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

  • Highlights

    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.

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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.

List of Animals
  • Elephant
  • Leopard
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe
  • Zebra

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.

Rare Animals

  • 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.

Endangered Birds

For a complete list of endangered birds in Kenya see our Kenya Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

Special Birds:

  • 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.

Vaccinations and Malaria

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:

Travel Insurance

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.

What to Pack


  • A good insect repellent is essential for Shimba Hills.
  • Camera
  • Spare rechargeable batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Spare memory card for camera
  • General clothing
  • Trail shoes and hiking boots
  • Personal medication
  • Small backpack (for game drives)
  • Toiletries

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:

  • Sunscreen
  • 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.

Drinking Water
Tap water in urban areas will be safe to drink, however, if you are lodging in the park, it would be best to enquire about the water. Until you know if the water is safe to consume (or not), we advise you to stick to bottled water, and avoid getting water in your mouth during showers.