By Allan Olingo
Situated in the western part of Kenya, Kitale is a tourist puller in the country, especially because of its close proximity to the Cherangani Hills and Mount Elgon.
This area is a rich treasure trove of wild flora and fauna, which is such a major attraction for all nature lovers. Traveling around this area offers an enchanting experience that is sure to add something new to the traveller’s itinerary.
Some exciting and fun-filled experience could be derived from an adventurous safari at the Saiwa National Park, Kakamega Forest to even the Mount Elgon National Park.
The Kitale museum, located at the edge of the railway line was the first of the inland museums to be developed in Kenya. Then it was known as the Stoneham Museum, named after Lieutenant colonel Hugh Stoneham, an amateur naturalist who lived in Kitale. The museum itself began with a collection of birds, butterflies and ethnographic memorabilia on the Turkana people that belonged to Lt Colonel Stoneham. The museums got its first curator in 1974, a Mrs Linda Donley.
This attractive museum has a lot of ethnographical materials and also practices environmental conservation.
In 1977, the museum acquired 30 acres of a natural riverine forest. The forest has been used for conservation of various plant species and wild animals.
Next to the museum is the Olaf Palme Agro forestry Centre for nature lovers and those interested in trees. This is a place to visit. This centre comprises of an agro forestry plot, information centre and arboretum with 46 species of indigenous trees.
Another tourist attraction is Mt Elgon, Kenya’s second highest mountain. The Kenya-Uganda border bisects this mountain. On its summit, is the spectacular flat-topped basalt column known as Koitobos. Another unique feature of the mountain is the lava tube caves, some over 50 metres wide and frequented by elephants and other animals digging for salts.
Mt Elgon National Park was gazetted in 1968 and covers the North Eastern slopes of the mountain, from lower montane forest to the caldera edge. The remaining forest and moorland is part of the Mt Elgon Forest Reserve. The Ugandan side of the mountain is protected within Uganda’s Mt Elgon National Park. The forests and caves in Mount Elgon National Park add to the enriching experience of traveling to this area.
Kitale is also home to the Saiwa National Park. This is the smallest park in Kenya, measuring approximately only three kilometres square. It was established to protect the semi-aquatic antelope, the Sitatunga and encloses the swamp fed by the Saiwa River together with its fringing belts of rain forest. The park is enclosed by subsistence farming settlements.