The State of Kenya’s Forests
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely folk. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. Every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow. Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life”.
42. Ngong Forest Sanctuary
The 1,224-hectares Ngong Forest Sanctuary, widely popular as the Ngong Road Forest, is administered by the Kenya Forest Service and the Ngong Road Forest Association as a community forest formed under the Forest Act of 2005. It is divided by Ngong Road into two main segments – the Miotoni Section to the northwest, and Ngong Racecourse and Kibera Section to the southeast. These two sections are in turn divided by the Southern Bypass. Ngong Forest has a range of recreational activities that include walking in the woodland concerts, touring its sacred trees, groves and shrines, monkey watching, and exploring the Miotoni Dams that have potential to be upgraded for sport fishing. Aiming to emulate the successful model of Karura Forest, the Forest – divided into five zones by the roads crossing the forest – is fast developing to cater to a whole range of recreational activities. It takes on average 2 hour on a casual pace to explore the forest. A guide can be organized. The main entrance to the forest is located nearby the Nairobi War Cemetery, and just 400 meters off Ngong Road.
43. Nairobi Arboretum
From Yaya Centre, it is a short 4 kms drive into the CBD either using Argwings Kodhek Road and Valley Road, Lenana Road, or Valley Road. All these road at the bottom of the hill on Valley Road have the option of turning left into State House Road, which is the quickest way to get to Nairobi Arboretum. Gazetted in 1907, care of the Kenya Forestry Service, the 30.4-hectares public outdoor park contains more than 350 unique indigenous tree genres and over 100 species of migrant and resident bird species in addition to its Sykes and Vervet monkeys. The Arboretum provides a peaceful park for praying, meditation, walking and bird watching. Honest to its mission to provide a safe peaceful park, it remains one of the most-treasured urban parks and a pertinent green pocket in the fast expanding city-scape. From September of 2016, the Nairobi Arboretum started charging a small cover charge of Shs. 50 to help manage the ground sustainably.
44. Karura Forest
2.5 kms past the turnoff to Muthaiga Country Club along Kiambu Road brings you to a wonderful forest capped by miles of trails where you can walk or ride through a fairyland of forest, and waterfalls, among the colourful insects, birds and wildlife. A variety of animals have been recorded here to include duikers, bush-bucks, bush pigs, genets, civets, bush babies, porcupines, sykes monkeys, squirrels, hares, epauletted-bat. Reptiles include cobras, pythons, green snakes and monitor lizards. The Forest also has a lake and historically significant caves too. Once through the barrier (having paid a small cover charge of Sh.100 per person), there is a choice of three well signed trails. Popular at Karura Forest, marked by a gently rolling topography occasioned by shallow valleys, are its 15 kms walking trail and its 12 kms cycling trails. You can hire a bike at the main entrance. The 10 km2 Karura Forest, the largest recreational park and forest in Nairobi, is a sustainable environment of indigenous forest, woodland, wetlands and marshland. It is comprised of two blocks namely Karura and Sigiria, and three sections separated by Limuru and Kiambu Roads. Its southern boundary lies along Getathuru River. Since 2005, Karura Forest has been managed by Kenya Forest Service under the Forest Act of 2005. It was originally gazetted in 1932 through Proclamation No. 44 and later Karura Forest became a Central Government Forest Reserve in 1964, under the Kenya Gazette Legal Notice 174.
45. South Nandi Forest
This 247 km2 canopy forest which lies between the Nandi Escarpment and C39 Kapsabet-Kaimosi Road, in the southwest region of Nandi, is an adjunct of the tropical Kakamega Forest and is marked by a mix of towering hardwood trees. It is comprised of two forest blocks: Kobujoi and Kimondi. Gazetted in 1936, as a Trust Land – to mitigate against wanton destruction and loss – South Nandi Forest plays an important hand in Nandi County’s climate and agriculture. The Kobujoi Forest Station is a valuable first-stop for those wishing to explore the South Nandi Forest. It has a Resource Centre that provides useful information, and which is the focal locale for ecotourism in Nandi. It has two bandas, with a four bed capacity, and a camping area. Found nearby the Kobujoi Station is the confluence of Mokong-Kimondi Rivers. The other forest station, at Kimondi, is located just 2 kms west of Kapsabet Town along C39 Kapsabet-Chavakali Road. South and North Nandi Forests (forming part of the Kakamega-Nandi Forests) are mainly confined to ground below 6,500 feet and form a marked contrast to the Northern Tinderet, Timboroa and Kaptagat Forests which flourish from 7500 to 9000 feet. The South and North Nandi Forests are mainly composed of mixed indigenous hardwoods, and mainly Croton that marks 65% of the forests.
