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Arabuko Sokoke Forest, A Perfect Easter Holiday Destination

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Kenyans and Kenya at general is a nation on the move, what fuels the nation is the search of money and the fight for poverty, its such shameful statement to equate to a nation the 21st century while other countries are talking about sustainability of their growth, of such I think most of the sustainability of the domestic tourisms in Kenya.

I have travelled on these land for mile and seen the most beautiful of it all. Not many people are familiar with the coastal areas of Kenya. It amazes me, as these beaches can easily be compared with the likes of Zanzibar or Mauritius. It’s a super-affordable international holiday choice. And besides being extraordinarily beautiful, you don’t have to worry about long queues, or other hassles that come with mass tourism. I could go on for days about how the beaten track has been beaten. But I’ll just highlight my main motivation to wander other, lesser-known destinations. Less people sharing the beaches, the creek and the snorkelling sites means less human intervention or footprints and more raw, authentic and genuine experiences. And that’s what Kenya is all about!

The one place that I wish that all got to see these easter holiday is the Arabuko Sokoke Forest, a natural reserve that house many species of birds and animals. Lying north of Mombasa is the coastal forest of Arabuko Sokoke. This fascinating forest wilderness is nestled beside the beaches of Watamu, just minutes from the waters of the Indian Ocean.But enter the forest and discover a world apart from the beaches and reefs. In this 400 sq km reserve there is an untold wealth of natural beauty. The air is filled with butterflies and birds, the trees alive with monkeys and the forest floor home to many smaller mammals. The forest stretches to the headwaters of the mighty Sabaki river, and occasionally herds of elephant pass through the forest en route to the river.

Beside elephants Sykes’ monkeys and yellow baboons, the forest also shelters two rare species of mammals found in the forests. The 35cm-high Aders’ duiker is a shy miniature antelope that usually lives in pairs, and the extraordinary golden-rumped elephant shrew, which has been adopted as the symbol of the forest, is a bizarre insectivore, about the size of a small cat, that resembles a giant mouse with an elongated nose, running on stilts. In one of those mystifyingly evolved animal relationships, it consorts with a small bird, the red-capped robin chat, which warns it of danger and in turn picks up insects disturbed by the shrew’s snufflings. Your best chance of seeing a shrew is to look for its fluttering companion among the tangle of branches: the shrew will be close by. Elephant shrews can usually be seen (but not for long – they’re very speedy) on the walk along the Nature Trail close to the Visitor Centre, or along the sandy tracks further inside the forest. You may also spot one darting across forest trails ahead of you. The exceedingly rare Sokoke bush-tailed mongoose is unlikely to put in an appearance there have been no sightings since the mid-1980s.

The forest is also home to six globally threatened bird species, including the small Sokoke scops owl, which is found only in the red-soiled Cynometra section of the forest,  the Sokoke pipit – both very hard to spot, although guides can help locate them. The other endangered birds are the Amani sunbird, Clarke’s weaver, the East Coast akalat and the spotted ground thrush, a migrant from South Africa. As well as its wealth of mammals and birds, the forest is, in Africa, second only to the Okavango Delta in Botswana for the diversity of its frog population, a fact very much in evidence after heavy rain.

This rich forest once hid another secret. The 13th century Swahili town of Gedi thrived here for hundreds of years, hidden away from Portuguese invaders and the influence of the outside world. The town was eventually deserted, and today the ruins of Gedi, lying among the trees and twisting vines of the forest are a haunting reminder of the past.

It easy to get there as roads are in good conditions not like that mara plains where you need to your own path. Whichever option you want to take I still believe that at the end of the day, Kenya is a country to be experienced, Enjoy your tour wherever the tour takes you.

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