Overview – Arabuko Sokoke

Anthony Ham
By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guide to Kenya.

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Anthony is the author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Arabuko Sokoke protects the largest remaining tract of coastal forest in East Africa. The reserve is mainly a bird-watching destination, and several endemics and near-endemics can be found here. The forest is a magical place to spend a couple of hours – and a welcome refuge from the coastal heat – but don’t expect to see any of the big safari animals.

Best Time to Go July to September and January to February
High Season December to March and July to October (Not busy)
Size 420km² / 162mi²
Altitude 11-181m / 36-594ft

Pros & Cons

  • Rare coastal forest habitat
  • Rare forest wildlife including several endemics
  • Large variety of butterflies and frogs
  • The reserve is little visited and it never gets busy
  • Guided and unguided 4x4 tracks and walking trails
  • Stunning scenery
  • Excellent birding with forest specials and endemics
  • Easy daytrip from Malindi and Watamu
  • No accommodation in the forest
  • Very small chance of seeing any of the endemic mammals
  • No big safari animals

Arabuko Sokoke Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding


The Forest Reserve is home to a big variety of wildlife, but most of it isn’t very visible to visitors. There are some elephants and buffalo, but you are very unlikely to encounter them. Of greater interest are the three endemic mammals: Ader’s duiker, Sokoke bushy-tailed mongoose and the golden-rumped elephant shrew. Troops of yellow baboons are a common sight.


The reserve’s main habitat is coastal dry forest. The ecosystem comprises of three forest types: mixed forest; miombo woodland (lovely for walking, with its open canopy); and cynometra (tropical forest), each of which is home to different animal species. There are several forest-fringed ponds with waterlilies along the trails as well as some viewpoints over the canopy.

Weather & Climate

Arabuko Sokoke doubles up on its dry and wet periods. There are two drier seasons (December to March and June to September) – a hotter one at the start of the year and a cooler one mid-year. In between are the ‘long rains’ of April and May, when storms are common, and the ‘short rains’ of October and November.

Best Time to Visit

You can visit Arabuko Sokoke year-round. The rain will test your stamina and perseverance on forest hikes in the wetter months, but you’ll have lots more birds as well as frogs for company. Alternatively, visit in the drier months, when the sunshine makes getting around that much more pleasant.

Want to Visit Arabuko Sokoke?

Arabuko Sokoke Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
Elephant Shrews and ghosts

You don’t come to Arabuko Sokoke expecting to see the Big Five, but this, one of the last, large tracts of typical coastal forest left on the Kenyan coastline, makes for a brilliant half-day trip from the nearby beach resorts of Malindi...

Latest User Review
RiNique  –  
Belgium BE
Reviewed: Mar 24, 2016
Very happy birding

This was my second time in Arabuko Sokoke forest. I especially went there for the owl's. My guide was very good, knew all the birds, made sounds to lure them and overall it was one of my better birdwalks in Kenya. ( a lot) I did book a...

Full Review