Shimba Hills National Reserve

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Shimba Hills National Reserve

Shimba Hills National Reserve is a small hilly plateau situated 33 km southwest of Mombasa (near Kwale Town). The reserve covers an area of 321 Square Kilometers, rests at an altitude of 120 – 450 meters above sea level, and has one main entrance and three secondary gates (Kivumoni Gate, Kidongo Gate, Shimba Gate). The reserve also has a small Airstrip

This pristine wonderland of rolling Meadows and forests of giant primeval trees harbors a wide variety of wildlife, including some 500 elephants that favor the refreshing fruit of the Borassus palm.

There are leopards often heard but not frequently seen. But the most distinctive of the Shimba Hills National Reserve’s many species is perhaps the rare and impressive Sable antelope, found in the same habitats as several large herds of buffalo.

Shimba Hills National Park Vegetation

Shimba Hills National Park’s vegetation is unique and composed of coastal rainforests and grasslands interspersed with woodlands and coastal bushes. Undulating hills are patched with bushes, small grasslands, and riverine forests running alongside the water springs/rivers of the hills. Large rainforests are surrounding the hills and bordering small escarpments.

They are unique as they are one of the last remaining coastal rainforests on earth and are home to more than 1,100 plant species, of which 280 are endemic to the ecosystem, and 19 endangered species of tree. Finally, two of Kenya’s most beautiful orchids flowers are found in the park – the Eulophia linvingstoniana and cacullata in April, and the Eulophia wakefieldii in July and August.

“The Shimba Hills hold one of the largest areas of coastal rainforest in East Africa after Arabuko Sokoke. The vegetation consists of forested scarp slopes and undulating grasslands interspersed with woodland clumps and ribbons of riverine forest in the steeply cut valleys.

How do I get to Shimba Hills National Reserve:

By Road

The drive from Nairobi to Mombasa is a distance of around 300 miles and takes approximately eight hours. From Mombasa, a 30-mile drive via the Likon-Ukunda Rd/ A14 onto the C106 to the main gate of Shimba Hills will take around two hours.

By Air

A flight from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to Mombasa will take just over one hour. From here, visitors will be transferred along the Likon-Ukunda Rd/ A14 onto the C106 to the main gate of Shimba Hills, a 30-mile drive taking approximately two hours.

What kind of wildlife can be viewed in the reserve?

The park has the last breeding herd of beautiful sable antelope in Kenya. They are among Kenya’s largest antelope, with black coats and long, scimitar-shaped horns, which they were hunted for. They may be seen grazing early or late in the day around Buffalo Ridge.

There are more than 600 elephants in the park and a fenced elephant corridor links the park with the elephant sanctuary at Mwaluganje Forest. In addition to elephants, there are also buffalo, waterbucks, hyenas, warthogs, leopards, baboons, and monkeys. Masai giraffes and ostriches have also been reintroduced to the park.

There are many birds, including 111 different recorded species. There are even more birds to be seen during the spring migration. Bird shooting is only permitted outside the reserve. Some unique things to do at Shimba Hills National Park include taking a guided night drive. You may see leopards and cheetahs, and will certainly hear the hyenas howl in the eerie darkness.

Note also that a fenced Elephant corridor connects the Shimba Hills National Park to the Mwaluganje Forest and its Elephant Sanctuary.

Shimba Hills National Park Highlights

* Sheldrick Waterfalls (25 meters high): Sheldrick Waterfalls is a natural attraction near Shimba Hills National Reserve, known for its impressive height of 25 meters. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of cascading water amidst lush greenery, offering a serene and picturesque setting for nature lovers and photographers alike.

* The unique presence of the sable antelope: Shimba Hills National Reserve is renowned for its unique wildlife, including the rare sable antelope. This majestic antelope species is known for its distinctive appearance with long, curved horns and deep chestnut coats, making encounters with them a highlight for safari enthusiasts and wildlife photographers.

* Possibility to do safari easily accessible from Mombasa: Shimba Hills National Reserve offers convenient access for safaris from Mombasa, making it an ideal destination for day trips or longer excursions. Its proximity to the coast allows visitors to experience diverse ecosystems, from coastal forests to savannah plains, and encounter a wide variety of wildlife. Find our Shimba Hills safaris from Mombasa below:

1 Day Shimba Hills National Reserve Safari from Mombasa | Click Here
2 Days 1 Night Shimba Hills National Reserve Safari from  Mombasa  | Click Here
3 Days 2 Nights Shimba Hills National Reserve Safari from Mombasa  | Click Here

* Splendid views towards the Indian Ocean and Mt Kilimanjaro: From certain viewpoints within Shimba Hills National Reserve, visitors can enjoy breathtaking vistas that stretch towards the Indian Ocean and, on clear days, even glimpse the majestic silhouette of Mt Kilimanjaro in neighboring Tanzania.

