Kenya is considered a must-visit year-round destination for birding, and the many birdwatching places of Kenya across the country do not disappoint but deliver a diverse number of bird species.
The country boasts having at least half the total number of bird species in Africa at about 1060 different bird species.
Its myriad landscapes from mountains, hills, tropical forests, marshlands, open grasslands, lakes and coastlines coupled with a favourable climate create prime ecosystems for birds throughout the year.
With so much to offer, Kenya can be considered a bird watchers paradise, representing the diversity and beauty of African birds and wildlife in general.
For those planning to visit Kenya and engage in some exhilarating bird watching below are some sites you should begin with, and they are most known!
1. Arabuko-Sokoke Forest
Situated in the North Coast region along the Indian Ocean, Arabuko-Sokoke is the largest remaining coastal forest in the Eastern Africa region (420 km2).
This forest is home to a number of endemic plants and birds, with some not being found anywhere else in Kenya other than here.
The site is one of the most important birding sites in Africa and is considered a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with five globally endangered birds calling it home:
- Sokoke Pit,
- Clarke’s weaver,
- Amani Sunbird,
- Spotted ground thrush
- and Sokoke Scops owl
The forest is made up of mixed forest:
- pyometra ( a genus of tropical trees that are particularly important as a forest component in East, Central and West African tropical forests),
- and open miombo woodlands.
Other than the endangered bird species, the other bird species include:
- Fischer’s Turaco,
- little yellow flycatcher,
- chestnut-fronted helmet shrike,
- hornbill species such as silvery cheeked hornbill and trumpeter hornbill.
Arabuko-Sokoke forest is 560 km ( 347 mi) from the capital Nairobi and 120 km (74 mi) North of Mombasa (The largest city in the Coast region of Kenya).
One can take charter flights from either Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, or Moi International Airport in Mombasa to Malindi’s coastal town, which is just a 30 minutes drive to the forest.
Alternatively, from Mombasa take the B8 highway to Malindi, branch off at Gede town and drive for 1.6 km to the Gede forest station gate, the main point of entry; this drive takes about 2-3 hrs.
2. Lake Naivasha
Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake located in the Great Rift Valley, and is a spectacular birding site with more than 300 migratory and resident wetland bird species.
The lake has an abundance of plants, insects and fish that are a source of food for many birds, while the acacia forest surrounding the lake provides shelter.
The key species of birds to be found at the lake include:
- Wahlberg’s honeybird,
- white-fronted bee-eater,
- lesser black-backed gull,
- black-headed gull,
- Eurasian teal,
- Black heron,
- Great-crested Grebe
- and the Spotted Redshank.
The lake has no surface outlet but is fed by the Malewa river, but it incorporates a volcanic crater; Crescent Island Lagoon which reaches depths of up to 17m (51ft).
Lake Naivasha is about 95km (59mi) from the capital Nairobi, and to get to the lake take the A104 highway from Nairobi, and just before the Naivasha turn off towards Moi Avenue.
From Moi Avenue, continue on the Moi South Lake road for approximately 4 km, on your right look out for the Hippo camp sign, as this is the entry point to the lake.
At the camp, you can ask about the birding spots around the lake, and any other information necessary.
3. Lake Nakuru National park
Lake Nakuru National Park surrounds Lake Nakuru which is a shallow and highly alkaline lake that is an important birding site in Kenya for both resident and migratory birds.
Gazetted as a bird sanctuary in 1960; a first for the country and Africa, today more than 400 bird species have been recorded at the lake.
Some species to look for include:
- the Greater blue-eared sterling,
- Hottentot teal,
- great white pelican,
- a variety of raptors such as
- the long-crested eagle,
- Verreaux’s eagle,
- martial eagle,
- and the lesser kestrel,
- African thrush,
- Grey crested helmet shrike,
- blue spotted wood dove,
- western heron and both the greater and lesser flamingos.
The lake is situated at the lowest point between the highlands in the East and the Mau escarpments in the West and is fed by four seasonal rivers and springs at its North-Easterly location.
The best time to bird watch is from the months of November to April when the birds are in full plumage.
To get to the park take the A104 highway from Nairobi to Nakuru.
When you reach Nakuru, turn off the A104 onto Kenyatta Avenue and then onto Moi on the right.
Then travel South for about 1km and turn into the flamingo road on the left past Afraha stadium on the right and continue straight down to the main gate.
4. Nairobi National Park
The Nairobi national park is a remarkable birding destination owing to the fact that it is the only game park within a capital city.
