A Guide To Shimba Hills National Reserve Kenya

Shimba Hills was gazetted as a National Forest in 1903, grassland areas were incorporated in 1924 and several subsequent extensions took place to bring the Reserve to its present size. In 1968 most of the Reserve was double gazetted as the Shimba Hills National Reserve Kenya. Two smaller areas to the west adjoining the reserve and almost entirely forested remain as Forest Reserves; Mkongani North and Mkongani West Forest Reserve.

The Shimba Hills National Reserve Kenya is a dissected plateau that ascends steeply from the coastal plains, 30 km south west of Mombasa and just south of Kwale county. The surrounding escarpment rises from around 120m to 300m across the bulk of the plateau and as high as 450m at Marere and Pengo hills. All hills have views points, which offer splendid views of the hilly and forested countryside and far as the Indian Ocean and Chale lsland to the East and the Tsavo plains and Taita hills to the West.

Facts About Shimba Hills National Reserve Kenya

Gazetted: 1903 As a national forest

Altitude: 120-450 metes above sea level.

Area: 250 sq km.

Location: 35 km south-west of Mombasa, on the Kenyan coast.

Opened: September 1968.

Climate: The normally hot and humid coastal climate is cooled by strong breezes and morning mist and cloud.

Plants: Coastal rainforest and grasslands interspersed with woodlands and coastal bush.

What to see at Shimba Hills National Reserve

Sable Antelopes

This very small park is also the sanctuary of the last breeding herd of indigenous sable antelope (Hippotragus niger roosevelt) in Kenya. This typical saber-horned antelope is often considered as the most beautiful of the large antelopes. They are more easily seen on the central grasslands (Buffalo ridge) and around the old airstrip (near Longo forest).

Best time is early morning or late afternoon. Large and gregarious animals with long scimitar-shaped horns, they have a black colour coat marked with white stripes on their face and under-parts. ln the past, this African savanna antelopes were preys of many hunters and the species was almost extinct in Kenya.

A Unique Habitat For Elephants

The tropical forests of Shimba hills are a unique habitat for elephants of the Kenyan coast. The best place to spot them is in the Elephant lookout (Giriama Point) or along the forested area such as Longo forest, but herds can be seen all over the park as there is more than 600 elephants in the area. Note also that a fenced elephant corridor connects the Shimba Hills National Park to the Mwaluganje Forest and its elephant sanctuary

Shimba Hills National Reserve
Shimba Hills National Reserve

Wildlife at Shimba Hills National Reserve

Because vegetation cover is dense and the weather is very hot during the peak hours, animals rest in shades most of the day in the forest and may be hard to see. A visit very early in the morning and late afternoon is recommended.

Sheldrick Falls

Note that for safety reasons, it is recommended to be accompanied by a K.W.S. ranger, as there are sometimes elephants or few buffalos along the 2 km long way-marked footpath going to the falls. Take a hat and drinking water as before going to the gallery forest, the path crosses steep uncovered grass plains and it is very hot. The falls was discovered by David Sheldrick (1919-1977). It is a two hours pleasant walk from the parking area to this spectacular falls, which supply Tiwi and Diani with water. The track leading down to the cascade offers a scenic walk, count 45 minutes to descend and 1 hour to return. At the fall, don’t try to climb on the cliff as it is slippery but take a cold shower of 25 meters high, swim safely in the cool water pool or even have a picnic by the cascades on sand. The level of the pool depends of the season: during rain season, you can easily swim in the pool and there is one fall; during dry season, the pool is tiny and there are two spring waterfalls.

What to Do At Shimba Hills National Reserve

Ocean View Point, Giriama Point and other viewpoints

There are many viewpoints in Shimba Hills National Reserve Kenya, all with views over the forested hills and the grass plains. These viewpoints are used to observe elephants so binoculars are a must. The eastern side of the park has more viewpoints than the western side and the scenery is more contrasted with forests and plains. At the western side of the park, the Pengo hill (450 m) is the highest point of Shimba hills and on a very clear day, the Tsavo plains and the Taita Hills can be seen (and perhaps the Mount Kilimanjaro).

