Kakamega Forest

Situated in Western Kenya, along the northeastern edge of the Lake Victoria basin at an altitude of 1,500-1,600 meters, the Kakamega Forest is a remnant of rainforest which once spanned the Equator from the West to East coasts of Africa. Gazetted as a Trust Forest in 1933 it covers an area of 240km². Since 1986 the Kenya Wildlife Service have managed a portion of the northern forest which is designated as a National Reserve and covers an area 36km². There are also 2 smaller Nature Reserves, Yala and Isecheno which were established in 1967.

It is an important conservation area, famous for its birds and butterflies. Even today there is still a lot of work to be done mapping and recording the flora and fauna (particularly the invertebrates) of the forest. It is also an important water catchment with the Isiukhu, Yala and Lugusida Rivers flowing through it.

The birdlife of the Kakamega is a fascinating and unique combination of central African lowland species (which dominate the list) sitting alongside highland species. It is probable that at least 45 of the species on the Kenya list are to be found only in the Kakamega. It is the last refuge in Kenya of the Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus erithacus) which is present in very low numbers (probably fewer than 10 individuals) and is close to being extirpated (locally extinct). Two other species, Turner’s Eremomela (Eremomela turneri) and Chapin’s’ Flycatcher (Muscicapa lendu), are globally threatened and a further 15 species are regionally-threatened. Amongst the Kakamega specials are Ansorge’s Greenbul (Andropadus ansorgei kavirondensis), the Blue-headed Bee-eater (Merops muelleri muelleri), the Red-chested Owlet (Glaucidium tephronotum elgonense), Shelley’s Greenbul (Andropadus masukuensis kakamegae), Grey-chested Illadopsis (Kakamega poliothorax), Brown Illadopsis (Illadopsis fulvescens ugandae) and the Green-throated Sunbird (Nectarinia rubescens kakamegae).

The Forest Reserve is situated 48km North of Kisumu and 42km South of the Trans African Highway at Webuye. It is approximately 418 km from Nairobi and there is a small airstrip 4km outside Kakamega town. Accommodation in the reserve is limited and mostly very basic. There is a guesthouse, self-help bandas, a couple of campsites and the Rondo Retreat. The Retreat, managed by the Trinity Fellowship, is the most comfortable of the places mentioned and is actually a retreat centre for quiet prayer and contemplation for members of the fellowship. It provides full board in cottages in pleasant grounds, however, while there is a dining room alcoholic drinks are not offered for sale (although they aren’t banned from the premises).

The climate is very wet, with an average of over 2m of rain per year. The “Long Rains” are April through May, with the “Short Rains” occurring in August and September. The driest months of the year are January and February. The temperature ranges from a minimum of about 11°C and maximum of about 26°C throughout the year.

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