Straddling the Ugandan border and peaking with Koitoboss (4187m), Kenya’s second-highest peak, and Uganda’s Wagagai (4321m), the slopes of Mt Elgon are a sight indeed – or at least they would be if they weren’t buried under a blanket of mist and drizzle most of the time. While there are plenty of interesting wildlife and plants here, the real reason people visit Mt Elgon National Park is to stand atop the summit high above Kenya and Uganda.
With rainforest at the base, the vegetation changes as you ascend to bamboo jungle and finally alpine moorland featuring the giant groundsel and giant lobelia plants.
Common animals include buffaloes, bushbucks (both of which are usually grazing on the airstrip near Cholim gate), olive baboons, giant forest hogs and duikers. The lower forests are the habitat of the black-and-white colobus, and blue and de Brazza’s monkeys.
There are more than 240 species of bird here, including red-fronted parrots, Ross’s turacos and casqued hornbills. On the peaks you may even see a lammergeyer dropping bones from the air.
It is possible to walk unescorted, but due to the odd elephant and buffalo you will need to sign a waiver to do so. We strongly recommend taking a guide.


All that’s now left in Kenya of the massive Guineo–Congolian rainforest that once covered much of western Kenya, the Kakamega Forest National Reserve, though seriously degraded, is unique in Kenya and contains plants, animals and birds that occur nowhere else in the country. The reserve is especially good for birders, but is also home to several primates, including de Brazza’s monkeys, colobus monkeys, black-cheeked-white-nosed monkeys and Sykes monkeys.
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 popular 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.


North of Kitale, the small, rarely visited Saiwa Swamp National Park is a real treat – as long as you’re not here for the Big Five, this is a chance to tick off some real safari highlights. Originally set up to preserve the habitat of Kenya’s only population of Sitatunga antelope, the 15.5-sq-km reserve is also home to blue, vervet and de Brazza’s monkeys and some 370 species of birds.
The fluffy black-and-white colobus and the impressive crowned crane are both present, and you may see Cape clawless and spot-throated otters (watchtower 4 is the best place from which to look for these).
The park is only accessible by foot and walking trails skirt the swamp, duckboards go right across it, and there are some rickety observation towers.


Founded on the collection of butterflies, birds and ethnographic memorabilia left to the nation in 1967 by the late Lieutenant Colonel Stoneham, this museum has an interesting range of ethnographic displays of the Pokot, Akamba, Marakwet and Turkana peoples. There are also any number of stuffed dead things shot by various colonial types, including a hedgehog and a cheetah with a lopsided face.
The outdoor exhibits include some traditional tribal homesteads and a collection of snakes, tortoises and crocodiles, plus an interesting ‘Hutchinson Biogas Unit’
If big cats with funny heads don’t do it for you, the small nature trail that leads through some not-quite-virgin rainforest at the back of the museum will surely please you. It’s a good place for birdwatching and there are lots of colobus monkeys.


The Crying Stone of Ilesi is a local curiosity perched on a ridge 3km south of town. The formation, looking like a solemn head resting on weary shoulders, consists of a large boulder balanced atop a huge column of rock, down which ‘tears’ flow.


This place looks as if it was designed by Frankenstein after he converted to Christianity and dropped acid. Though you could come here for the picnic tables or play parks, the butterfly spotting or the birdwatching, or maybe even for the incredibly kitsch portrayal of biblical scenes, you’ll probably do as most do and immediately follow the ‘Deformed Animals’ signs. And deformed (and rather distressed looking) animals is exactly what you’ll find.