Shimba Hills National Reserve

The Shimba Hills National Reserve is a small National Reserve in the former coast province of Kenya which is 33km from Mombasa and 15 km from the coast. The reserve is an area of coastal rainforest, woodland and grassland. It is an important area for plant diversity over 50% of the 159 rare plants in Kenya are found in the Shimba Hills including some endangered species of cycad and orchids. It is also a nationally important site for birds and butterflies.

There are approximately 700 elephants in the reserve and this population is unsustainably high causing significant damage to vegetation and threatening the endangered plant life. Conflicts between humans and elephants have reached critical levels. North of the reserve, the mwaluganje elephant sanctuary has been established to provide a route for elephants to leave the park and the remainder of the park boundary is fenced to prevent the elephants from invading farmland. Shimba Hills contains Kenya’s only population of sable and they are about 100 in the park.

As one of the largest coastal forests in East Africa after Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, this reserve is rich in flora and fauna and also hosts the highest density of African elephants in Kenya. Other animal species found in the area are Sable antelope, elephant shrew, bushy tailed mongoose and other small mammals like fruit bats.

Tourist attractions in Shimba hills national reserve


The reserve is a home to many wildlife species living comfortably in the coastal forests and grassland dotted around the park and there are more prominent animals of the reserve which is sable antelope, Masai giraffe, buffalos and elephants which are over 700 individuals with other animals including; bush pigs, buffaloes, African bush baby, bushbuck, coastal black and white colobus monkeys, greater galago, bushy tailed mongoose, Sykes monkey, serval cat, black and red shrew, blue duiker among others.


The reserve is also one of the best bird habitats in Kenya hosting over 230 bird species with coastal endemic species like; ostrich eagle, African hawk, falcon, cuckoo, guinea fowl, honey guide, sunbird among others with prominent species namely; hornbills, falcons, eagles and more. These bird species live in the coastal rainforest and grasslands of the national reserve. There are other birds habiting in the park include; brown breasted barbet, crowned hornbill, east coast Akalat, Fischer’s turaco, golden palm weaver, green barbet, green tinkerbird, Narina trogon, Pangani longclaw, plain backed sunbird and a lot more which can be spotted by birders.

Sheldrick waterfalls

This is a magnificent feature in the park sitting on 21 meters and covered by vines and greenery, also creating a natural plunge pool as it flows. These falls facilitate 2km nature walks from the fall’s ranger post to the park which are loved by a lot.

Elephant hill

The hill is the best view point to see elephants in the park from the hill to get lovely views over the valley towards the ocean. The hill also gives you the best view for other animals and birds with scenic views of the reserve.

Marere dam

This is a fascinating view point for birds and animals in the reserve with a watering hole which attracts animals in the reserve. This gives the clients a quick spot of animals in the park.

Safari activities in shimba hills national reserve.

Game viewing

The national reserve is surrounded with a big population of elephants and other numerous animals like bush pigs, waterbucks, coastal black and white colobus monkeys, blue duiker, serval cats in the grasslands of the park. Going for a game drive gives you a chance to experience animals on the waterfalls where they gather to bathe and drink water and the best session game drive is in the late afternoon when the hot temperatures bring out the animals to seek for water.

Guided nature walks

The reserve is characterized with green trees which keep a number of animals like elephants, mottled swift with bird species like red necked spurfowl, spotted ground thrush among others. These nature walks give you a close experience with nature, birds and animals in the reserve which are spotted on sheldrick waterfalls.


Shimba hill national reserve is also an excellent place for birding opportunities where birdwatchers can see croaking cisticola or Zanzibar red bishop which are the unique species in the national reserve. Tourists will also sot green barbet, Fischer’s turaco, golden palm weaver, mottled swift, narina trogon and red necked spurfowl among others.

Hiking to the hill

The shimba hill is a perfect scenery to spot the animals, photography and the view of the reserve and the activity is enjoyed by the climbers who are physically fit. The activity can be best done in dry seasons when the hill is not slippery through the trees around the reserve.

How to access shimba hills national reserve.

By road

The distance between Nairobi and shimba hills national reserve is 522km taking around 7hours and 3 minutes and the main gate lies at 1km from the c106 road and 3km from Kwale, from Mombasa or Diani beach and the road is smooth taking an hour to access the reserve, taking the ferry at Likon to access the southern coastline where Tiwi and Diani beaches are located.

By air

Charter flights are used to reach the reserve and they are booked by tour operators. Most domestic flights from Nairobi are booked from Wilson airport which is 6km south of Nairobi but you can as well book daily scheduled flights. Some of the carriers like air Kenya, Mombasa air safari, safari ink, east African and all fly to Diani beach taking about an hour drive to reach the reserve and this can be an organized pick by the tour operator.


Shimba hill lodge

The Shimba Hills Lodge is a coastal Treetops which is one of Kenya’s most atmospheric tree hotels, offering luxury facilities and unique day and night wildlife viewing. The lodge, is built to look like a tree house and is surrounded by ancient cycad palms, liana-hung hardwoods, and rare forest blooms, is built to look like a tree house and is picturesquely located deep in a forest glade and surrounded by ancient cycad palms, liana-hung hardwoods, and rare forest blooms. All of the rooms have balconies with views of the water hole and despite their small size, the rooms are bright and cheerful, with large windows. The majority of the rooms share a bathroom, but two suites are self-contained.


The national reserve also supports camping in the park around sheldrick walk falls, ocean view and makadara picnic providing the adequate accommodation facilities to guests like a camping tent, a sleeping bag among others and an onsite chef.

Kwale golden guest house

Kwale Golden Guest House is located in Kwale, 700 metres from Kwale District Hospital and 5 km from Shimba Hills National Reserve. The property offers daily maid service to its guests. Guests can also make use of the meeting facilities available at the property. At the guest house, each room is fitted with a desk. The private bathroom is equipped with a shower. All rooms feature a wardrobe. A continental breakfast can be enjoyed in the breakfast area. There are 4 Bedrooms House is suitable for tourists and travellers with several amenities that would guarantee your comfort.

Best time to visit the reserve

Just like other national parks and reserves, shimba hills national reserve is best to be visited in drier months June to September and December to march where roads and trails accessible for the safari and tourism activities like game drives and hiking easy to carryout. Rainy or cold seasons are very challenging where accessibility is hard due to slippery roads although the accommodation rates are low due to less tourists.