46. North Nandi Forest
Erstwhile contiguous with South Nandi Forest, and now separated by a few kms tract of land, the 105 km2 North Nandi Forest lying along the western border of Nandi County (north of South Nandi Forest) is the strip of high canopy forest immediately east of Kakamega Forest. It stretches for more than 30 kms from north to south and is 3-5 kms wide for most of its length. Occurring in Kabiyet and Central Nandi Sub-counties, on the periphery of Nandi Fault Scarp, this forest is a biosphere of prolific flora and fauna, most notably of its outstanding birding appeal. The enclosed 34 km2 North Nandi Forest Reserve, gazetted in 1968 as an Important Birding Area with almost 117 bird species recorded here, still remains largely undeveloped. A sought-after attraction within North Nandi Forest is the Tabolwa Rock, a monolithic grey granite mound that doubles as a beyond-money prominence from where trippers can view the pretty farmlands, Mount Elgon and Kakamega Forest. North Nandi Forest is found 30 kms north of Kapsabet Town along the Kapsabet-Baraton Road then Sangalo-Segem Road.
47. North Tinderet Forest
Unmistakably Nandi, the wooded highlands of Tinderet completely engulfed by the neat-as-a pin tea farms in the southeast region of Nandi County, bordering Kericho, has been the subject of many a photographer. In many ways, the iconic portrait of the North Tinderet Forest on the periphery of the tea estates owes its classic invariability to the fact that the 246 km2 dense forest marked by steep gorges is difficult to access. One of the classic features of the Tinderet Forests is the excision of big tracts for tea plantations. This project was conceived in 1986, as a potential way to conserve it, by establishing a buffer territory between the farmlands and the forest. It however led to rampant annexing. Unlike the South and Nandi Forests, which have remained intact, the Northern Tinderet Forest has been greatly diminished for its timber, especially podo, and only 50% of the original forest stands. The North Tinderet Forest, which marches with Nyando Escarpment far south to Mau Summit and Londiani, is widely recognized as a faunal and floral biodiversity hotbed as well as a life-changing water catchment.
48. Kirisia Forest
This is found in the southeast area of Samburu County along C77 Nyahururu-Baragoi Road north of the Laikipia Plateau, east of Kisima and Maralal Towns, and west of Barsaloi. In area Kirisia is about 800 km2 and was gazetted in 1933, and one of Kenya’s foremost forest reserves. The main features are precipitous mountain country with woodland and thick gallery and highland meadows: the north facing side forming steep slopes with a handful of sheer granitic bare rock faces and deep seasonal river valleys. The northwest section ending with sheer drops makes up part of the eastern wall of Losiolo Escarpment. The southeast frontier gradually rolling down to meet the shallow flats of Leroghi Plains which extend into Laikipia County. Owing to its higher elevation, Kirisia Forest serves as a key water catchment receptacle and the headwaters for many streams that supply numerous communities including Maralal, the headquarter of Samburu County. During the dry season, it forms an important refuge for the Samburu’s livestock as well as an important water channels to seasonal lugga’s in the areas between Kirisia and Mathews Range. Kirisia Forest is also a significant wildlife habitat and hosts species like elephant, cape buffalo, bush-buck, bush pig giant forest hog, warthog, lion, and varied monkey species. The birds and insects are seemly represented including Hartlaubs touraco – possibly the most dominant species in the forest – as well as, tambourine dove, martial eagles, and sunbirds.
Taita Taveta County
49. Ngangao Forest
A closed canopy cloud forest and reminiscent of the rich tropical rain forest of Central Africa, Ngangao Forest is part of the Taita Hills and is situated about 10 kms north of Wundanyi on the eastern side of the north-south oriented range. Taita Hills has three main forest fragments; Chawia ( 86 ha), Mbololo (185 ha) and Ngangao (120 ha), and a number of other smaller forest fragments. Despite having a goodly rich floral profile and a spectacular forest hike, Ngangao Forest is greatly disturbed by human activities. Managed by the Kenya Forest Service, it is rich in biodiversity – with many indigenous trees, bird species and patches of exotic tree species best explored on guided tours. It is easy to traverse due to the gentle topography of the area and well beaten paths. For bird watchers it is classified as an ‘Important Bird Area’ with excellent bird viewing opportunities.
