The cashew trees lining both sides of the road north of Kilifi soon give way to tracts of jungle where monkeys scatter across the road and hornbills plunge into the cover of the trees. This is the Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve, the largest patch of indigenous coastal forest in East Africa. At one time it would have covered most of the coastal hinterland behind the shoreline settlements, part of an ancient forest belt stretching from Mozambique to Somalia. There are some 420 square kilometres to explore here, though you’ll need a vehicle, or a few days for some walking. A tiny part of the area (six square kilometres in the far north) was declared a national park in 1991.

The bans on cutting timber and clearing bush for agriculture aren’t popular with local residents, many of whom see the forest as a useless waste of land. To combat this ill feeling, the Kenya Wildlife Service, National Museums of Kenya and a forest support group, the Friends of Arabuko Sokoke, have pioneered a number of projects to make conservation worthwhile for the community, including butterfly farming, a bee-keeping scheme in which villagers are given low-cost beehives to produce honey from forest flowers (it’s sold at the Forest Visitor Centre), and the harvesting of medicinal plants under licence.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Kenya features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Saving the elephants: on the poaching frontline in Kenya

Saving the elephants: on the poaching frontline in Kenya

The African elephant is under constant threat from poachers, and numbers have fallen by one third in seven years. Joe Minihane journeyed to the Samburu reserv…

31 Jul 2017 • Joe Minihane local_activity Special feature
6 reasons to stay in Nairobi before you head off on safari

6 reasons to stay in Nairobi before you head off on safari

Most people coming into Kenya will arrive in Nairobi, but head straight for the country’s vast national parks and beautiful coastline. Stay a little longer in…

23 Aug 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
7 amazing African journeys

7 amazing African journeys

Africa is a continent of wild open savannahs, terracotta sunsets, thousands of vibrant green hills and rugged coastlines. Here, you can be chugging along on …

06 Jul 2016 • Harriet Constable insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month