Shimba Hills National Park in Kenya
Beautifully lush, with sharply sloping hills, steep valleys and a striking waterfall, Shimba Hills National Reserve offers some spectacular vistas and an amazing scenery. Although not a typical Big Five safari destination, the park is home to the largest elephant population in Kenya. It rarely gets busy, and you might end up with exclusive use of the park rangers on game drives and hikes.
Best Time to Go
July – September; January – February
Average Safari Cost
$100 – $850 pp/day
Coastal rainforest, over 600 elephants, rare sable antelope, Sheldrick Falls, stunning scenery and views
Why Visit Shimba Hills National Park
Within its thick foliage, this lush coastal rainforest hides the largest elephant population and is home to the last breeding herd of sable antelope in Kenya. The park is not known for the wildlife viewing, due to the thick vegetation. However, there are over 600 elephants in the park, who remain under the trees during the day to escape the heat. The guided night drives are great way to see more of the wildlife, especially the predators that are always more active at night.
Sheldrick Falls is an impressive cascade of over 82ft (25m). The charming 2km (1 mile) footpath to the falls makes for some light hiking and takes about an hour each way. Take a picnic and your bathing suit along – this is a lovely spot to have lunch at, and the plunge pool at Sheldrick Falls is the perfect spot to cool off in.
Pros and Cons
- Beautiful coastal rainforest
- Rare forest wildlife
- Rarely gets crowded
- Guided walking safaris available
- Close to Mombasa and will be a great add-on to a beach holiday
- Predators are rarely seen and limited variety of safari big game staples (elephant and buffalo are the only Big Five you’ll see)
- Accommodation is limited
Best Time to Go
Wet seasons: April - May and October - November
Dry seasons: December - March and June - September
The best time to view wildlife is from January to February and from July to September. These are the driest months of the year. Animals gather around water sources and the vegetation is thinner, making wildlife easier to spot. However, the landscape is a bit drier during these months.
April, May, October and November are terrible for wildlife viewing; however, the park is lush and vibrant, and empty of tourists. November to April is usually the best time for bird watching, and for seeing newborn animals. Migratory birds will be present and resident birds will either be in their breeding plumage, or nesting.
For more information when to visit see our Kenya Safari - Complete Travel Guide.
Start your African Adventure
Popular Tours in Kenya
10 Days Maasai Mara Great Migration
Best season: Kenya is a year round destination with excellent game viewing. One of Kenya’s greatest attractions is the annual wildebeest migration between Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya between June and September. Peak season is from January to March when the weather is hot and dry. This is the most comfortable time for travelling. It is good for bird viewing on the Rift Valley lakes and game viewing is also best at this time. April – June and October – December are less popular times (this means no crowds!) for visiting Kenya as these are the months when Kenya receives its rain. You will still be able to get around easily during the rainy season.
The Great Migration Safari
Experience East Africa's landscapes and wildlife at their finest on this independent itinerary, embarking on game drives through majestic national parks and reserves in Kenya and Tanzania, keeping watch for the famous "Big Five," and visiting a Maasai village. Stay in the best boutique camp and luxury safari lodge accommodations in East Africa, and discover Africa's astounding diversity, including the iconic "Big Five" Experience six nights in the heart of the Great Migration - three in the Serengeti and three in the Masai Mara Explore Olduvai Gorge on a private visit, where the Leakey family discovered fossils linking man to his distant ancestors Visit a vibrant village in Tanzania to get a sense of daily life, as you ride by tuk-tuk and explore the local market.
Kenya Safari Experience
1 week safari combining the best aspects of great tailor made safari for a family or an incentive group having range of interest in wildlife and beauty of Kenya and culture of different communities with a visit to Kenya’s famous parks which includes: Tsavo East, West National Parks, Amboseli, Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara National reserve. This gives you a chance to visit the Great Rift Valley with its climax at Lake Nakuru National Park, view of Mt. Kilimanjaro from your lodge/camp while at Amboseli. Animals likely to see during game drives includes: Elephants Lions, Rhinos, Leopard, Buffalos, Cheetah, Giraffes, Zebras and different types of gazelles. For bird watchers, it’s also the best safari with lots of bird species to spot along the whole safari with its climax at Lake Nakuru National Park. The safari also combines very well with beach holiday in Kenya Coast as it starts from Nairobi and ends in Mombasa either at North or South Coast – Diani Beach.
