Established in 1974, Saiwa Swamp National Park is one of Kenya’s most magnificent conservation areas with unique wildlife that are worth exploring while on safari in Africa. The park is popular as one of the very few sitatunga habitats that are left in Africa making it the most incredible home to most of the sitatunga antelope family. For nature enthusiasts, Saiwa Swamp National Park shouldn’t miss out in your travel itinerary. This protected area covers an area of about 3 square kilometers making it the smallest national park in Kenya. Its proximity at the border with Uganda makes it to be one of untouched national parks that reward visitors on Kenya safari with authentic African experiences.
Saiwa Swamp National Park is remarkably a forested capital with amazing tree species, flowers and birdlife. It is mainly popular for its unique De Brazza’s monkey and around the tropical wetlands and the mosaic of riverine forest; you will find the sedges and acacia woodlands, the thick rushes and grass beds, bird species and many more. There are also bronze and purple eulophia horsfallii, crimson satyrium sacculatum orchids abound and the fleshy pink satyrium crassicaule which also come with the comet orchid, granny white flowers fading as well as epiphytic ferns. The prominent aquatic bird species to spot out in this park include grey heron, lesser jacana and the African black duck and within the forest there are narina trogons. Other bird species include the orange tufted sunbird, yellow bishop, hat laub’s marsh widow bird, collared, the noisy Ross’s Turacos. The park offers refuge to insect species especially the damselflies and dragonflies. Butterflies comprise of swallowtails and Charaxes. The African mocker swallowtails, Papillion Dardanus are also commonly sighted especially after the rains.
The notable reptiles and amphibians that thrive in this park include the frogs and toads, including the variety of tree frogs. There are bell’s hinged tortoise, as well as the blue headed tree agama lizard can also be spotted within the park. There are also snakes for you to spot out especially the African rock python and the forest cobras. Along most of the forest trails, you will come across the side stripped chameleon as they camouflage around the area.
Best time to visit Saiwa Swamp National Park
This park can be visited at anytime of the year however, it experiences the African wetland climate which ranges from warm to cool and humid to semi arid. The wet season starts from March to June and October to November. Traveling during the wet season is challenging especially when the routes leading to the park turn to be slippery or muddy.
Getting to Saiwa Swamp National Park
Saiwa Swamp National Park is accessible both by road and air. By road, the park is 22 kilometers off Kitale town. The park is 380 kilometers’ drive from Nairobi city center. Around Kipsaina junction, a 5 kilometer murram route takes visitors to the Saiwa gate which is the only park entrance. By air, there is Eldoret or Kitale Airstrip about 27 kilometers off the park.
Activities in Saiwa Swamp National Park
The prominent tourist activities to do while on safari to Saiwa Swamp National Park include the following;
Saiwa Swamp National Park isn’t only famous for wildlife viewing but also for bird watching. If you are a bird enthusiast, this protected area refuges over 400 bird species for you to catch a glimpse while on birding safari in Kenya. The notable aquatic bird species to spot out in the park include the grey heron, lesser jacana and African black duck and others. Around the forested area of the park comes with bird species like the narina trogons as well as the collared and orange tufted sunbird which are commonly sighted while sipping nectar from the forest’s flowers. Others include the noisy Ross’s Turacos, hat laub’s marsh widow bird, long tailed cormorant, cinnamon chested bee eaters, ludher’s bush shrike, ibis, egrets, grey crowned crane, black goshawk, African hawk eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle, the square tailed drongo and the double toothed barbet, Blue headed coucal, yellow billed duck, little grebe, yellow billed stork, hamerkop, gonolek and many more.
The sitatunga antelopes feature among the very few rare and the major tourist attractions within Saiwa Swamp National Park. The sitatungas are also famous as tragelaphus spekei and they are long legged antelopes. In Swahili, they are known as the Nzohe. Their shaggy coat is oily and water repellent where as their elongated and splayed hooves offer them ability to walk on submerged vegetation. They have unique feet that allow them to take off more than predators. These unique species have large ears and horns for the males and they move slowly mainly not to be sighted. They are also very good swimmers but very shy and mainly feed in the morning and evening. The best way to spot out for these unique antelopes involves watching and waiting meaning you have to be patient enough.
