I have heard about Saiwa Swamp for a long time, but I have never felt compelled to visit it. I mean it's a mere swamp! How many swamps have you seen? Anything special? Isn't a swamp a wetland or a water-logged ground with reeds? You get my point? To make the matters worse, I have this friend called Chinku. He runs a travel blog called ChinkuTravels. Every time I ask him to suggest a camping getaway, he never fails to mention Saiwa Swamp. I would give up with him and look for other options, because who wants to camp at a swamp? However, never say never while you are still breathing. My time came and I visited Saiwa Swamp before the 2021 New Year’s Eve. TravelwithEliud and discover another hidden gem.
From Nairobi, we got to Kitale late evening. We proceeded to Saiwa Swamp National park. Along the way, the sun said goodbye as it vanished behind Mt Elgon.
We got to the park some minutes past 6pm.
I was very excited and curious. My eagerness to see what's so special about this Swamp was on another level. Unluckily, darkness settled in immediately we finished checking in at the gate. The warden showed us the campsite and we got busy setting up. Our chef was busy in the kitchen and within no time, dinner was ready. After filling our bellies we passed time by the bonfire. Thing campsite is cold and therefore you have to dress warm and carry warm beddings. The moon came out with all its glory.
However, even with the moonlight, I couldn't see any swamp. This is because the campsite is surrounded by trees. I retired for the night and hoped for night to move fast.
In the morning, I was an early bird. I went round the campsite and boy, isn't the campsite beautiful! It is close to the gate and near the swamp. It has washrooms, gazebos, kitchen area, bonfire spot, grill, benches and a clean well-manicured ground.
The bench overlooks the swamp and this is a spot you can chill taking in nature's goodness.
After breakfast, we set out for a nature walk to see what this swamp is all about.
It is important for you to know that Saiwa Swamp is the smallest National park in Kenya. It is also home to an endangered antelope called Sitatunga. This animal is only found in this park within Kenya and hence the effort to conserve and protect. The main goal in a nature walk when you visit this park is to spot Sitatunga. There is an unlucky chance that you can fail to see it. I was hopeful that it would grace my visit with its presence.
The swamp (full of reeds) occupies a large area, which is surrounded by indigenous trees. The park has beautiful trails that are narrow, quiet and very well labeled. You would love it if you visited here for meditation purposes or for coupling.
Apart from the trails, there is a wooden path cutting across the swamp.
The park has watch towers on either side of the swamp. Visitors use the platforms to have a bird's eye view of the swamp.
It is also where visitors try their luck to spot the famous Sitatunga. We got to platform three, where the warden advised that we had better chances of meeting the lady or gentleman of the hour.
Patiently, we waited. Our eyes were stuck at the reeds. We observed the highest level of silence that a noisy group could manage. It's a lady!! She did not disappoint! There stood Sitatunga!
What a lucky sighting! It was just a few meters in front of us, but we had an aerial advantage.
She was grazing and looking up from time to time. Probably wondering what strangers were doing in her compound.
According to African Wildlife foundation, the Sitatunga is a rare swamp-dwelling antelope. It is distinguished by its long, splayed hooves. These hooves make them clumsy and vulnerable on firm terrain but well-adapted for walking through muddy, vegetated swamplands. Their shaggy, oily coat is another adaptation to an aquatic habitat. The males' coats are grayish-brown, while the females' are a reddish-chocolate brown, with six to eight vertical white stripes on the body. Males are also considerably larger than females and have long, twisting horns.
Saiwa Swamp National park has tree houses, which can be booked on self-catering basis. If you plan a trip to this park, accommodation should be the least of your worries.
This park is worth your time. It was worth mine. I wished I had more time there. It's a beautiful place for couples, groups, solo travelers and bird watchers. Yes it's still a mere swamp, but with a lot more. Go visit!
Until next time, keep travelling....
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2/10/2021 09:37:12 pm
Finally you made it to one of the places I have preached and talked to you about for as long as I remember.
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Eliud Ndungu, a part-time adventure travel blogger who’s been exploring his motherland-Kenya for over 9 years