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Animal-Spotting in the Kakamega Forest

Around 10% to 20% of all the mammals, reptiles, and birds found in Kakamega are found nowhere else in the country. Among the 330 species of bird here, those you don't want to miss include the great blue turaco (often seen trotting around in a most ungainly manner in groups of up to 12), the black-and-white casqued hornbill (surely the noisiest creature in the forest), and the gray parrot, which is under severe threat here. Monkey lovers will thrill at the sight of the black-and-white colobus -- which looks a bit like it's permanently wearing a shaggy woolen shawl -- catapulting itself between the trees; or search a little harder to find more elusive creatures, such as tree pangolins, rare De Brazza's monkeys (also known as swamp monkeys, of which there are a mere 30 or so left in Kakamega -- found exclusively in the isolated Kisere Forest Reserve, which is part of the larger Kakamega Forest), or the unusual potto, a large-eyed nocturnal primate said to be the world's slowest-moving mammal. If you're sufficiently quiet and keen-eyed, you'll also catch a glimpse of the smaller antelope -- tiny dik-dik, duikers, and forest buck are also at home within the forest. When the flowers bloom in October, butterflies fill the air (there are more than 400 species here), while at night, fruit bats and scaly tailed flying squirrels take to the air.

The forest also harbors quite a rich snake population -- 27 species, including the arboreal Gold's cobra -- but apparently no one has been bitten here since the park first opened. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend a pair of closed shoes, as much for the potentially slushy, muddy ground as for any creepy-crawlies. And always have something on standby to fight off the rain -- the heavens open virtually every day of the year (hence the term rainforest), and the downpour can be relentless. Finally, while traipsing through the forest, even if your focus is on spotting animals and birdlife, don't miss out on the chance to see the 60 different types of orchid that grow here (9 of them are endemic to Kakamega, so you won't see them anywhere else on Earth), and there are 62 different fern species, too. Ask your guide to point out the popular local aphrodisiac plant, mkombero.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.