Wetlands in Kenya

List of Wetlands in Kenya

7. Kingwal Wetland

Kingwal Wetland in Nandi County

From Kapsabet it is a 46 kms journey to Eldoret through Mosoriot and Mlango along C39 Kakamega-Kapsabet-Eldoret Road. The drives goes past the graceful farmlands of Nandi interspersed by patches of woodlands, villages and small centres. 8 kms from Kapsabet, at Chepterit, one would be interested in taking a detour via Chepterit-Kapkagaon Road to Kosirai, to explore Kingwal Wetland, which is popular as a breeding ground for the rare Sitatunga antelope. Kingwal is one of only few places in Kenya where the rare semi-aquatic Sitatunga can be sighted in its habitat. Happy in the swamps, this shy antelopes often submerges until only the face is above water when it is frightened. Kingwal Swamp covers about 3 km2, easily toured on foot. The 10 km2 Kingwal Wetland comprises of a system of rivers, streams and springs that are interconnected within the habitat.

8. Yala Wetland

Yala Swamp Wetland in Kenya

Standing further up one of the many hillocks that from a low ridge around the 175 km2 Yala Swamp Wetland its scale and beauty are wondrous, perhaps even stupefying. From here, the flat cauldron-shaped evergreen sward comprised of patches of bogs, marshes and swamp always makes an impression. A good pair of binoculars will better this experience ten-fold. Yala Swamp which is one of the most important wetlands found within Kenya is set along the northeastern shoreline of Lake Victoria forming the mouth of Rivers Yala and Nzoia. It also harbours three freshwater satellite lakes – Kanyaboli, Namboyo and Sare.  The birds are the star here and the rich biosphere of the Yala Swamp is classified as one of Kenya’s Important Birding Area (IBA). Much to the delight of birders, it is almost impossible to keep up with the diverse and fascinating species of birds at Yala estimated to be upwards of 100, that include: endemic species like great snapper, baillor’s crane, papyrus Gonolek, papyrus canary and yellow warbler. Travellers to Yala Swamp Wetland should also look forward to the vistas of the open water of Lake Victoria from sundry vantage points spread out around the wetland, the cultural passages to Swila and Seje, and boating at Lake Kanyaboli.

9. Sio Siteki Swamp

Sio Siteki Wetland. Image courtesy of Talk Africa

The Lake Victoria North basin associated mainly with Rizers Nzoia and Siteki is the world’s second largest freshwater lake. The Sio Siteki Wetland comprises of interconnected secondary and tertiary wetland sub-systems connected through a system that stretches in areas near the Kenya-Uganda border and draining into Lake Victoria along the Kenya-Uganda boundary. The location of the Sio-Siteko wetland system, along two countries, renders a big challenge in terms of well-defined administrative structures and legislature to guide its management. Midway between Busia and Bumala, near Matayos, is an oddity among Busia’s places of interest. Call it a miraculous anomaly! And there is a startled feeling of enchantment about the Sio Siteki Swamp which mysteriously turned into a lake less than five years ago, yet, it harbors a prolific variety of birdlife and a superb floral diversity. By harnessing attributes of a mature tropical resource – floral and faunal – it has inspired the touring mojo of many residents of Busia who frequent Sio Siteki Swamp to bear witness to the marvel. A significant portion of its landscape consists of the papyrus-fringed headwater which opens up to a picturesque 1 km2 lake. While plenty of tropical lakes have been formed by the actions of rivers or by earth movement and tectonic activity, experts are yet to give a conclusive explanation for the Sio Siteki Lake. It is thought that the lake was formed from the dynamics of surface and underground seepage. Sio Siteki Swamp and Lake is located in Munongo Village within the Matayos Sub-county.

10. Nyando (Kusa) Wetland

Nyando (Kusa) Wetland. Image courtesy of Foursquare

The Lake Victoria South basin covers the area around Lake Victoria that sits between the Yala River, past Migori River and up to the border with Tanzania. The main wetlands of the basin are associated with the Migori, Nyando and Sondu Miriu Rivers. All these rivers originate in the Mau Forest Complex and all eventually drain into Lake Victoria. The Nyando (Kusa) Swamp forms at the mouth of the Nyando River where it enters the Winam (or Kavirondo) Gulf of Lake Victoria. It’s generally covered with thick papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) beds. The Nyando Wetland occurs on the Kano Plains at the mouth of Nyando River and along the shores of Lake Victoria. The Kano Plains occupy two thirds of the lower half of the Nyando River catchment. Over the plains, its vast micro-relief consists of broad swellings and troughs, with the winding channels of Nyando River crossing the lower areas. At the mouth of Nyando River, it is contiguous with many papyrus dominated lakeshore wetlands forming the second largest wetland (14,400ha) on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria. During the dry season, base flows in the rivers and streams are considerably reduced, resulting in the drying up of large sections of the wetlands. Nyando Wetland is diverse and rich with flora and fauna including the Kisumu Bird Sanctuary, and Okana Wetland.

11. Rift Valley Basin Wetlands

Rift Valley Basin Wetlands

The Rift Valley is a 60 km-wide internal drainage basin. The main wetlands in the region are; Lake Magadi, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, Lake Baringo, Lake Turkana and Turkwel River. Apart from the freshwater Lake Naivasha and Lake Baringo, all the basin’s lakes are alkaline. Major rivers in this basin include the Mara, Ewaso Ng’iro and Kerio which all originate in the Mau Forest Complex, as well as the Turkwel River which drains Mount Elgon. Owing to its ecological significance, uniqueness and rich biodiversity, Lake Naivasha was designated as a Ramsar Site in 1995 making it the second Ramsar Site in Kenya after Lake Nakuru. Some of the threats to Lake Naivasha include weighty sedimentation, clearing of natural vegetation for agriculture especially horticulture, and over-harvesting of the fringing papyrus along the main inflow rivers, the Malewa and Gilgil as these traditionally shield the water body from excess sediment inflow.

12. The Mara River Basin

The Mara River Basin

The Mara River Basin is shared between Kenya (65%) and Tanzania (35%) and forms part of the larger Nile Basin that is shared by ten African countries. The source of the river is Napuiyapui Swamp in the Mau Forest Complex in Kenya. It then meanders through the internationally renowned Maasai Mara-Serengeti ecosystem before its outfall in Lake Victoria at Musoma in Tanzania. The waters of the Amala and the Nyangores Rivers which are the perennial tributaries of the Mara are complemented by the Talek, Engare Ngito and Sand Rivers. There are only a few permanent wetlands in the Maasai Mara, and most are seasonal, occurring where water is trapped at the surface by the reserve’s black cotton soil, or where underground streams emerge. The significance of the Mara River is underscored by the fact that it is regarded as the lifeblood of the vast Maasai Mara-Serengeti ecosystem that covers a catchment area of 25 000 km2. Mara ecosystem is also home to a prolific concentration of non-migratory predators such as the African lion, leopard, cheetah and the spotted hyena and herbivores most notably the elephant, rhino, Maasai giraffe, gazelles, a variety of primates.