Kenya. – The Arabuko-Sekoko Coastal Forest is the largest single block of indigenous coastal forest remaining in East Africa and it is found bordering Watamu. At 420 km2 it is managed by Kenya Forest Service.
We took a 6 km walk here, signing in and buying our tickets whilst learning a little more about the protected indigenous species the area holds from the Kenya Forest officials. We were in theory searching for forest elephants, but the truth is, a few hours in this beautiful park and the knowledge that they were there, was reward enough.
Sokoke means red soil, which is what was underfoot as we walked between the 100 year old Kapok trees whose branches entangled above us. In the distance we fairly regularly caught sight of the diminutive golden-rumped elephant shrew which is endemic to the area. The air was filled with birdsong and a cool breeze blew through the density of leaves. Magical, really.
Approximately 600 species of plants have been recorded here, occuring likely as a result of the diversity of soils and climatic conditions, as well as high rainfall.
Arabuko-Sekoko has been ranked as the second most important forest for the conservation of threatened bird species on the mainland of Africa.
The 270 bird species known here include six globally threatened and three near-threatened species, namely Clarke’s Weaver, the Sokoke Pipit and Amani Sunbird. This is also home to the smallest owl in Africa, the Sokoke Scops-Owl, which we weren’t lucky enough to see.
The forest is surrounded by villages on all sides, which puts much strain on this sensitive eco-tourism and creates a risk of deforestation and poaching, both real threats.
Lush, overgrown grass, rustle of leaves in the wind.
From thick forest to open grass plains.
The tree plantation next to the fence that divides the protected forest from man.
Sammy and Linda Markovina next to the constructed elephant watering hole.
Sammy taking a break.
Above pic by Linda.
We came across a group of woman walking back to their homes after a day of working the fields.
Sammy with his mom and a hand full of oranges.
After our walk we visited with guide Sammy Safari in his shamba or yard, picking fresh oranges off the tree to eat as we sat relaxing in the shade.
Sammy’s parents Elijah aged 94 and Alicia aged 81, who we joined, have owned this land for generations and are self-proclaimed guardians of the forest and have raised an inspiring conservationist in their son.
They even donated a portion of their property for a well and waterhole to be constructed for the resident elephants and buffalo.
Sammy spends many hours watching the elephants from a bench he has put out just beyond his home, walks the forest daily always on the look out for snares and does all he can to combat poaching and educate against deforestation. An honour to have met him, a wise generous spirited man.
And then it was on the back of a motorbike and a ride through the reserve and adjoining communities into Watamu, just as the sun was setting and the streets were coming to life with a vibrant sense of Saturday night living.
Music, street food, casual conversation in the heat of the night …
Read more about my visit to Kenya here.
Always walk the land.