Aberdare National Park Location, Activities-Things To Do, Attractions-Things To See, Lodges-Accommodation
The Aberdare National Park in Kenya is located about 100 km north from Nairobi and stretches over a wide variety of terrains because it covers altitudes from about 7,000 feet (2,100 m) to 14,000 feet (4,300 m) above sea level. Established in May 1950, the Aberdare National Park covers an area of 766 square kilometers and forms part of the Aberdare Mountain Range.
The park contains a wide range of landscapes – from the mountain peaks that rise to 14,000 feet (4,300 m) above sea level, to their deep, v-shaped valleys intersected by streams, rivers, and waterfalls. Moorland, bamboo forests and rainforests are found at lower altitudes.
The Aberdare National Park covers the higher areas of the Aberdare Mountain Range of central Kenya and the Aberdare Salient to their east. Rhino Ark is a charity devoted to the protection of this critical habitat area.
Aberdare National Park is in a cloud forest in some of the higher areas of Kenya’s central highlands marked by deep ravines and forested mountain slopes. Because of its altitude — mostly above 10,000 feet — it’s often shrouded in mist.
Animals often observed in the park include the black rhino, leopard, baboon, black and white colobus monkey and Sykes’ monkey (Cercopithecus albogularis). Rarer are lions and the bongo, an elusive forest antelope that lives in the bamboo forest.
Animals like the eland (a type of antelope) and serval cat (a solitary, nocturnal feline) can be found higher up in the moorlands. Birders will note that there are more than 250 species of birds in the park, including the Jackson’s Francolin (Pternistis jacksoni), sparrow hawk, goshawk, eagle, sunbird and plover.
The Aberdares are an isolated volcanic range that forms the eastern wall of the rift valley, running roughly 100km north south between Nairobi and Thomsons Falls.
Soils are red and of volcanic origin, but rich in organic matter. There are two main peaks, Ol Donyo Lesatima (3,999m) and Kinangop (3,906m) separated by a long saddle of alpine moorland at over 3,000m. From 1947 to 1956, the misty and rainy forests in the range served as a hide for the Mau-Mau guerrilla.
The park was gazetted in 1950 with an extension of 584 km², but was afterwards enlarged to 770 km², making it the third largest park in the country. The park is the highest in all Africa, since most of the plateau is located above an altitude of 3,000 m.
[read more=”Click here to Read More” less=”Read Less”] The highest peaks in the park are the Kinangop, with 3,906 m, and the Oldonyo Lesatima, “the mountain of the young bull” in the Maa language of the Maasai, with 4,001 m. The landscape is dominated by deeply foggy rain forest, which deliberates the park a fairyland atmosphere. Trouts breed in the mountain streams, that burst down spectacular waterfalls, like the Keruru Kahuru of 270 m and the Gura of 240 m in the South area, or the Chania Falls in the central sector of the park. Due to the high humidity, the tracks crossing the park are muddy for a large part of the year. Aberdare contains a rich botanic wealth, a mixture of equatorial exuberance and alpine vegetation. Above the 2,000 m level, the rain forest gives way to the bamboo jungles, that at 3,000 m become mountain prairies in which groundsel and giant lobelias grow high. [/read]
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How to get to Aberdare National Park
The Park is readily accessible on tarmac from Nyeri and Naro Moru on the Eastern side and it’s 150 Kms from Nairobi. A road crosses the park through the lower slopes up to the Moorlands to connect with another one from Naivasha on the western side. Naivasha is 87 Kms from Nairobi. The park HQS is 15 Kms from Nyeri town, along the Nyeri – Nyahururu road.
Aberdare National Park is located about 150km (93 miles) east of Nairobi, and is easily accessible from Nyeri and Naro Moru. The Park is 87 km (54 miles) from Naivasha. Most tourists travel by road with a tour operator.
Airport – There are two airstrips located near the Aberdare Headquarters at Nyeri and Mweiga
The nearest airstrip is the Mweiga Airstrip on the opposite side from Park Hqs along Nyeri – Nyahururu road near Sasini Estate Farm.
