Saiwa Swamp National Park is Kenya’s smallest national park. It basically protects a swamp fed by the Saiwa River, which provides shelter for a viable population of the rare sitatunga antelope. There are several observation towers overlooking the swamp, and with some patience, sightings are almost guaranteed. The park is only accessible on foot.
The star attraction of the park is the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope. Other herbivores are boho reedbuck, defassa waterbuck, and bushbuck. Several primate species can be spotted in the canopy. The black-and-white colobus and blue monkeys are common along the trail, and vervet monkeys can often be found near the entrance. You might come across the very rare de Brazza’s monkey along the swamp’s edge.
Most of the park is taken up by the reed-choked Saiwa Swamp fed by the river with the same name. Around the swamp are several walking trails passing through riverine forest and savanna woodland dotted with acacia trees.
Weather & Climate – Saiwa Swamp National Park
As Saiwa Swamp is situated near the equator, there’s little variation in month-to-month temperature. The main influences on the weather are the area’s distinctive seasons. The Dry season (December to March) has lots of sunshine-filled days, though precipitation is still a possibility on most days. The Wet season (April to November) sees a lot of rain falling, often for days at a time.
You can visit Saiwa Swamp at any time of year, but you’ll probably appreciate the environment more in the Dry season (December to March). This is also when migratory birds are passing through, and when offspring of the local sitatunga antelope appear. The area is best avoided from April to August when the rain is consistently heavy.
Wildlife & Animals – Saiwa Swamp National Park
This low-key park’s main attraction is a small population of sitatunga antelope, which can be spotted in their natural swamp environment. These rare antelope have special hooves adapted to wading through water, which makes them semi-aquatic. Other antelope that can be spotted on the water’s edge include defassa waterbuck, bushbuck, and boho reedbuck.
Aside from the sitatunga antelope, another swamp special is the rare de Brazza’s monkey which is also known as the swamp monkey. The giant forest squirrels and red-legged sun squirrels are some of the smaller mammals to look out for in the forest canopy. Two types of otter inhabit the swamp and can sometimes be spotted swimming between the reeds – the African spot-necked otter and the African clawless otter.
Best Time for Wildlife Viewing – Saiwa Swamp National Park
Saiwa Swamp can be visited throughout the year, but heavy rain can be expected from April to August.
Saiwa Swamp has an impressive 370 species recorded in a very small area. This is a good place to pick up some of the western specials such as the spectacular Ross’s turaco. It is a great birding destination as no cars are permitted in the park and you can walk unguided along the forest trails. There are several platforms around the marsh for spotting the rare sitatunga antelope, but they are also a great vantage point for identifying swamp specials and for looking into the canopy.
Best Time for Bird Watching
Saiwa Swamp has an extraordinary number of birds recorded in a very small area making it a great year-round birding destination. Even many of the unusual species can be spotted any time of year, as they are permanent inhabitants of the park. Migratory birds are added to this birder haven from November to April. April to August are the wettest months, and frequent showers can sometimes interfere with your enjoyment of birding.
Best Time to Visit – Saiwa Swamp National Park
Saiwa Swamp can be visited year-round. This is a high rainfall area, but December to March is quite dry, and there are a lot of sunny days. April to August is very wet, and rain might interfere with planned activities in the park.
Weather & Climate – Saiwa Swamp National Park
Saiwa Swamp has a warm and humid climate with high rainfall. Due to the proximity to the equator, temperatures don’t vary much. The average afternoon temperature is around 26°C/79°F, but it gets cooler overnight with a temperature of about 12°C/54°F. There is rainfall throughout the year, but a distinct Wet season brings plenty of rain from April to November.
Dry season –December to March
December & January – December and January are dry, although it can still rain occasionally. The days are mostly sunny.
February & March – The rain usually picks up a bit in February and increases through March. There are still a lot of sunny days.
Wet season –April to November
April, May, June, July & August – This is a long period of high rainfall. There are many overcast days and it can sometimes rain all day. Road conditions might deteriorate.
September, October & November – Rain decreases a little in September. It can sometimes rain for days, but there are many days with sunshine as well.
Getting There – Saiwa Swamp National Park
Saiwa Swamp is located 385km/239mi from Nairobi and 27km/16mi from Kitale. There is a small airport in Kitale, Kitale Airport (KIT), but most people visit Saiwa Swamp on a safari in Western Kenya by 4WD.
Nairobi is a major transport hub, so most people flying to Kenya from Europe or North America arrive here. Just southeast (15km/9mi) of Nairobi is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO). Kenya’s second international airport, Moi International Airport (MBA), is 9km/6mi west of Mombasa.
Malaria & Safety – Saiwa Swamp National Park
Saiwa Swamp is a very safe destination, in our opinion. The same holds true for the other destinations in the country’s network of parks and reserves (which, in general, do not suffer from crime). However, if you are traveling independently and driving yourself, caution is advised in cities and towns between parks.
Malaria & Vaccinations – Saiwa Swamp National Park
Get advice from your doctor about which vaccinations you need before coming to Kenya. There is no malaria in Saiwa Swamp because of the high altitude, but as you’re not likely to visit Saiwa Swamp in isolation, it is advisable to take antimalarials. Precautions such as covering up at night, and using mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective) are also recommended. Spray your room every evening before bedtime, if it doesn’t have a mosquito net.
Wildlife Viewing – Saiwa Swamp National Park
There aren’t really any dangerous big animals in Saiwa Swamp. There are snakes in the forest though, and it is important to stick to the trails. Incidents concerning wildlife are extremely rare, so don’t be paranoid. Listen to the instructions given by your guide and exercise common sense.