Tour Ref 2700
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve is a 420 km2 coastal forest in Kenya managed by Kenya Forest Service (KFS). It is the largest and most intact coastal forest in East Africa, with 20% of Kenya’s bird species, 30% butterfly species and at least 24 rare and endemic bird, mammal and butterfly species.
Mammals: The forest has 40 recorded mammal species including African Elephant, African Buffalo, African Civet, Caracal, Syke’s Monkeys, Yellow Baboons and Lesser Galago (or bushbaby). Some of Kenya’s rarest mammals are found here, including the Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew, Sokoke Bushy-tailed Mongoose and Ader’s Duiker.
Birds: There are over 270 species of birds recorded in the forest including several rare and endemic species. The Clarke’s Weaver is only found in Arabuko-Sokoke and another area 30 kms further north of Arabuko-Sokoke in the whole world. Other globally threatened bird species found in Arabuko-Sokoke include: Amani Sunbird, East Coast Akalat, Sokoke Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit, and the Spotted Ground Thrush. Other birds restricted to Kenyan coastal forests are found the most easily in Arabuko-Sokoke, making it a great place to visit.
Reptiles & amphibians: The forest has 49 reptile and 25 amphibian species.
Plants in Arabuko-Sokoke
Arabuko-Sokoke forest is made up of three different forest types;
Cynometra-dominated forests and thickets: These cover more than half of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve. Sightings of Caracal, Civet, Genet, Suni and other mammals are more common on tracks in this forest type. Sokoke Scops Owls are also found here.
Other areas of special interest in Arabuko-Sokoke forest
In addition to the animals and plants mentioned above, Arabuko-Sokoke forest has the following attractions:
• A network of well-marked walking trails.
• More than 30 kms of driving tracks traversing the different forest types.
• Beautiful seasonal pools hidden amongst the Miombo woodlands teeming with birds and amphibians.
• Two tree platforms for a birds-eye-view of the forest.
• Nyari viewpoint, an elevated area of the forest with a panoramic view of the forest canopy, looking out the coast beyond.
• Mida Creek, a beautiful tidal inlet with six species of mangrove trees is less than 1 km from the entrance to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. The Creek is a major wintering site for migrant birds including Crab-plover, Greater Flamingos, Terek Sandpipers and Sandplovers. Mida Creek Boardwalk and Bird Hide is located here, a facility that generates income for forest conservation and education of local children.
In Arabuko-Sokoke, one can undertake the following activities:
• Forest walks
• Forest drives
• Bird watching
• Butterfly watching
Getting there & getting around
The forest lies along the tarmac Mombasa – Malindi highway, approximately 100 km from Mombasa town and 18 km from Malindi. The entry is clearly signposted and visitor services are available at the offices of KFS’s Malindi Forest Zone located there. Regular buses and flights are available from Nairobi to Mombasa or Malindi. One can also use public service vehicles or taxis from Mombasa, Malindi or Watamu.
Kenya Forest Service (KFS) charges an entry fee at the point of entry to promote forest conservation. Call the numbers given at the end of this page for the current fees.
The forest has a network of driving tracks and walking trails. Many sections of the forest are accessible by saloon cars but for best access to all tracks, a 4WD is recommended. Driving is the easiest way to see transitions between the different forest types but one learns more about the forest by walking.
Trained guides are available to help one explore the forest. The guides are members of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Guides Association (ASFGA) and charge as per the time spent and service rendered. Enquire about these services at the point of entry.
Entry tickets can be purchased at the point of entry between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. Those keen to have a particularly early start can purchase tickets the evening before. The best times to visit are early morning or late afternoon as most wildlife will hide from the midday heat. The best time to watch birds is from dawn to around 9:00 am.
What to wear and carry
Wear comfortable walking shoes or trainers and loose-fitting lightweight clothing. A hat, sunglasses and sunscreen may also come in handy. It is also important to carry drinking water, binoculars, camera and wildlife books especially for birds and butterflies in addition to picnic and camping equipment in case one intends to stay overnight.
There are two wet seasons: April-June (long rains) and November-December (short rains). The other months will be usually hot and dry. Annual rainfall ranges from 1,000 mm in the east to 600 mm in the northwest.
Important things to remember when visiting Arabuko-Sokoke forest
• Enjoy yourself; in addition to seeing, pause and listen regularly.
• Stop to allow wildlife to move off the tracks before you pass.
• Do not feed wild animals.
• Do not start fires in the forest.
• Do not take away animals, animal products, plants or plant parts.
• Do not mark or deface tree stems, stones and other features.
• Avoid noise as it disturbs both wildlife and other visitors. Do not exceed 40kph when driving in the forest.
• Be careful as animals here are wild and can be dangerous.
• Take all the litter that you brought away with you.
• Keep to the designated tracks and paths when walking and always be sure of where you are headed to or coming from as orientation in forests can be difficult.
It is a key site for the global survival of six bird species and three mammal species including the elephant shrew.
The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Guides Association has several expert guides who can accompany you on your forest walks. They are expert ornithologists and can help visitors find and see some of the rare and unique birds of the forest.
Over 260 species of birds have been recorded in the forest including the six globally threatened ones:
– Sokoke Scops Owl,
– Sokoke Pipit,
– East Coast Akalat,
– Spotted Ground Thrush,
– Amani Sunbird and
– Clarke’s Weaver.
Many of these are found and observed regularly by visitors.
For those less keen on “twitching” and ornithology the forest is also lovely for a walk, and exciting too, considering there is a resident herd of elephant and buffalo! If you are generally interested in nature or like hiking, biking and camping, Arabuko-Sokoke is a good destination for you. On the 4 km long Nature Trail which is close to the Forest Visitor Centre you can learn more about the unique features of Arabuko-Sokoke
If you wish to go on a longer tour it is advisable to explore the forest with one of the well trained guides from the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Guide Association because they know where to find and can point out rare animals and plants for you.
Good spots to visit on longer tours would be the Whistling Duck Pools, the Kararacha Pools, or the fascinating Nyari Cliff and viewpoint where the ground suddenly plunges about 50-80m in depth and offers unmatched views of the forest, Mida Creek and beyond to the Indian Ocean.
The Visitor Centre at the Forest Station is open from 6am to 4pm daily. The best times to discover Arabuko-Sokoke Forest are the early morning hours around dawn or the early evening hours around dusk when wildlife and birds of the forest are most active. These times are also more comfortable for you because you avoid the hot part of the day. Please be aware that the entrance ticket you buy at the Forest Station is valid for only 24 hours.
The Nyari Cliff is the perfect place to go if you decide to go on a longer tour in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. It is also possible to camp at the sight so you’ll be able to watch a beautiful sunrise over the forest.