Tourist attractions in Garissa County are the Giraffe Sanctuary and Arawale & Boni National Reserves.
The Garissa Giraffe Sanctuary
The Garissa Community Giraffe sanctuary (GCGS) is located 3Km south of Garissa Town, bordering the dusty Bour-Algi village. It covers an area of around 125km² and borders the Tana River to the south-west. Its name stems from the large presence of giraffes estimated at almost 1000 living in the outskirts of the Bour-Algi village which are attracted by the abundant acacia trees.
It was founded in the early 1990s’ after an influx of displaced and migrant giraffes arrived in the area after running for safety following the collapse of the Republic of Somalia. Initially, around 30 individuals arrived but in less than 4 years, the Giraffe population in the Sanctuary had increased to over 300 individuals. Presently, there are more than a 1000 of them, and have become synonymous with the town and can be seen browsing from the tops of the abundant acacia trees that dot the area, moving freely within the town or stooping to drink from the same place the local women draw their water for domestic use.
Many tourists particularly UN and NGO workers in the area flock the area to view the giraffes as well as witness the extraordinary relationship developed between the animals and the residents.
Apart from the giraffes’ other herbivores sighted in the area are Gerenuk, Kirk’s dik-dik, Lesser Kudu, warthog and waterbuck.
Arawale National Reserve
The Arawale National Reserve is a conservation area lying on flat plains of thorny bush 8km on the northern shore of the Tana River, 40 kilometres upstream from Tana River Primate National Reserve in Tana River County and 77km south of Garissa town. The reserve covers an area of 53,324 hectares (533km2; 206sq mi). To the west, it is bordered by the Tana River and to the east, by the Garissa-Lamu road. In 1974, the reserve was gazetted as the only in-situ conservation site for the critically endangered Hirola population endemic to north-eastern Kenya and south-west Somalia.
The reserve is a critical refuge for a range of wildlife species including four globally threatened species: Hirola, Gravy Zebra, African Wild Dog and Cheetah. There is a presence of the African Elephant too and many other wildlife species including topi, buffalo, zebra, lesser kudu, giraffe, diverse bird life and endemic plant species a well as hippos and crocodiles in the Tana River
It is reached from Nairobi via Thika and Garissa, or from Mombasa via Malindi and Garsen. It has no fencing or gates and is part of Kenya’s Arawale-Boni-Dodori Reserve which lies on either side of the Tana River before it reaches the Indian Ocean between Malindi and Lamu. The last bridge across the Tana is at Garissa, so to reach Arawale from its southern side, the crossing is by ferry 87 km (55 miles) from Garsen at Hola, where there is an Administrative centre, post office, police station and petrol station.
The name for Hunter’s hartebeest in Kenya is the rather more attractive ‘Hirola’ and the two small groups in Arawale and Tsavo are all that remain of a species which once ranged the whole African continent.
The Hirola is distinguished from other hartebeest — the Coke’s (Alcelaphus buselaphus cokei), the Jackson’s (Alcelaphus buselaphus jacksoni) the Lelwel (Alcelaphus buselaphus lelwel) and Lichtenstein’s (Alcelaphus lichtensteini) by its elegantly-shaped horns, the white chevron between its eyes and it’s smaller size.
From an estimated 14,000 in 1976, surveys conducted by the Kenya Wildlife Service recently revealed that only 350 remained. Of those, 300 were near the Kenya-Somalia border and the remaining 50 in Tsavo East National Park where 19 were translocated there 30 years ago. The alarming decline has been attributed to poaching, drought, disease and human and livestock pressures.
Once the County Government puts in place the requisite infrastructure and security assured, tourism in the area is expected to build up particularly due to good chances of sighting the almost extinct Hirola.
Arawale National Reserve landscape is mostly a dry thorn-bush savannah and the reserve has no accommodations – lodges or tented camps.
The nearest hotels are northwards in Garissa and southwards Garsen, but both towns are quite far and roads are close to non-existent. The only option is four-wheel drive and camping.
Boni National Reserve
Boni reserve lies right next to the Somali border, in the traditional dwelling region of the Boni hunter tribe, today reduced to a few hundreds of people. It was gazetted in 1976 and covers 1,339 km².
