Given that this is the smallest national park in Kenya, I’ve always been curious about it. What would make Kenya conserve a few kilometers squares of land in Kitale? What is so precious there that it had to be preserved?
It is this curiosity that made this park get into my bucket list years ago. I knew that should I ever go to western on a trip, it would be one of my stops.
So you can imagine my joy when I found out that it was the very first stop in the trip I was to take to Turkana. That not only would we visit this small park, but we would camp there too.
And so leaving Nairobi early in the morning, I was really looking forward to the end of the day where we would spend it in this park. We had agreed that if we got there early enough, we would take the walk in the evening, but if we got there late, we would pitch our camping tents, have supper and wake up in the morning for the walk.
I say walk because given that Saiwa National Park is small in size, it doesn’t have roads that one can take game drives in, like other national parks in the country. Instead there are these nature trails that allow one to walk in the forested areas and this crossboards above the swampy areas that allows one to walk over the mashy areas.
Their camping grounds are just like other Kenya Wildlife Camping grounds. Slightly well maintained. Like they do have the necessary amenities such as, toilets, washrooms, an area for cooking and sheds just in case it rains. But the area wasn’t so well lit plus only one electricity socket was working which can be quite the trouble for a large group like ours. Maybe getting there at night also didn’t help, but I do think the campsite can be worked on with more working sockets and warm showers.
Speaking of warmth, I would say that Saiwa is extremely cold. It was so cold that I could feel my bones complaining. And unluckily for me, I had forgotten to carry a sleeping bag. I guess I had been looking forward to go to Turkana with it’s heat, that I forget that our first and last camping grounds would be in cold areas. So for a visit here, dress warmly, and for camping don’t forget your sleeping bag or blankets.
The sun rising definitely saved me from the biting cold that had given me a long night. We took our breakfast in a hurry so that we could start our nature trail, hopefully finish it in time so that we could continue with our journey north.
Saiwa nature trails feel so magical. It’s like taking a walk in a really tranquil place where the birds are chirping, the sun’s rays are peeping through the tall trees and the mist is rising. It’s the kind of thing that makes one forget all their worries and for that moment, just be alive and one with nature.
They have constructed this tree houses that allow one to see the park from above there. This is especially useful because the main attraction here and the reason for this parks existence is the Sitatunga. Sitatunga is a small antelope like animal that is only found in Saiwa National Park. It lives in the swamp hence the tree houses that allows one to try and spot it among the tale reeds below.
At first we couldn’t see it. So we just enjoyed the crispy air while taking morning selfies. Until one of us spotted it and for the next few minutes everyone was showing each other where it was.
According to the description we had been given, we had been told it looks like a goat. A lot of people disagreed and said that from it’s looks it’s closer to an antelope than an actual goat. It’s like an antelope with a lot of hair or fur.
We stayed for a while up there just commenting on it and having fun, and then continued with the walk. The walk across the swamp via the boards they have put allows one to watch small streams as they snake their way through. Along the way we encountered wild banana plants and mushrooms among other things.
I would say this is the kind of walk you would want to take with a loved one. It can be quite intimate and lovely. Especially the tree house, it’s the kind of place those who love nature can spend an hour just letting nature sooth their souls.
Saiwa does have an actual tree house that one can pay and sleep in. We didn’t get to see how it looks inside and if it’s worth it. But for the walk, I think it’s a crime for anyone to visit Kitale and not branch into Saiwa and take a walk.
And with that, our visit to the smallest national park in Kenya was done, we got into the overland truck and continued our journey with our next stop being the kapenguria museum that I talk about here.
Trip courtesy of Safiri Nasi