Ecotourism in Kenya is a major activity in the Karura Forest Reserve, Ngong Forest and Oloolua Forest. The three forests are gazetted forests in Nairobi. The Karura Forest Reserve has been accredited as the biggest gazetted forest near a capital city in the world. Occupying a magnanimous 2500 acres of land stands the success story of both individual and corporate philanthropy. Corporate entities in Kenya and individual donors have consistently contributed towards nature conservation at the Karura forest.
The Karura Forest Reserve is a leafy and lush green forest complete with waterfalls that make it an idea environment for ecotourism in Kenya. It is located on the northern area of the country’s capital city. Joggers and trainers find it a conducive spot for physical exercises. Eco-tourists find the forest a resource-rich hub for research. The serene environment is also ideal for individual meditation sessions.
The forest can be accessed through three main entry points. Gate A is the main access point off Limuru Road from the Belgian Embassy. Gate C also known as the Shark’s Gate can also be used by the public. Gate B is a service gate and is therefore limited to the forest’s official use.
The two major roads traversing the forest reserve are the Kiambu Road and Limuru Road. Visitors to the Karura Forest Reserve can park their vehicles at the end of Thigiri Lane and at the entrance of Gate A.
As an urban forest, Karura forest is surrounded by posh estates such as Peponi, Muthaiga, New Muthaiga, Ridgeways, Gigiri, Runda and Mathare North. The Nairobi Arboretum is also an urban forest reserve near the city. However, is it smaller than Karura forest in size.
Governance and History
The Karura Forest Reserve was gazetted in 1932 as an urban forest. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Kenya Forest Service, a parastatal under the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. The Kenya Forest Service receives significant support in manning the Karura Forest Reserve by the Friends of Karura Community Forest Association.
2009 marked the year of intense conversations on graft in national forest reserves. An aggressive campaign by the late Professor Wangari Maathai sought to bar land grabbers from snatching massive land parcels in the forested area. Professor Wangai was the leader of the famous Greenbelt Movement. Her rigorous efforts to conserve the environment put her on the world map as an influential leader. She won the Nobel Piece Prize, a crown to her numerous life achievements.
Following the Westgate Mall Attack of 2013, individuals who lost their loved ones aggregate at the Amani Garden in the Karura forest.
Wildlife in Karura Forest Reserve
The flora found in the Karura forest includes indigenous trees, bamboo plantations. You can find plant species such as Brachyleana hullensis, Croton megalocarpus and Warburgia ugandesis.
The fauna found at the forest comprises of the Harvey’s Duiker, genets, dik dik, Grimm’s Duiker, hares, antelopes, porcupines, bush squirrels, bush bucks, bush pigs fruit bats, pythons, monitor lizards, suni, African civets, honey badgers, Sykes and Colobus monkeys. Other animals available include birds like the Hartlaub’s Turaco, silvery-cheeked hornbill, Narina Trogon, African crowned eagle and the crested crane.
Interesting Tourist Spots in the Karura Forest Reserve
Archaeological sites whose artifacts are currently under study.
A 15-meter waterfall.
A bamboo plantation.
A stone quarry pond deserted ages ago, now termed as the Lily Lake.
An old chimney incinerator previously owned by the Central Bank of Kenya. The incinerator was used to destroy decommission legal tenders up to the mid 1990s.
Sacred caves acclaimed to be hideouts for MauMau freedom fighters during their quest for national freedom from the British colonialists.
Marshlands that host birds migrating from Asia and Europe.
Originally existing and planted indigenous trees. Tree species occupy 36% of the forest’s acreage. The tree nursery in the reserve is found on the eastern side, north of the reserve headquarters.
Ecotourism in Kenya at the Karura Forest Reserve
As a measure to preserve Karura’s natural beauty, the late Professor Wangari Maathai was quoted saying, “Leave nothing behind but footprints, take nothing away but memories.” In honor of her environmental strides, the reserve has stringent policies on littering. There are designated points for waste disposal in the forest reserve. The 4th edition forest maps sold at the forest’s entrance give a clear outline of the tracks to use. The maps show places where one can relax, exercise or hold a small event.
There are numerous activities that you can do at the Karura Forest Reserve. The serene environment is suitable for yoga, sitting, walking, running, jogging and team building activities. Visitors with animals can focus on dog-walking, dog-training and horse-riding. Bird-watchers can have a field day in watching the birdlife at the forest. Sporting activities such as tennis playing and biking are common in the cool forest environment. Educational tours for school children at the forest are facilitated by the Kenya Forest Environmental Education Trust (KFEET).
The lush green vegetation make Karura forest an ideal place for picnics, small weddings, engagement parties, concerts and exhibitions. Visitors are encouraged to plant more trees in the forest area. Seedlings are available at the tree nursery in the eastern-most part of the reserve.
Best Picnic Spots in Karura Forest Reserve
Enjoy a lovely picnic at the the Ruak Swamp, Kenya Forest Environmental Education Trust Centre, Amani Garden, Karura Garden and at the Sigiria, adjacent to the Obstacle Course. To protect the interests of fellow patrons and the wildlife, visitors are advised to avoid lighting campfires, driving automobiles and playing loud music in the forest.
Best Ecotourism Destination in Kenya
Individuals interested in ecotourism in Kenya can learn more about the nurturing of the Karura forest through a documentary by Duncan Ndotono. The documentary is named, “Rejuvinating The Karura Forest: Danger Spots to Green Haven.”