The Sitatunga is a medium sized antelope and Africa’s only true amphibious antelope;spending the greater part of it’s life in papyrus swamps. PHOTO|KWS
Discover Kenya’s spectacular great North Rift, boasting of magnificent physical features abounding with the world’s rare species of wild game and birds. Come and experience the diverse indigenous culture of the Nandi people and home to the world’s greatest long distance runners.
Located in Nandi County, some 40 kilometres off the Eldoret-Kisumu highway, King’wal is a natural habitat for the over 200 antelopes locally known as Sitatunga.
Any visitor on an expedition to North Rift region should consider visiting the King’wal Swamp, which is home to this rare aquatic antelopes only found in East and parts of Central Africa
Covering over 10,000 hectares of wetland enclosed by an ever green canopy of papyrus, the swamp is also home to different species of birds and reptiles.
This extensive swamp is crossed by the main Eldoret – Kapsabet highway between Kosirai and Chepteret. It is fed mainly by the Keses river flowing in from the east and drained by the Kingwal river flowing out to the west. It is said to have the largest population in the world (about 200) of the endangered Sitatunga — a semi-aquatic antelope with webbed feet that allow it to walk on soft mud.
To access the sanctuary, one can take the Eldoret-Kapsabet highway and branch off a murram road just past Chepterit trading centre.
Unfortunately, the likelihood of seeing Sitatunga, even with the assistance of local guides, is small (approaching zero in the middle of the day) as they are extremely shy creatures; indeed their very survival depends on their secretiveness and distrust of human beings. They spend most of the day in the water, much of it completely submerged with only their muzzles above water, and come out at night to feed on grass and soft reeds.
The sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii), is semi-aquatic antelope that occurs only in swamps or permanent marshes, wetlands dominated by bulrushes, reeds and sedge. It occasionally comes out at night on the land to feed. They frequent the deepest part of the swamp. It has elongated hooves and its legs are adapted to walking on boggy marshy ground.
Males are grey-brown to chocolate-brown and females are brown to bright chestnut. Adults are long coated and have characteristic whitish marks on the face, ears, cheeks, body, legs and feet. Males are considerably larger than females, and possess horns, characteristically twisted.
The habitat of the sitatunga is fast disappearing due to human encroachment brought about by pressure from the high increase in human population. According to the IUCN Red list the sitatunga is categorized as – Near threatened.
The attractions at Kingwal Swamp include:
• Game viewing : Sitatunga, Foxes, Mongoose, Otter, Ant bear/eater
• Bird Watching : Waders (water birds),Terrestrial birds,
• Nature walks : through Reeds, Papyrus, Water lilies
• Fishing, tree planting, cultural experience.
Not far from King’wal swamp is Kiplolok springs, Ngabunat caves, the Bonjoge game reserve and Kibirong swamp where watchers can have a glimpse to various bird species.
Besides game watching, visitors can also explore cultural sites such as the Koitalel Samoei mausoleum in Nandi Hills, which celebrates the legendary leader of the Nandi, Koitalel Samoei, who led the community to fight against colonialism.
The adventure would, of course, not be complete without a visit to the many sports camps in the region which is world famous as the home of accomplished athletes such as Kipchoge Keino, whose family originates few kilometres from King’wal.
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