Taita Hills are very old mountains that geologically form the northern most part of series of isolated ancient mountains that extend from Eastern Tanzania to south- east Kenya.
These mountains were formed by a process of repeated uplifts and faults millions of years ago, causing the rising of central plateau, also known as Kenya/Tanzania Highlands.
The forests in these mountains have existed for over 20 million years
Taita Hills Forest are classified as an important bird area due the presence of bird species with restricted ranges and globally endangered species.
Taita Hills have been around for over 200 million years.
But what sets them apart from the ordinary is the fact that despite all the climate changes that have happened since then.
Climate on the hill tops has remained stable, because the hills catch the ocean swept moisture laden cloud drifting in from Indian Ocean.
These clouds have kept the forest bursting with biodiversity.
The hills are ranked among global conservation priority sites for birds and plants
Taita Hills cover an area of 1000 km2 and they form the northernmost part of the Eastern Arc Mountains.
They are isolated from other mountainous areas to the southeast (Shimba Hills), south (Pare and Usam
Southwest (Mt. Kilimanjaro), west (Ngulia and Chyulu Hills) and northwest (Kenyan highlands) by the vast plains of Tsavo National Park.
Taita Hills comprise three main massifs: Sagalla, Mbololo and Dawida with the latter two only separated by a steep valley at 900m.
Sagalla frames Voi town and is quite far from the rest, separated by a long stretch of low land plains and Voi River.
Dawida is composed of several forest fragments larger than 50 hectares and about seven other small patches
Surprisingly these fragments continue to support incredibly rich biodiversity
Mbololo Forest is the largest of all covering an area of 220 hectares, forming a narrow and long stretch on the hillcrest at 1,799m.
Mbololo has the best preserved and richest flora and flora and is the most important stronghold of the endemic Taita thrush.
It is also famed for three plant species and a snake species endemic to this forest
Ngangao Forest is the second largest.
It covers an area of 147 hectares at an altitude of 1,952 at the peak.
Ngangao forest is located 20 minutes drive from Wundanyi town , about 120 hectares is covered with indigenous forest
while the rest is plantation and rock outcrop.
Taita Hill Endemics
The forest is particularly special in that it hosts good populations of all the Taita Hills endemics birds,
- Taita Thrush,
- Taita Apalis
- Taita White Eye
Taita Apalis is one of endangered bird in Kenya,also the most endangered birds in the World
Other bird species in Taita Hills
- Lemon Dove
- Hartlaub's Turaco
- Silvery-cheeked Hornbill
- Orange Ground Thrush
- Striped Pipit
- Stripe-cheeked Greenbul
- Taita Falcon
- Yellow throated Woodland Warbler
- Evergreen Warbler
- Golden tailed Woodpecker
- Brown-breasted Barbet
Ngangao forest is the most visited by Birdwatchers
Ngangao forest also has huge and tall trees especially Newtonias which are believed to be the hugest in the entire Taita Hills and has acquired the title of “Mother-of –all-trees.
It is said to be several hundreds of years old hence the name, many visitor in Ngangao visit the site to witness this splendid tree
The flora is very rich and full of endemism, more than 13 plants are endemic to Taita Hills
A species of Dwarf Galago (Bush-baby is a recent discovery in the year 2002
Other endemics include:
- Taita Hills Purple-glossed Snake,
- Sagalla Caecilian,
- Taita Warty Frog,
- Taita Blade-horned Chameleon
- Three endemic butterflies.
The people of the Taita Hills are known as the Wadawida, historically the tribe consisted of clans and each lineage occupied its own territorial area
Traditionally,when an important community died, their skull was stored inside the many caves that cover the Taita Hills.
These caves are still considered very sacred.
Taita Hills Common Butterflies
Narrow Green-banded Swallowtail
Brown Play Boy
Round winged Orange
Mother of Pearl
Dark Blue Pansy