3 Days Mara Safari
Maasai Mara National Reserve is an area of preserved savannah wilderness in south west of Kenya, along the Tanzanian border. Its animals include lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras and hippos. Wildebeest traverse its plains during their annual migration. The landscape has grassy plains and rolling hills, and is crossed by the Mara and Talek rivers. The area nearby is dotted with villages (enkangs) of Maasai people.
Wildlife and Birds
Although there are large populations of elephant, buffalo, zebra and giraffe, Shimba Hills is not particularly great for wildlife viewing, due to the thick foliage. There are also several primate species that are more easily seen, including the yellow baboon.
With notable bird species such the Golden Palm Weaver, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird and the African Palm Swift, avid birders will not be disappointed in Shimba Hills.
While Shimba Hills does not have a wide variety of wildlife, there are large densities of those that are present in the reserve. Elephant herds are especially large, and while seeing them up-close might not be possible, you can view the herds from lookout points, which also provides excellent views of this scenically beauty reserve.
Leopard and hyena are the only large predators present, and sightings of them are very rare. Aside from buffalo, zebra and giraffe, there are also several antelope and primate species present. Yellow baboon, Sykes monkey and the Angolan colobus monkey are easily seen, while the endangered Roosevelt’s sable antelope is present but more difficult to spot.
- Leopard, hyena
Infrequently Seen Animals
- Bushbaby, bushpig, civet, genet, blue duiker, bush duiker, red duiker, serval, Roosevelt’s sable antelope
Frequently Seen Animals
- Elephant, giraffe, hippo, buffalo, zebra, waterbuck, yellow baboon, Sykes monkey, vervet monkey, Angolan colobus monkey
Shimba Hills National Reserve offers a wonderful checklist for avid birders. The near-endemic Sokoke Pipit can be found here, along with the vibrant Crested Guineafowl and the beautiful Golden Palm Weaver. There are about 200 recorded species in Shimba Hills, and bird watching is best from November to April when resident birds are in their breeding plumage and migratory birds are present.
For a complete list of endangered birds in Kenya see our Kenya Safari - Complete Travel Guide.
- African Fish Eagle, African Palm Swift, Black-collared Barbet, Brown-breasted Barbet, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Crested Guineafowl, Crowned Hornbill, East Coast Akalat, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, Fischer’s Turaco, Golden Palm Weaver, Green Barbet, Green Tinkerbird, Mottled Swift, Narina Trogon, Panagano Longclaw, Plain-backed Sunbord, Red-necked Spurfowl, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Sokoke Pipit, Spotted Ground Thrush, Trumpeter Hornbill, Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbird, Yellow-throated Longclaw
Getting There and Safety
Nairobi is the main entry point into Kenya. Kenya’s main airport is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and it’s located 15km (9mi) from Nairobi. The second biggest airport is Moi International Airport, located in Mombasa. It would be easiest to reach Shimba Hills from Mombasa or Diani, and you can take a domestic flight to either city, from Nairobi.
Shimba Hills is easy to reach from Diani Beach or Mombasa, and many hotels in both these places offer daytrips to the reserve. Alternatively, you could rent a vehicle and drive yourself.
For the flights to Kenya, it is advised to check Skyscanner (for multiple destination flights), to see which airlines can take you there and compare various ticket prices.
If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Kenya.
If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Kenya.
For more information on visas see our Kenya Safari - Complete Country Guide.
The malaria risk is high for a coastal region such as Shimba Hills. Please speak to your doctor or travel clinic regarding malaria preventative medication for your trip to Kenya. As added protection against mosquitoes, use a good insect repellent (30% DEET or more) and keep your arms and legs covered at night. The malaria risk is highest from April to May and October to November.
Check your local travel health authority for more information:
Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Kenya. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.
Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.
- A good insect repellent is essential for Shimba Hills.
- Spare rechargeable batteries
- Battery charger
- Spare memory card for camera
- General clothing
- Trail shoes and hiking boots
- Personal medication
- Small backpack (for game drives)
If you are visiting from April – May and October – November, wet-weather gear is necessary:
- Waterproof backpack
- Waterproof rain jacket
- Waterproof trousers
- Waterproof hiking boots
If you are visiting in the dry season from December – March and June - September, you will need:
- Wide-brimmed sunhat
- Warm clothing – nights and early mornings are chilly.
For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.
The parks and reserves in Kenya are generally very safe to visit. Crime usually occurs in the busier urban areas. It should be noted, however, that Shimba Hills is reached from beach resorts such as Diani Beach and other beaches south of Mombasa, and petty theft such as pickpocketing and muggings can occur in these areas.
Visitors that are on a self-drive should follow basic safety precautions when travelling between parks. Visitors should also avoid driving at night.