Ruma National Park, formerly Lambwe Valley National Reserve, is the last remaining sanctuary for the only indigenous population of the rare roan antelope in Kenya. It is also the only terrestrial national park in the western Kenya region. The park lies on the flat floor of the seasonally watered Lambwe River Valley which is bordered to the south-east by the Kanyamwa Escarpment. To the north, it borders the volcanic plugs of Ruri Hills.
Established in 1966, Ruma National Park covers 29,653 acres. The park later became known as ‘Ruma’ after Gor Mahia, a powerful and highly feared wizard who lived around the park. In 1983 it became a gazetted national park. Ruma suffered some years of isolation which impacted its development. With its new status as a national park, game viewing tracks and general park now exist. Here are three things you can do when you visit.
1. See the Last of the Roan Antelope
At Ruma National Park, remnants of the disappearing roan antelope still roam wild and free in Kenya. Populations number only 40 individuals. While you are here, you can also look for the Jackson’s hartebeest, a larger and redder species than the Coke’s Hartebeest, commonly found in most parks in Kenya. The Oribi, one of the smallest of the antelope family, lives here as well. Other game to see include predators like lion, leopard, hyena and cheetah. The eastern black rhino, the Rothschild’s giraffe, cape buffalo, lelwel hartebeest, olive baboon, bohor redbuck, serval, honey badger, bush pig and vervet monkey are also an attraction.
2. Enjoy an Abundance of Birdlife
Spot over 400 species of birds recorded here. Because of this diversity of birdlife, Ruma National Park is an Important Bird Area (IBA) renowned among ornithologists, particularly for its rare and globally threatened blue swallow. This intra-African migrant arrives in Kenya from its breeding grounds in southern Tanzania to roost and feed around April and then departs in September.
3. Spot the Big Five of African Snakes
At Ruma National Park you can see an exceptionally diverse population of snakes including some of Africa’s Big Five snakes like the African spitting cobra, forest cobra, python, eastern green mamba, black-mouthed mamba and puff adder.
If you happen to be in the town of Homabay, take a little detour and experience what Ruma National Park has to offer. The park’s main gate at Kamato is located about 42 KM from the town. From Homa Bay, you can take the main C20 tarmac road in the direction of Rongo. 10 KM further, branch off to the right at Rodi Kopany and proceed 20 KM to Mirogi. At Mirogi follow the signs to the main gate, about 12 KM. Remember to check park entry rates on the Kenya Wildlife Service website before you go.