Saiwa Swamp National Park is the smallest national park in Kenya. It was established in 1974 and is managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service.
The park covers just 2.9km² and was created specifically to protect the habitat and preservation of the rare sitatunga, an aquatic antelope.
The vegetation is a mixture of forest and swamp habitat with tall bushes and reeds along its marshy edge. There are tree platforms overlooking the swamp from which visitors are guaranteed to view the sitatunga. The park also hosts other Kenyan animals but due to its miniature size, it’s not as popular as Kenya’s other national parks.
Saiwa Swamp is located near Kitale town, in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya. It is 385km (239 miles) northwest of Nairobi, close to the Ugandan border, and quite remote. Access is via the Sitatunga Gate. It is close to Mount Elgon National Park, which is also worth visiting.
Saiwa Swamp National Park has no roads within its perimeter, but 18km (11 miles) of walking trails and bridges meander around this delightful national park. It is an ideal park to visit if you enjoy walking, bird watching or camping.
There are boardwalks and four strategically placed observation towers to watch the wildlife and 372 species of birds including the Ross’ turaco and the blue-headed coucal.
When visiting the park, remember to wear a hat and carry water with you to avoid dehydration. A camera and binoculars for viewing the wildlife, and a spotter’s guide to identify the animals and birds will also be useful.
Saiwa Swamp National Park has a mixture of smaller African animals, including black and white Colobus monkeys, otters, genet cats, mongooses, bush bucks and De Brazzas monkeys as well as the sitatunga antelope.
The sitatunga antelope stand 1.5meters (5 feet) tall and have shaggy, waterproof coats. Sitatunga Antelope Sitatunga antelope are good swimmers and hide underwater when danger threatens, with just the tip of their noses showing.
Sitatungas have long legs and elongated hooves that allow them to outrun danger in the swamps, but make them less swift on land. The females have a reddish-brown coat while the males are dark brown and have a mane and horns. The remarkable twisted horns can reach a meter (three feet) or more in length.
The park can be visited all year round
Accommodation is available at the Sirikwa tented camp, 6km (3.7 miles) from the Saiwa Swamp junction, and there is also a campsite at the gateway.
The nearest town, Kitale, has several small hotels where you can stay. Since the park is only accessible by foot, vehicles park at the gate. There is also an airstrip 22km away from Kitale town.