Saiwa Swamp National Park Kenya

Saiwa Swamp National Park Kenya

Sanctuary of the Sitatunga antelope’’ A veritable haven for nature lovers, the Saiwa swamp national park is a forested paradise filled with exotic flowers, trees, and birds. It is also the habitat of the rare and endangered semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelope and as a preserve for the rare De Brazza’s monkey. Within these tropical wetlands and mosaic of riverine forest, sedges, and acacia woodlands, with fringing dense rushes and grass beds Birdlife are abundant. Waterbirds include the lesser jacana, grey heron, and the African black duck while the forest shelters the Narina trogons, the collared and orange-tufted sunbird, the yellow bishop, Hartlaub’s marsh widow bird, and the Noisy Ross’s Turaco which are difficult to miss.

A dense, vibrantly green realm of swamp, bulrushes, sedges, and surrounding riverine forest, Saiwa Swamp is Kenya’s smallest national park, was created specifically to protect the habitat of the rare and endangered semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelope. Rarely visited, well-off the tourist track but charmingly rewarding, this compact park is unique in that it is the only place in Kenya where vehicles are prohibited and the walker reigns supreme.

The small 3 square kilometers national park was gazetted in 1974 located in the cheragani hills of trans-nzoiya the rift valley province at an altitude of 1860-1880mThe Park has no roads, only a walking trail. The Park is entirely surrounded by intensively cultivated subsistence smallholdings (known as ‘shambas’), and so its perimeter fence marks a sharp divide between two very different habitats. Cultivation tends to be small-scale and by means of hand tools but the neighboring farmers plough as close to the fence as possible, dramatizing the delicate balance that must be maintained between human well-being and the struggle to sustain a healthy bio-diverse habitat. Survival of the Park, therefore, is very much dependent upon close co-operation between the Kenya Wildlife Service and the surrounding community.

Saiwa is home to Sitatunga, monkey, spotted-necked otter, giant forest squirrel, leopard, bushbuck, and African civet.

 372 species including such rarities as Ross’ Turaco and the blue-headed Coucal.  Swamp and riverine forest, tall bulrushes, and sedge.

This Park is unique in that it is only accessible by foot. Traversed by some 7 km of well-maintained wooden walkways and trails, it also offers three timbered viewing platforms where you can stake yourself out for a glimpse of the elusive Sitatunga antelope. Well-marked trails skirt the perimeter of the swamp, which can also be traversed via the wooden duckboards that go right across it.

Size of Saiwa Swamp national park

It is the smallest national park in Kenya, only 3 km2, and was created as a habitat for the Sitatunga, a rare aquatic antelope.

Location of Saiwa swamp national park

Saiwa Swamp National Park is located near Kitale, in Trans-Nzoia County, Rift Valley Province, Kenya. It is the smallest national park in Kenya, only 3 km2, and was created as a habitat for the Sitatunga, a rare aquatic antelope.

How to get to Saiwa swamp national park

Saiwa National Park is located 400 km north-west of can easily by driving through Road using a 4×4 vehicle.

Things to do in Saiwa swamp national park

Sitatunga tracking                       

Known in Swahili as the ‘Nzohe’, the remarkable and rare Sitatunga (pronounced ‘Sitatunga’) is a long-legged antelope that has adapted itself to exploit the abundant food resources of the swamp habitat. Its shaggy coat is oily and water repellent while its elongated and splayed hooves allow it to walk on submerged vegetation with impunity. So specialized are these feet that the Sitatunga can easily outrun its predators in the swamp, though on land it has a much clumsier gait. Reddish-brown with a vaguely moth-eaten look, it has very large ears and (on the males) horns. Moving with slow deliberation so as to avoid detection, the Sitatunga enters the water gently and sinks down until nearly all of its body is submerged. It then spends most of the day submerged or resting in the reedy shade. A good swimmer, when alarmed the Sitatunga dives deep and remains submerged but for the tip of its nose. Crepuscular and extremely shy it prefers to feed morning and evening and occasionally leaves the swamp after dark to browse. Found in scattered locations throughout western and central Africa (particularly the papyrus swamps of Lake Victoria and in the Kingwal Swamp near Kapsabet), it is only at Saiwa Swamp that these elusive creatures have become habituated to the proximity of humans.     

