Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary safari | Travel guide

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Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary (MES) is a community-owned elephant park, a conservation area for elephants and Encephalartos cycads in Kwale County, Kenya.

The sanctuary was formed in the early 1990s as a cooperative project between the people of the surrounding Mwaluganje community, United States Agency for International Development, and the Born Free Foundation and the Eden Wildlife Trust.

The area is off the Shimba Hills escarpment in Kwale County and is on the migratory route leading to Tsavo East National Reserve. 

Why visit Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary?

Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary safari

MES is an example of ecotourism, as well as community-based-conservation efforts, both of which are very recent trends in conservation management. 

At Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary, you’ll experience a unique safari in a spectacular landscape just a half-hour from the glistering beaches of the South Coast near Mombasa. 

Male elephants, or bulls, gather here as they have for decades. Females and their families roam through the sanctuary on an age-old elephant route between the forest to the north and Shimba Hills to the south. 

You may see elephant calves at play, males and females courting, or bulls fighting each other with their tusks locked in combat.

Visitors can also see the site of Kaya Mtae, a sacred forest clearing where traditional spiritual leaders and elders still gather. 

Two baby elephants in Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary
Two baby elephants share a morning embrace in Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary – Source: Maria T Hoffman – Adobe Stock ©


Mwaluganje Forest Reserve is said to be having over 150 elephants making it a destination for the big five lovers, elephants are always seen in large herds migrating to Shimba hills from Mwaluganje during the rainy season. 

You will not only admire the magnificent elephants but also leopards, baboons, zebras, warthogs, bushbucks and waterbucks, bush babies, porcupines, mongooses, birds, insects, and reptiles of many kinds. 


The Sanctuary is a birdwatchers’ haven with some of the most spectacular birds of prey ever seen including the monkey-eating crowned eagle and palm nut vulture. 

Mwaluganje is an important centre of biodiversity in Kenya and is one of the two sites in the country where you can see the rare and indigenous sokoke scops owl.


The surrounding plant and animal life are a joy to behold. Endemic cycads, palm-like trees, and baobab trees overlooking the varied landscapes make for stunning scenery. 

Different habitats, from dry plains to riverine forests along the streams, promise a breathtaking experience with wonderful views from the surrounding tree-covered hills. 

Other trees you’ll find at Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary include the baobab tree, one of Africa’s most unusual trees which can grow to several thousand years old.

Plants and flowers (Botanical Experience): Dinosaur Cycads are fan-like plants that evolved around 300 million years ago, and can be sighted while driving across the Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary. 

All six of Kenya’s Cycad species are found in Mwaluganje. This species can grow to be 150 years old.

Other activities beyond a Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary safari

Here are some other activities which visitors can consider during their Kenyan safari in the Mwalunganje:

  • Photography safaris: Visitors on a photo safari will be in awe at the valleys overlooking the Taita Hills with quiet flowing waters and serene surroundings almost like in paradise. Small groups can share a luxury photography tour with like-minded individuals.
  • Walking safaris: Walk the beautiful hills rolling up to Tsavo National Parks to the East and the Indian Ocean to the west, and are marked by striking features like the: Golini cliffs, Kitanze Falls, Manolo River, which consists of the Riverine vegetation and Meandering Rivers, a superb day out. 
  • Sundowners and Bush breakfast/dinner: Honeymooners in the Mwalunganje shouldn’t miss out on this incredible mobile dining experience in the middle of the reserve observing the beautiful elephants meandering through the hills with a cocktail in hand. 
  • Cultural experiences: Tourists can explore the land of the Digo and Duruma people and learn many things about how they live, the history of the forest and may more.

How to get to Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary?

By Plane 

It is located 45 km southwest of Mombasa and is adjacent to the Shimba Hills National Reserve

The reserve is 45 kilometres from Mombasa, tourists can fly in to Mombasa or travel by road from Nairobi, it’s always best to combine your safari to the sanctuary with Shimba Hills Reserve or Tsavo West National Park.

NBO airport is located 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi and a Kenya visa will most likely be required to enter the country for visitors wondering how to get to Kenya.

By Road

If you’re planning on driving to Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary from Nairobi, it should take you about nine hours to get there. You should expect to cover a distance of almost 500 km by road. 

Tariffs & Regulations 

Entrance fee

Prices per person per day of 1600 KES/USD $14 per adult per day (24 hrs). 

The gates into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m. 


If you keep to park rules, you can stay with the animals as long as they are not disturbed by your presence. 

Accommodation at Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary 

Tourists at Mwaluganje national reserve can choose from a number of different options when deciding where to sleep.


Some of the accommodation options include the Ocean village club, Shimba Hills lodge, Shimba Hills green safari lodge, the Villa luxury suites, Stilts backpackers and Water lovers beach resort.


Guests on a self-drive safari with a campervan can make significant savings by sleeping in their vehicle. 


Lodges will typically have all meals and drinks included in the lodge package. 

Useful information  


Located in the southeast of Kenya, close to the city of Mombasa. A trip to Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary is often combined with a trip to the Masai Mara.


Although cooled by strong breezes, misty mornings and clouds, KE_Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary has a hot and humid coastal climate. 

Temperatures are around 29°C/84°F in the afternoon. It cools down a bit at nighttime, but it’s still warm at around 20°C/68°F. 

Best time to go

Understanding the best time to visit Kenya is important as this will impact accommodation, flight prices, availability and the weather that visitors can expect on their safari vacation. 

A visit to Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary is usually best in the drier months from June to September and December to March. 


Mwaluganje Sanctuary lies in a malaria zone thus taking antimalarials is recommended. Other precautions are covering up at dusk and using mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective). 

Malaria risk is highest in the peaks of the rainy seasons from April to May and October to November. Visitors can find further information on Kenya vaccine details here.


Where is Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary located?

Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary is located 45 km southwest of Mombasa and is adjacent to the Shimba Hills National Reserve. Visitors can fly into Mombasa or travel by road from Nairobi. 

How much is the entrance fee to Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary?

Prices per person per day of 1600 KES/USD $14 per adult per day (24 hrs). 

What time does the entrance gate open and close at?

The gates into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m.

What animals will visitors see?

Visitors to Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary will see over 150 elephants as well a leopards, baboons, zebras, warthogs, bushbucks and waterbucks, bush babies, porcupines, mongooses, birds, insects, and reptiles of many kinds.