Eyeing the Ondiri Swamp

“Welcome to the World” – the first steps of an Impala
August 17, 2015

Just under a kilometre from Kikuyu town, in central Kenya, you meet this amazing wetland called Ondiri. Ondiri is a majestic swamp that is often famed for being the most structural quaking bog in Kenya. The swamp is believed to be connected to Lake Naivasha in the Kenya’s Rift Valley and the locals tell of a big water body that occupied the entire area around the swamp. As you walk across the grassy portions of the swamp, you feel the shaking ground and this is believed to “swallow” anyone who dares to venture too deep. The swamp is also famed for being the second deepest wetland in Africa, after Doula in Cameroon.

The swamp at a glance

This swamp forms the catchment supply for the famous Nairobi River. The river runs across the major Kiambu and Nairobi Counties to join the Athi River basin down south on its way to the Indian Ocean, as Sabaki.

Water lilies and the swamp in the background

On any visit, you are guaranteed to enjoy the amazing biodiversity of the area. The swamp hosts a wide variety of plants and animals. Among the easily spotted plants include tall cat-tails and beautiful water lilies that cover many parts of the swamp. The bird life here is amazing with over 100 species occupying the area. Highlight bird species in the area include: Stout Cisticola, Jackson’s Widowbird, Little Bittern, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Garden Warbler, Augur Buzzard, Malachite Sunbird, and many more aquatic and terrestrial birds (representing babblers, ibises, storks, weavers, white-eyes, ducks, crows, cranes, kingfishers, plovers etc). Many invertebrates, amphibians and reptiles species also thrive in the swamp. The swamp is also known to host carnivores like mongoose, that take advantage of the abundant prey.

Stout Cisticola

The swamp has been faced by several threats over the past decades, mainly arising from pollution emanating from the Kikuyu township and its surroundings. Vegetation clearing has also reshaped this critical ecosystem over the years, including tree, grass and sedge harvesting. However, a new pool of conservationists in the area is spreading awareness about this fragile ecosystem and hopefully the conservation measures here will improve.
To enjoy the swamp, drive to Kikuyu town and then proceed about one kilometre South West to the swamp. The swamp is bordered closely by the Southern Bypass road. The swamp has many lined poles and wooden bars to assist you walk across the safe zones. Any undesignated areas should not be ventured, for safety reasons. Carry a pair of binoculars to enjoy the birds, mammals, plants etc. My last trip to the area was amazing with over 110 bird species recorded- kindly make a visit to enjoy this amazing Kenya’s wild spot.  

White-winged Widowbird

Washington Wachira
Washington Wachira
Born and raised in Kenya, among the wilderness is where I feel most at home. Guiding people from all backgrounds through the journey of nature interpretation and conservation is my lifeline.

6 Comments

  1. Hi Washington,

    Nice article, I know this area well. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you very much, it is a wonderful place indeed.

  3. Ruud Kampf says:

    Hi Wachiro,

    I have passed this place so many time not knowing… It is getting time for a Google Earth map with locations of Kenyan birding sites…..

  4. yes Ruud. For Ondiri, the location can be seen on this google link: https://www.google.com/maps/@-1.2493538,36.6568721,3038m/data=!3m1!1e3
    just SW of Kikuyu town,

  5. Good article Washington

  6. thanks Wilfred, keep checking for more interesting articles

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