50. Nganyi Forest
Forests draw many forms of life, from plants to insects and many other kinds of animals. And humans too. A mysterious, but all wise, unparalleled richness and impressive display of nature. It stands true that around the world, forests – big, small, dense, thin – are an inexplicable form of nature’s grandeur. We behold them – haunted, mythical, sacred, diverse – as an influence upon the destiny of humankind; which beckon and draw us within these just cathedrals of nature in many respects to explore their mystique. In Vihiga, the one acre Nganyi Forest at Esibilla near Luanda lacks little in engendering the mysterious power of our forests. Nganyi is home to the famous rainmakers with abilities to predict rain, at the same time control rain when floods occur. “Their legacy is so articulated that President Jomo Kenyatta pleaded with them to annul the drought of 1973”. Their rainmaking traditions are as old as people have lived in these neck of the woods. “The father of the Banyore sub-tribe (Anyole) is credited with being the very first rainmaker”. The gift of provoking rain was passed down through the elders of the Abasiekwe Clan, and master rainmakers have predicted weather for many ages since. In a generally sense, it is conducted by: observing budding, flowering and shedding of leaves of specific species; listening to croaking frogs; listening to chirping birds; as well as, observing behaviors of local insects and animals. Unadorned, but amazingly accurate. So much so, that the Government set-up a meteorological station near this tiny forest. And both forecasts almost always match! So revered is Nganyi Forest that the trees that fall over within it are at no time utilized for further merit but are left in it to decompose naturally.
51. Kaimosi Forest
11 kms easterly heading from Mudete via Stendi-Kapsabet-Eldoret Road sits the 1,000-acres Kaimosi Forest which straddles Hamisi Constituency and parts of Sabatia. Reminiscent of the Kakamega Forest Reserve located about 7 kms east, Kaimosi Forest is a thickly wooded tropical forest that harbours a peck of birds, vast reptiles and monkeys (blue monkey, L’hoest’s monkey, red tailed monkey, black and white Columbus). Both these forests comprise the last remnants of the venerable Congo Tropical Rain Forest that once stretched across much of Central Africa. At Kaimosi Forest, travellers can enjoy guided eco-forest tours, enjoy invigorating nature walks, picnics, cycling and team-building activities. Kenya Forest Service is responsible for the management of Kakamega Forest Reserve, North and South Nandi Forests, Malava, Ikuywa and Isecheno Forests. Withal, Kaimosi Forest is run and owned by Kenyan Quaker Mission Church (QMC) that allows approximately 3,000 locals to use the forest while abiding by local institutions, or local forest-use rules. Of the 22 selected forest areas in the Kakamega Forest Ecosystem, Kaimosi Forest has had the greatest issues with illegal logging; “of the 8,000-hectares of rainforest in Western Kenya, the 150-hectares Kaimosi Forest has suffered from the highest level of anthropogenic impacts”. Currently, there are seven villages closely surrounding the Kaimosi Forest – Cheptulu, Shipala, Bumbo, Maganda, Shamakhokho, Jivuye, and Mahanga. Although Kaimosi Forest is currently undergoing swingeing levels of deforestation, it provides medicinal plants, deadwood for cooking, deters soil erosion, and plays a major role in tribal ceremonies, for over 3,000 Tiriki locals.
52. Kibiri Forest
Kibiri Forest found along C39 Chavakali to Kapsabet Road near Musasa Market was gazetted in 1932 along with Kakamega Forest Reserve, from which it was hived-off. The 37 km2 Kibiri Forest is typified by sharp slopes, deeps and steep valleys and it habours a motley collection and impressive profiles of flora and fauna all but self-same with those seen at Kakamega Forest Reserve. There is no accommodation at Kibiri Forest at the moment, but it is envisioned to have a public campsite. A 25-beds eco-lodge is under planning near Yala River Nature Reserve and a 30-beds eco-lodge within Malava Forest; both to encourage and extend more visitation to these forests. Additionally, a swinging bridge will be constructed across Yala River to link Yala Nature Reserve with the Kibiri Forest.
West Pokot County
53. Kamatira Forest
10 kms from Kapenguria-Makutano along the A1 Kitale-Lodwar Road one may also be interested in making a quick detour for a look-see of the surprisingly unfamiliar Kamatira Forest that’s the only planted forest found in West Pokot County. Resembling an arrow head from the air, the 60 km2 Kamatira Forest was planted by the prisoners who were detained at Kapenguria over the 1950’s, during Kenya’s struggle for self-governance. One of the appropriate reasons for holding prisoners at Kapenguria was to de-link them from Nairobi, and from all associations with their close family and supporters because West Pokot District during the 1940’s to 1960’s was a “no-go-frontier” that required special passes. From Kapenguria Town en-route Kainuk through Ortum, the A1 travels north west through an unfamiliar horizon varying from splendid mountain ranges to plains, with the magnificent Cherangani Hills rising sharply in the background before arriving at Kainuk, 94 kms away. From Kainuk, the road takes due north, through a much more arid and hot country to Nasolot N. Reserve, 15 kms away.