Karura Forest is a vast, peaceful urban forest just a few minutes out of Nairobi City Centre. It breathes life and provides an escape for residents of the rapidly growing and industrializing “City in the Sun.”
The forest has space for plenty of outdoor fitness activities. The forest has fields for ball games and yoga; long, winding trails for hiking, cycling, and dog walking; and even an obstacle course for team events.
A lot of sacrifices went into saving Karura Forest from development. The late Professor Wangari Maathai and the Green belt Movement have spent years protecting the integrity of the forest and ensuring Nairobians can continue to enjoy its natural splendor.
Let’s dive in and find out more about Karura Forest.
Karura Forest Charges
The fees below are subject to change.
|KENYAN CITIZEN||Ksh 100||Ksh 50|
|KENYAN RESIDENT||Ksh 200||Ksh 100|
|NON-RESIDENT||Ksh 600||Ksh 300|
Parking fees are as follows:
|MINIVAN (12 seater)||Ksh 200|
|MINIBUS (more than 14, less than 32 seater)||Ksh 300|
|BUS (more than 32 seater)||Ksh 500|
Map and Location
Karura Forest Entrances
The forest has six entrances designated from Gate A to Gate F, with five open to the public. Gate B is a service-only entrance.
Gate A is off Limuru road, less than a 5-minute drive from The Village Market.
Gate C, also known as ‘Sharks Gate,’ is off Kiambu Road.
Gate D is a Pedestrian entrance at the end of the ICRAF access lane
Gate E is also off Limuru road and is a pedestrian entrance.
Gate F is the main entrance to the Sigiria section of the Forest. It is at the end of Thigiri Lane off Thigiri Ridge Road.
Karura Forest Activities
There is a world of activities possible within Karura Forest. These are just a few of the most popular.
Karura Forest has over 50 km of trails. There’s an exciting new path to follow every time you visit. Wear appropriate walking shoes, as the trails are hillier than you would imagine and could cause you to strain if you’re in the wrong footwear. Carry enough water, and maybe a banana or two.
The reserve has a dedicated 12-kilometer bike trail in the northern section. There are trail bikes for hire at the KFEET (Karura Forest Environmental Education Trust) grounds, accessible through Gate A or Gate C at Ksh 500 for 2 hours. Cycling guidelines are strictly enforced.
There are around 200 species of birds within Karura Forest. Guided Eco-Tours will take you to the best spots for viewing different species.
Karura Forest has a refreshingly cool atmosphere, and there’s a lot to explore with your best friend. While your dog will need to be leashed for most parts of the forest, there are designated off-leash sections.
You’ll need to register your dog and receive a Dog Tag Card on entry for safety and reasons. Once again, dog guidelines here are strictly enforced for the safety of everyone in the reserve.
There are tennis courts, a basketball court, and a makeshift football pitch near the Gate A parking. Just bring your ball, start playing, and I guarantee you’ll have a fully populated match within a few minutes. The sports grounds cost Ksh 200 for adults and Ksh 100 for children under 14 years per hour.
Eco-Tours are excellent if you want to know more about the history of Karura Forest. There are many landmarks with great legends like the Mau Mau caves that were used as hideouts during the struggle for the independence of Kenya. You can book with Eco-Tours at any gate.
- Picnics (In the Sigiria section at Ksh 150 per adult and 100 per child under 12 years old.)
- Obstacle Course (monkey bars, tree climbing, and army crawl facilities at Sigiria as well.)
- Tree-planting (seedlings and treelings available to plant within the forest or to take home. Planting within the forest usually follows seasonal rain patterns.)
- General gatherings (for weddings, team-buildings, etc. at designated areas)
- Horse riding
Karura Forest Restaurant
The River Café is a splendid open-air restaurant within Karura Forest through Gate A. Their menu and all-day breakfast make it a perfect stopover any time of the day. They know just what you need either before or after your excursion into the forest.
Love unique restaurants like The River Café? Discover a few others on our guide to Nairobi’s best restaurants.
Karura Forest History
Karura Forest was gazetted as one of the largest urban forest reserves in the world in 1932. Being so close to Nairobi City Center, the reserve has often come under threat from the city’s expansion. The most notable incursion occurred in the 1990s when large sections were secretly given to real-estate developers.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai led a group of activists against the land-grabbers. They were met by thugs allegedly hired by the developers and were beaten and bloodied. Ultimately, thankfully, Wangari Maathai and the activists were successful.
Since then, several organizations have fenced off and secured Karura Forest. With these organization’s help, a dangerous dumping site for criminals became a popular recreational ground for Nairobians. And the most inviting property for illegal development became a vital conservation reserve.
Contact the Friends of Karura and the Kenya Forest Service through their websites.
Frequently Asked Questions
Karura has a strict ban on alcohol and single-use plastic. You’ll be searched before entering, and any alcohol or plastic will be confiscated or kept for you to collect when you leave.
Karura is 1,041 hectares. That’s 2,572 acres or 10.41 square kilometers.
There is no Zip Lining in Karura. However, you can find zip lining facilities close to Nairobi at Kereita Forest, Limuru and Machakos People’s Park.