Chyulu Hills – A hiking & caving haven

The Chyulu Hills is a mountainous range in Makeuni County, South Eastern Kenya. It forms a 100-kilometre long volcanic field elongated NW-SE direction. Its highest peak is 2188m high.  Kibwezi town is located 30 km northeast of the Chyulu Hills.

The hills consist of several hundred small flows and cones. It is still considered an active volcano. The last two eruptions (Shetwani and Chainu) occurred in 1856. Within the hills is the Leviathan cave, one of the longest lava tubes in the world.

Although Chyulu hills do not have permanent rivers, rainfall from the hills feeds the Tsavo and Galana rivers. Noteworthy, Mzima springs on the surrounding plains gets its water from here.

Chyulu hills divide two national parks and Tsavo and Amboseli. It acts as a wildlife corridor between them. The area is home to Maasai and Kamba.

Flora and fauna

It offers great hiking and camping experiences. Grassland and thickets dominate the lower parts of the hills, as opposed to the montane forest above 1,800m. The forest has species of Neoboutunia macrocalyx, Tabernaemontana stapfiana, Prunus Africana, Strombosia scheffleri.  Cassipourea malonsana, Olea Capenisis, alongside Ilex mitis. Furthermore, Erythrina Abyssinia has isolated patches of the forest. Juniperus procera and Commiphora baluensi dominate the lower forest parts.

Animals found in the hills include Eastern black rhino, (Diceros bicornis michaeli), Cape buffaloes, Bushbucks, Elands, Elephants, Maasai giraffe, leopards, lions, mountain reedbucks, steinbok and Wildebeest. Likewise, there is a common occurrence of zebras, Grant’s gazelles, and cheetahs. Moreover, various snakes inhabit the hills, like the black mamba, puff adder, and rock python

There are various bird species on the hills, with some endemic races. Species include: Francolinus shelleyi, Pogonocichla stellate, Zoothera gurneyi, Bradypterus Cinnamomeus, Hieraaetus ayresii, Stephanoaetus coronatus, Polemaetus bellicosus and Cinnyricinclus femoralis.

Local people pick the wild khat that grows in the area. Chyulu is the name of the khat harvested here as opposed to Miraa, which is cultivated in the Meru.

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