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.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Kenya features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The best aerial views in the world

The best aerial views in the world

Got a head for heights? If you're craving a new perspective on your travels, the best thing to do is get up high. From mountain-top panoramas to cityscapes, her…

17 Oct 2017 • Olivia Rawes camera_alt Gallery
Dhows, donkeys and sundowners: why it's time to return to Lamu, Kenya

Dhows, donkeys and sundowners: why it's time to return to Lamu, Kenya

Lamu was once an essential stop during any trip to Kenya. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this historic Swahili town is home to wandering donkeys and lazy dhow…

09 Oct 2017 • Harriet Constable insert_drive_file Article
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
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook