What is unique about the Kakamega forest? For the Kakamega Forest, a piece of the rain forest that once covered much of Central Africa, time has held still. Numerous mammals live in this lovely forest, including pottos, colobus monkeys, Debrazzar monkeys, gigantic forest hedgehogs, and bush pigs. The Blue Headed Bee Eater, Black Billed Turaco, Turner’s Eremomela, and Grey Parrots are a few of the birds that may be observed here. Here, in the peace of the time-forgotten forest, you can go hiking, rock climbing, or bird watching. The woodland is home to a variety of species that are exclusive to Kenya and have West African origins. The forest is located west of the Nandi Escarpment, which forms the western edge of the central highlands, in the Lake Victoria basin, about 40 km north of Kisumu.
In 1933, Kakamega Forest was first designated as a Trust Forest. In 1967, Yala and Isecheno, two modest Nature Reserves with a combined area of around 700 hectares, were created inside the Forest Reserve. The Isiukhu and Yala Rivers flow through Kakamega Forest, which is a major catchment area, and gather tributaries from it. In 1986, about 4,000 hectares of the forest’s northern portion and the nearby 457 hectares Kisere Forest were gazetted as National Parks.
The ground is undulating, with river valleys that frequently have steep sides. The soils are deep, severely leached clay-loams and clays with good drainage and typically low fertility. About 2,001mm of rain fall falls annually, decreasing from south to north and ostensibly diminishing as a result of deforestation.
Wildlife found in Kakamega Forest
The red-tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius schmidti) and black-and-white colobus monkey (Colobus guereza), both of which have considerable populations in the forest, are also present, as are a few de Brazza’s monkeys (Cercopithecus neglectus). Anomalurus derbianus, potto (Perodicticus potto), and huge otter shrews (Potamogale velox) are only a few of the forest mammals found in West Africa. The group of small mammals is likewise quite diverse and exhibits a strong affinity towards the Congo basin. At least 28 snake species are recorded, including the rare Goldie’s tree cobra (Pseudohaje goldii) and other West African species such as the barred green snake (Philothamnus heterodermus carinatus), black-lined green snake (Hapsidophrys lineata), Jameson’s mamba (Dendroaspis jamesoni kaimosae), green bush-viper (Atheris squamiger squamiger), prickly bush-viper (Atheris hispida) and rhinoceros-horned viper (Bitis nasicornis) (Spawls, 1978).
Leptopelis modestus and Hyperolius lateralis, two remarkable and likely endangered woodland frogs, have been identified (Duff-MacKay, 1980). There are thought to be 350 species of butterflies in the forest, comprising at least one endemic species, Metisella kakamega, and a near-endemic species, Euphaedra rex (Larsen, 1991). The butterfly fauna of the forest is extremely rich and significant, both regionally and continentally.
The avifauna of Kakamega is exceptional on a continental and national level. A number of species, including Ansorge’s greenbul, blue-headed bee-eater, Chapin’s flycatcher, and Turner’s eremomela, which are absent from all or almost all of the seemingly comparable mid-elevation woods in Uganda, have isolated, relict populations here. The Kakamega and Nandi Forests Secondary Area, as well as the Albertine Rift Mountains Endemic Bird Area, are home to the restricted-range species known as Chapin’s Flycatcher. Among the few endemic taxa found in Kakamega is the endemic subspecies of the Ansorge’s greenbul (kavirondensis). At least 16 bird species are only found in Kakamega, Kenya, and another 30 (including the grey parrot) are likely currently restricted to this location. The moist-grassland species that are numerous in the grassy glades and are uncommon elsewhere in western Kenya make up the glades’ unique avifauna.
Croton, Celtis, Trema, Antiaris, Bequaertiodendron, and Zanthoxylum are among the common genera of trees in Kakamega (Beentje, 1990). However, endemism is scarce; the sole endemic woody plant is the liana Tiliacora kenyensis.
A butterfly lover’s paradise, Kakamega Forest is home to approximately 300 different types of butterflies. These fragile insects thrive in the forest because of the lush foliage and numerous nectar sources. The African Swallowtail, Blue Pansy, Great Egg fly, and Charaxes species are just a few of the many butterfly species you can see. Many of these butterflies have eye-catching hues and elaborate designs, which make them fun to watch and take pictures of.
Why Kakamega Forest is Unique
- The Isiukhu and Yala Rivers receive a significant amount of water from the forest’s undulating terrain and steep-sided river basins, which also contribute to the forest’s great natural beauty. It is a premier bird-watching woodland in Africa.
- One of the most significant wintering grounds for palearctic bird species is the Kakamega forest. It serves as a host for local migrants.
- With 16 bird species that can only be found in Kenya to thrill while on Kenya Safaris, the Kakamega forest has a distinctive presentation of avifauna; as such, it is a significant and vital natural environment for avifauna conservation as it now supports the greatest number of bird species in Kenya that depend on the forest for their home.
In 1933, Kakamega Forest was initially designated as a Trust Forest. This status persisted until 1986, when 4,000 hectares of the forest’s northern region and the nearby Kisere Forest (457 ha) were combined and designated as Kakamega National Park. Kakamega is a complicated and divided forest that has long been under threat from both the inside and the outside. However, KWS has created a participatory forest management method that includes the local population in conservation efforts to lower the degree of poaching for forest products in the forest.
Given that they have similar species variety and are significant bird areas, the Kakamega forest can be compared to the Ugandan forests of Kibale and Mabira. Therefore, it is suggested that Kakamega forest be serially included with these comparable forests in Uganda because they have similar traits in terms of species diversity and denote the end of the Congo basin forests.
How to get to Kakamega Forest
By Road: Nakuru and Kapsabet provide the quickest (418 km) connection from Nairobi. Following Timboroa, continue on the A104 road for another 4 km until you come to a left turn that leads to the C36 road to Kapsabet. From there, take the C39 road until it connects with the Kisumu-Kakamega route. The C39 road leads to Kapsabet and is the quickest route from Eldoret.
By Air: Now that flights to Kakamega are regularly scheduled, tourists can also easily fly to Kisumu or Eldoret and drive from there to Kakamega.
The Kenya Forest Service’s Isecheno Forest Station is located in the southern portion of Kakamega Forest and is the most easily accessible area for tourists. Strangler fig trees and the well-known Mama Mtere tree, which is both a historic tree and the Kakamega forest’s most photographed tree, are also present. There are hiking paths in the forest that permit forest walking, camping, hiking, viewing primates, viewing birds and butterflies, viewing game, and viewing tours through the hamlet. The Kakamega Rainforest Tour Guides (KRFTG) can schedule excursions to the weeping stone (Crying stone) at Ilesi, which is situated along the Kakamega-Kisumu route, or to Kisere Forest to witness the De-brazes monkey in Kakamega’s northern region. Also a great walk is to see birds in the morning from 6:30 to 8:30 am or in the evening from 4:30 to 6:30 pm. Kakamega forest guided hikes, camping, and nature walks