travel guide Masai Mara

Roho Ya Chui, Swahili for "soul of leopard", your partner for innovative training solutions in combination with safari packages and wildlife photography.

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M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya W E s T E R N H I g H l a N D s M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya s I g H T s M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya K a K a M E g a F o R E s T 1 Sights Crying Stone of Ilesi laNDMaRK The Crying Stone of Ilesi is a local curiosity perched on a ridge 3km south of town. The formation, looking like a solemn head rest- ing on weary shoulders, consists of a large boulder balanced atop a huge column of rock, down which 'tears' flow. Market MaRKET It's worth poking your nose into the town's municipal market. It operates every day but is at its loudest on Saturday and Wednesday mornings when, as if by magic, people appear from all over the surrounding countryside. 4 Sleeping & Eating While there are lots of local eateries, there are few to get excited about. Seemingly without exception, they serve chicken, fish or beef, fried or 'wet fried' (which means it comes with gravy). Friends Hotel HoTEl $ (% 0721917541; Mumias Rd; s/d excl breakfast Ksh1500/1800) Friends has comfortable rooms that are unusually clean, pleasing to the eye and come with 24-hour hot water. Downstairs is a well-regarded restaurant (mains KSh300 to KSh400). It's the best deal in town. 8 Information Barclays Bank (a1 Hwy) With aTM. KWS Area Headquarters Kakamega Forest information, located 1.5km from the town centre. Post Office (a1 Hwy) 8 Getting There & Away Easy Coach (off Mumias Rd) has buses to Nai- robi (Ksh1450) via Nakuru (Ksh950) at 8am and 8pm. Matatus, which leave from behind the market, will whizz you to Kitale (Ksh300, three hours) and Eldoret (Ksh300, two hours). To get to Kakamega Forest Reserve, take a matatu to Khayega (Ksh50, 30 minutes), fol- lowed by a boda-boda to the reserve (Ksh200, 45 minutes). Matatus for Kisumu (Ksh200, 1¾ hours) can be caught near the Total petrol station on the northern edge of town. Kakamega Forest Not so long ago, much of western Ken- ya was hidden under a dark veil of jungle and formed a part of the mighty Guineo– Congolian forest ecosystem. However, the British soon did their best to turn all that lovely virgin forest into tea estates. Now all that's left is this slab of tropical rainforest surrounding Kakamega. Though seriously degraded, this forest is unique in Kenya and contains plants, ani- mals and birds that occur nowhere else in the country. It's especially good for birders, with turacos, which are like flying turkeys that have been given a box of face paints, being a favourite with everyone. Other standout birds include flocks of African grey parrots and noisy hornbills that sound like helicopters when they fly overhead. If you prefer your animals furrier, Kakame- ga is home to several primates, including graceful colobus monkeys, black-cheeked- white-nosed monkeys and Sykes monkeys. 1 Sights & Activities The best way – indeed the only real way – to appreciate the forest is to walk. While guides are not compulsory, they are well worth the extra expense. Not only do they prevent you from getting lost, but most are walking en- cyclopedias and will reel off both the Latin and common names of almost any plant or insect you care to point out, along with any of its medicinal properties. There are two main patches of forest. The northern Kakamega Forest National Reserve (also known as the Buyangu area) has a variety of habitats, but is generally very dense with considerable areas of primary forest and regenerating secondary forest. The forest here is managed by the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS). There's a total ban on grazing, wood collection and cultivation in this zone. The southern section (known as Isecheno) forms the Kakamega Forest Reserve. Predominantly forested, this region supports several communities and is under considerable pressure from both farming and illegal logging, but entry fees are lower and it has better accommodation. Kakamega Forest National Reserve PaRK (; adult/child Us$25/15, vehicles Ksh300) Rangers state that trails here vary in length from 1km to 7km. Of the longer walks, Isiukhu Trail, which connects Isecheno to the small Isiukhu Falls, is one of the most popu- lar and takes a minimum of half a day. The 4km drive or walk to Buyangu Hill allows for uninterrupted views east to the Nandi Escarpment. 1 3 6

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