These panoramic views offer a stunning backdrop for nature enthusiasts and photographers. The best views are from the eastern side of the park, near Giriama Point, as the animals move towards the rivers to drink. Pengo Hill is 450m (1476 feet) high and offers a magnificent view of the local landscape. Elephants may be viewed through binoculars. The Tsavo plains can also be seen, along with Mount Kilimanjaro on a clear day, and ocean views as far as Chale Island.

* Possibility to go for a walk at the falls and to plunge into the pool: At Sheldrick Waterfalls, visitors have the opportunity to take leisurely walks along designated trails that lead to the falls. Additionally, adventurous guests can swim in the pool formed at the base of the waterfall, providing a refreshing escape and a chance to connect with nature up close.

* Picnic sites, camping sites, and self-catering accommodation available: Shimba Hills National Reserve provides various options for visitors to enjoy extended stays or day trips comfortably. It offers designated picnic sites where families and groups can enjoy meals amidst nature, camping sites for overnight stays under the stars, and self-catering accommodations for those preferring more independent lodging options.

* The large rainforest surrounding the park (Mkongani and Mwaluganje forests): Surrounding Shimba Hills National Reserve are expansive rainforests, namely Mkongani and Mwaluganje forests. These biodiverse ecosystems are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, including rare and endemic species. They contribute to the reserve’s ecological significance and offer additional opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife encounters.

Shimba Hills National Park

Shimba Hills National Reserve Wildlife | Animals & Birds

Shimba Hills National Reserve boasts diverse wildlife, making it a remarkable destination for nature enthusiasts. Among its notable inhabitants is the last breeding herd of indigenous Sable Antelope in Kenya. These striking antelopes, with their saber-shaped horns and black coats marked with white stripes, are often considered the most beautiful of the large antelopes.

They can be spotted on the central grasslands (Buffalo Ridge) and around the old airstrip near Longo Forest, with early morning or late afternoon being the optimal viewing time. Historically, Sable Antelopes were heavily hunted, and the species nearly became extinct in Kenya. Even captivated by their beauty, Ernest Hemingway wrote about them in his book, “The Green Hills of Africa.”

The park also provides a unique habitat for elephants, offering a rare opportunity to observe these majestic creatures in a forested setting rather than the typical savannah. The tropical forests of Shimba Hills are home to over 600 elephants, often seen around Elephant Hill and the forested areas like Longo Forest.

Shimba Hills’ dense vegetation and hot daytime weather make wildlife viewing challenging, as many animals remain hidden in the forest during the day. Late afternoon visits are recommended for better chances of sightings.

Besides elephants and sable antelopes, the park is home to buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck, hyena, warthog, leopard, baboon, Sykes’ monkey, vervet monkey, colobus monkey, serval, duiker, suni, and bush pig.

The Masai giraffe and ostrich have been reintroduced to the park, though attempts to reintroduce impalas and zebras have been unsuccessful. Additionally, the rare roan antelope, a relative of the sable antelope, can also be found in Shimba Hills and the Masai Mara National Reserve.

Birdlife in Shimba Hills National Park is particularly abundant during the spring migration, with 111 bird species recorded, 22 of which are coastal endemics. This makes the park a significant spot for birdwatching enthusiasts.

Shimba Hills National Reserve Activities | What To Do

Game viewing

Shimba Hills National Reserve is home to various animal species that is to a large number of elephants, and sable antelope. Though there are also other animal species within the reserve like the waterbuck, Bush Pig, Coastal black and white, Blue Duiker, Serval cat, Red Shrew, and among others.

Due to the thick nature of the reserve of forest game viewing is not all that rewarding as on the savannahs, as many animals spend their time deep in the forest. Though it’s not a bad thing. The best time of the day to go for a game drive would be in the late afternoon when the cooler temperatures take the animals out of the shade and seek water.


Bird watching

Shimba Hills National Reserve is also known for its excellent birding opportunities and twitchers can search for the Croaking Cisticola or the Zanzibar Red Bishop as they are the unique species in the reserve like the green barbet, Fischer’s turaco, Golden palm weaver, mottled swift, Narina trogon, and Red-necked spurfowl and among others.


Guided forest walks

Guided forest walks in the Shimba Hills National Reserve are the right way to connect guided forest walks as you explore the green forests in the reserve as well as the green trees. On the other hand, during the guided forest walk experiences, you can spot various animals like elephants, and mottled swift, among others.

Bird species can also be spotted like the Red-necked spurfowl, spotted ground thrush, Trumpeter hornbill, and others. Possible features can be spotted during the nature forest walks like the Sheldrick waterfalls.


Trekking

Shimba Hills National Reserve is a fantastic way to experience the area’s natural beauty and diverse ecosystems up close. The reserve’s varied terrain, which includes rolling hills, dense forests, and open grasslands, provides an excellent backdrop for hiking adventures. Several well-marked trails cater to different fitness levels and interests, from leisurely walks to more challenging hikes.

