SHIMBA HILLS NATIONAL RESERVE
A Cool Rainforest of Antelope and Elephant
Lions? Leopards? And Chimps
Everything about Shimba Hills National Reserve is unexpected – it’s one of the largest coastal rainforests in Africa. Just a short distance from the sunny Kenya coast, offshore breezes cool safari-goers in this small reserve of woodland and dense green forest. And then there is the unexpected animal life.
Shimba Hills is home to about 700 elephants, the greatest density of African elephants in the country. But just as unexpected are the park’s unique numbers of sable antelope – a magnificent creature found in no park in Kenya.
Of course, being a rainforest, you’ll encounter hundreds of species of birds, butterflies, and some larger wildlife like buffalo, Masai giraffe, monkeys, impala, waterbuck, and even an occasional leopard.
The Wildlife of this Forest
You’re sure to spot some of the many elephants inhabiting this compact park. Their numbers are almost unsustainable, so a sanctuary was established nearby for the elephants to find new areas in which to forage. The park also hosts about 100 big-horned sable antelope, the only place in Kenya you’ll find them.
And while you may not see Africa’s big cats here, you might spot the smaller serval, genet, or civet cats and other small carnivores like mongoose. As expected in a rainforest, the birdlife is rich and plentiful – over 230 species. In the thick woods and forests look for African hawks, fish eagles, falcons, hornbills, and guinea-fowls.
A Most Unusual Environment
Perched 400 m (1312 ft) above the coast near Mombasa and Diani Beach, the park is an easy visit from the Kenya coast and a cool, sometimes misty getaway. As befits a rainforest, Shimba Hills offers trekkers a refreshing world of waterfalls and rich plant life – many of Kenya’s rarest species are found here including endangered cycads and orchids.
Sharing this land flocked with distinctive acacia trees are the Maasai people, nomadic herders from whom the park takes its name. They construct traditional villages surrounding the reserve and live as they have for eons, herding their cattle and pushing back at an ever-encroaching modern world.
Known for their brightly colored shukas and deft beadwork, the Maasai are a living link to a past that stretches back beyond colonial Africa, to an era when the entire continent was wild and untouched.
Sheldrick Falls – At the end of a light walking safari you’ll discover this impressive 21 m (60 ft) falls. Adorned in vines and other vegetation, this is a perfect picnic spot. Enjoy a swim in the natural pool and keep an eye out for birds, butterflies, and small wildlife.
Walking safaris – The park offers many easy hiking trails and small hills, accommodating family members of all ages. The temperatures are mild, and you’ll easily spot some of the larger wildlife like giraffes and elephants.
Unique Sable Antelope – These are exquisite creatures found only in this special park.
Elephant Hill – A wonderful vantage point for viewing the reserve. You’ll take in colorful vistas toward the ocean and spot the park’s elephants and other wildlife below. The rangers will guide your way here.
Birdwatching – You’ll find lots of larger animals at the Marere Dam but it’s also a rewarding location for spotting the park’s many bird species.
These reserve-based projects help the livelihoods of the nearby rural communities.
- Education for local students, including computer skills training
- Healthcare – providing medical supplies to the local health centers and mobile clinic
- Energy – providing hundreds of local families with energy-efficient stoves – reducing the need for firewood.
Ol Pejeta Eco-Facts
- Sanctuaries to protect endangered chimpanzees, oryx, hartebeest, Grevy’s zebra, and bat-eared fox
- Home to the world’s last remaining northern white rhinos
- The largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa – the rhino population has increased by over 100 in the last 25 years.
Survey: Shimba Hills National Reserve
One of Kenya’s small parks at 320 sq km (123 sq mi), it is an equatorial rainforest with offshore breezes contributing to its cooler temperatures.
Location: Close to the coast, the reserve is just 30 km (18 mi) from the city of Mombasa. So near the beach resorts, it’s an easy one-day safari from the ocean.
Climate: In contrast with the hot, sunny coast, the climate is humid and misty. Expect temperatures of about 240C (750F).
When to go: Anytime during the year, the park is always open.
Best time to visit: As with many parks, the best wildlife viewing is during the dry season from June through October. Being a rainforest, there is some rain activity throughout the year but the heavier rains occur in April/May and during November.
Getting there: You can Book a tour with Africa Kenya Safaris. And you’ll go in style – a specially outfitted 4 x 4 safari Jeep.
This is Shimba Hills
One of the easiest parks to visit and close to the coast, Shimba hills is a refreshing break from the beaches. The trails are easy and you’re certain to enjoy the plentiful wildlife, birds, butterflies, and exotic flowers.
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