Umanyi as pronounced in Kamba dialect means place of knowledge or place where everyone comes to in Kamba. The forest is full of sky scraping trees fat figs and tall yellow fever trees. Umani springs are the second largest springs in the country after Mzima springs and Kibwezi enchanted forest offers a rich treasure of springs and marshes, forest and volcanic cones.
The splash of the crystal-clear water coming out of the ground is soothing. The springs have been described by environmentalists and tourists as a peaceful oasis in the beautiful bush. Others say it is a stunning art of creation. It is one of the water towers of the Chyulu ecosystem. Umani springs owes its existence to rainfall on the northern part of Chyulu Hills where the forest is relatively intact.
The fragile ecosystem is a favorite for animal lovers, bird watchers, botanists, entomologists and fun seekers. The underground water is extracted and piped to over 500,000 residents of kibwezi Town, Mtito Andei, Machakos and Chyulu Hills.
The springs have created an alluring forest canopy within its ecosystem which has seen the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in conjunction with Kenya Forest Service set up a tourist camp. Umani is home to elephants, buffaloes, cheetahs, monkeys, crocodiles, pythons, birds and butterflies. The David Sheldrick Eco-lodge overlooks waterholes fed by the springs. The building, with a unique design, comprises three bungalows around a Balinese inspired pavilion-style main building with an outdoor shower and sitting rooms. The lodge has a lovely outdoor dining pergola, a pool, hanging chairs under a fig tree and dining areas. The service is good. “You can carry your food and prepare it or the resident cook can do it for you,” says a tourist in the Globe Traveller Journal. The trust also uses Umani habitat as a centre for rescued baby elephant.
Kibwezi Community Forest Association members derive benefits from users’ rights. Locals have been employed as scouts, guards and chefs at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Eco-Lodge and Rescued Elephants Centre. By visiting Kibwezi Forest and enjoying Umani springs, you are supporting the conservation of the unique groundwater ecosystem as well as the animals. The morning sun lights the marsh and awakens the golden weavers whose busy chirping wakes us up and we step out of the tent to a brand new day.