Other remarkable attractions for you to catch a glimpse at while on safari to Saiwa Swamp National Park apart from the Sitatunga antelope include the De Brazza monkey, black and white colobus monkeys, grey duikers, blue and vervet monkeys, spotted necked otter, giant forest squirrel, leopards, bushbuck, genet cats, mongoose and many more.
Nature walks through Saiwa Swamp
A few protected areas offer visitors with this remarkable experience. Visitors leave their cars around the parking lot and then embark on foot to explore in depth what this stunning protected area holds for the world travelers. The park features a 18 kilometer network of board walks and trails that connect from one end of the conservation area to another and each of one of them unveil the natural wonders that the park offers to the world especially its magnificent wetland landscape and wildlife.
Viewing the flora and fauna
Saiwa Swamp National Park refuges variety of tropical wetland species making it one of the most spectacular protected areas that are worth exploring while on safari in Kenya. Its wetland vegetation comes with reeds, sedges and thick groves of bulrushes, crossed by wooded grasslands and remnants of tropical forest. Around the forested part of the park, you will find exotic species like wild figs and banana trees and grasslands comprise of the rare acacia trees.
Besides wildlife viewing, this park is also an incredible site for photographers to realize their dreams. The park features the best elevated viewing points offering the most spectacular views of the wetland areas as well as the tree canopies where countless bird species, insects and butterflies thrive.
Saiwa Swamp National Park has many picnic spots which are located in different points around several trails and walkways. For interested visitors, you have to come along with your supplies given that there are no shops around the site.
For visitors who love camping, this is one of the best parks that you should consider visiting while on safari in Kenya. Camping is the perfect way for you to closely interact with nature. You will be amazed by the sunrise as well as the sounds of bird as they sing. If you are planning to travel to Saiwa Swamp Park, make sure that you have packed your hat, drinking water, binoculars, camera, sunglasses, sunscreen and guide books and many more.
Accommodation in Saiwa Swamp National Park
Saiwa Swamp National Park is one of the remotest protected areas that Kenya offers to the world travelers. The park features few accommodation facilities around it but there is Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) campsite and Treetop House. The campsite exceptionally offers the most spectacular views of its stunning wetland and it has 2 (two) covered communal cooking places well furnished with barbeques and picnic style tables. The campsite also has showers and flush toilets but visitors are required to come with their own tents and other basic things to use while camping. Treetop House is a single unit, well furnished with twin beds and a kitchen however, visitors are required to come with cooking utensils and enough food to take you throughout your vacation in the park. There is also Barnley Guesthouse and campsite which straddles within a five acre forested land just near Saiwa Swamp and comes with 2 (two) comfortable double guestrooms in the main homestead and furnished tents and a big campsite with all the required amenities for camping right from barbeques, hot showers, electricity to flush toilets and many more. You may also opt for Sitatunga Public Campsite, Sirikwa Tented Camp and many more and you would have realized your dreams in Africa.
Booking for a safari to Saiwa Swamp National Park
Depending on what your travel interests are in the park, there are many tour operators in Kenya and they can also be reached through online or directly by visiting their offices. They can help in planning for your trips in the magical Kenya whether you are interested in guided tours or self drive adventures. They can arrange for you the best lodge for your stay over at the park, cost your safari, choose the best safari car and the driver guide, tourist activities and many more things that will make your vacation memorable and many more. Local tour operators are knowledgeable about the destination and they can plan for your safari appropriately and you won’t regret spending a vacation in areas like Saiwa Swamp National Park while on safari to Kenya.
In conclusion, the Saiwa Swamp National Park isn’t only famous for its smallest size but also for its incredible tourist attractions and activities that are still untouched. For authentic experiences in Africa, this should be one of the must to visit protected areas for you while you are on safari in Kenya.