Although the Kakamega has been a protected area for a long time, it was declared a national reserve in May, 1985. It is the only natural tropical rainforest left in Kenya today - quite a change from the olden times when dense rainforest covered West Africa and Central Africa, extending to the walls of the Great Rift Valley. The Kakamega Forest National Reserve covers an area of about 240 square kilometers. The terrain includes hardwood forest, swamps and rivers, glades and shallow forests around the edges. It is located about 418 kilometers from Nairobi. The rainforest is old and impressive - some of the trees are easily over a hundred years old. Some of the trees in the region include Elgon teak, red and white stink woods, varieties of Croton, Aniageria Altisima and orchids. There are about 380 species of plants in the reserve.
For visitors, the best time to visit the park is during the rainy season (April-July) when the flowers are blooming. Accommodation is provided at the park in the form of a guesthouse, self-help bandas and two campsites. Also, the Rondo Retreat has recently been opened, and there are hotels available outside the reserve. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the park by walking on its nature trails, camping, picnicking and even going out on night-time game walks. The trails cover about 7 km and visitors are accompanied by guides. The highest point in the forest - Buyango Hill - is recommended for hikers.
There is a wide variety of unique wildlife and birdlife to be observed in the park. There are about 350 species of birds, including snake-eating birds, which are rare. Visitors can observe animals like the bushpig, gray duiker, civet, Sunni, clawless otter; nocturnal animals like the ground pangolin, porcupines, leopard; rare primates like the black and white Colobus, De Brazza monkeys, Blue monkey, olive baboon, and red-tailed monkey. Incidentally, the De Brazza Monkey is called "Karasinga" in Swahili, due to its white beard.
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