Travel | Shimba Hills, Kenya
Below the grassy hilltops, lined with shiny, caramel-coloured boulders, lies the vast green plains of Shimba National Park. Only a gentle breeze serves to interrupt the soothing silence.
Careful concentration – and perhaps a pair of binoculars – uncovers the hiding places of a herds of elephants, shielding from the sun under lush trees or cooling down in the meandering river.
With goosebumps lining my arm, and my legs feeling weightless with every step, I etched closer to the edge and faced my fears.
Enveloped in lush hues of green, Shimba Hills makes the world stand still, such is its magnitude, and for a brief second, you might almost forget to release your breathe.
Shimba Hills is a mountain side that overlooks Shimba Hills National Reserve, home to the highest density of African elephants in Kenya, sable antelopes, as well as Sheldrick Falls.
I have come here by chance, on the invitation of Esther, the enigmatic owner of Kirathimo Explorers Oasis, the guesthouse where I was staying. “On a clear day, you can even see Kilimanjaro”, she tells me with a gleam in her eye. With my ongoing quest to see more of the Motherland, I of course say yes to joining her! The best recommendations always come from those who know the place the best – the local people. They help you get right off that beaten track – sharing hidden gems such as this magnificent view of Shimba Hills.
Why should you visit Shimba Hills, Kenya ?
It’s beauty and sheer magnitude, and the chance of seeing Mount Kilimanjaro on a clear day!
THINGS TO DO NEARBY
Diani Beach: The popular Diani Beach is about a 40 minute drive from Shimba Hills. With white sand, turquoise waters and lined with hotels and restaurants, it’s a bustling spot for tourists and Kenyans alike.
Shops and markets: There are a few malls and shopping centres that run along the main road adjacent to Diani Beach. You can dine at the restaurants, purchase fresh local fruit, vegetables and clothing from market stalls or cruise the supermarkets aisles for snacks or other treats.
Getting to Kenya:
Most major airlines fly to Nairobi or Mombasa, Kenya. From there, additional transport is needed. Airlines to Nairobi include: British Airways; Delta; Emirates; Etihad; Ethiopian Airlines; Kenya Airways; KLM and South African Airways.
Getting to Shimba Hills:
Nairobi to Shimba Hills – I flew into from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to Ukunda airstrip, the closest place to fly to reach Diani Beach, using Safarilink who were simply phenomenal. This cost $137 (approx. £100). I then got an uber from Ukunda airstrip to my guest house at Diani Beach which took about 7 mins. From there, my guest house (the wonderful Esther at Kirathimo Explorers Oasis) arranged transport to Shimba Hills. You could do the same or take a bajaj to Shimba Hills and arrange for the driver to pick you up at a later time.
Nairobi to Shimba Hills via Mombasa – From Nairobi, you can also take the new Madaraka Express SGR train to Mombasa. From Mombasa to Diani you can arrange airport pick up, which can work out to be quite expensive (about £35/$45) but more straight forward. Alternatively, you can take a bus to Likoni where you take a ferry and then taxi/bajaj to Diani.
I chose to fly instead of taking the train (even though the train was a much cheaper option) because buying the train ticket seemed too complicated – limited to purchasing tickets a maximum three days before you wish to travel, only running twice a day each day, and lacklustre customer service at the train station in Nairobi. Purchasing online and using Mpesa is the simplest way to purchase tickets and they have now introduce online card payments – a welcomed development!