Climate of Aberdare national park
The Aberdare National Park covers the bulk of the heights of the Aberdare Mountain Ranges in Central Kenya. The best times to visit the Park are in January and February, as well as June and September. Due to its high altitude the region is much cooler than the savannahs and coastal plains.
The region is misty and it rains year round, however, there are two main rainy seasons, from March through May and October through December. Due to the high amounts of rainfall during these periods, the roads may become impassable.
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WHAT TO SEE IN ABERDARE NATIONAL PARK?
Attractions include the Lesatima peak, Kinangop peak, waterfalls, walks in the moorlands, Twin hills, Elephant hills and Table mountains. A variety of animals will be seen & most notably Elephants, and black rhinos. The Kimathi Hideout and Night viewing of wildlife at the Ark & Treetops are also popular.
Mount Kinangop of Aberdare National Park
Mount Kinangop (or Ilkinangop) is a mountain in the southern Aberdare Range about 100 miles (160 km) north of Nairobi, Kenya. It is within the Aberdare National Park. A dormant volcano, Kinangop overlooks the Kinangop Plateau to the west and the Great Rift Valley beyond. Kinangop is the second-highest mountain in the Aberdares after Mount Satima. The lower levels of the mountain have extensive bamboo forests. Higher up it is covered by tussock grasses. The main peak is a rocky outcrop surrounded by open moorlands. Due to the height, temperatures are cool and may drop below freezing at night.
Mount Satima of Aberdare National Park
Mount Satima, also known as Mount Lesatima and often abbreviated to Satima or Lesatima, is the third-highest mountain in Kenya and the highest in the Aberdare Range. The Maasai name is Oldoinyo Lesatima, which has a variety of alternative spellings, such as Ol Donyo Le Satima, and means “mountain of the bull calf”.
The peak lies at the northern end of the Aberdares, which themselves are along the eastern side of the Great Rift Valley, and is their highest point. Around it stand a number of sharp volcanic cones called “the Dragon’s Teeth”. There are moraines between 3,600 and 3,800 metres on the north west of the mountain. One book on Kenya has called the mountain itself “a craggy bluff of rock and tussock grass around which the clouds spin”.
The Kinangop Plateau is a region in Kenya that lies between the Kenyan Rift Valley to the west and the Aberdare Range to the east. It takes its name from Kinangop Mountain, which rises in the Aberdares to the east. The edge of the plateau is about 2,400 metres (7,900 ft) in elevation. The plateau is relatively flat, sloping gradually upwards towards the foothills of the Aberdares. Rainfall is around 1,000 millimetres (39 in) annually, with more rainfall in the north than the south. Streams that feed the Malewa and Karati rivers have cut into the plateau. These rivers in turn flow into Lake Naivasha. Soils include ando‐luvic and verto‐luvic phaeozems. At one time the plateau was almost completely covered in tussocky grassland with very few trees. The stream valleys had many tussocky bogs. The plateau has been settled by Kikuyu farmers since the 1960s. They have ploughed much of the land to grow maize, wheat, cabbage and potatoes. They have replaced the tussocks by grasses that are easier for livestock to eat, and have planted woodlots across the plateau. The wetlands have mostly been drained. Where drainage has not been deliberate, the trees planted for poles and firewood have absorbed the water. Farm lots are being broken up to be divided between family members. The trend is away from animal husbandry and towards more intensive cultivation of food crops and cash crops.
Mount Kipipiri is a cone-shaped extinct volcano that rises from the plateau in the north. It is part of the Aberdare National Park. The mountain is completely ringed by an electric fence. In June 2009 lengthy negotiations were concluded over the alignment of a wildlife corridor between Kipipiri and the main Aberdare park, with plans to fence the corridor. Grids of rolling bars with gaps between them replace the fence at the points where roads cross the corridor, forming an obstacle that cars can cross but that wildlife will not attempt. This keeps the wildlife, particularly elephants, away from farmers’ fields.
