The Gem, Karura Forest

Karura Forest is a unique ecosystem in Kenya’s capital surrounded by the northern up-market suburbs of Muthaiga, Runda and Gigiri, with Kiambu Road on one side and Limuru Road on the other, Karura Forest exists. At 1,041 hectares, it is one of the largest urban gazetted forests in the world.

The forest contains nearly all the 605 species of wildlife found in Nairobi including three types of antelope. It is managed by Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

What to see:

  • Mau Mau caves
  • Scenic waterfalls and rivers
  • Picnic sites
  • Marked walking trails
  • Small wetlands that are habitats for birds
  • The incinerator formerly used by Central Bank of Kenya to burn old currency notes
  • The area around which the late Professor Wangari Maathai carried out a campaign against illegal acquisition of forest land.

What to do:
In Karura Forest, one can undertake the following activities:
• Forest walks
• Forest drives
• Bird watching
• Butterfly watching
• Cycling
• Running
• picnicking

Wildlife in Karura Forest

Mammals: include Harvey’s Duiker, Grimm’s Duiker, Bushbucks, Bush pigs, Genet Cats, Civets, Bush babies, Porcupines, Syke’s Monkeys, Ground Squirrel, Hares and the Epauletted-bat.

Reptiles: Include pythons, green snakes and monitor lizards.

Birds: The forest hosts around 200 species of birds including Ayres Hawk-eagle, the African Crowned Eagle, the Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, the Hartlaub’s Turaco, the Narina Trogon, Owls, Crested Cranes, Sparrows, Doves, Weavers and Vultures.

Butterflies: Include the African Queen and Desmond’s Green Banded Swallowtail.

Plants in Karura Forest

Plantations: Cover 632 hectares. Species found include Araucaria cunninghamii, Eucalyptus saligna, E. globula, Grevillea robusta, Cupressus torulosa and Cupressus lusitanica.

Indigenous trees: Cover 260 hectares. Species include Olea europeae subsp. auspidata, Croton megalocarpus, Warburgia ugandensis (Muthiga), Brachyleana huillensis (Muhugu), Uvaridendron anisatum, Markhamia lutea, Vepris nobilis, Juniperus procera (Cedar), Craebean brownii, Newtonia buchananii, Salvadora persica, Ficus thonningii, Trichilia emetica, Calondendrum capense and Dombeya goetzenii.

Shrubs: Include Strychnos henningsii (Muteta), Erythrococca bongensis (Muharangware), Vangueria madagascariensis (Mubiro), Rhamnus prinoides (Mukarakinga), Caesalpinia volkensii (Mubuthi), Solanum incanum (Mutongu), Elaeodendron buchananii (Mutanga) and Rhus natalensis (Muthigio).

Other plants: There are groves of Arudinaria alpina, Kenya’s native bamboo species along the riparian belts of Gitathuro and Ruaka rivers; exotic giant bamboo Dendrocalamus giganteus along Karura river near the tree nursery, and; small wetlands that are important habitats for birds.

Statistics Courtesy of Kenya Forest Service (KFS)

For a total experience, consider carrying comfortable walking shoes or trainers, drinking water, binoculars, camera and wildlife books to educate yourself.  Karura Forest is a hidden gem accessible to anyone willing. From the awe inspiring and jaw dropping waterfall gushing from its source, to the quiet hiking or cycling experience through the forest, birdwatching and being embraced into the very atmosphere of the beauty around you, or just a bonding picnic experience with friends and family, Karura Forest definitely nearly has it all.

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