| The parks of western Kenya may not offer as rich wildlife as the prime parks further
east, but may attract visitors that are looking for places off the beaten track or places
offering special features.
The parks and areas described below have fewer visitors than the prime parks, and generally
offer a less developed infrastructure. The roads may be very poor, the options for comfortable
accommodation fewer or absent, etc.
Kakamega Forest National Reserve
Kakamega Forest National Reserve (45 km2/17 sq mi) is a tropical rainforest in western
Kenya, north of Lake Victoria and towards the border to Uganda.
The forest is of the same type found over much of southern Uganda, but is the only remaining
of its kind in Kenya. It is surrounded by open farmland. Kakamega Forest covers some
240 km2/95 sq mi, of which the reserve is only a part. The distance to Nairobi
is some 500 km/310 mi.
Rainforest with 100 tree species
Kakamega's main attraction is the rainforest itself. More than a hundred tree species
are found in the park, as are numerous other plants, including orchids. The mammal wildlife
includes monkeys such as black-and-white colobus, de Brazza's monkey and blue monkey.
The brush-tailed porcupine is found in no other area in Kenya. At night, anomalures
(a type of flying rodents) glide between the trees, and pottos (a primitive primate)
move in slow motion along branches.
Great blue turaco and bulbuls
The bird life is rich. 350 bird species have been recorded in Kakamega Forest, including
species that are rare or absent in other parts of Kenya. There are for example great
blue turaco, various sunbirds and many bulbuls. There is also a rich representation
of reptiles, among these many snakes.
Accommodation is available in bandas
and camping sites. Kakamega Town is 15 km/9 mi from the forest, and offers hotels, lodges
and other accommodation.
The road to Kakamega Forest from Kisumu Town on northern Lake Victoria is a one-houe
drive through a pretty landscape. Travelling from Nairobi is a long full day on the
Lake Victoria (68,800 km2/26,550 sq mi, 100 m/330 ft deep) is the second largest freshwater
lake in the world, shared by northern Tanzania, western
Kenya and south-eastern Uganda.
After seeing it in 1858, John Hanning Speke pointed it out as the source of the Nile
River, but the discovery wasn't acknowledged until 1875, after Henry Morton Stanley
had also visited the lake.
The lake is huge enough to affect the climate of south-western Kenya; the evaporation
from the lake combined with surrounding mountains cause moist air and heavy rains. The
lake is bordered by densely populated and productive farmlands, known for its production
of tea. Bananas, sugar canes and maize are also grown.
Kisumu on the northern tip of Kenyan Lake Victoria is Kenya's third city in size, with
a population of approximately half a million. Some tourist attractions in Kisumu are
Impala Park, where you may see the rare sitatunga antelope, the hippo hangout Hippo
Point, and Kisumu Museum, which has exhibitions showing arts and crafts from the region.
The Kisumu market is said to be one of the largest and busiest in Kenya. Not far from
Kisumu are the fishing village Ndunga Beach, Mfangano Island, which has rock paintings,
and Ndere Island National Park, a small island park with some wildlife.
Further south in Lake Victoria is Homa Bay, a small port that is often used for accommodation
by visitors to Ruma National Park. The bay is home to one of Lake
Victoria's crocodile populations. Rusinga Island, a beautiful island not far away, is
visited by many anglers coming to catch the huge nile perch of the lake. The island
is rich in fossil, the most famous being those from Proconsul, an early genus
of primates that lived from 27 to 17 million years ago. Nearby Takawiri Island is also
visited by anglers.
Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano on the western border towards Uganda,
is Kenya's second highest mountain (4,302 m/14,114 ft; a slightly higher peak is found
on the Ugandan side of the border). Mount Elgon National Park includes 169 km2/65 sq
mi of the mountain. The nature varies from savanna woodland at the lower altitudes,
to montane moorland at the highest. The mountain has an 8 km/5 mi crater (a caldera,
i.e. the remains after an eroded or collapsed mountain or peak) and caves partly created
by elephants digging for minerals.
The mammal wildlife in the area includes elephant, African buffalo, black-and-white
colobus, bushbuck, black-fronted duiker, bush pig and leopard. A very rare cat, the
African golden cat, has been reported from Mount Elgon. There is also a rich bird life,
including turacos, trogons and orioles.
The park is quite far from the most visited Kenyan safari parks. Some other parks of
this area are Saiwa Swamp and Kakamega Forest.
Mount Elgon Lodge is located just outside the park, offering basic accommodation. There
are also bandas and camping sites inside the park.
Nasolot & South Turkana National Reserves
Nasolot National Reserve (92 km2/36 sq mi) and South Turkana National Reserve (1,091
km2/421 sq mi) are found in north-western Kenya, towards the Ugandan border. Both parks
are unexploited, at least as to tourism; a hydroelectric power plant has been built
in Nasolot. The area is dominated by dry scrubs and by two mountains. The wildlife isn't
very rich, but includes elephant, lesser kudu (Nasolot) and greater kudu (South Turkana).
There are no lodges in the area, which is some 500 km/300 mi from Nairobi.
Ndere Island National Park
Ndere (4 km2/1.5 sq mi) is an island in eastern Lake Victoria.
It has small populations of herbivores,
plus crocodiles and birds. The main activities attracting visitors are walking, fishing
and game viewing, the latter by foot or from boats. You get to Ndere Island by boat
from Kisumu on the mainland.
Ruma National Park
Ruma National Park (formerly Lambwe Valley National Reserve) (120 km2/46 sq mi) is situated
in western Kenya, 20 km/12 mi east of Lake Victoria and 350
km/220 mi west of Nairobi. Some roads have been built and the wildlife protection has
improved since Ruma was upgraded from national reserve to national park.
Most of the park is undulating savanna patched with woodlands. It was originally established
to protect the local population of roan, an antelope species found in only a few places
in Kenya. Other herbivores that are otherwise rare in Kenya are oribi and Jackson's
hartebeest. There are also natural populations of for example leopards, African buffalos
and topis, and attempts to introduce ostriches, giraffes and zebras have been made.
Ruma has no lodges or tented camps. Many visitors stay in lodges or hotels on the shores
of Lake Victoria.
Saiwa Swamp National Park
Saiwa Swamp National Park (3 km2/1.2 sq mi) is found not very far from Mount
Elgon on Kenya's border to Uganda. It's the smallest
national park in Kenya, established to protect the local population of sitatunga, which
is a wetland antelope. Most of the park is covered by wetlands and forests. Vehicles
are not allowed, so you are restricted to visiting the park by foot.
Apart from the sitatunga, you may see de Brazza's monkey, black-and-white colobus, potto,
spot-necked otter and leopard, and birds such as great blue turaco, go-away birds, narina
trogon, barbets and other species. All in all 250 bird species have been recorded in
Saiwa Swamp, which is a lot, considering the small size of the park.
There is a camping site in conjunction with the park, and a few tented camps in the
surrounding areas. Kitale, 22 km/14 mi from the park, has an airstrip.