Shimba Hills National Reserve is a small national park situated 56 km south of Mombasa and 15 km inland, in Kenya’s Coast Province. Its proximity to Mombasa and the fact that its only a few kilometres inland of Tiwi and Diani beaches, makes this reserve is a great option for holidaymakers.
At 500m sea level, the reserve is a welcome change from the humid coastal area. The terrain is one of rolling hills covered in jungle and grassland. From hilltops the horizon is one of ocean or the mountains of Tanzania, depending which way you spin.
Containing coastal rainforest, woodland and grassland, the reserve is an important stronghold of plant biodiversity. More than half of Kenya’s 159 species of rare plants are found in the Shimba Hills, including some endangered species of cycad and orchid. The reserve is also an important site for birds and butterflies.
About 700 elephants live in the reserve, a population that is unsustainably large. The Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary has been established north of Shimba Hills to provide a route for elephants to leave Shimba. The remainder of the Shimba Hills National Reserve’s boundary is fenced, to prevent the elephants from invading surrounding farmland.
In Kenya, sable antelope have been severely hunted in the past (in the 1970s there numbers dropped to less than 120) and the reserve preserves Kenya’s last breeding herd of these tall, regal creatures.
In the middle of the forest is the Shimba Forest Lodge. The lodge overlooks a water hole, where it is possible to spot leopard and plenty of elephant. The lodge is also renowned for its night-time game viewing.