Rimoi National Reserve

Rimoi Gate sThis refuge for plants and wildlife is on the same parallel as Iten, but 1000m lower, in the middle of the Kerio Valley. It is very small --- only 66 km² --- but set inside a conservation area 5 times greater. It is protected by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Apart from the wildlife, all other aspects of the Reserve's day-to-day running are the responsibility of the County Government. Recently, the County constructed a main "Tabar" entrance gate and offices and have initiated a continuing process of constructing and rehabilitating the internal roads to bring them up to an all-weather standard (a goal, it should be noted, that is yet to be achieved, so 4wd vehicles are recommended). One can reach the main gate by taking the Iten - Kabarnet highway (C51) and turning off onto the C52 at Biretwo. Just after the Kessup River and the small center called Kaplis (almost 15 km) take the signposted turn to the right and drive a further 2.5 km.

Adjacent to Rimoi and part of the same ecosystem, but on the other side of the Kerio River (in Baringo District), is Lake Kamnarok. Six years ago, for the first time in recorded history it dried up --- to the great loss of the crocodiles and all other wildlife. Even in the worst years of drought and starvation in living memory, probably the Kipng'osia of 1918/19 and the Kiplel Kowo (white bones) of 1924/25, the lake was there to assist animals and people to survive --- so this was indeed an unexpected and unfortunate event. The great news is that for the last few years the Lake has been gradually reviving.

The larger mammals in Rimoi include Elephants, monkeys, warthogs, impala, zebra and giraffe. The latter two were recently introduced by the KWS and they seem to be doing well.
Without a doubt, it is the elephants which make Rimoi special. Including young ones, they number more than 500 and, very unusually, move in large "clan" groups (often exceeding 100 animals). Until recent times, they would move in and out of the Reserve and up and down the valley at will, in accordance with the availability of water and food. This has now changed with the completion of an electric fence along the northern. western and southern boundaries of the Reserve.(with a corridor being left for the elephants who feel an urge to migrate to ancestral breeding grounds to the south and north). Actually, the electric fence was installed to keep people and domestic animals out of the Reserve as much as to keep elephants in. In neither objective does the fence completely succeed  ----- for the simple reason that the whole eastern border of Rimoi is the Kerio River and unfenced and easily crossed.

The elephants are very wild, because they don't like people (who they associate with the aggression and danger of hunters), and hard to see because they shelter in the riverine bush during the heat of the day and do much of their feeding in the late evening or night. They should not be sought without the assistance of the game rangers. In the past, to find them, hunters would have to climb one of the prominent hills in the area (such as Koisabul) and survey the panorama of bushland patiently for indicators of the elephants' presence, such as rising dust and /or disturbed flicks of birdsi; then they would stategise to get into position to stage an ambush of the animals. Often, it took too long reach the position and they found the elephants had moved on to a different area. Todays visitors (armed with cameras, we hope, rather than poisoned spears) may be equally frustrated to catch a sight of them, as the herds are very mobile and have plenty of cover. It is possible to be 50m away from a herd and see no sign. Then again, even if positively located, that 50m into the bush is unlikely to be driveable.
On the positive side, both County and KWS rangers do their best to monitor the movements of the larger elephant clans and are ready to give guidance to visitors. Also, the County have built a large observation platform near the 'permanent' water hole of Tabar ---- one of the most likely and convenient places to have an "elephant encounter".

 

   1. The Kamnarok wetland      2. African Lily Trotter (Jacana)        3. A close encounter

Rimoi Elephant group crRimoiGiraffe redGrey-headed kingfisher 2 red4. One of the large Elephant "clans"at the watering hole called Tabar                          
5. Two of the recently introduced giraffe          6. Grey-headed kingfisher

 

Rimoi Directions red

 Smaller mammals in Rimoi include dikdik, porcupine, bush pig, ground squirrel, civet, genet, and pangolin. Reptiles include Agama and other lizards, tortoise and many snakes. 

Bird life is abundant and various, with weavers, sunbirds, pigeons, honey guides, hornbills and turacos particularly prevalent. In the rainy season, the seasonal lake called Tabar forms in a depression and this attracts water birds including, sometimes, rare migrants. There is an unidentified species of large vulture which the local people call “Sich” ----- very possibly transient Lammergeiyers from the Marakwet highlands.
A Species List is being developed for the avifauna of the larger conservation area. It is only in the initial stages of development and the observations of competent "birders" are welcomed. Send data, together with your contact to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Walks in the reserve can be interesting for those who know a bit about biology/ecology. Examples abound of parasitism, mutualism, mimicry, cryptic camouflage, xerophytism, etc, and could easily be incorporated into an educational field trip.
But note that walking is neither recommended nor allowed unless one or more Park rangers are attached to the group.

Camping is possible inside and outside the Reserve. The main campsite within is run by the County; it is located on the side of the Kerio River and is called "Crocodile Camp" ---- though, you may be relieved to know, it is not noted for the presence of crocodiles. Tents and other essential camping items are available on hire. You may contact the County Warden directly to indicate your camping requirements. Kerio View Lodge or Sego Safari Lodge can also do this and also arrange for the provision of supplies. An alternative is to sleep in these hotels, as they are not so far away, and, next day, get an early morning start to visit the Reserve --- but it is essential to arrive not later than 7.00 a.m.

Melwa Gorge

Like Chebloch Gorge, 10 km to the north, Melwa is a cleft cut through a basalt outcrop by the Kerio River.Melwa 1
It is possible to get to Melwa by trekking 6 - 7 km through the bed of a subsidiary river all the way from Sego. This is the most interesting, but most demanding option. Far easier is to drive from Sego towards Muskut and, just after Muskut Secondary School (4 km), take the new left turn-off, called the "Kipsang road"  towards the house of the international marathon champion, Wilson Kipsang (further 5 km). One km before Kipsang's house, at a junction, take the straight-on option to arrive on the banks of the Kerio River.  Leave the car(s) and walk northward through light bush, over stony ground, to the gorge (1 km). A noisy approach will disperse the crocodiles.
Be careful of bees; there are many bee-hives in the area. Avoid using scented creams / lotions as they are an attractant to the bees.
Birds include bee-eaters and kingfishers. 

Chebloch Gorge

39 km from Iten, the C51 highway crosses the Chebloch Gorge by means of a new reinforced concrete bridge. The steel beams of the old colonial-age bridge are close by and still in place and offer a perilous perch from which to view the gorge. Below the bridges, usually about 20 m below, but much less in the rainy season, are the muddy brown, crocodile-infested waters of the Kerio River. Young boys with primitive fishing rods compete with the crocodiles for the mudfish and catfish that are seasonally abundant.

It is hard to believe, but this gorge was cut down into the hard, basalt rock by the power of the Kerio River itself. When in flood, the river increases tremendously in height and volume and carries a heavy load of fine, highly-abrasive silt which grinds down the river bed.

MudfishChebloch2