Saiwa Swamp National Park is the smallest national park in Kenya.While It’s not one of the most famous national parks in Kenya it’s one of the best places in the world where to see the rare Sitatunga and De Brazza Monkey.Birdlife is abundant, with 372 species of birds, being some of its highlights the Lesser Jacana, African Black Duck, Narina Trogons, Collared and Orange-tufted Sunbirds, Yellow Bishop, Hatlaub’s Widowbird and Ross’s Turacos.
The vegetation is a mixture of forest and swamp habitat with tall bushes and reeds along its marshy edge.There are several platforms where to observe birds and Sitatungas in the swamp and walking trails that meander around and across the swamp area.In the picture you can see the swamp and the forest that surround it.
To get there i traveled from Kakamega to Kitale.From there i took a motorbike that drove along Kapenguria Road and then took a detour towards the national park.The infrastructure was limited: no restaurants available and only a camping and some huts although with great views of the swamp.I paid 25 euros per day for the entrance fee, 50 euros per night for the accommodation at Treetop house, the huts that i mentioned before, and some extra for the food that rangers prepared for me.I also arranged a bird guide by hiring a ranger of the park for next day.It costed me about 15 euros.
Around 5 o’clock i could see a male Sitatunga from the balcony of the hut.I was thrilled by this view.He was staring at me while feeding on grass.
Next morning i went with the ranger along the trail that meander around the swamp and pass through a forested area.
In this area I saw the little and beautiful Black-throated Wattle-eye perched on a branch in the shadow.
We spotted a Scaly Francolin walking and digging into the ground on the left side of the trail early morning.
Ross’s Turacos were seen in this forest as well.They flew over the trail and skulked among the foliage of the trees.
We located an individual of De Brazza Monkey in the same area.It’s a colourful monkey with a distinctive white muzzle and beard.Unfortunately it was too dark to take a decent shot of this animal.We also observed Vervet Monkeys and Black and White Colobus were seen as well on the top of the trees.
On the wet mud we could see recent tracks and hair of bushpig.In the picture, you can see the hoof of the wild pig and the hole he did while searching for roots and tubercles on the right.
The rangers told me that Spotted-necked Otters can sometimes be seen in the park and Aardvarks and Pottos are also found at night around the forest area.However i didn’t explore it at night.
We heard some birds as the Woodland Kingfisher,Yellow-rumped Thinkerbird and Yellow-whiskered Bulbul.Other interesting birds that we spotted in the morning were Hadada Ibis, Grey-crowned Crane, African Fish Eagle, Tambourine Dove, Black-collared Apalis, Green-headed Sunbird, Black-billed Weaver, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher and Bronze-tailed Starling.
Late afternoon I saw again my friend, the male Sitatunga around the same area in front of my hut.I think we establish a good “connection” as he seemed undisturbed and even curious of my presence.
Next morning i went again with the ranger to explore other part of the forest and the swamp area.In the forest we saw the white and brown morph of the African Paradise Flycatcher, African Blue Flycatcher and African Dusky Flycatcher, African Pigmy Kingfisher, Snowy-headed Robin Chat, Black-collared Apalis, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Tropical Boubou, African Pied Wagtail, Ross’s Turaco and Yellow-rumped Thinkerbird among others.
Afterwards we got along the trail that crosses the swamp.We got excellent views of the Woodland Kingfisher perched on a dead branch,see first picture below.Red-faced Cisticolas appeared on the reeds of the swamp,see second picture below.
Hadada Ibis, Sacred Ibis, Black-headed Heron and Knob-billed Duck flew over the swamp early morning and late afternoon.Eurasian Curlew was another bird seen here and we also heard an African Finfoot in that area.
Late morning we saw an individual of Bushbuck grazing on the bushes and reeds of the swamp.
It was a very rewarding and relaxing experience, out of the hordes of other touristy national parks.The friendly rangers were a great help to spot lots of birds.
Next stop Samburu National Park, with many pictures of exclusive mammals and some interesting birdlife !!!
See you soon my friends !!!