The park has a myriad of habitats ranging from seasonal swamps, rocky valleys, sparsely wooded plains, open grassland, and forest-lined rivers and streams, to a strip of upland forest along its Western boundary.
As a result the number of bird species found in the park number up to 500 species with more than 200 bird species being recorded in a single day during the migratory season from October to April when Palearctic migratory birds are present.
Some of the key bird species include:
- the Nairobi pipit,
- Jackson’s Widowbird,
- Sniffling Cisticola,
- White-tailed Lark,
- Brown Barked Woodpecker,
- Grey Crowned crane,
- white-backed vulture,
- Secretary Bird,
- White Backed Night Heron,
- Madagascar Heron,
- Shelley’s Francolin,
- African Finfoot with key migratory species including the Whinchat and the Red Backed Shrike.
The park’s main entrance is just 7 km (4.3mi) from the city centre along Lang’ata road and opposite Lang’ata cemetery.
But there are other gates that can be used both for ingress and egress, these include the Lang’ata gate, to the West of Magadi road which is in a forested area, the Maasai gate to the South and the East gate off Mombasa road.
5. Kakamega Forest
The only remnant of the once expansive Guinea-Congolese tropical rainforest, the Kakamega forest is a unique habitat and a must-visit for birders.
There are a lot of bird species that can be found in the forest, with some species being found nowhere else in East Africa.
Some of the unique, and rare species include:
- Kakamega Greenbul,
- Ansorge’s Greenbul,
- Toro olive Greenbul,
- blue-headed bee-eater,
- turner’s Eremomela,
- Chapin’s flycatcher,
- Southern Hyliota,
- yellow-billed barbet,
- Great Blue Turaco,
- Grey Parrot,
- African Crowned Eagle,
- and the Western Banded Snake Eagle.
To get to the Kakamega rainforest, take the A104 highway from Nairobi and drive to Timboroa about 250 km (155mi).
Continue past Timboroa town for another 10km (6mi) and turn left onto the C36 highway to Kapsabet town crossing the equator on the way, then onto the C39 road ( Stendi Kisa-Yala road) for about 19km (11.8mi).
And just after the Chepsonoi market turn right onto Murram road for 14km to the Isecheno Forest Station.
It being a rainforest, it’s always raining but avoid the wettest months of the year from April to August.
For a better birding experience, request a local guide at the Isecheno Forest Station for a small fee.
6. Maasai Mara Game Reserve
The Maasai Mara is world-renowned for its great mammal migrations, sometimes dubbed one of the wonders of the modern world, but it also houses a diverse number of bird species making it a bird-watching paradise in its own right.
It is mostly made up of open grasslands, but also includes riverine forests along the Mara river, Talek and Sand River, wooded acacia and cliffs on the Oloolol escarpment side.
Some of the key bird species you should be on the lookout for include:
- the Rufous Tailed Weaver,
- Northern Black Flycatcher,
- Familiar Chat,
- Yellow Billed Ox-Pecker,
- Pale Wren Warbler,
- Karamoja Apalis,
- Long-Tailed Cisticola,
- Trilling Cisticola,
- Magpie Shrike,
- Golden Tailed Woodpecker,
- Southern Ground Hornbill,
- Bare-Faced Go Away Bird,
- Schalow’s Turaco,
- Western Banded Snake Eagle
- and Rufous Bellied Heron.
The main entrance into the park is through the Sekenani gate, and to get there take the A104 from Nairobi.
Before the Limuru road underpass branch onto the B3 road to Narok town, and 4km after Narok town turn left onto the C12.
On for about 12 km until you pass the Ewaso Nyiro river and the road bears South Easterly for about 86km to the Sekenani gate.
To note is that the road from Narok to the Sekenani gate, after crossing the Ewaso Nyiro River is murram and the going will be rough and slow.
The game reserve is usually crowded during the wildebeest migration months from July to September, with the camps, and lodges around the reserve fully booked and there are more vehicles than usual within the reserve.
7. Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves
Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves are in a semi-desert area in the North-central part of Kenya, with the Ewaso Ny’iro river providing a much-needed lifeline for all wildlife in the region.
The occasional rains transform the landscape into a green oasis, swelling the Ewaso Ny’iro river, bringing life and sometimes destruction with occasional flash floods.
The lodges around the reserve also feature well-manicured lawns that attract birds in numbers.