Wildlife of Aberdare National Park
Animals easily observed include the leopard, elephant, East African wild dog, giant forest hog, bushbuck, mountain reedbuck, waterbuck, Cape buffalo, suni, side-striped jackal, eland, duiker, olive baboon, black and white colobus monkey, and sykes monkey. Rarer sightings include those of the African golden cat and the bongo – an elusive forest antelope that lives in the bamboo forest. Animals such as the eland as well as spotted and melanistic serval cats can be found higher up in the moorlands. The Aberdare National Park also contains a large eastern black rhinoceros population. Visitors can also pander in walking, picnics, in the rivers and camping in the moorlands. Even the bird viewing is rewarding, with over 250 species of birds in the park, including the endangered Aberdare cisticola, Jackson’s francolin, sparry hawk, goshawks, eagles, sunbirds and plovers. It is a traditional belief of the Kikuyu that the Aberdare Mountain Range, where this park is located, is one of the homes of Ngai, or God. In order to protect the bongo antelope, the lions of Aberdare have been moved to other national parks.
Herds of wildlife thunder over an open African horizon, elephants emerge from a thicket of plants and the mysterious black rhino munches tranquilly on leaves. This is Aberdare National Park, packed with 300m-high waterfalls, dense forests and serious trekking potential. Also commonly seen here are buffaloes, black rhinos, spotted hyenas, bush pigs, black servals and rare black leopards.
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WHAT TO DO IN ABERDARE NATIONAL PARK
Aberdare can claim some of Kenya’s most dramatic up-country scenery. The fuzzy moors, in particular, possess a stark, wind-carved beauty, wholly unexpected after driving up from the richly cultivated plots of the eastern Aberdares. The park has two major environments: an eastern hedge of thick rainforest and waterfall-studded hills known as the Salient; and the Kinangop plateau, an open tableland of coarse moors that huddles under cold mountain breezes.
Game viewing in the Aberdare National Park
Visitors can observe different animals, such as elephants, leopards, buffalo, rhinos in the park. These animals come to the waterhole and can be seen from the comfort and secure decks.
Elephants dominantly rule the waterholes and salt licks. There are other animals that come to drink water such as hyenas, which have to contend with elephants chasing them off at great speed. Some animals such as leopards are shy. However, the leopards are often seen in the morning and evening during safari drives.
While on game drives or walks through the forest, you may chance upon various monkeys, such as the Colobus and Vervet monkeys, for whom the Aberdare National Park is an ideal habitat. Many birds are also found here. In the forest there are many animals like the Red Duiker, Suni, Bushbuck, elephants, buffaloes, leopards etc. The moorland thickets are the home of Bush Duicker and Black-fronted Duicker and also the Black Rhino.
Bird Watching in Aberdare National Park
Bird life found in the forest is abundant and varied with over 250 species of bird recorded. The most conspicuous group is the Sunbird, with four abundant species: Tacazze Sunbird, Golden-winged Sunbird, the emerald-green Malachite Sunbird and the tiny, double collared Sunbird. Birds can be watched whilst on a safari drive or on an organized nature walk
Guided Bush / Nature Walk in Aberdare National Park
Enjoy various guided bush walks through the well-developed trails in the park. Our guides have in-depth knowledge of the local flora, fauna and wildlife. The KWS rangers will be happy to answer any questions you have about animals or the history of the area. It is mandatory to have a ranger for the walks in the park.
Karura Falls Lookout
The lookout gives a breathtaking view of the 50m waterfall dropping down through the forest. If you are short on time, enter via the Mutubio West Gate, which is roughly 8km from the lookout. It’s a fairly easy 20-minute hike through the forest to view the falls.
