Thick rainforest, spectacular waterfalls, cool mountain breezes and wild moorlands, Aberdare National Park is a hiking, fishing and wildlife paradise. The rich greens of the lichen and mossy forests here present contrast with the sandy yellows and browns of most other parks.
And the cool climate, pervading mists, cold lakes and streams are a world away from the sunbaked hills and savannahs of the more well-known reserves.
The park is as well-known for its 300m-high waterfalls, mountainous terrain, misty tropical forests and rich trekking as for its wealth of wildlife. Go for a mountain hike and you’ll be transported from rainforest to bamboo groves to high alpine vegetation.
Along your route you may see buffalo, antelope, baboon, monkey and elephant emerging from the dense forest. The park is home to over 2,000 elephants and some very rare species such the bongo – a giant antelope that lives in the bamboo forest. Also found here is the very rare African golden cat.
Aberdare is home to the second largest herd of black rhino in Kenya. And sightings are common of spotted hyenas, bush pigs, waterbuck, jackal, eland and on occasions the elusive black leopard. The lion is present here too but not often spotted.
The park’s cool, misty environment seems to favor an array of birdlife warbling through its forests – over 290 species, including the endangered Aberdare cisticola. In these cool glades you may see raptors such as buzzards, hawks and the African crown eagle.
Butterflies are especially plentiful in the two major environments of the park – the forests and the moorlands.
Aberdare Park is divided into two eco-systems. The Salient is an environment of rainforest and hills bedecked with high waterfalls. The mountains here range in elevation from 2,000 m (6,600 ft) to 4,000 m (13,000 ft).
The Kinangop Plateau is a plain of rugged and windswept moors. Here you’ll find hills, bogs and cold, crystal mountain streams. The mists over the moors create a dark, weathered beauty.
The accommodations in Aberdare are as special as the park. They are both located near frequently visited watering holes and are excellent vantage points to view the locals as they come to drink.
Treetops Lodge – as its name implies, is actually a treehouse where you can stay and view the wildlife. The lodge became internationally known when Princess Elizabeth stayed here and learned that she had become Queen of England upon the death of her father.
The Ark Lodge – as its name signifies, the lodge has been designed in the shape of Noah’s ark. It has enchanting views of the park’s wildlife as they come to close-by watering holes and a salt lick.
Not the largest nor the smallest park, Aberdare is 767 sq. km (296 sq. mi). It is considered a high-altitude park.
The park is 150 km (93 mi) east of Nairobi and 87 km (54 mi) from Naivasha, in the central highlands of Kenya. It is part of the Aberdare Range, volcanic mountains that comprise the eastern wall of the Rift Valley.
Cool misty and wet. Temperatures are a cool 1.6o C (35o F) to 11oC (52o F).
The reserve is accessible year-round, but the best times to visit are January and February and June through September. During the rainy season from March through May, the roads are impassable.
The park is open daily from 0600 hrs. to 2100hrs. There is no entry after 18:15 hrs. Hiking is allowed only in designated areas and only in the company of a KWS ranger.
By road – you can book a tour with Natural World Kenya Safaris from Nairobi.
By air – fly in safaris can land at the airstrips as Nyeri and Mweiga.
You’ll find campsites as well as the two lodges – Treetops and The Ark. Both lodges offer excellent nighttime game viewing.
Hiking – With its beautiful forests and moorlands, cool climate, sparkling streams and abundant wildlife, Aberdare was made for easy walks and serious trekking. You’ll need to do so in the company of a KWS ranger but the opportunities for getting close to the land and animals here are limitless.
Waterfalls – The park hosts a serious collection of renowned waterfalls. The waters of Gura waterfall plunge 300 m (984 ft) – the steepest fall in Kenya. Other spectacular falls are Karura, Chania and Maraqua Falls.
Climbing – The viewpoints of Twin Hills, Elephant Hills and Table Mountain offer rich vistas and though challenging, are attainable by the average hiker.
Trout fishing – Anglers will delight in the rewarding mountain stream fishing. Try your luck at the Guru Karuru and Chania Rivers. The park is known for its bountiful stock of brown and rainbow trout.