Aberdare Holiday Travel

Aberdare National Park was established to protect the Aberdare Mountains in Kenya’s Central Highlands.  It is the country’s most elevated national park and encompasses a rare combination of soaring peaks, a high altitude plateau with alpine moorland, and dense rainforest at the lower altitudes.   Some of the main features of the topography include:

  • Soaring Peaks (Lesatima and Kinangop reach 4500 mt!)
  • Deep craggy ravines
  • Multiple cascading waterfalls
  • Crystal-clear trout streams
  • Unique alpine flora at the high altitudes
  • Dense tropical rainforest on the lower slopes

The scenery is so remarkable that the locals reverently call the Aberdares the home of Ngai (God).
 The entire park is just perfect to explore on foot and attracts many adventurous hikers and trekkers each year.  The less energetic have several other options including game drives and even excellent game viewing from the deck of one of the two forest lodges that have been strategically built around water holes and salt licks, to ensure an ever-present passing parade of wildlife.  

What to Do
Aberdare National Park Highlights include:

  • Hiking through the Salient Forest
  • Game drives
  • Waterfall explorations and picnics
  • Trout Fishing
  • Flood-lit night game viewing from your lodge
  • Bird watching
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Horse Riding and Golf nearby

Hiking
One of the most popular pursuits in the Aberdare NP is hiking through the Salient Forest, which is bisected by deep ravines and features some really spectacular waterfalls.  This area has one of the densest concentrations of wildlife in Kenya ensuring an exciting and rewarding excursion. As you continue to climb through the forest you will reach a belt of bamboo woodland, which is the favourite haunt of the Bongo, a very rare type of forest antelope.  Continuing your ascent you will soon reach the alpine moorland, which is criss-crossed by beautiful clear trout streams – the perfect place to stop for a picnic or to try your hand at some fly-fishing – fishing licences are available at the Lodges or at the KWS for US$20-30. One of the best hiking routes takes you to Kimanthi Hideout, also known as the Queens Cave, where you can stop for a picnic lunch.

Since you will be hiking inside a National Park that is home to potentially dangerous animals, you will need to be accompanied by an armed ranger.  It will cost you US$20 to hire a KWS (Kenya Wildlife Services) ranger for a half-day hike, while a full day will cost US$40.  The rangers are very knowledgeable about the park and will share a wealth of knowledge with you during the hike.

If you want a unique opportunity to see large mammals like elephants, lions, hyenas and rhinos really close-up, then stay in one of the two forest lodges in the park, built right next to the waterholes and saltlicks. Queen Elizabeth II was staying in one of these lodges in 1952 when she was informed of her accession to the throne. There are also huts and camp sites, both self-catering and “special”. Outside the park, there is a country club and some comfortable lodges in Mweiga and Nyeri.

Game Drives 
You can enjoy all the splendour of the park without having to walk or hike, and many visitors prefer to enjoy all the scenery and wildlife from the comfort of their safari vehicle.  The lodges offer full day game drives to the moorlands, and half-day game drives in the game-rich Salient Forest region.  There is also a traditional Sundowner Game Drive on offer, which allows you to watch the dramatic African sunset from a scenic view point while enjoying a refreshing drink.  If time permits you can also choose a game drive to the near-by Solio Ranch, to get up close and personal with some of their Rhino.

Floodlit Night Game Viewing
Two of the most popular lodges in the Aberdare NP have been specially built to enable game viewing without even leaving your lodge!  The large viewing decks overlook a flood-lit water hole and salt lick, which are frequented by many animals just about around the clock!  You can even request a wake-up call should there be a really good sighting during the night!

Bird Watching
With over 250 recorded species of birds to look out for, bird watchers will have a busy time here.  Spend a relaxing morning on the viewing deck with binoculars at hand, or get active and go on a bird-watching walk.

Mountain Climbing
Keen mountaineers can arrange to scale Lesatima or Kinangop, the  two highest mountain peaks, on a guided expedition.

Horse Riding
If you can tear yourself away from the superb scenery of the Aberdare National Park, horse riding and golf are available at the near-by Aberdare Country Club.

What to See
The scenery in Aberdare National Park is very different from what visitors to some of Kenya’s other parks may be used to.  For example, the Maasai Mara is famous for vast expanses of fairly flat open savannah, while Aberdare National Park is very mountainous and covered in dense forest.  Some of the highlights of this park are: 

Waterfalls
Many visitors to Aberdare NP come here purely for the spectacular scenery.  This is wild Africa as you imagine it existed centuries ago – a mystical and magical volcanic landscape featuring many tall cascading waterfalls, of which Chania, Karuru and Maragua are the most arresting.  Karuru is especially dramatic, as it drops a total of 273mt in a series of 3 steps.

Wildlife
Aberdare is home to all of the Big Five, although finding them in the dense vegetation of the forest is a little more challenging than the open savannahs of some of the other Big Five parks.  These are some of the animals you can expect to see, (providing that you give yourself enough time to seek them out – you would need several days in the park if you hope to cross them all off your list!)   We will start with those that are most commonly spotted:

  • Elephant
  • Buffalo
  • Giant forest Hogs
  • African wild cats
  • Bushbuck
  • Giraffe
  • Red Duiker
  • Baboons
  • Black Colobus Monkey
  • Bongo
  • Hyena
  • Lion 
  • Rhino
  • Leopard, including the rare Black Leopard

There are also over 250 recorded species of birds to be on the lookout for, including:

  • Sunbirds
  • Francolin
  • Heron
  • Kingfishers
  • African gold-headed Eagle

Many territorial Elephants and Buffalo visit the permanent water holes and salt-licks adjacent to the two main lodges and can very easily be viewed from the deck, or the hides at both lodges.

Where to Stay at Aberdare National Park
There are just two Safari Lodges inside the Park, namely Treetops Lodge and the very unusual and downright quirky The Ark Lodge, which has been built to resemble Noah’s Ark.   

The Aberdare Treetops Lodge is quite unique! It first opened in 1932 and was literally built into the tops of the huge trees in the park, resembling a giant tree-house. The original modest two room tree house has grown into a 50 room lodge, still occupying the original site overlooking a water hole.  It is built on stilts and has four observation decks and a rooftop viewing platform from where you can enjoy sweeping views over the park.  

There is also a ground level hide, reached via a tunnel, where you can get really up close to the animals visiting the water hole – a great place to get some amazing close-up photos.

The Ark Lodge maintains its theme right down to calling the rooms “cabins”, and the floors “decks”.  Each cabin is en-suite and all look out over the park, while the Deck C houses the restaurant and other common facilities.  There are large viewing decks overlooking the water hole and a hide for close-up photography in complete safety.

Outside the park there is also the Aberdare Country Club, the Solio Lodge and some comfortable accommodation options in both Nyeri and Mweiga towns.

How to Get to the Aberdare National Park
Aberdare NP is situated about 170 kms from Nairobi, and it takes about 3 to 3.5 hours to drive to the parks headquarters via Nyeri.  If you are staying at one of the forest lodges you will be transported there by shuttle bus.  It is possible to self-drive in the park, but you will need a 4X4.  You can also choose to fly into one of the two airstrips at Mweiga and Nyeri and transfer by shuttle.
  
Best Time to Visit Aberdare National Park
Aberdare is generally viewed as a year-round destination, but since hiking and walking are far pleasanter during the dry months, we suggest you come between June and September or January and February.