The Mau Forest complex is the largest remaining near-contiguous bloc of montane indigenous forest in East Africa.
It covers an approximate area of 350,000 ha and is situated about 170 km north-west of Nairobi and stretches west bordering Kericho District, Narok District to the south, Nakuru to the north and Bomet to the south-west. The forest is divided into seven blocs comprising South-West Mau (Tinet), East Mau, Ol’donyo Purro, Transmara, Maasai Mau, Western Mau and Southern Mau. These seven blocs merge to form the larger Mau Forest complex.
The forest lies 1,200 – 2,600 m above sea level with an annual rainfall of about 2,000 mm spread throughout the year. The forest regulates the stream flow, thus helping to control flooding and maintain water catchment areas, and drains into Lakes Nakuru, Bogoria, Baringo and Victoria. The forest is a source of 12 rivers.
Studies have shown that the Mau Forest Complex is an important bird area, with over 450 species. Two ungulates – the Bongo and the Yellowbacked Duiker, two carnivores – the Golden Cat and the Leopard, and the African Elephant are known to occur in Trans Mara and South Western Mau forest reserves, which neighbour the Maasai Mau Forest.
Additional animals of special interest that inhabit the higher moist forest zone of the Mau Complex, include: Giant Forest Hog, Colobus Monkey, Potto, Sotik Bushbaby and the Greater Galago. In the other forest formations animals commonly found included lions, leopards and hyenas, Grant Gazelle, Coke’s Hartebeest, giraffes, Cape Buffalo, hippopotamus, rhinoceros and African Elephant.
The vegetation cover varies from shrubs to thick impenetrable bamboo forest. There are big numbers of indigenous trees like cedar (Juniperus procera), African olive (Olea africana), Dombeya spp. and plantations of exotic trees like cypress (Cupressus lusitanica), pine (Pinus patula and Pinus radiata), Grevillea robusta and Eucalyptus spp. which are regularly planted by the Forest Department mainly for revenue purposes.
The forest was declared Crown Land in the 1930s and made a Natural Reserve in the 1940s. It was officially gazetted in 1954 as a Forest Reserve under the Forest Act (CAP 385).