African Forests

  • In this age of climate change and pollution, forests have never been more important to the human existence.

  • On average, forests account for 6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa, which is the highest in the world.

  • More than 1.6 billion people around the world depend on forests to some extent for their livelihood while some 60 million indigenous people are completely dependent on forests for all aspects of their survival.

Forests are home to almost half of the world’s species, with some of the richest biodiversity found in tropical forests. Without forests, the Earth would be uninhabitable.

Considering that, here are nine biggest forests in Africa, they hold the future of the continent and you will definitely get lost in them.

Congo Forest

Virunga National park in Congo.

1 Congo Forest

Virunga National park in Congo.

The Congo Basin is Africa’s largest contiguous forest and the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world. It covers about 695,000 square miles and is exceeded in size only by the Amazon.

This swamp-struck tropical forest covers portions of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

The Congo Basin rainforest supports some 10,000 kinds of plants and a huge variety of animals, including big mammals like African forest elephants, forest buffalo, chimpanzees, bonobos and a number of subspecies of gorilla. It also shelters more than 100 different human cultures.

Miombo Woodlands

2 Miombo Woodlands

A vast region covering much of central and southern Africa. An ecoregion of tropical grassland and woodland in northern Mozambique, southern Tanzania, and southeastern Malawi, spanning an estimated total area of around 2.7 million square kilometers (1 million square miles)

Named for the oak-like "miombo" trees that dominate the area, the woodlands are home to some 8,500 plant species; over 300 which are trees.

They provide food and cover for a diverse range of wildlife, including antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, lions and some of the largest populations of elephants in Africa.

It is also home to millions of people, many who depend on the woodlands and natural resources for their way of life.

Although large parts of the Miombo are relatively intact, natural woodlands are being cleared to meet other land needs: agriculture, ranching and charcoal production.

Illegal hunting, especially for rhino horn and elephant ivory, are also major threats to this unique environment.

Over 65 million people rely on these ecosystems for their livelihoods, making use of resources such as fuelwood, timber, charcoal production, fruits, honey, mushrooms, medicinal plants and fodder for livestock. They carry important cultural and spiritual significance too – in the Tanzanian Miombo, for instance, some tribes bury their dead in sacred groves, and then use these spaces for a range of ceremonial purposes.

But, rather like Brazil’s Cerrado, these well-used, widely-inhabited woodlands frequently fail to gain the attention of conservationists and funders, while emblematic rainforests – such as those in the Congo and Amazon basins – command considerable focus worldwide.

Mau Forest

3 Mau forest

Mau forest. (Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)

Located in Kenya, Mau forest is one of the biggest forests in East Africa with an area of 273,300 hectares (675,000 acres).

It is the largest water catchment area in Kenya and numerous rivers originate from the forest, including Southern Ewaso Ng’iro, Sondu River, Mara River and Njoro River.

These rivers feed Lake Victoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Natron Westerns slopes of the Mau.

Cross-Niger Forests

4 Cross-Niger Transition Forests

A road winds through the mountains in Cross River State in southeastern Nigeria. (Christopher Scott)

The Cross-Niger transition forests are a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion of south eastern Nigeria, located between the Niger River on the west and the Cross River on the east covering an area of 20,700 sq km.

The Niger River separates the Cross-Niger transition forests from the Nigerian lowland forests to the west

The climate is wet, becoming drier further inland, with a dry season from December to February.

The forest is home to a number of wildlife including drill monkey, African buffalo, cheetahs, warthogs, hippos, caracal, leopards, lions, baboons and elephants and red-capped mangabey and more than 900 species of birds.

Ongoye Forest

5 Ongoye Forest

Ongoye Forest.

Ongoye Forest is situated on a granite ridge, inland from the town of Mtunzini in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa covering an area of 4000 hectares.

The vegetation in Ongoye Forest include natal olinia, natal palm-nut, giant umzimbeet, forest mangosteen, forest waterberry, Giant Pock Ironwood, Zulu bead-string, Natal Krantz Ash, Natal White Stinkwood and the Pondo Fig.

Woodward’s barbet, crowned eagle, yellow streaked bulbul, spotted thrush, red bush squirrel, dwarf chameleons, butterfly (Euryphura achlys) and ongoye centipede and bronze-naped pigeon are some of the wildlife found here.

Budongo Forest Reserve

6 Budongo Forest Reserve

Budongo Forest. (Uganda Lodges)

This 825 square km forest reserve located about three hours drive from Kampala City is the Biggest Mahogany forest found in the whole of East Africa.

Budongo Forest Reserve is characterized by a medium altitude damp semi-deciduous verdant forests and is located in the districts of Hoima, Masindi and Buliisa in Western Uganda

Rhinos, lions, leopards, buffaloes, hippopotamus, cheetah, elephants, giraffe and zebra, chimpanzees and birds include puvel’s illadopsis roam these forests.

Newlands Forest

7 Newlands Forest

Newlands Forest.

Newlands Forest is a conservancy area on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, beside the suburb of Newlands, Cape Town. It is owned and maintained by the Table Mountain National Parks Board, along with the City Parks Department of Cape Town covering an area of 400 hectares.

Wildlife in the forest includes chaffinch, cape white-eye, grassbird, southern double-collared sunbird, African black swift, alpine swift, white-rumped swift, black saw-wing swallow, greater striped swallow, African olive pigeon, cape canary, monkeys, African wild dog and ground hornbill.

Mount Cameroon and Bioko Montane Forest

8 Mount Cameroon and Bioko Montane Forests

Mount Cameroon forest. (Bérenger Zyla)

Located in a volcanic chain that extends northeast along the border between Cameroon and Nigeria, and southwest towards the Guinea islands of São Tomé, Príncipe and Annobo covering an area of 400 square miles is Mount Cameroon and Bioko Montane Forests.

Arabuko Sokoke Forest

9 Arabuko Sokoke forest

Mida Creek Boardwalk near Arabuko-Sokoke Forest in Kilifi County.

With a size of 420 km2 Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is the largest remaining section of dry coastal forest found in Eastern and Southern Africa.

In this 420 sq km reserve there is an untold wealth of natural beauty. The air is filled with butterflies and birds, the trees alive with monkeys and the forest floor home to many smaller mammals.

Arabuko Sokoke Forest. (Wikimedia Commons)

Over 260 species of birds have been recorded in the forest including the six globally threatened ones: sokoke scops owl, sokoke pipit, east coast akalat, spotted ground thrush, amani sunbird and clarke's weaver.

The forest stretches to the headwaters of the mighty Sabaki River, and occasionally herds of elephant pass through the forest en route to the river.

Karura Forest

10 Karura Forest

Karura Forest Reserve

Karura Forest Reserve is located in the northern part of Nairobi city. At 2572 acres, it is one of the largest urban gazetted forests in the world. The forest contains nearly all the 605 species of wildlife found in Nairobi including three types of antelope. It is managed by Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

The forest sits on million-year-old Late Tertiary volcanic rocks. Five perennial tributaries of the Nairobi River pass through the forest running roughly west to east and cutting through gently undulating landscape.

Other important attractions that visitors to Karura Forest enjoy are: Mau Mau caves, Scenic waterfalls and rivers, Picnic sites, Marked walking trails, Small wetlands that are habitats for birds, The incinerator formerly used by Central Bank of Kenya to burn old currency notes, The area about which the late Professor Wangari Maathai carried out a campaign against illegal acquisition of forest land.