Shimba Hills

Oma H. Barnett

A mere forty-five minutes from the hot and humid Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa, is Shimba, located in the Shimba National Reserve. Walk with the Elephants, Buffaloes and the endangered Sable Antelope in the cool and refreshing jungle greens of Shimba Hills tropical rain forest.

Although Shimba is only 48km from Mombasa, it has a refreshingly cool climate with a remarkably cool, fresh breeze from the Indian Ocean. It is one of the largest areas of coastal rainforests in East Africa that includes the Mijikenda tribe’s sacred Kaya forest. The Shimba Hills Lodge located in the national reserve has been beautifully constructed from indigenous timber where you can wine, dine and unwind at the spectacular award-winning tree lodge which overlooks a waterhole. There are also two campsites within the park but many hotels in Mombasa are close by so you can visit Shimba on a day trip.

Shimba is home to a variety of species including Elephants, Giraffe, Hyena and Buffalo as well as the rare Roan and Sable antelope. The forests are home to a number of unusual species including the Black and White Colobus monkeys, Serval cats, Red Duiker and Suni Antelope. An abundance of birdlife is found among the hills, including Honey guides, Turacos, woodpeckers and Sunbirds. The Sable Antelope is considered the most beautiful of the large antelope and Shimba Hills contains Kenya’s only population of the endangered species. The area also houses rare plants including two of most beautiful types of orchid in Kenya, and more than 250 different species of butterflies that live in the rainforest.

There are over five hundred elephants in the reserve and so although Elephant Hill is the ideal place to view these great animals, they can be spotted all over the reserve. A fenced corridor has been built that links the Shimba National Reserve to Mwalunganje forest and its elephant sanctuary.

The reserve has thick rainforest cover where the animals prefer to keep cool during the hot day but the best views of the animals are from the eastern side of the park, near Giriama Point in the late afternoon, where you can see the animals moving towards the rivers to quench their thirst. Guided night drives are also available – you’re sure to hear the hyenas and, if you’re really lucky, you may even spot a leopard.

The main attraction of the park is the spectacular 25m high Sheldrick Falls. There is a two-kilometer marked footpath to the cascading falls where you can safely swim in the pool or have a picnic by the falls. A ranger is available at 10am and 3pm to accompany visitors on this walk at no charge.

Prego Hill is the highest point in the park at 450km. From here, there is an incredible view of the Tsavo Plains, Taita Hills, and on a really clear day, Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Before you leave this beautiful National Reserve, you can buy a unique souvenir at the gates – paper made from elephant dung!

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