The Boni National Reserve is an embodiment of irony and contradiction. On one hand, the reserve is a safe haven for a large population of animals and plants during the harsh dry seasons that often hit the area. On the other, the reserve is flagged as a hideout for the terrorist group Al-Shabaab who easily cross the Kenya-Somalia border via this forest reserve. However, this does not take away the fact that Boni is among the largest low-lying coastal forest reserves in Africa, holding large numbers of indigenous and endangered species as listed below. Here is everything you need to know.
The Boni reserve is located in the lower North Eastern region of Kenya, in Garissa County. It covers an approximate area of 1339 square kilometres with its nearest districts being Lamu in Kenya and Ijara in Somalia.
The area has a mixture of hot and arid seasons influenced by the North and hot and humid conditions from the South. However, despite the limited amount of rainfall that the general areas get, the reserve continues to hold a large amount of biodiversity throughout the year, making it an important location for scientific wildlife research.
You can access the Boni Reserve via road. Garissa is almost 12 hours away from Nairobi CBD, less if you go by flight. However, due to lack of an airstrip in the reserve itself, you might have to land in the nearest towns and then drive to the place.
The Boni Reserve is run by the Kenya Wildlife Service. Therefore, visitors can get guided game drives through the reserve where you get to see amazing animals such as the Vervet Monkeys, Baboons, African Elephants that migrate from Lamu and Somalia, the Gerenuk, Water Buck, Hippos, Bush Pigs, and the ever-elusive Duiker and Shrewd Elephant Mouse. Carnivores such as the Wild Dog and Black Jackals also exist.
Apart from the mammals, this reserve also carries a large variety of birds, both land and wading. Among the hundreds of species that call this reserve their temporary or permanent home, include the Sokoke Pipit, a bird so rare it is only found in Kenya and Tanzania. Other include the African darter, the sunbird, and the honey buzzer among others.
The Boni Reserve is home to a very small and almost diminishing tribe called the Boni. This hunting and gathering group live in the Boni Forest and rely solely on natural resources for their survival. You can get a guided visit to their small settlement and learn about their traditional way of life, and how they live sustainably with nature.
Best time to visit
Although the area has been flagged as a hideout location for bandits, the KWS and the Kenyan government have taken measures regarding the restoration of safety of the place. Tourism to the reserve continues to increase as the reserve is among the most natural areas in the country. You can visit throughout the year. The rainy season, however, can be quite tedious because of the muddy and sometimes flooded roads.
The Boni Reserve does not have any accommodation facilities within. If you plan on spending the night(s) around the area, you may have to check Garissa or Lamu towns for the available options.