The picturesquely verdant Taita Hills provide the northern panorama from Lions Bluff. Made from metamorphic rock covered by a hard quartzite cap, they are the most northern outpost of the ancient Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania. Surprisingly green, lush and rugged, delighted European visitors christened the hills ‘ Little Switzerland’ Now densely inhabited and cultivated by the local Taita people, small jewels of tropical rainforest still exist on the highest peaks, where rare birds and butterflies survive.
Wundanyi is the Taita district capital where you can also see one of the many ancestor shrines of the Taita, The cave of skulls. This cave, just outside the town, shelters the exhumed skulls of 32 Taita ancestors and remains a traditional advice and guidance centre wherein the Taita people may consult with their dead.
The Taita Peaks
The highest point in the Taitas is Vuria (2,209m), which makes an excellent viewpoint over Kasigau, Mawenzi, Kibo, Ngulia and the Chyulus.
To get there: From Lions Bluff turn east to Bura which is 15km. From Bura turn north up a murram road up a dramatic valley where the rock peak on the right of the valley head is known as Yala and the one on the left, as Vuria.
Standing completely alone on the plains south of Lions Bluff, Kasigau (1,641m) is an impressive mountain, housing a gorgeous tropical rain forest. A drive ( 90 mins away from Lions Bluff) around the mountain is lovely, even better you can climb the mountain with a local guide. You need good footwear and allow 4 hours up and 3 hours down.
The Forgotten World Of The Taitas
Because the forests that cap the Taita Hills have been isolated from the other Kenyan forests for many centuries, they shelter unusually high levels of endemic species. Endemic bird species include the Taita Thrush, the Taita White-eye and the Taita Apalis. The Taitas also host an endemic rear-fanged snake, Amblyodipsas teitana, an endemic toad, Bufo Teitensis, and three endemic butterflies, the Taita Glider, Taita Charaxes and Taita Swallowtail. At least 9 plant species are also endemic to the region whilst the African violet (extensively sold as a pot plant in Europe and America) grows well on their moist slopes.