How to see a Sitatunga

Watching and waiting are the tricks of the trade. You might also keep watch along the paths and tunnels that the Sitatunga makes through the reeds and rushes – especially between 6 pm and 10 am when they are most active.

Monkey tracking

Very conspicuous are the silken coats of the black and white colobus monkey and the white-bearded faces of the distinctive de Braze monkey. You will also see plenty of blues and Vervet monkeys. Spotted-necked otter and giant forest squirrel will prove more difficult. Leopard is around, but it’s unlikely you’ll see one.

Birding tours

A great draw for ornithologists, the Park boasts over 372 species of birds. Rare birds include crowned hornbill, Ross’ Turaco, and eastern grey plantain eater, while the riverine forests shelter one of Kenya’s most spectacular forest birds, the Narina trogon. Most conspicuous around the Park are the grey-crowned cranes, but large numbers of ibis, duck, and heron feed conspicuously in the more open patches of water. Cinnamon-chested bee-eaters are plentiful along the trails, as well as paradise flycatchers and black-headed Gonolek. Ludhers bush-shrike is also found here but is difficult to spot being infinitely shyer. Cisticola and warblers flit around the base of the observation towers, and long-crested eagles can often be seen perched high on the bare branches of dead trees. Blue-headed coucal can often be caught taking in the sun among the bulrushes while the reeds are home to Hartlaub’s marsh widowbird and yellow bishop. When in fruit, the fig trees also offer a potent lure for double-toothed barbets.

Tree identification

The Park offers an interesting mix of forest and swamp vegetation and an extraordinarily diverse plant habitat. Dominated by tall bulrushes and sedges, it is bordered by a mixture of grassland, riverine forests, and yellow acacia trees. Epiphytic ferns and orchids also proliferate. The wetter riverine forest is marked by gigantic strangler figs while Syzygium trees, with their dark-purple fruits, are not uncommon along the fringes of the swamp.

Insect identification
The swamp makes an ideal habitat for all manner of gorgeous dragonflies and damselflies while a profusion of jewel-hued butterflies dance along the trails (such as swallowtails and charaxes, and notably the African mocker swallowtail

Reptiles and amphibian identification

Home to numerous frogs and toads, and specifically the tree frogs, which are particularly noisy after a rainstorm, the swamp is also a preferred haunt of Bell’s hinged tortoise. Snake life includes the forest cobra and the African rock python. As you follow the trails, you might also watch out for a side-striped chameleon.

When to visit Saiwa national park

Typical African wetland climate, ranging from warm to cool and humid to semi-arid (wet seasons March-June and October-November). The national park can be visited at any time of the year. Contact our safari experts at Wilderness Explorers Africa about Kenya safaris to Saiwa Swamp National Park.

Where to stay in Saiwa national park

The following options of accommodation are available near Saiwa swamp national park this includes Aturukan hotel, At’ ease guest house, Crane Hotel, Horizons resort.


Sitatunga tracking in Saiwa swamp national park
Monkey tracking in Saiwa swamp national park
Birding tours in Saiwa swamp national park
Identifying trees in Saiwa swamp national park
Identifying insects in Saiwa swamp national park
identifying Reptiles and Amphibians in Saiwa swamp national park


How to get to Saiwa Swamp national park


3 Days Saiwa Swamp sitatunga tracking safari
4 Days Saiwa Swamp birding and Sitatunga safari
4 Days Saiwa Swamp Reptiles and Amphibians tour


Best time to visit Saiwa Swamp national park


Cranes Haven tented camp
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Aturukan Hotel


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