Ngangao – A Unique Indigenous Cloud Forest


Our first full day in Taita was all about forests. We started the day by visiting the Kenya Forest Service that have a tree nursery near the research station. At the nursery they grow seedlings until they are ready to be planted elsewhere. Some of the tree species are native and they will be planted to forests like Ngangao to revive the native tree habitats. Other species are sold to farmers for additional income.

Locating ourselves in Ngangao.

After the tree nursery visit we headed to Ngangao, a rainforest located a short but exciting car ride from the station. Due to heavy rain some of the streets were in quite bad condition, full of pits and ravines. We were accompanied by great local guides from the Community Forest Association and the Kenya Forest Service. Ngangao is one of the few indigenous forests in Taita and it is home to many native and even endemic species. It is also a global biodiversity hot spot but under heavy pressure of human activity. Ngangao rain forest is managed by the Community Forest Association. The idea of the association is to bring together local people to take care of the forest. As the forest is often only seen as a cost and its animals a disturbance for farming, The Community Forest Association works towards increasing knowledge about the forest, for example as a water provider. It’s also important for sustaining biodiversity and mitigating climate change. Getting local people invested allows them to feel more connected with the forest and eager to take part in conservation efforts.

Inside a giant tree.
The wide canopy of the mother tree.

Even though our guide had told us that Ngangao was also home to several snake species we bravely entered the forest. Waiting for us were bright green leaves in various shapes, crazy coloured mushrooms, towering tree trunks, mysterious insects and spiraling epiphytes tightly squeezing the wood under them. One of the highlights was meeting mother nature herself, the mother tree. The mother tree, a 45 meter and 300-year-old Newtonia buchananii, is the tallest tree in Ngangao. It has a canopy of 42 meters and a trunk that took 7 of us to encircle. After hugging our newfound mother, we continued with our journey that was halted as we encountered another force of nature, pouring tropical rain. The rainy season this year has been exceptionally long and some of us were not prepared for this shower. Soaked from head to toe we waited for the rain to pass which luckily didn’t take long. We once again headed forward with the forest now smelling fresh and misty. Other memorable moments were the beautiful views from the top of the mountains and the shield shaped rocks that give the name Ngangao, two shield, to this beautiful forest area. Tired but happy after our 10 km hike our driver safely returned us to the Taita station. In the evening we again enjoyed a delicious evening meal and the warmth of the sauna.

One of the endemic species, Impatiens teitensis.
Mysterious insect.
Views towards west and Saghasa. On the slopes you can see typical terrace farming.