Kakamega Forest National Reserve Safari Guide

safarigo   Kenya  

Kakamega Forest is the only tropical forest left in Kenya. The forest is home to a variety of primates, and it is one of Kenya’s birding hotspots. It marks the easternmost distribution of many sought-after West African species. Even non-birders will appreciate the jungle atmosphere of the forest. Walking with a knowledgeable guide is the best way to explore the forest.

Pros & Cons

Rare tropical forest habitat
Great hiking opportunities on several forest trails
Fantastic birding with many West African species
Off-the-beaten track and little visited
Not on any tourist circuit
Very wet climate
Limited accommodation, including only one tourist lodge

Wildlife & Animals

Although teeming with small animals, Kakamega Forest is not primarily a wildlife destination. There are seven primate species of which you could easily see black-and-white colobus, red-tailed and blue monkey. The very rare de Brazza's monkey is more difficult to find. Giant forest squirrels share the canopy, while some small antelope like duiker and dik-dik might be seen scurrying off in the undergrowth.

Wildlife Highlights

The forest transforms after sundown. Night walks are conducted by spotlight, and are more than worthwhile. Some of the nocturnal creatures you might encounter are bushpig, genet and civet. Hammer-headed fruit bats can be seen in flight. Rare sightings of potto and tree pangolin have been recorded and a real Kakamega special is the giant otter shrew. There are lots of interesting insects as well, including the super-sized goliath beetle.


Kakamega Forest is an eastern extension of the great Congo Basin rainforest. It is one of Africa’s most famous birding forests, and it supports over 80 species on the eastern limit of their range from central and West Africa. Examples of this are the spectacular great blue turaco and the colorful blue-headed bee-eater. More than 350 bird species have been recorded, 36 of which are endemic to the forest and can only be found here.

Best Time to Visit

Kakamega Forest can be visited year-round. There is quite heavy rain throughout the year, but December to February are the driest months. June to August is an excellent time for bird watching, as many birds breed and display after the rains of April and May. August and September are the best months for butterflies. Migrant birds are present from November to April.

June to October – Dry Season

There is less rain and more sunshine
A good time for longer forest hikes
Roads are in good condition
There are many migrant birds from Europe and north Africa
Not the best months to find some of the special forest birds
The only tourist accommodation might be fully booked

November to May – Wet Season

Bird watching is excellent
Butterflies are abundant in August and September
It rains a lot which might interfere with your activities

Weather & Climate

Kakamega Forest has a tropical, high-rainfall climate. Due to its proximity to the equator, temperatures are constant throughout the year. Average afternoon temperatures are around 28°C/82°F, but nighttime is cool at around 11°C/52°F. It rains throughout the year, but it peaks in April and May.

Dry Season – December to February

December, January & February – These months are drier, but it can still rain a lot. The exact timing of the drier period is difficult to predict, but rain usually starts to pick up again mid-February. There are more hours of sunshine during these months.

Wet Season – March to November

March – The rain usually increases sometime in March.
April & May – This coincides with the ‘long rains’ throughout the country. These are the wettest months. Many overcast days are typical, and it can rain all day. Road conditions may deteriorate.
June, July, August, September, October & November – Rain decreases a little in June, but it’s still relatively wet. Rainfall peaks in August during this period. It can sometimes rain for days, but there are days with sunshine as well.

Getting There

Kakamega Forest is 420km/260mi northwest of Nairobi and 45km/27mi north of Kisumu. The drive from Nairobi takes about six hours. You can organize a pick-up, rent a car, or take a taxi from Kisumu International Airport (KIS), which is an hour drive away from Kakamega.

Most people flying from Europe or North America to Kenya arrive in Nairobi as this is the biggest transport hub, and there is a lot of choice for tickets. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) is located 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi. Kenya's second international airport is Moi International Airport (MBA) situated 9km/6mi west of Mombasa.