The Pristine and Sacred Kaya Kinondo Forest
Kaya Kinondo is one of the Mijikenda sacred forests spread out over the coastal stretch of Kenya. The kaya is located in Kinondo location, Msambweni District in Kwale County and is about 30 minutes drive from Ukunda town. Kaya Kinondo forest covers approximately 30 hectares of low-lying coral with varied ecosystem, consisting of about 187 plants and 48 birds and was gazetted as a national monument in 1992.
After exchanging pleasantries, our guide narrated that Kaya Kinondo Forest was officially opened to the public on 25th July 2001 where the elders offered a huge sacrifice to their ancestors to allow visitors to enter the forest.
During the launch, they simultaneously started the Kaya Kinondo Conservation and Development Group which was charged with spearheading conservation efforts, social and economic benefits to the local people.
KKCDG is an umbrella group comprising of nine small groups, seven women groups and two self-help groups from two villages surrounding the Kaya Kinondo Forest namely, Chale and Mgwani.
Currently, the organization runs a Community Based Tourism Enterprise named the Kaya Kinondo Ecotourism Project (KKEP) that links conservation and tourism with tangible socio-economic benefits to the local community. The Kaya Kinondo Ecotourism Project offers authentic ecotourism products, however there is need to further diversify and aggressively market their products as they strive to expand their business and increase their income base.
At the forest entrance, our guide later briefed us on the strict instructions that visitors should observe upon entering the forest that were bestowed to them by their ancestors.
Some of the instructions includes; visitors should not smoke, litter, take photos of the magical charm, make noise while in the forest, cut trees or shrubs or take away anything from the forest. We also came across a huge tree dubbed the tree-hugger by our guide and he urged all of us to hug the tree.
During our guided walk in the pristine and natural sacred forest; Kaya Kinondo, our guide shared on the rich history of the Mijikenda people, aspects of their culture, the forest biodiversity and its ecological and conservation value. We were also fortunate to see a troop of colobus monkeys swing from one branch to the next.
We came about a huge tree with a natural swing made from branches of trees and we took turns reminiscing our childhood memories as the swing went up and down. Our guide drew our attention to grevea one of the natural medicinal herbs that they use in the village to cure ailments.
After the forest walk, we headed back to the Kaya Kinondo resource centre and our hosts handed us madafu to quench our thirst; which we later found out are sourced from local dealers in the village. Thereafter, we headed to one of the traditional village adjacent the forest whose main residents are the digo ethnic group who are part of the larger Mijikenda group.
During the village excursion we learned more about the digo community’s way of life in one of the homestead and the medicine man who demonstrated his magical healing process to clients. We also gained some practical skills in mat weaving and indulged in their local drink mnazzi (palm wine) and madafu (green coconut).
We headed back to the resource centre to purchase a few souvenir hats and bags made from napier grass, coconut leaves and barks that are locally sourced. Their shop also sells herbal soaps manufactured by the women using natural herbs like barks of neem and aloe which is mixed with chemical ingredients such salt and caustic soda.
Kaya Kinondo is an ideal getaway from the hustle and bustle of city-life and offers educational and recreational services to clients in a rural-coastal setting. Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org for a day excursion to Kaya Kinondo Forest.