Gatamaiyu Forest, a National Gem under Threat


Lazing around is not my second name, but when I decide to waste time, it’s a game you can’t win. While in my lazy times, I do a lot of observation-mostly my environment. Sometimes I stare at the moon at night and spend hours wondering why it was named so. And sometimes I wander around. However, this is not one of those times, I’m serious, I’m busy, and I’m focused. I’m seriously thinking about the beautiful Gatamaiyu forest, busy observing how the gem is being depleted at the watch of responsible bodies and focused writing this, hoping that we can do something about it.

Gatamaiyu forest is one of the few remaining natural resources in the world that give users an acoustic feeling and sustain the lives of dependent communities. The little-known stretch mainly composed of indigenous trees form part of the larger Kereita ecosystem. The most interesting aspect of this awesome forest is that it lies only about 60KM from Nairobi, giving the Nairobi residents a perfect natural relaxation spa away from the baffles of the city, and for the locals, a sense of belonging and in possession of an asset that serves the region. However, this may not be the case a few years to come, as the agents of destruction and perpetrators of climate change (read humans) are stopping at nothing until they see the forest reduced to bare grounds.


Photo: Glen

A walk along the trails of Gatamaiyu forest will leave you feeling perplexed at just how much trees have to offer to human beings. Coupled with a few patches of mud that house insects and crawling animals, the forest’s bird species will welcome you with beautiful songs, and if lucky, a few displays to indicate how lucky they feel to call the place home.  You will be interested in learning that this forest welcomes you to the greater Aberdare ranges since it is part of the larger Kereita, an extension of natural trees and undergrowth. You will be happy to know that the region is designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA), meaning it contains bird species of local and global importance. It can be equated to the hospitality feeling you get when meeting a host well-mannered enough to introduce you to their immediate and larger family, making you feel as part of them.

cisticola tours

Cinnamon Bracken Warbler skulking in the forest- Photo by Washington Wachira

For learners and researchers, Gatamaiyu forest provides extensive knowledge on natural resource features and provides an overview of human-wildlife coexistence. No wonder the region’s fisheries department is located here. For lovers, you can start imagining walking along a river stream, under a natural canopy with varied bird calls and romantic moments on naturally fallen logs.  The beautiful Colobus monkies gracefully explore the forest, giving you endless reasons to appreciate nature. As an ice-cream topping, a waterfall, 18ft long is found inside Gatamaiyu forest!

Gatamaiyu and the larger Kereita forest is attached to important historical events, with the most important vivid one being the use of its fog cover by traditional Kikuyu warriors to fight against regional intruders and the whites during Mau Mau war that earned Kenya its independence. There’s more to it when I say Gatamaiyu is a national haven. A visit to Gatamaiyu and the larger Kereita forest drives you back in history to 1953 when the Larry Massacre took place. The colonial-local revenge war resulted in the death of over 4000 people.  The Kereita forest, mother to Gatamaiyu still hosts the mass graves in which the victims were buried.

Various efforts, including the formation of local organizations dedicated to the conservation of the forest, have been put into ensuring the sustainable existence of the resource. Besides, the Kenya Forest Service offices are located within reach from the forest’s Gate. Communities which directly depend on this forest perform activities such as bee-keeping and are hence in constant pursuit for its conservation.

Last weekend, on my routine visit to conservation places within Kenya, I planned and overtook a trip to the magnificent Gatamaiyu forest, with the hope of watching new bird species and watching my favorite monkeys-the black and white colobus. However, amidst the excitement of the forest’s hospitality, I couldn’t stop noticing the extensive deforestation that is threatening the existence of this gem. The tree logs had been freshly cut, meaning the destruction has just started, and that there is a room for action!


Join me, let’s advocate for the conservation of Gatamaiyu. The Kenya Forest Service should underline the importance of this forest and come into immediate action. We have seen many forests perish in the dirty hands of loggers; Gatamaiyo can’t afford to be one of them.


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