Arabuko Sokoke National Park

Situated on the Coast of Kenya, at approximately 110 kilometers (68 miles) north of the famous Mombasa (largest Coastal Town in Kenya) is the small Arabuko-Sokoke National Park, a small portion of the larger Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve. This National Park extends for a few square kilometers in size (6 square kilometers/2.3 square miles) and is nestled on the north-western border of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve. The Park was established in 1990 and as a matter of fact bestrides the edge of the Forest Reserve with approximately 50% lying outside the edge.

It was opened in 1942 as a Crown Forest but was later renamed in 1960 as Arabuko-Sokoke National Park. However, this spectacular site is said not to add any particular protection to the Forest Reserve, which is actually the largest fragment of the verdant coastal Forest that so far remains at only 420 square kilometers within East Africa and is an area of high endemism thus offering haven to a number of endemic mammals, plants and bird species.

The Forest Reserve is jointly protected by Kenya Wildlife Service, National Museums of Kenya, Kenya Forest Service and the Kenya Forest Research Institute, thus making it one of the most protected Forests in the country but the Park is protected/managed by Kenya Wildlife Service working in conjunction with several National and International Conservation Organizations.

Climate and Vegetation within and around Arabuko-Sokoke National Park

The Park and the adjacent Forest Reserve experience two wet seasons that include March to June (long rains) and November to December (short rains) while the remaining months are mainly hot and dry. Additionally, the average annual rainfall received within this area is around 900 millimeters for the dry season and is about scrubby northwest and approximately 1100 millimeters in the east.

There are three main forest types within the Park and Forest Reserve, and they include Cynometra, mixed forest and Brachystegia which all protect different communities of flora and fauna.

Important tourist attractions within Arabuko-Sokoke National Park

As earlier mentioned, the Forest Reserve as well as the adjacent National Park offer shelter to numerous endemic and near endemic species of flora and fauna. For instance, the beautiful Clarke’s weaver is a typical endemic species whereas the Sokoke pipit, Narina Trogon, Sokoke scops owl, spotted ground thrush as well as Amani sunbird only inhabit the area in the forest fragment within Tanzania. Other species (more than 200) are found within this Park and some of them include Fischer’s turacos, spotted ground thrush and Golden woodpeckers among others.

More than 600 species of plants are found within the site. Additionally, Arabuko-Sokoke National Park is close to the famous Mida Creek ecosystem, a verdant Mangrove Forest that offers a wonderful wintering ground for shorebirds and offers protection to a number of species including Crab Plover, Sandplovers, greater flamingos and Terek Sandpiper in addition to sheltering over 6 species of Mangrove trees.

The Golden-rumped elephant shrew, endemic species of the elephant shrew is the commonest of the Park’s endemic species of mammals. Not only that, the Aders’s duikers (only inhabit areas within Zanzibar) as well as the Sokoke bushy-tailed mongoose are the rarest yet most interesting ones to encounter.

Other notable wildlife species to look out for within Arabuko-Sokoke National Park include Primates (such as baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, Sykes monkeys and Vervet monkeys), Caracal, Savannah elephants, Red-legged sun squirrels, African buffaloes, bushbucks, Sokokes, Blotched genets, waterbucks, African Civets. In addition to that, this destination is popular for its remarkable reptile diversity (more than 49 species) with the prime species being Day Geullo, Green Mamba, Forest Cobras, Boomslangs, Rock pythons, Sand lizards and many others. The dense verdant Forest extends to the headwaters of the great River Sabaki and often times elephant herds transverse through the Forest en-route to the River.

There are a number of butterfly species including the Silk butterflies as well as stunning Amphibians that call Arabuko-Sokoke National Park home.

At just a stone throw away from Arabuko-Sokoke National Park are the stunning Gedi Ruins close to Watamu, at approximately 15 kilometers south from Malindi Town. Gedi Town was established at the end of the thirteenth century and is actually found within the dense forest of Baobab trees. What will draw your interest and attention about this site is the fact that it was one of the significant Coastal Towns and is an ideal replica of typical East African Architecture.

Tourist Activities within Arabuko-Sokoke National Park

Nature walks/hiking

There are a number of walking trails within this Park which allow nature enthusiasts to explore some of the site’s attractions especially tree species, butterfly, reptile, mammal and amphibians species. Nature walks are undeniably one of the few activities that allow tourists to get up-close with nature.

Butterfly watching

Arabuko-Sokoke National Park and Forest Reserve is a Sanctuary to a number of butterfly species, one of which is the silk butterflies that glitter and beautify the destination with their stunning beauty.

Bird watching

With over 200 species of birds, it is not an overstatement to refer Arabuko-Sokoke National Park as a real birder’s Paradise. Notable species to look out for within this destination include Amani sunbirds, Crab Plover, Clarke’s weavers, Sokoke pipit, Fischer’s turacos, Golden woodpeckers and many others.

Game viewing

This Protected Area is a haven to several wildlife species including the savannah elephants, bushbucks, waterbucks, Ader’s duikers, Caracal, African buffaloes, primates (Sykes monkeys, vervet monkeys and baboons), African Civets and the blotched Genets thus making it a perfect Coastal destination for game viewing. Interestingly, there are over 30 kilometers of game tracks through the Park.

Other fascinating activities to engage in within the Park include picnicking, camping and running/jogging among others.

What to take when visiting Arabuko-Sokoke National Park

When visiting this verdant destination, tourists are advised to carry enough drinking water (preferably bottled water), camping equipment (for those interested in Camping), picnic items, long sleeved shirts, long trousers, guidebooks (for wildlife, birds and butterflies), camera, pair of binoculars. Sweater, lightweight rain jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, a waterproof backpack, gardening gloves and comfortable walking shoes (preferably strong waterproof hiking boots).

Accommodation in and around Arabuko-Sokoke National Park        

Due to its small size, there are no accommodation facilities in and around this area, with majority of them being outside Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Reserve/National Park-as far as Kilifi and Malindi Towns and they include Arabuko Jamii Villas found in Mida village off the Malindi-Mombasa road adjacent to the Forest Reserve and Kitsapu Cottages situated at the edge of the Forest and along the Malindi-Garissa highway. Other places to stay within Malindi include Hemingways Resort, Turtle Bay Beach Club and many others.

How to Access Arabuko-Sokoke National Park

Arabuko-Sokoke National Park is found at a few kilometers inland between the phenomenal Towns of Malindi and Kilifi. It can be accessed by both road and air transport means whereby with the former, you will have to go through Mombasa Town which is about 75 kilometers away. As for air transport, you will land in two airports-Malindi and Mombasa before proceeding by road to the Park. The recommended vehicles to use are the 4WD vehicles (because are adaptable for all terrains and areas) much as saloon cars can be used in some areas of the Park.

In conclusion, Arabuko-Sokoke National Park is a small yet fascinating tourist destination within magical Kenya offering shelter to numerous endemic and near endemic species of flora and fauna such as beautiful Clarke’s weaver (typical endemic species) and the Sokoke pipit, Narina Trogon, Sokoke scops owl, spotted ground thrush as well as Amani sunbird that only inhabit the area within the forest fragment of Tanzania. These and more await you to visit this verdant destination during Kenya safaris.