KARURA FOREST

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“The Lungs of Nairobi City”

Nairobi has lungs, the Karura Forest. Karura Forest is one of the largest and biodiverse gazzeted urban forests in the world. So rich is the forest that nearly 605 of wildlife species in Nairobi are found in the forest. Karura forest has a forest cover of 1,041 hectares of which 36% of tree species are indigenous upland Forest Tree species.  It is also home to animals such as bushbucks, almost 200 species of birds, bats, Sykes Monkeys etc. The forest is under the management of the Kenya Forest service in partnership with Friends of Karura Forest.

The history of Karura Forest is however intertwined with the story of one of Kenya’s most celebrated environmentalist and Africa’s first female Nobel peace prize laureate, the late Prof. Wangari Maathai. Prof. Wangari Maathai who is also the founder of the Green Belt Movement, had campaigned and fought for the protection of the Karura forest from private developers for nearly 20 years. The deforestation by private developers was so massive that Karura Forest was once referred to as the “Forest of a 1000 Cuts”. Prof. Wangari Mathai’s story can be read here.

And in case you thought Mau Mau freedom fighters were only in Mount Kenya forest and Mau forest, you thought wrong.

 

Why it stands out

Apart from providing Nairobi city with the much needed clean air and oxygen, Karura Forest stands out because it offer’s travelers and visitors the opportunity to interact with nature in an urban setting. The forest has over 50km trails where the visitors can walk, run and also bike. Navigating inside the Karura Forest one can see animals, caves and also a waterfall. Picnic grounds are also available to cater for families and group travelers.

Karura Forest is an all in one package offering serenity, thrill and the much needed escape from Nairobi’s concrete jungle chaos.

How to get there

Karura Forest is located on Kiambu Road just 7.6 km from the Nairobi CBD. To get there by public means, one can get a matatu, route number 101, from bus station or the fire station bus stage. Matatu rides costs between KES 50-70 to the forest. An Uber ride to approximately KES. 440KSH maximum. Total time taken to reach the forest from the CBD is between 18 minutes to 1 hour depending on traffic and mode of transport. Or get there with Uniglobe Lets’ Go Travel

Where to eat

Sharks Palace at the main entrance of the forest or River Cafe inside the forest.

Opening hours and charges

Karura Forest is open from to 6.30 pm daily. The following are the charges

Daily rates

Entry is free for all children below 4 years is free

Citizen Adult: KES 100 – Citizen Child (4-12 years): KES 50

Resident Adult: KES 200 – Resident Child: KES 100

Non-resident Adult: KES 600 – Non Resident Child: KES 300

Karura forest also has special rates for Friends of Karura Forest members and school groups.

Parking is KES 100 for small cars, KES 200 for minivans and 300 for minibuses.

Other charges include KES 300 for a guide and KES 500 to hire a bike for 2 hours.

What to do and see

Biking

Visitors can enjoy bike rides inside the forest. The forest has designated bike trails that are well marked to help riders not to get lost in the forest. You have probably heard of stories of people spending nights in the forest. The experience of a forest is a whole different story at night, especially if you are lost.

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Nature trails

Karura forest has 50 Kilometers of nature trails that go in and out of the trees. These trails are used for walking, jogging or running in case you are startled by the forest antelopes.  Karura Forest runs a photo competition for photographers. The 2017 theme was KARURA TRAIL VIEW.

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Water fall

Within the heart of Karura Forest lies a beautiful waterfall.  The sound as the water hits the rocks is amazing and was worth the long walk from the main entrance.

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The Karura Forest Caves

The Caves of Karura Forest have formed over millions of years by periodic floods that gradually widened and then hollowed-out cracks in the volcanic trachyte bedrock that lies beneath the forest floor and Nairobi region. Mau-Mau freedom fighters are believed to have used the cave as a hide-out during the fight for independence. Some of the local residents consider these caves as a sacred place. Louis Leakey in 1939 discovered pieces if old pottery, animal bones and also some ancient tools of herders, hunters and also gatherers believed to have inhabited these caves thousands of years ago. Bats are also found in the caves and they can be heard as one enters the caves.

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The photo is not clear because I was afraid of the bats, so the shot was taken from a “safe” distance”

My Tourism Product Experience rating

Attractions

Very few natural forest exists in cities. Karura forest has a lot to offer for the adventurous city dweller who loves nature. The nature trails and bike rides inside the forest are not only healthy but exciting.  Apart from the nature trails and bike rides, the history of Karura Forest  and the caves also add to the amazing experience. Sometimes its not just about trees and animals, but the stories. Rating: 8/10

Guiding and interpretations

Guides are available on request for only 300 KSH. The guide was well conversant with the forest and one felt comfortable and in good hands. Rating: 9/10

Management & Responsibility

The Kenya Forest Service and the Friends of Karura Forest have done an exceptional job in protecting the forest resources. Visitor management is also excellent. There were litter bags at every junction with instructions on the  proper disposal of the litter. From the entrance to inside the forest there was no litter to be seen unlike the Nairobi Arboretum.

The trails were well marked to give direction. . Rating: 10 /10

Overall rating; 9/10

There is a reason why Karura Forest has been listed by tripadvisor as number 4 out of the 122 things to do in Nairobi. The visit was worth every penny spent.

A thumbs up for the management for keeping Karura Forest clean.  Management should however provide clear  directions to the café inside the forest to prevent visitors getting lost while trying to locate it.

Visit EcoWorld Center with Uniglobe Lets’ Go Travel

Reviewed on 27th July 2017 by Ann Wacera

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