Kaya Waa

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
The Kayas are small, relict patches of forest that once sheltered the fortified villages of the Mijikenda people on the Kenyan coast. They have spiritual and ceremonial significance and are customarily protected by a Council of Elders. Kaya Waa (sacred to the Digo people) is Cynometra–Drypetes forest on coral rag that covers a level cliff-top just above the ocean, near Waa village. The forest is dense and low, practically a thicket in many places, and difficult to walk through. Under the coral cliffs there is reportedly a large cave, which is of religious significance to the local people. The site was gazetted as a National Monument under the care of the National Museums of Kenya in 1992.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. The habitat structure is very suitable for the threatened Zoothera guttata, which has been recorded here and is likely to occur at relatively high density. The remaining avifauna is impoverished, but Tauraco fischeri (Near Threatened and restricted-range) and Pogoniulus simplex (East African Coast biome) have been recorded.

Non-bird biodiversity: The threatened small mammal Rhynchocyon petersi (EN) probably occurs. There is a healthy population of the coastal forest tree Cynometra greenwayi, a rare Kenyan endemic known only from here and the Watamu area.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The main threat to this sea-front Kaya is of the land being ‘allocated’ to private developers. This Kaya was the centre of a land allocation controversy in 1988, which led, eventually, to a successful Private Member’s Motion in Parliament to gazette the Kayas as National Monuments. Twenty hectares of Kaya Waa was gazetted in 1992, but the forest remains divided into some 57 plots, for which title deeds have apparently been issued, and its fate is uncertain.

Pole-cutting for the hotel industry (to build traditional-style Mijikenda huts) has caused considerable damage, and many larger trees have also been removed, often for beehives. Continued degradation will greatly reduce the value of the site for Zoothera guttata, which avoids areas with an open canopy. Fires deliberately set to clear the surrounding agricultural land also pose a threat to the forest. Hunting pressure appears to be very high, with numerous traps and snares, apparently exacerbated by the settlement of Tharaka immigrants in the area during the mid-1980s.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kaya Waa. Downloaded from on 08/12/2022.