Kenya’s only population of Sable Antelope is found in the Shimba Hills National Reserve. Sable are found in wooded savannah south from here through Tanzania, and Central East Africa to the southern end of their range in South Africa’s Kruger Park. In Kenya the population, of no more than about 100, is found in the Shimba Hills. Small herds of females and young can sometimes be found in the more open areas of grassland on the hillside slopes, but the males, being territorial, are much harder to find. At certain times of the year, particularly after rain, when the grass is long they can be very difficult to see.

Shimba Hills lies approximately 33km south of Mombasa town, in Kwale district of coast province. The coastal ecosystem is comprised of a mixture of habitats including forest, scrub and grassland. The ecosystem holds one of the largest coastal forests in East Africa.

The reserve is rich in flora and fauna and hosts the highest density of African elephant in Kenya. The elephants, over the years, have caused problems in the surrounding farmland so, north of the reserve, the Mwaluganje elephant sanctuary has been established to provide a route for elephants to leave the park. The remainder of the park boundary is now fenced to prevent the elephants from invading farmland.

Other rare animal species found in the area include black and rufous elephant shrews, bushy tailed mongoose and other small mammals like fruit bats. There is also a range of large mammal species including buffalo, hartebeest, bushbuck, warthog, a few giraffe, big cats and a range of duikers. The forest is an important bird area with a wide range of forest birdlife while the grassland holds rare species like Croaking Cisticola and Zanzibar Red Bishop.

The weather tends to be hot and moist but is cooler than that at the coast with strong sea breezes and frequent mist and cloud in the early morning. Annual rainfall is 855mm-1682mm and a mean temperature of 24 degrees Centigrade.

As well as normal game viewing activities there are also a number of nature trails available. For the more energetic the trail leading down through the lush forest to Sheldrick Falls takes about 30 minutes. It is possible to swim in the pool below the falls or have a picnic. Walks are accompanied by an armed KWS ranger as there is a good chance of coming across buffalo and elephant along the way.

Accommodation is at the Kenya Wildlife Service’s Sable Bandas which are located in a cool and shaded forest clearing, high on a bluff with magnificent views over both the rainforest and the distant coastline. There are four bandas (cottages), sleeping a total of eight people, with a shared kitchen and outdoor barbecue area.