The wet areas attract large numbers of palearctic migratory birds. Pelicans and other water birds are frequent in the channels and waterholes, while prey birds also abound. Bird species recorded include brown-hooded kingfisher, Violet-breasted sunbird, European and carmine bee-eaters, honey buzzard, palmnut vulture, southern banded harrier eagle and brown-breasted barbet.
There is no accommodation or campsites at the reserve. Staying on your own is strongly discouraged due to the insecurity in the region. It is advisable to inquire about the current risk level from the Garissa County officials before travelling.
Accommodation in Garissa
Some of the best hotels in Garissa are highlighted below in no order of preference.
It is situated along Garissa- Daadab road. It offers the following amenities and facilities; conference facilities, a business centre, accommodation, minibar, restaurant, a la carte, free parking, free Wifi. The guest rooms are categorised as, deluxe twin room, deluxe double room, suite, superior double room.
The price range for the rooms is between KES 3,460-6,523. For more information, you can contact them on, 0728 714 084.
It is located along Lamu road in Garissa town. It offers 1st class services as a norm rather than expectations. It offers prestigious accommodation together with a luxurious combination of quality amenities and facilities that include; restaurant services, conference and meeting facilities, a fitness centre, swimming pool, bar/lounge.
For more information, you can contact them on, 0711 829 899.
It is located along Lamu road, Garissa. It is a luxury resort that offers the following amenities and facilities; pool and wellness, meeting/banquet facilities, a restaurant, free WiFi, 24 hr front desk, luggage storage and free parking. It prides in state of the art guestrooms that are furnished with modern furniture and equipment to ensure maximum comfort and customer satisfaction.
For further inquiries, you can contact them via, 0713 749 991/ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tana Garden Hotel
Tana Garden Hotel is located along Garissa- Dadaab road. It offers the following services and facilities; restaurant, meetings/conference facilities, buffet breakfast, free Wifi in all guest rooms, etc. The guest rooms are categorised as, standard double room, deluxe double room, standard twin room.
The price range for the rooms is between KES 3,011- 5,018. For more information, you can contact them on, 0 20 200 4304.
Hiddig Hotel is located along Miraa road in Garissa town. It offers free wifi and a continental/buffet breakfast. The guest rooms are fully air-conditioned and equipped with flat-screen TVs and a private bathroom.
The standard rate for the rooms is KES 2,509. For further inquiries you can contact them on, 0729 466 375
Halugo Palace Hotel
It is located along Biashara street in Garissa town. The hotel provides the best in services and amenities. It offers a vast array of amenities which include; fitness centre, meeting/conference facilities, bar and lounge, restaurant, accommodation, free WiFi in all rooms.
The standard charge for the rooms ranges from KES 1,730.
Madogo Palace Hotel
It provides rooms equipped with climate control, a private safe, television and a work desk. The hotel also offers complimentary parking and a luggage storage facility.
The standard range for the guest rooms is from KES 1,600.
Savanna Royal Hotel
It is located along Kismayu road in Garissa town. It is the perfect spot for accommodation as it features a 24 hr front desk and luggage storage for guests. Guest rooms are spacious and fully air-conditioned. All the rooms are equipped with flat-screen TVs to entertain guests at the facility.
The rooms range from KES 1800.
Magool lodge is located along Garissa- Daadab road, approximately 20 minutes walk from Garissa Central Business District. It offers the following amenities and facilities, 24 hr front desk, accommodation, free Wifi, luggage storage, free parking, restaurant e.t.c. Rooms are air-conditioned and equipped with flat-screen TVs. Check-in time is from 12 pm, while check out time is at 10 a.m.
For further inquiries, you can contact them via, 0704 259 519.
Travel to Garissa
- From Nairobi, there are daily buses to Garissa via the A3 323km long Thika – Garissa highway, an important artery to the east which is in good condition for most of the way.
MATUU, a thriving trading centre 62km beyond Thika, is busiest at the top of the hill, near the easternmost of the town’s two communications masts. There is located most shops and businesses and a decent hotel as well as petrol stations and cafés all on the highway.
Past Matuu some 67km ahead lies MWINGI has a surprisingly attractive location in an area of rocky hillocks and woodland. You can view the town more than 10km before you arrive, spread out across the boulder-dotted hills. Mwingi offers plenty of small places to eat and a decent hotel.
- There are daily bus services from Mombasa to Garissa. The road to Garissa is hard surfaced and in good condition. By car, the journey takes about 4 to 5 hours.