One place attracting major tourist traffic in this district, particularly visitors on fleeting air safaris from the coast, is Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, which isn’t in the Taita Hills at all, but in the hillocky lowlands west of Mwatate. Set up in 1973 by the Hilton hotel chain, the sanctuary is now owned and managed by Sarova Hotels, who successfully balance wildlife and human needs in an environment that, while not being fully natural, seems to work well for both.
For most of the year, the sanctuary is full of wildlife. There are more than fifty species of large mammals and three hundred species of birds here, and the sanctuary’s small size means the rangers always have a good idea of where the key animals can be seen. It’s not uncommon to spot two dozen species in a morning game drive, among them lions, cheetahs, large herds of elephant and buffalo, and all the other southern plains grazers. During the drier times of the year, when the animals are not dispersed, the water sources beneath Salt Lick Lodge, on the southern side of the sanctuary, provide waterhole game-viewing, including a very good ground-level hide, far better than you could hope to experience at Treetops or The Ark.