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Kakamega forest is a living remnant from the long Pleistocene period (15,000 years ago) when great climatic changes occurred throughout the world. As a result of increased rainfall in Africa during that time, the great forests of west and central Africa expanded eastwards to cover much of what is now Uganda and Kenya. But then around 10,000 years ago, the climate became drier again and as a result the area of rainforest shrank to what it was probably 200 to 300 years ago. As human populations increased, parts of those remaining forests were cleared or burnt and slowly replaced by bush or savannah, leaving relatively small islands of what is today called the Guineo-Congolian rainforest, scattered across Uganda, Zaire and Kenya.

Today the forest covers an area of 240 sq km at an altitude of 1500-1700 m. The forest sits 150 km west of the Great Rift Valley, from which it is separated by highlands stretching from the Cheranganis in the north to the Mau Escarpment in the south. The underlying rocks of the forest include basalt, phenolites and ancient gneisses of the Kavirondo and Nyanzian systems, which are associated with gold-bearing quartz veins. With the discovery of gold in parts of the forest in 1923, the colonial government declared the area to be a 'County Council Forest' and all settlers in the forest were evicted. 10 years later the forest was gazetted as a government forest reserve. At that time gold mining and commercial exploitation of the valuable timber trees in the late 1920s were largely European undertakings.

 

 

Kakamega_Forest

 

 

The big picture above shows the view from one of the hills. Once the original forest is destroyed the secondary forest will only have a few %age of the original species variety. Your visit helps to conserve this paradise for future generations and you will enjoy the unique nature.

 

 

Climate: This part of Kenya enjoys some of the highest rainfall in the country, with a well-distributed annual precipitation of over 2,000 millimeters. Most of this rain falls between April and November, with a short dry season from December to March. Temperature does not vary greatly throughout the year, with a mean maximum shade figure of 27 degrees C and a minimum of 15.

 

 

Both forests are a paradise for botanists, ornithologists, herpetologists and all friends of nature. Flora and fauna of East and West Africa meet here and you find species from both sides. A good number of plants, birds and insects are endemic or in Kenya restricted to this area.

 

 

Mammals: Elephants, buffaloes, Uganda Kob and Bongo are extinct in this area. Antelopes, like red and blue duiker, bushbuck are common in spite of being widely hunted.  Bush pigs are common but seldom seen as they are nocturnal; they are widely hunted as an agricultural pest and for their meat.

Primates: the commonest monkey is the Black and white Colobus (Colobus guereza). Beside them you can also come across De Brazza's monkeys (Cercopithecus neglectus) and a subspecies of Blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis), red-tailed or white-nosed monkeys (Cercopithecus ascanius) and baboons, which often raid neighbouring maize and sugar cane plantations.

Marsh mongoose (Atilax paludinosus) lives near water, feeding on crustacean and other foods.

Clawless otter (Aonyx capensis) are shy and usually nocturnal. They can sometimes be heard diving into the river as you walk along a riverside trail.

Squirrels: the Sun squirrel (Heliosciurus rufobrachium), a West African species, is a smaller version of the Giant forest squirrel (Protoxerus stangeri) which can also be found in the forest and which inhabits the upper canopy. Rather rarer is the Scaly-tailed flying squirrel (Anomalurus sp) which has a membrane stretched between its fore and hind limbs which enables it to glide distances of up to 50 m from one tree to another; surprisingly, it does this at night.

Tree pangolin (Manis tricuspis) is another West African species, about 70 cm long. It is semi-arboreal, nocturnal and solitary. Its body is covered with horny overlapping scales and when disturbed it rolls itself into a ball for protection.
Brush-tailed porcupine (Atherurus africanus) is related to porcupines and is a distinctive animal with short black and white quills with one or two longer ones on its back, which erect and rattle when it is frightened. Kakamega is the only place in Kenya where this particular species is found.

Otterspitzmaus

Giant water shrew (Poamogale velox) measures
inclusive tail up to 35 cm. It lives aquatic and feeds
on all kind of creatures living in water. The nose can
be closed for diving. Kakamega is the only Kenyan
home of this interesting and rare mammal.

Picture above from Grzimek’s Tierleben

 

 

 

 

Bats: numerous species of bats thrive in the forest environment, some living off tree fruits others off insects. Many roost in the caves which were dug during the gold rush in the 1920s, like the ones on Lirhanda Hill from where they come out in huge numbers at dusk to feed. This forest is the only known place in Kenya where the unusual West African Hammer-headed fruit bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) can be found; this is the largest bat on the African mainland, with a wing span of almost one meter. The male is distinguished by its big 'nose' and its large vocal box with which it utters a distinctive loud call, probably used to define its territory.

 

 

 

 

Birds: 330 bird species are registered in this area. Some of the West African species:
Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata), Black and White Casqued Hornbill (Bycanistes subcylindricus subquadratus), Grey parrot (Psittacus e.erithacus) endangered!, Yellow-crested Woodpecker (Dendropicos xantholophus), Black-billed Turaco (Tauraco schuetti emini), Sabini Swift (Raphidura sabini), Blue-headed Bee-eater (Merops m.muelleri) and many more.

 

 

Plants: there is a total of about 380 plant species, of which 150 are trees, bushes or climbers, almost 80 Monocotyledonaeae of which 60 orchids (9 endemic), 62 ferns. Of all those plants 50 are used by the locals for medicine or rites.

An other species of Sausage tree: Kigelia moosa

Kigelia_moosa

 

 

Snakes: Kakamega forest is famous for its snakes.  But still it is very hard to encounter one and so even those who fear them can relax and take a walk under the tall canopies. Species not found in other parts in Kenya: Forest Cobra, Black-lipped Cobra, Jameson's Mamba, Rhinoceros-horned viper, Gaboon Viper. The Gold's Cobra, an arboreal species living in the tree canopy, is facing extinction should its habitat shrink much further.

 

 

A large variety of insect species occupy the forest. The most conspicuous are butterflies of which some are endemic.

 

 

 

 

BlauerSchmetterling

 

 

BraunerSchmetterling

King forester, Euphaedra rex

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy walking under old trees on narrow paths, breath the smell of the humid forest, watch clear water falls, listen to the bird's songs, admire the colourful butterflies and birds, observe monkeys relishing fruits -  get once more impressed by nature!

 

 

 

 

BaumGegenlicht

 

 

Accommodation:

 

Rondo Retreat belongs to the Trinity Fellowship, a Christian society committed to communication and conservation. Originally, Rondo was owned by a sawmiller from 1948 until 1961 when he left Kenya, leaving the property to the Christian Council of Kenya. Rondo officially came into the hands of the Trinity Fellowship in 1966. The Trinity Fellowship first used Rondo as a youth centre and orphanage, today it is a lovely guest house surrounded by forest and also visited by birds and monkeys. Please carry your own alcoholic drinks.

 

RondoRetreat

 

 

Bandas and campsites well situated in the forest and cheaper hotels in and around Kakamega town are further places to stay overnight.

While visiting Western Kenya, Kakamega can well be combined with Mt. Elgon or Ruma National park.