The scenically beautiful Shimba Hills National Reserve coastal forest is the only place in Kenya to see Sable Antelope. The Shimba Hills National Reserve being only 60km from Mombasa, is ideal for a day visit. It contains one of the largest coastal forests in East Africa and is where a great diversity of Kenya’s plant species are found, many of which are endangered. The Shimba Hills National Reserve is home to many Elephant, and is the only place in Kenya where tourists can see the Sable Antelope.
Shimba Hills National Reserve is 300 Km2 and protected by the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS). The reserve is well known for its large elephant population, which in the early 2000’s became unsustainable. In 2005 KWS translocated over 150 elephants to Tsavo East National Park, it was described at the time as “the single largest translocation of animals ever undertaken since Noah’s ark”.
There are still over 500 elephants in the reserve, which causes tense human wildlife conflicts with the subsistence farmers in the area. To help reduce this conflict the Mwalunganje Elephant Sanctuary was established and shares a boundary with Shimba Hills National Reserve providing the elephants a migration corridor.
The Reserve is also known for its excellent birding opportunities and twitchers can search for the Croaking Cisticola or the Zanzibar Red Bishop. Due to the thick nature of the forest, game viewing is not as rewarding as on the savannahs, as many animals spend their time deep in the forest. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it makes the wildlife encounters that you do have, that much more spectacular. The best time of day to go for a game drive would be in the late afternoon, when the cooler temperatures lure the animals out of the shade and seek water.
The magnificent 21 m high Sheldrick Falls are in Shimba Hills; the late David Sheldrick, founder of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, once explored this area, whilst flying over the area he discovered a hidden waterfall within the Shimba Hills National Reserve, and subsequently had the falls named after him.
Getting to Shimba Hills National Reserve
- From Mombasa or Diani Beach the road is good, it is about an hours drive from Diani Beach.
- Airport – Moi International Airport in Mombasa
Shimba Hills National Highlights and Attractions
- The only place in Kenya you can see Sable Antelope
- Guided forest walks up to the scenically beautiful Sheldrick Falls
- It is known for its herds of Elephants
- Visit the Mwalunganje Elephant Sanctuary
- Scenic viewpoints and five picnic areas
What to do in the Shimba Hills National Reserve
The Kenya Wildlife Service offers guided walks to the Sheldrick Falls – a great opportunity to see the birdlife in the forest. Game drives are more adventurous than on the savannahs as animals are harder to spot.
You can also go for sundowners on Pengo Hill, which faces west and watch the sun drop down below the horizon. On a clear day you can see the Tsavo Plains and Mt Kilimanjaro.
The Shimba Hills National Reserve is perfectly situated for a day trip if you are staying in Mombasa or Diani Beach. The Reserve is characterised by rolling hills which are covered in coastal forests which forms an important plant biodiversity area; as over 50% of the 159 rare plants in Kenya are found here including rare cycads and stunning orchids.
The Reserve is home to the last breeding herd of Sable Antelope in Kenya and you should keep a lookout for these large ebony coloured antelope with their scimitar shaped horns.
Explore the reserve on guided game drives with a local tour operator. The roads are undulating and steep and a 4×4 vehicle is needed to navigate them. One of the most memorable activities on offer is a guided walk through the forest with a Kenyan Wildlife Service’s Guide – who takes you through the forest to the beautiful Sheldrick Falls.
There are also some great hiking trails you can follow for a pleasant afternoon ramble to the picnic sites and lookout viewpoints. As there are both elephants and buffalo in the reserve it is highly recommended to hire a guide to walk with you, plus of course the guide can point out a multitude of animals and plants that you may otherwise miss.
Shimba Hills National Reserve Accommodation
We recommend that guests staying in the wonderful accommodation offered in Mombasa or Diani visit the National Park for the day. In Diani we recommend guests stay at the Pinewood Beach Resort and Spa or Kinondo Kwetu.
As Shimba Hills National Reserve is situated slightly inland from the coast, it is cooler and the landscape is often shrouded in mist in the morning. The reserve has a warm tropical climate and a mean annual temperature of 24 °C.