One of the most popular trekking routes is the path to Sheldrick Falls, a stunning waterfall that cascades down a rocky cliff into a natural pool. The trek to the falls takes about 2 hours round-trip and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, as well as opportunities to spot wildlife along the way. The cool, refreshing waters of the falls provide a perfect spot for a relaxing break after the hike.

Another notable trekking route is the trail to Elephant Hill, which offers panoramic views of the reserve and the Indian Ocean beyond. This trail is particularly rewarding for those interested in birdwatching, as the diverse habitats support a wide range of bird species.

Shimba Hills National Reserve Entrance Fees

Seasons

East Africa Citizen/ Resident
(Kenya Shillings)
Rest of Africa
(US Dollars)

International Visitors (US Dollars)

Dates From

Dates To Adult Child/ Student Adult Child/ Student Adult Child/ Student
1st Jan 2024 31st Mar 2024 300
Kenya Shillings
250
Kenya Shillings
20
US Dollars
15
US Dollars
25
US Dollars

15
US Dollars

1st Jan 2024

31st Mar 2024 250
Kenya Shillings
200
Kenya Shillings
15
US Dollars
10
US Dollars
20
US Dollars
15
US Dollars
1st Jan 2024 31st Mar 2024 300
Kenya Shillings
250
Kenya Shillings
20
US Dollars
15
US Dollars
25
US Dollars

15
US Dollars

Notes;

* KENYAN (KE) CITIZEN– refers to Kenyan nationals by birth and registration, with valid Identification Card
* REST OF AFRICA  – refers to nationals of African countries other than East African countries with a valid passport
* RESIDENT – refers to persons of other nationalities residing in Kenya with valid documentation from the Kenyan government
* DAILY FEE is a single entry fee valid for 24 hours of continuous uninterrupted stay inside a KWS national park/ reserve/ sanctuary
* INTERNATIONAL (INTL) VISITORS – refers to visitors other than EAST AFRICAN CITIZEN and rest of Africa with a valid passport
* SENIOR CITIZEN – refers to Kenyan Citizens aged 75 years and above. Senior citizens shall access all KWS parks, reserves and sanctuaries for free
* CHILDREN – refers to persons from the age of five (5) years to seventeen years (17) years. Children below the age of five (5) years shall access all KWS parks, reserves and sanctuaries for free
* CONSERVATION FEES – refers to fees charged in national parks, reserves and sanctuaries for the purpose of conserving and protecting natural resources, such as wildlife, habitats and ecosystems
* EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY (EAC) CITIZEN – refers to nationals of East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a valid passport
* STUDENT– refers to an individual from a recognized secondary, government or private college or university aged up to twenty-three (23) years old visiting the parks for purposes of learning about conservation through a documented and organized arrangement with that institution. It excludes students on personally arranged holidays. KWS will require a minimum of one (1) week notice to issue a written authorization for the student rates
* PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES (PWD) – refers to Kenyan Citizens who have a physical, sensory, mental or other impairment, including any visual, hearing, learning or physical incapability, which impacts adversely on social, economic or environmental participation. PWD access all KWS parks, reserves and sanctuaries for free upon presentation of valid documentation from the National Council for Persons with Disabilities

Shimba Hills National Reserve Accommodation | Where To Stay

Shimba Hills Lodge

Shimba Hills Lodge is located within the heart of Shimba Hills National Reserve, just 1 mile (1.6 km) from the main entrance gate. This lodge offers a unique and immersive experience, with its treehouse-style rooms overlooking a waterhole that frequently attracts wildlife. Guests can enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest and observe animals from the comfort of their rooms, making it a perfect spot for those looking to stay close to nature.


Shimba Hills National Reserve Campsites

Shimba Hills National Reserve has only one special campsite and one public campsite in the reserve and both are in an excellent setting. The Public Campsite offers a forested camping area with as well excellent views over the surrounding forests. There is no water on site.

A pit latrine is available. The Special Campsite (called also a private campsite, as it must be booked in advance on an exclusive use basis) offers a broad grassy area with magnificent views. Water, a latrine, and a seating area are available.


There are also some accommodation options outside the boundaries of the reserve. Some of those hotels are:

Shimba Hills Green Lodge

Shimba Hills Green Lodge is located outside the park, approximately 12 miles (19.3 km) from the Shimba Hills National Reserve main gate. This eco-friendly lodge emphasizes sustainable tourism practices and offers comfortable accommodations focusing on environmental conservation. It provides a serene and eco-conscious retreat, ideal for guests who want to enjoy the area’s natural beauty while supporting green initiatives.


Baobab Resort Diani

Baobab Resort Diani is located along the Mombasa Coastline, around 31 miles (49.9 km) from the Shimba Hills National Reserve entrance gate. This resort offers a coastal getaway with beautiful ocean views and amenities including swimming pools, restaurants, and beach access. It’s an ideal choice for visitors who wish to combine a safari experience with a beach holiday, providing a relaxing escape from the Indian Ocean.

Booking & Reservations Shimba Hills National Reserve Contact

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

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