Shimba Hills National Reserve

The Shimba Hills National Reserve is a small but important protected area in the former Coast Province of Kenya, about 33 km from Mombasa and 15 km from the coast. Covering an area of just over 200 sq km, the reserve is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including over 50% of the 159 rare plants found in Kenya. The reserve is also an important site for birds and butterflies and is known for its high density of African elephants.

One of the main attractions of the Shimba Hills National Reserve is the opportunity to see a range of wildlife in their natural habitat. This article will explore the different things to see and do on a day trip to the reserve, from wildlife viewing to hiking and birdwatching.

Wildlife Viewing

The Shimba Hills National Reserve is home to several iconic animal species, including sable antelope and elephants. The reserve is known for having the highest density of African elephants in Kenya, with an estimated population of around 700 individuals. While the presence of these large and impressive animals is certainly a draw for many visitors, it is important to remember that they are wild animals and should be treated with respect.

In addition to sable antelope and elephants, the reserve is also home to several other animal species, including giraffes, leopards, bush pigs, and a variety of small mammals. Visitors may also be able to spot reptiles like pythons and cobras, as well as a variety of insects, including butterflies and beetles.

It is important to follow some basic guidelines to get the most out of a wildlife viewing experience in the Shimba Hills National Reserve. This includes staying on marked trails, keeping a safe distance from animals, and respecting any restrictions that may be in place to protect wildlife. It is also important to avoid making loud noises or sudden movements, as this can stress or disturb the animals.

The Sheldrick Falls

The Sheldrick Falls are a popular attraction within the Shimba Hills National Reserve and a must-see for anyone visiting the area. Located in the southern part of the reserve, the falls are cascades flowing down a steep hillside into a series of pools below. The falls are surrounded by dense rainforest, and the area is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life.

Visitors can take a short hike through the rainforest to get to Sheldrick Falls from the reserve’s main gate. The hike is relatively easy and can be completed in a couple of hours, although it is important to be prepared for the heat and humidity of the coastal rainforest. Visitors should also be aware of the potential for slippery conditions on the trails and take appropriate precautions.


The Shimba Hills National Reserve is an important bird area, home to various bird species. A total of 111 bird species have been recorded in reserve, of which 22 are coastal endemics. Some notable species in reserve include the Ostrich Eagle, African Hawk Falcon, Cuckoo, Guinea-fowl, Kenya Crested Honeyguide, Greater Hornbill, Crowned Quail, Blue Sunbird, and Uluguru Sunbird.

For birdwatchers, the Shimba Hills National Reserve offers several good spots for observing and photographing birds. The best areas to look for birds include rainforests, grasslands, and wetlands. It is a good idea to bring along a pair of binoculars, a camera with a telephoto lens, and a field guide to help identify the different species.

Mwaluganje Forest

The Mwaluganje Forest is a dense and biodiverse area within the Shimba Hills National Reserve. Covering an area of around 14 sq km, the forest is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, including some that are endangered or found only in a few other places in Kenya. The forest is an important habitat for wildlife and an important source of timber, medicine, and other resources for local communities.

Visitors to the Mwaluganje Forest can explore the area on foot, using one of the marked trails that wind through the forest. It is a good idea to hire a local guide, as they will be able to provide information about the different plant and animal species found in the forest and the traditional uses of the forest by local communities.

Other Attractions

Several other attractions in the Shimba Hills National Reserve are worth visiting. Some of the other notable features of the reserve include:

  • The Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary: Located north of the reserve, the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary provides a route for elephants to leave the park and avoid conflict with humans.
  • The Maasai Cultural Centre: Located near the reserve’s main gate, the Maasai Cultural Centre offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions of the Maasai people, who have a long history in the area.
  • The Shimba Hills Nature Trail: This trail is a great way to explore the reserve’s natural beauty on foot and offers the chance to see various plant and animal species.
  • The Shimba Hills National Reserve Visitor Centre: The visitor center is a great place to learn more about the reserve, including its history, ecology, and conservation efforts. The center also offers a range of educational resources and exhibits.

Overall, the Shimba Hills National Reserve offers a wide range of attractions that appeal to visitors of all ages and interests. Whether you are looking for a chance to see wildlife, learn about local culture, or enjoy the beauty of the natural surroundings, there is something for everyone in reserve.


The Shimba Hills National Reserve is a unique and biodiverse protected area worth visiting for anyone interested in nature and conservation. With its diverse array of plant and animal species, scenic falls, and beautiful forests, the reserve offers many things to see and do. Whether you are interested in wildlife viewing, birdwatching, or simply enjoying the beauty of the natural surroundings, there is something for everyone in the Shimba Hills National Reserve.

Similar Posts