Kakamega Forest is the largest and the only remaining tropical rain forest in Kenya. Hundreds of years ago, it formed part of the Congo Basin, the Guineo – Congolian was largely covered in rain forests and swamp forests, it stretched from the Atlantic through the Congo Basin but now little of the rain forests remain having been replaced by the Savannas. That is why the remnant tropical forest in Kenya ought to be treasured and protected at all costs.
Kakamega Forest Climate is wet, with a fairly constant temperature of 20 – 30 degrees Celsius throughout the year. It receives heavy rainfall in the months of April and May. This ecosystem is home to thousands of species ranging from Plants, birds, insects, snakes and mammals. Kakamega forest is famous for bird viewing, it stands out as Africa’s top bird viewing forest with 16 species of birds found only in Kenya.
The forest is rich in diversity of trees with both hard and soft woods like the Prunus Africanus, Croton and Elgon Teak. Kakamega forest has over 380 species of plants including ferns, shrubs, orchids, flowers and trees. These species like the Rhinoceros horned viper snake, Columbus and Debrazzar monkey, Blue headed bee eater bird and the Black Billed Turaco attract tourists all over the world to Kakamega Forest.
The southern part of the Forest, Isicheno station is famous for the mama Mutere tree which is a major tourist attraction. Mama Mutere is the most photographed tree in Kakamega forest followed by the parasitic fig tree. Mama Mutere is the oldest tree in Kakamega forest that fell down in 2014 after being struck by a disease for over 10 years. When the tree died, it was mourned for months by the community members as the tree was part of their culture, it was a shrine where their ancestors prayed. The tree till date is lying at the exact place where it fell and it bears the name mama mutere because all the seedlings of Mutere tree both in East Africa came from it.
The fig tree attracts tourists similarly as it bears cultural significance. It was used as a channel of communication during the traditional ways. When it makes a loud sound that can notify anyone in the forest on its location. It also has Pockets that form part of its own ecosystem.
Kakamega has glades, an area where there are no trees. Among the glades is Kalunya glade. This glade used to water-locked for a very long period of time and the soil became acidic thus hindering any tree from growing. trees that have been planted at Kalunya glade die. Hence, part of the glades is used for grazing by community members who own user rights through Community Forest Associations Membership.
Even with all its beauty and rich biodiversity, Kakamega rain forest is endangered. Most community members rely on the forest for resources which leads to encroachment, poaching, illegal cattle grazing, cutting trees down for timber, traditional medicine and charcoal burning.