Some of the bird species you should be on the lookout for include:
- The Bristle Crowned starling,
- Magpie Starling,
- Black-Capped Social Weaver,
- Donaldson Smith’s Sparrow Weaver,
- Somali Crombec,
- Somali Bee Eater,
- Blue Naped Mousebird,
- Martial Eagle,
- Peregrine Falcon,
- and Pygmy Falcon.
- At this reserve, you’ll also get the chance of spotting the not-so-common Somali Ostrich.
To get to the reserves by road, take the A2 from Nairobi and travel North, and to the West of mount Kenya.
A characteristic of the Northern country is the endless kilometres of plains, and wheat and canola fields on the lower slopes of mount Kenya.
Reach Timau and head onward towards Isiolo, then from Isiolo, it’s about 38 km through Archer’s post town to reach the main gate; Samburu National Reserve’s Archer’s Post Gate.
Both reserves are open throughout the year and managed by Isiolo County; entry fees give you access to both reserves.
8. Lake Baringo
If you are looking for the best birdwatching places of Kenya, Lake Baringo is worth a visit for sure!
Lake Baringo is a shallow lake with no visible outlet, and it is an important bird habitat and one of two significant freshwater lakes in the Rift valley at a size of about 168km2.
The area around Lake Baringo is arid and resembles that of Samburu apart from a difference in the geological formations and plants.
The lake, its islands, and lava cliffs along the Western Shore provide a home to several bird species with the number of bird species exceeding 500 species.
Key bird species to look out for include:
- the Northern Red Bishop,
- Northern Masked Weaver,
- Little Weaver,
- White Billed Buffalo Weaver,
- Bristle Crowned Starling,
- Red Fronted Warbler,
- Jackson’s Hornbill,
- Northern White-Faced Scops Owl,
- Verreaux’s Eagle,
- and Grayish Eagle Owl.
To get to Lake Baringo, from Nakuru town take the B4 road (Nakuru-Sigor) for about 96km to Marigat town.
After Marigat drive for about 15km then turn right onto the shore road and towards Kampi Ya Samaki.
To access the lake and its wonders you’ll have to pay a small conservation fee, also beware of animals like crocodiles when bird watching on the myriad of small islands on the lake.
Also during the rainy season, the lake has a tendency of swelling and submerge most of the islands and some of the seasonal rivers on the road from Marigat may be full so be wary when driving.
9. Amboseli National Park
A stunningly beautiful park that sits in the shadow of Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Due to it being leeward of Kilimanjaro, a third of the park consists of a 10km wide dry bed salt lake which fills up seasonally with the rains.
Around the park, there are marshes that are wet year-round fed by underground springs, and other habitats include open grassland and acacia woodlands.
Some of the key species found around Amboseli include:
- Montague’s Harrier,
- Pallid Harrier,
- Black-Tailed Godwit,
- Grey Crowned Crane,
- Taveta Golden Weaver,
- Northern Pied Babbler,
- Collared Pratincole,
- Long Toed Plover,
- and the Rufous Bellied Heron.
To get to Amboseli there are several routes that you can use.
The first one is using the road to Namanga town, 162km, then driving East using the C103 to the Meshanani Gate.
Alternatively, use the A109(Nairobi-Mombasa highway), and at Emali take the C102 for 59km, then turn right for about 20km before reaching the Iremito Gate.
The best time to visit is right after the rains when the park’s wetlands are still full and migrant birds are visiting from October to April.
10. Midas Creek
Adjacent to Arabuko Sokoke, Midas Creek is one of Watamu’s lesser-known treasures.
Situated between Malindi and Watamu, it is a wide intertidal inlet full of mangrove trees and is an important location for passing and migratory winter waders.
In itself, it is an International Bird Area of world renown, and together with Arabuko Sokoke forms a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The tides and fresh underground water provide a habitat and food for fish, crustaceans, shrimps, turtles and molluscs.
Some of the bird species to look out for include:
- Eurasian Curlew,
- Bar Tailed Godwit,
- Terek Sandpiper,
- Greater Sand Plover,
- Lesser Sand Plover,
- Crab Plover
- and Dimorphic Egret
One can take charter flights from either Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, or Moi International Airport in Mombasa to the coastal town of Malindi which is 25km away.
Take the B8 highway, then turn left at the Sandy track with a sign for Midas Creek.
The best time to visit when warders and migrant birds are present is from September to March.
My Final Conclusion.
I hope that you enjoyed this blog post on the best birdwatching places in Kenya!
If you have any more questions, please feel free to do so in the comment section below or on my social media channels or even Facebook group.
Don’t be shy to post your own travel pictures in my FB group either!
I wish you happy travels!