Birding at Karura Forest

Hey peeps! I won’t say ‘Happy New Year’ because 2018 is old already. I hope it’s going well for you so far though. These past few weeks have been  a roller-coaster of expectations and dashed hopes for me. Seems the year has decided to be savage from the beginning… Anyway, today we explore one of my favourite locations in Nairobi: Karura Forest.

Karura Forest, Nairobi.
The starting point for our birdwalks.

This is one of the most serene places right in the city. The fresh, cool forest air, tranquil atmosphere and alluring bird sounds make it a perfect choice for a day out. There are two entrances, one on Limuru Road and another on Kiambu Road. The first time I visited the Limuru Rd. side was during a photographers’ hangout in 2015. There was a downpour the night before and our shoes collected inches of mud. For our struggles though, we were rewarded with epic portaits at a certain famous bench.

In the woods
Natural light portrait at the bench. 🙂

I have been back twice since then on birdwalks with Nature Kenya. We usually park near Karura River Cafe then proceed to walk along the trails. One time a Long-crested Eagle welcomed us, calling loudly in the trees. Some Common Waxbills played hide-and-seek in the bushes.

Common Waxbill in a bush.
The Common Waxbill.

My favourite part is where the forest becomes really dense. Towering mightily above you, the trees remind you just how small you are in the grand scheme of things. The fresh air hits your lungs hard. If not for the incessant calls of the Yellow-whiskered Greenbull, it would be deathly silent. However, in deep forest it’s not easy to see birds, so you track them by hearing.

Large trees in Karura Forest, Nairobi.
Little humans in a big forest.

On my most recent visit I learnt that there are 18 families of Colobus Monkeys here. The individuals add up to more than 100. This population was introduced from elsewhere (I forget the location) to preserve them since they were being preyed upon seriously. People would also kill them for their skin, used to make hats. How sad. We heard them growling to each other in the trees but didn’t see them.

Spotted Eucalyptus bark.
Art abounds in nature…how cool is this Spotted Eucalyptus bark with military-style colours?

Now for some good news: Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu announced on 19th September 2017 that plastic bottles have been banned from Nairobi National Park and Karura Forest. You are required to throw away disposable plastic bottles at the gate. For your convenience, Karura sells the hard water bottles for 100/- . This goes a long way in boosting conservation efforts- we all know the harmful effects of plastics on the environment.

Squirrel in tree.
This cheeky squirrel approached us looking for snacks…and was rewarded.

If you’re really keen, you might spot a Suni or two while walking through the dense forest. They are very shy and hide at the slightest sound. Lots of butterflies are found here too, like the forest Swallowtails and Leopard Butterfly (yes, that’s a real species!). Spectacled Weaver, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Black-backed Puffback, African Paradise Flycatcher, Winding Cisticola and many more bird species all this forest home. On the Kiambu Rd. side there’s even an African Crowned Eagle. It’s hard to believe such a beautiful place is so near the Nairobi CBD!

Textured tree bark.
Textured tree bark.

Apart from bird-watching, Karura has something for everyone. You’ll be spoilt for choice by the myriad of activities available: mountain biking, picnics, jogging, horse riding, tennis or a simple walk through the nature trails. It’s also a dog-friendly area (just make sure your furry friend is on a leash). There’s also an incredible waterfall and a lake. That’s why protecting this forest is so important. It has been under threat from land grabbers for years now. Sometime last year, Prof. Karanja Njoroge, the chairman of the Friends of Karura Forest thanked the government for revoking 400 title deeds that had been issued to people owning land in the forest.

People enjoying a walk in Karura Forest, Nairobi.
Walking towards the dense forest…

If you’ve net been to the forest yet you’re missing out! So many treasures await you to enjoy in ‘the living lungs of Nairobi’.

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