Ecotourism in Kenya is a major activity at the Karura Forest Reserve, Ngong Forest, and Oloolua Forest.
The three are gazetted forests in Nairobi and Karura 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.
The late Professor Wangari Maathai fought endless battles to help save the forest from illegal encroachers in the 90’s.
Together with others, she founded the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya. The movement is alive to date and has helped in conservation efforts countrywide.
Her struggles and contribution to conserving the forest have indeed paid off in numerous ways as many would attest!
In addition, Corporate entities in Kenya and individual donors have consistently contributed towards nature conservation at this eye-catching forest.
The Forest Reserve is a leafy and lush green forest complete with waterfalls that make it an ideal environment for ecotourism in Kenya.
If you love nature and the outdoors, this is one place you will get ambiance, serenity and enjoy a blissful time.
Karura Forest Location
Less than 5KM from my current residence, this is one place I usually frequent. Family time for us is very rewarding and fulfilling.
The Forest is located in the northern area of the country’s capital city and you can access it with much ease.
Additionally, Karura Forest is adjacent and neighbours malls, restaurants, consulates, embassies, the United Nations among other notable establishments.
If you are a jogger, biker, or looking forward to physical training the forest is a conducive spot for you.
Additionally, if you are Eco-tourist, you will find the forest a resource-rich hub for research.
The quiet, calm, peaceful, and serene environment is also ideal for individual meditation sessions.
You can access the forest through three main entry points:
- Gate A is the main access point off Limuru Road adjacent to the Belgian Embassy
- And, Gate B is a service gate and is therefore limited to the forest’s official use
- Gate C also known as the Shark’s Gate can also be utilized by the public for access and is on Kiambu Road
The two major roads touching the Karura Forest reserves are the Kiambu Road and Limuru Road.
If you are visiting the Reserve, you can park your vehicle 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 Kitisuru.
The Nairobi Arboretum is also an urban forest reserve near the city. However, it is smaller than the Karura forest in size.
Governance and History
The Karura Forest Reserve was gazetted in 1932 as an urban forest.
The forest 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 Forest Reserve from 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 Wangari 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 Peace Prize, a crown to her numerous life achievements.
Following the Westgate Mall Attack of 2013, individuals who lost their loved ones congregate at the Amani Garden in the Karura forest.
Wildlife at the Karura Forest Reserve
The flora found in the Karura forest includes indigenous trees, bamboo plantations and many others.
You can find plant species such as Brachyleana hullensis, Croton megalocarpus, and Warburgia ugandesis.
The fauna found in the forest comprises:
- Harvey’s Duiker
- Grimm’s Duiker
- Bush squirrels
- Bush pigs
- Fruit bats
- Monitor lizards
- African civets
- Honey badgers
- Colobus monkeys among others.
Other animals found in the reserve include birds like the Hartlaub’s Turaco, silvery-cheeked hornbill, Narina Trogon, African crowned eagle, and the crested crane.
Interesting Tourist Spots at the Karura Forest Reserve
- Archaeological sites whose artifacts are currently under study
- 15-meter waterfall
- Bamboo plantations
- 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 decommissioned 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 among others.
Tree species occupy 36% of the forest’s acreage.
Furthermore, you will find the tree nursery within the reserve – it is found on the eastern side, north of the reserve headquarters.
Ecotourism 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 undertake 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 watching the birdlife in 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 makes 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 easternmost part of the reserve.
Best Picnic Spots at the Karura Forest Reserve
Enjoy a lovely picnic at 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, you are advised to avoid lighting campfires, driving automobiles, and playing loud music in the forest.
Best Ecotourism Destination in Kenya
If you are interested in ecotourism, you can learn more about the nurturing of the Karura forest through a documentary by Duncan Ndotono.
The documentary “Rejuvenating The Karura Forest: Danger Spots to Green Haven.” will aid you learn more about the forest.
This is a must attend reserve. It is calm, quiet and peaceful, moreover, there you have an opportunity to learn more about nature.
At Zunguka Africa Safaris, we aim to make your ecotourism at Karura Forest Reserve an informative and enjoyable experience. See our current offers and contact us for bookings.
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