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The Tana River Conservation Zone

Boating at the Tana River Delta, Kenya.

Best time to visit:
September, October, January, February, March

Safaris: Upon Request

Activities: Game Walks, Bird Watching, Boating, Beach Combing

Accommodation: Tana Delta Camp

Temperatures:
Day: 28-33° C, 82-91° F
Night: 17-20° C, 63-68° F

The Tana is Kenya's largest river, nearly 1,014 km long. The headsprings for the Tana are found on the slopes of Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Mountains. These tumbling streams converge into a wide and powerful torrent to the east of these mountains before changing nature yet again, into a slow, meandering river for the lower half of its course to the Indian Ocean.

This lower part of the Tana dissects a wild and vast area of Kenya, where the riverine strip makes a vivid contrast to the parched bush stretching for miles on either side. From the Kora National Reserve onwards, the Tana is the only supply of water in an endless sea of dry bush, rocky soil and little rainfall. It is not until the river passes Hola, and approaches the coastline, that the surrounding countryside becomes greener and less stark.

The only home of the Hunter's antelope, a hartebeest with lyre-shaped horns, is on the east bank of the river, near Hola and stretching in a band to the Somali border. The Arawale Game Reserve has been gazetted to protect this rare antelope.

Continuing the journey down to the ocean, the river passes through Wenje, Garsen and some of East Africa's last remaining rainforests. This 64 km area is home to two rare animals, unique to this area of Kenya: the red Colobus monkey and the crested Mangabey monkey. Both of these primates are predominantly found in Western, not Eastern, Africa. The Tana River Primate Reserve protects these primates, but this habitat is threatened by the increase of agriculture.

Past Garsen, the river flood plains open into a wide, grassy delta extending to the Indian Ocean. The delta area is low, flat and crisscrossed with tidal channels, savanna grasslands, stands of doum palm trees and swamps. Small, narrow channels, the color of milky coffee, meander through thick green jungle which suddenly opens into small villages, where herd boys bring their cattle to drink and women wash clothes in the water, despite the ever-constant threat of crocodiles.

Explore the mangrove forests by canoe

Hippos wallow in shallow pools; reedbuck, topi, buffalo, bushbuck and elephant roam the grassy clearings. The Tana delta is most famous however, for its prolific bird life, featuring huge flocks of egrets, pelicans, ibis and storks on every sandbank. Beautifully colored bee-eaters, hornbills and kingfishers are a constant delight to the eye.

Finally the river pours its silt-rich, chocolate waters into the Indian Ocean at Formosa Bay, a huge sweep of deserted beach, which stretches into the horizon on both sides of the delta.

Copyright Melinda Rees of Eco-resorts

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