and activities include bird watching, primate tracking, game viewing, walking trips, hiking, fishing on the river, nature walks, and camping.

Kakamega Forest Bird watching

Kakamega Forest is one of the last remaining ancient rainforests in Kenya – and the birdlife is outstanding! Many birders find Kakamega Forest a bird-watcher’s paradise that is productive all year, unusual forest species are often permanent inhabitants and can see at any time. Migratory birds swoop into the forest from November to April.

The forest supports 80 species on the eastern limit of their range from central and West Africa, examples of this are the spectacular great blue turaco and the colorful blue-headed bee-eater. In the reserve more than 367 bird species have been recorded, 36 of which are endemic to the forest and can only be found here.

Migratory birds come in from November to April. Popular Bird species seen on the Kakamega Forest birding tour include Great Blue Turaco, Ross’s Turaco, Crowned Eagle, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, and Chapin’s Flycatcher.

Others include the Yellow-mantled Widowbird,  Uganda Woodland Warbler, White-chinned Prinia, Turner’s Eremomela, Green Hylia, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Vieillot’s Black Weaver, and Olive-Green Camaroptera, African Broadbill, Snowy-headed Robin-Chat, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Green-throated Sunbird, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, and others.

White-spotted Flufftail, Dusky Tit, Luhder’s Bush-Shrike, Black-crowned Waxbill, White-breasted Negrofinch, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Equatorial Akalat, White-tailed Ant-Thrush, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Common Wattle-eye, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Black-billed Turaco and Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye.

Kakamega Forest Wildlife

These are some of the animals you can see on a walk through Kakamega Park. These include buffaloes, Jackson’s hartebeest, bush backs, Roan antelope, Black-and-white Colobus, red-tailed and blue monkey, Elephant Shrew, Ader’s Duiker, Banded Mongoose, Genet Cat, Bush Baby, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, and the De Brazza’s Monkey locally referred to as the ‘Karasingi’.

Others include African Civet, Tree Pangolin, Potto, Bush Pig, Giant Forest Hogs, Giant forest squirrels, African Clawless Otter, duiker, Sunni, giraffes, pangolin, porcupine, water squirrels and dik-dik.  You can also spot a wide variety of snakes such as Jameson’s Mamba, Rhinoceros-horned Viper, Black-lipped Cobra, Bush Viper, and more.

Game viewing in the reserve is best done during the dry months of December to February when there are no rains and animal species can be available in the reserve.

Kakamega Forest Trees species

The reserve has over 300 species of trees including some of Africa’s greatest hard and soft woods: Elgon teak (Olea welwitschii), red stinkwood (Prunus africana), white stinkwood, several varieties of croton, and Pouteria altissima. There are 380 recorded species of plants.

This includes 60 species of ferns, 150 species of trees and shrubs, and 170 species of flowering plants including 60 species of orchids with 9 species found only in this forest.

Kakamega Forest National Reserve Best Time to Visit | Hotels & Lodges | How to Get to Kakamega Forest

Best time to visit Kakamega Forest National Reserve

The reserve can be visited year-round. The periods when it rains less (December to February and June to July) are the best times to come to Kakamega.  June to August is an excellent time for bird watching, as many birds breed and display after the rains of April and May.

August and September are the best months for butterflies. And migrant birds are present from November to April.

How to get to Kakamega Forest National Reserve

Kakamega Forest Reserve can be accessed in two different ways, by road and by Air from Nairobi city. By road, Kakamega Forest is 420 km/260 mi northwest of Nairobi and 45 km/27 miles north of Kisumu. The drive from Nairobi takes about 6 hours to reserve. Kisumu International Airport is an hour’s drive away from Kakamega.

By Flight: Charter flights here can be organized for you by the tour operators, there are daily flights from Jomo Kenyatta   International Airport then to Kakamega.  Also, there are now scheduled flights to Kakamega and visitors can also fly to Kisumu or Eldoret and travel by road to Kakamega.

Where to stay in Kakamega Forest National Reserve

There are accommodation facilities and camping sites where to stay at Kakamega Forest National Reserve. Choices range from self-catering chalets and lodges to rustic campsites, but whatever accommodation is chosen the experience is sure to inspire.

Camping in the forest is so many rewards, with a wake-up call from the winged ones, as you enjoy your breakfast too, you cannot stop listening to the beautiful melodies that escape from the forest, to colour out your morning. The cool forest feel, spice your stay here as you enjoy the outdoor camping adventure here. If you wish to stay in Kakamega town accommodation, there are a number of choices.

Isecheno KEEP Bandas

Isecheno KEEP bandas is located in the Kakamega rain forest in the Southern part of Isecheno forest station. Keep bandas can accommodate 21 people. There are 5 bandas, banda one has 5 beds, banda two has been partitioned and has 2 rooms each has 2 beds. Banda 3 has also partitioned and has 4 beds, banda four has 5 beds and banda 5 has 3 beds.

In KEEP bandas there are warm and cold showers outside the room. For the lights here, they use generators and lanterns at night. There is a kitchen where guests can cook their own food. The kitchen has utensils cooking facilities and tap water. But for those guests who need meals, we offer catering services for either workshops or for tourists visiting the forest.

Senel Guest House

Set just 21 km from Kakamega Forest Station, Senel Guest House offers accommodation in Kakamega with access to a shared lounge, a garden, as well as a shared kitchen. This property offers access to a balcony and free private parking.

This apartment has 5 bedrooms, a kitchen with a microwave and an oven, a flat-screen TV, a seating area, and 4 bathrooms fitted with a shower. For added convenience, the property can provide towels and bed linen for an extra charge. This is one of the main places where to stay at Kakamega Forest National Reserve.

Isukuti Guest House

Located in a spectacular haven for nature lovers, with over 300 bird species and 400 butterfly species these facilities provide an intimate experience amid the Kakamega forest consisting of over 300 tree species which are mostly indigenous. Park highlights include tropical forest, bird, and butterfly viewing.

One can also view the following Wildlife: diverse species of primates, snakes, birds, and butterflies.

Golf Hotel Kakamega

Golf Hotel Kakamega is located in a plush area of Kakamega town next to the Golf Course and is just a short distance from Kakamega forest that has over 320 bird species. It takes approximately half an hour’s drive from Kisumu Airport to the hotel and with an arrangement the Hotel van is available at a fee.

Rondo Retreat Centre

Rondo retreat center is located in the Kakamega rainforest in the Southern part. It is managed by Trinity fellowship. Rondo is a Christian center, alcoholic drinks are not allowed in the premise. Rondo retreat is a clean and quiet place that can accommodate Missionaries and Tourists visiting the Kakamega forest.

Rondo can accommodate up to 35 people but it can serve up to 50 pax for lunch or dinner and it offers a conference facility for small groups. Rondo retreat center is one of the best accommodations in the Kakamega rainforest with beautiful gardens flowers, wonderful gardens for relaxing, and high-standard rooms for single, double, and triple rooms.

Not found anywhere else. Kakamega is known more for being the home of the Kakamega forest, few among the last remnants of indigenous rain forests in the world, bull-fighting, cock-fighting, and even a dog market- an interesting piece of the cultural tourism that Kenya has to offer.

Booking & Reservations Kakamega Forest National Reserve Contact

Mobile: + 254-780-242-711
WhatsApp: +254-721-242-711
Reservations: +254 718-179-967
Email: info@africanspicesafaris.com
Website: https://africanspicesafaris.com

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