Ocean viewpoint offers a panoramic view over the hilly countryside and as faras the Kenyan coast and the (hale Island and there is a picnic site. The Giriama point is on the way towards Sheldrick Falls,

Mwaluganje Forest (Elephant Sanctuary)

Located at approximately 14 km from the main gate of Shimba Hills N.P., the Elephant sanctuary is linked with the National park by a fenced elephant corridor, so there are chances to see elephants crossing the main red-soil road. The forest is also home for endemic bird species and indigenous trees species such as Mbambakofi (Afzelia quanzensis), Mvule (Milicia excelsa) and Mgurure (Combretum schumanii) and six species of cycad, a fan-like plant that evolved 300 million years ago (Eucephalartos hildebrantii).

Visiting the park is a great opportunity to discover the dry red-soil of inland Kenya by doing a real safari and observing African elephants while being near the coast and still enjoying the freshness of the coastal breeze.

Accommodation And Hotels at Shimba Hills National Reserve Kenya


Aberdare Safari Hotels, Tel: +254 (20) 5540780, 5535412.

Sel-catering Accommodation

Sable Bandas; Located 2 km from the Main Gate the Bandas have four units with a capacity of two, with a fully furnished kitchen. Reservations are made through the warden or KWS HQ, Nairobi.


2 public campsites: Professional (capacity 100), Makadara (capacity 50), 2 picnic sites Ocean view (capacity 50), Sheldrick Falls Walk (Capacity 50).

Best time to visit: All year round.

How to get to Shimba Hills National Reserve


From Mombasa, take the ferry at Likoni to access the southern coastline where Diani and Tiwi beaches are. Then, take the main A14 coast road l0 km southwards until you join the main crossroad. Take the road climbing to Kwale Town ((106). The main gate is located at 1 km from the C106 road and 3 km from Kwale. Park Gates: Main gate, Kivumoni Gate, Kidongo Gate and Shimba Gate.


The reserve has one airstrip located near park headquarters.

What t0 take with you to Shimba Hills National Reserve

Drinking water, picnic items and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight.

Also useful are: binoculars, camera, hat, sunscreen and guidebooks

Shimba Hills National Reserve – Please respect the wildlife code

  • Respect the privacy of the wildlife, this is their habitat.
  • Beware of the animals, they are wild and can be unpredictable.
  • Don‘t crowd the animals or make sudden noises or movements.
  • Don‘t feed the animals, it upsets their diet and leads to human dependence.
  • Keep quiet, noise disturbs the wildlife and may antagonize your fellow visitors.
  • Stay in your vehicle at all times, except at designated picnic or walking areas.
  • Keep below the maximum speed limit (40 kph/25 mph).
  • Never drive off-road, this severely damages the habitat.
  • When viewing wildlife keep to a minimum distance of 20 meters and pull to the side of the road so as to allow others to pass.
  • Leave no litter and never leave fires unattended or discard burning objects.
  • Respect the cultural heritage of Kenya, never take pictures of the local people or their habitat without asking their permission, respect the cultural traditions of Kenya and always dress with decorum.
  • Stay over or leave before dusk, visitors must vacate the Park between 7.00pm – 6.00am unless they are camping overnight. Night game driving is not allowed.


Daily 6.00am – 6.00pm. Note: No entry is allowed on foot, and visitors will not be allowed into the Park after 6.15pm.

Shimba Hills National Reserve Kenya Entrance Fee and Charges

Obtainable via KWS HQ: Tel: +2S4(20)6000800, 6002345 – Fax: +254(20)6007024

Email: marketing@kws.go.ke – website: www.kws.go.ke

‘Safari Card‘ required?

At present the park does not operate the Safari Card system. Entry is by cash only.

Accommodation and hotels in Shimba Hills National Reserve

Campsites in Shimba Hills National Reserve

  1. Professional
  2. Sheldrick Walk Falls
  3. Ocean View
  4. Makadara Picnic sites

Privately Owned Lodges at Shimba Hills National Reserve

  1. Shimba Hills Lodge

Shimba Hills National Reserve Contacts:

Attraction Type: Scenery & Landscapes, Wildlife
Category: Swamp, Lake or River, Birding Site
Region: Coast
City / Town: Diani
Telephone: 254 704 467855
Email: shimbahills@kws.go.ke

Watch a short video of Shimba Hills National Reserve Kenya