Whether it’s the Egyptian pyramids in the north or the majestic Victoria falls in the South, Africa has a lot to offer in the way of natural attractions. And Kenya is usually a show-stopper. There, the enchanted traveler will meet the indigenous Maasai people who seem to live at peace with nature in her wildest form, and where young boys kill lions as a rite of passage. Yet one of Kenya’s well-kept secrets is her renown as a bird-watchers paradise.

Kakamega Forest, which sprawls majestically on the western side of the country, is home to numerous species of birds, some of which cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. The dense, luxuriant forest is also Kenya’s only equatorial rainforest and home to several species of trees and butterflies.

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The Birds of Kakamega Forest

For the consummate bird watcher, Kakamega forest offers an interesting variety of richness and variety. About 500 bird species have been recorded in the 238 square kilometer forest. This number includes 194 bird species that are recognized as forest-dependent. This means they would struggle to survive anywhere else. There’s no other forest in Kenya that boasts this impressive number. Some of the most sighted bird species in Kakamega Forest include the Cinamon-chested Bee-eater, known for its stunning, colorful appearance and its social nature. But there are many other common sightings as well. This includes the ground-nesting Crested Guineafowl, the Giant Kingfisher which is the continent’s largest kingfisher species, and the Vieillot's Black Weaver, known for its intensely black plumage.

While the Great Blue Turaco is usually a special birders’ attraction, their shy nature makes them just a little harder to spot. These species are the largest in the Turaco family of birds. They are a major attraction in the Kakamega Forest since birders may not spot them easily anywhere else in Kenya. And there’s a reason they’re called “Great.” They stretch to about three-quarters of a meter in height and weigh over 2.2 pounds. But it’s their turquoise-blue color that makes them quite stunning and justly qualifies them as birders’ favorite. While these social birds are admired for their looks, their moves are somewhat sloppy. Their short, round wings make them lousy and clumsy fliers.

The monogamous black-and-white-casqued hornbills are quite a sighting as well and usually make the dense forest vocal with their famous loud calls, customarily given in quick series. Their elongated casques, which they use to attract their female counterparts, give them an odd, almost eerie appearance. The birds are also famous for the fact that they are not known to drink water. Instead, fruits form their main source of water, albeit an indirect one.

According to UNESCO’s World Heritage Center, the Kakamega forest also has certain bird species that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. This makes the forest not only a national treasure but also a continental jewel. The number of bird species that are endemic to the forest stands at about 9. There is also a decent presence of relict bird populations, species of once larger populations that have since become extinct. These include Ansorge's Bulbul and Blue-headed Bee-eater. Chapin Fly-catcher, considered an endangered and vulnerable bird species, also finds its home in this sprawling, majestic forest. The tiny, 12-cm bird is now seriously threatened because of forest clearance as a result of human settlements, the demand for timber, as well as agriculture. Then there’s Turner’s Eremomela whose numbers continue to dwindle dangerously.

Kakamega forest is also home to 16 bird species that cannot be found anywhere else in Kenya.

  • Distance and Direction From Nairobi: Kakamega Forest is just off the western town of Kakamega which is 369 km from the capital Nairobi.
  • Means of Transportation: The cheapest means of transportation from Nairobi To Kakamega Forest is by public transport. Buses charge about $10 one-way and the trip takes around 7 hours. From Kakamega Town, the most convenient means is a cab. However, for the budget traveler, there are motorbikes that charge about $2.
  • Staying: Camping is the cheapest way to stay at Kakamega Forest. However, for comfort and convenience, Rondo Retreat within the forest offers excellent services.

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Other Enticing Attractions At Kakamega Forest

Butterflies portray the quintessential life element of change, rebirth, and new beginnings, and Kakamega Forest is a veritable butterflies haven. There are around 900 species of butterflies in Kenya. More than half of these are found in Kakamega Forest. These include the Black-tipped Diadem, known to be one of the most beautiful butterflies species in the world, and the Regal Swallowtail, admired for their size and splendor. Animals in the forest include the African clawless otter, bush pigs, mongoose, duikers, porcupines, bushbucks, and tree pangolins. There‘s also a decent number of shrews and squirrels. Monkeys are especially a common attraction. The beautiful Colobus monkey, unique among her peers for her lack of thumbs, is a must-see.

  • Best Time To Visit: While you can visit the forest all through the year, the rainy seasons of April and May make the trails muddy and marshy. December to March are usually ideal.

Next: Once-In-A-Lifetime Things To Try In Nairobi, Kenya