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WHERE TO STAY IN ABERDARE NATIONAL PARK
Visitors to the park can find diverse types of accommodation according to their taste, ranging from the Treetops tree-house lodge, to the Ark – built in the shape of Noah’s Ark – and three self-help banda sites, eight special campsites and a public campsite in the moorland. There are also five picnic sites. Both Treetops and Ark provide excellent nighttime wildlife viewing. From here, visitors can observe various animals, such as elephants, Cape buffaloes and rhinos, which get attracted to the waterholes.
The Ark Tree Lodge – The Ark Tree Lodge overlooks one of the largest salt-licks and waterholes in the Aberdare Mountains where you can see a variety of forest game unlike anywhere else in Africa. The lodge is built in the shape of an Ark and offers accommodation in en-suite rooms. Set in the heart of the Aberdare National Park, iconic and yes, quirky; The Ark overlooks a well-lit waterhole and salt lick, which attracts a host of awesome wildlife. Modelled after Noah’s Ark, The Ark has four viewing decks with balconies and lounges to provide superb game viewing from the comfort of the lodge as the animals come to your attention. There is also a ground level hide, the perfect spot for the discerning photographer. From this vantage point, photos of animals can be taken at eye-level. So as not to miss any animal sightings, the resident guide will tinkle your room when special animals come to the waterhole. Simply throw on your provided robe and slippers, grab your camera and view nightlife at the waterhole. The restaurant offers excellent cuisine for dinner and breakfast, either as a buffet or set menu, depending on the number of guests. The food is very fresh with organic vegetables and spices. The chef is always on hand to cater for special dietary requirements. A collection of fine wines is available from The Ark cellar. As the animals quench their thirst at the waterhole, the Ark Lodge have their own well-stocked bar with a variety of wines and liqueurs available for you to quench yours with. All the rooms at The Ark, whether single, twin, double or triple configuration, are tastefully simply furnished to give you a level of comfort that keeps you relaxed throughout your stay. All the rooms are self-contained with en-suite shower and bathroom. Hot water bottles are provided in the bed that are filled every night.
Aberdare Country Club only a two-and-a-half-hour drive northeast from Nairobi, is nestled on a slope of Mweiga Hill in the Aberdare Highlands, part of the Great Rift Valley. Considered a heritage property in Kenya, The Aberdare Country Club has retained the charm of a private home with the simple comforts of a country inn. Activities include horseback riding safaris, golf, nature walks, game drives and more. This captivating site was the homestead of an English couple that settled in Kenya. Almost a half century later, their home, “The Steep”, was renamed the Aberdare Country Club and opened to guests.
Tusk Camp Banda
Tusk Camp offers comfortable self-catering accommodation within the Aberdare National Park. There are two cabins each sleeping four people and well equipped for self-catering.
Each cabin has a bedroom, kitchen, dining area and spacious sitting room with a log fireplace. The kitchen is equipped with a wood burning stove, a gas stove, kitchen utensils, cutlery and glasses. Each cottage is equipped with kerosene lamps and a caretaker is on hand to assist. The furnished sitting room has a log fireplace and door leading to a veranda. The verandas include a dining table where guests can enjoy the views.
The park offers a variety of sights and activities, including spectacular waterfalls, colourful flora, trout fishing, walking, hiking climbing and bird watching. There are 250 recorder bird species in the park. A 4×4 is required to reach the camp.
Fishing Lodge Guest House
The Fishing Lodge Guest House offers comfortable self-catering accommodation within the Aberdare National Park. There are two timber cabins each sleeping seven people and well equipped for self-catering.
Each cabin has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a spacious sitting room with a log fireplace and kitchen. The kitchen is equipped with a gas stove, kitchen utensils, cutlery and glasses. Each cottage is equipped with kerosene lamps, blankets, pillows, bed linen, towels, soap and toilet tissue. The cottages have hot water in the bathrooms. The private verandas include a dining table where guests can enjoy the views. The park offers a variety of sights and activities, including spectacular waterfalls, colourful flora, trout fishing, walking, hiking climbing and bird watching. There are 250 recorder bird species in the park.