|Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek - The Official Guide (KIFCON, 1995, 72 p.)|
Any visitor to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest will find the experience worthwhile, whether simply coming to enjoy a day out, or intending to pursue some special interest like bird or butterfly-watching.
Even though the forest is internationally renowned for its rare birds and mammals, a general interest visitor can still enjoy any time spent in the Arabuko-Sokoke. The wide range of birds, mammals, butterflies and other invertebrates, as well as plants, will always ensure there is something to be seen. Different seasons mean the forest is changing throughout the year, with the rains bringing a sudden spectacular burst of new leaf and flowers. Numerous butterflies emerge to feed on abundant supplies of nectar. The northern winter, from October to April, brings large numbers of migrant wading birds to Mida Creek, all keen to escape the freezing conditions on their breeding grounds. Both the forest and creek present a cycle of changing wildlife throughout the year which makes them all the more fascinating.
By far the best times for a visit are early morning or late afternoon. During the middle of the day most of the wildlife hides from the heat. The peak of bird activity in the forest only really lasts from dawn until 9.30 a.m., but you can always find birds to see at Mida Creek as long as the tides are not high tide tables are available at the Visitor Reception Centre and at most hotels.
To make your visit more enjoyable a range of facilities is being developed, part of a long-term management and conservation plan for Arabuko-Sokoke. Since they are regularly being improved, it is best to start your visit at the forest Visitor Reception Centre, which is located at Gede Forest Station, about one kilometre south of the Gede village, beside the main Mombasa-Malindi road. Information on Arabuko-Sokoke and its management can be sought here, and the centre is also a base for several trained guides who can escort groups into the forest as required. A small arboretum with many of the forest's native trees has been planted beside the centre and both the Forestry Department and Kenya Forestry Research Institute nurseries are within walking distance. A basic campsite provides simple facilities and a long drop toilet is available.
About one kilometre south of Gede Forest Station and the Visitor Reception Centre, two walking trails begin from a small clearing. The trails start at the same place close to one of the most spectacular trees in the forest, a huge twisted Mbambakofi (Afzelia quanzensis).
From there the linked routes lead off for 1 km and 1.5 km respectively, both winding through mixed forest and the longer route including a seasonal pond. Remember to pause and listen regularly during your walk in the forest and watch the trail ahead for signs of birds and mammals. For small mammals like elephant-shrews, the trails are often the best places to search.
A driving trail enters the forest from the tarmac road, almost 6 km south of Gede Forest Station. Running for nearly 30 km through a variety of forest types, it rejoins the tarmac 15 km further south at Kararacha. Although described as a driving trail, you are welcome to stop and walk wherever you like. Walking often reveals more of the forest than driving. Be careful, however, not to wander too far from the track, for it is easy to become disorientated and get lost among the trees. Whether you are walking or driving, it is also important to carry some water with you.
A high-point which exists for all visitors approximately halfway along the driving trail is the Nyari viewpoint. The final approach is by foot only, giving a great wilderness feel to the location. Set on top of one of the few steep cliffs in the forest, the viewpoint provides a magnificent panorama across the forest canopy and then over the coconut plantations and Mida Creek to the Indian Ocean on the horizon.
Mida Creek lies next to the forest on the seaward side of the main road. You can approach by land or sea (with boat trips available from many of the hotels in Watamu). To reach the head of the creek, the best area for bird-watching, leave the tarmac road opposite the entrance to the forest driving trail and follow a sandy track left and then right to the mangroves fringing the Creek. The Creek is less than 1 km from the road and can easily be reached on foot.
Three other interesting local sites are the renowned Gede Ruins (well signposted from opposite the mosque in Gede Village), the newly established Kipepeo Butterfly Farm (close to Gede Ruins), and the Snake Farm at Watamu (look for the sign to Bioken on the left of the road north of the village). Gede Ruins are also a good place to see wildlife like monkeys, birds and butterflies.