Kaya (plural makaya) is a sacred forest of the Mijikenda people in the former Coast Province of Kenya. The kaya forest is considered to be an intrinsic source of ritual power and the origin of cultural identity; it is also a place of prayer for members of the particular ethnic group. The settlement, ritual centre, and fortified enclosure associated with the forest are also part of the kaya. In the present day, the kaya is also referred to as a traditional organizational unit of the Mijikenda. Eleven of the approximately 30 separate kaya have been grouped together and inscribed as the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
More than 50 kaya have been identified within the Kwale, Mombasa, and Kilifi counties. They measure between 30 and 300 hectares each. These are scattered over a coastal stretch of 200 kilometres (120 mi) in the southern coastal plains area of Kenya, between the towns of Mombasa and Kilifi. While visitors are not allowed to enter most makaya, Kaya Kinondo, a 30-hectare forest on Diani Beach, allows visitors and falls under the auspices of the Kaya Kinondo Ecotourism Project.
Wildlife and Conservation:
Wildlife in the Kaya Kinodao area has been identified which can be visited as part of ecotourism project. While plant species identified are 187 plant, bird species are 48, and butterflies 45 species.Colobus monkey and Golden-rumped elephant shrew are also reported.
Entry in to the forest was dictated by the traditional rules set by a governing body called the ngambi formed by elderly members of the community. This governing body was primarily concerned with its management, conservation and utilization of the biological resources in adherence to the traditional beliefs about the sacredness of the forest. However, the creation of central governing body has affected the role of the local elders.
An Eco Tourism project was launched in 2001 with funds provided by Ford Foundation with the objective of generating income for the local people and also encourage ecotorism and concurrently help preserve the sacredness of the forests. Eleven Mijikenda kaya were grouped together and inscribed as the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests, a World Heritage Site, in 2008 under criteria (iii), (v), and (vi).