A Guide To Aberdare National Park
Encircled by the wild and beautiful moorlands of the third highest mountain range in Kenya, Aberdare National Park offers a mist-wreathed realm where elephants roam through lichen-hung forests, spectacular waterfalls plunge into churning pools, and trout-ﬁlled streams cascade through mossy dells. A haven for anglers, walkers and lovers of solitude alike, it also offers matchless views of the glittering coronet of Mount Kenya and the sparkling lakes of the Great Rift Valley.
Visit the Aberdare National Park, and you will encounter a moss-green realm of tumbling waterfalls, flower-filled glades and ancient gnarled trees. You’ll also catch the odd shower – such as the one this buffalo is enjoying. Known by the early settlers as ‘Scotland with lions’, the Aberdare mountain range is one of Kenya’s prime water catchment areas. Covering only 2% of the total land area, these so called ‘water towers’ are invaluable in providing water for industry and people alike.
Aberdare National Park – Wildlife highlights
Mammals of the forest zone include blue and colobus monkey, leopard, lion, elephant, warthog, black rhino, giant forest hog, bushbuck, buffalo, red duiker and suni.
Mammals of the moorlands include serval, eland, several species of duiker and the rare bongo antelope. Threatened species include: bongo, leopard, black rhinoceros, African elephant, giant forest hog and golden cat.
Endemic species: The Aberdare Mole-shrew and Aberdare Mole-rat. Birds: The prolific birdlife features 250 recorded species.
Facts About Aberdare National
Altitude: 1,829-4,001 meters above sea level.
Area: 767 sq. km.
Location: Central Highlands west of Mount Kenya.
Distance from Nairobi: 160 km
Gazetted: The Aberdares was established in May 1950.
Geography: The Aberdare Range is a long narrow massif, stretching north to south for about 70km with its southern end about 80km north of Nairobi. Along the centre of the range are the main peaks: Chebuswa (3,364 m), Satima (4,001 m) and Table Mountain (3,791m) are in the Northern Moorland; Rurimueria (3,860 m) and Maratini (3,698 m) are in the Central Moorland and Kinangop (3,906 m) and The Elephant (3,590 m) are in the Southern Moorland.
Vegetation: The vegetation varies with altitude. A rich alpine and sub-alpine flora, including species of Senecio, Lobelia, Erica Helichrysum and tussock grasses, gives way at around 3,000 m to bamboo Arundinaria alpina and then montane rainforest (mainly Juniperus procera-Podocarpus falcatus-Nuxia congesta forest on the western and north-western slopes, Ocotea forest in the south-east and mixed Podocarpus latifolius forest in the east and on Kipipiri). Pockets of Hagenia forest also occur in sheltered patches on the rolling moorland.
Climate: Cool, misty and cloudy with heavy rain for much of the year. Precipitation varies from around 1,000 mm per annum on the drier north-western slopes to as much as 3,000 mm per annum in the south-east.
Fauna: Mammals of the forest zone include blue and colobus monkey, leopard, lion, elephant, warthog, black rhino, giant forest hog, bushbuck, buffalo, red duiker and suni. Mammals of the moorlands include serval, eland, several species of duiker and the rare bongo antelope.
Threatened species: Bongo, leopard, black rhinoceros, African elephant, giant forest hog and golden cat.
Endemic species: The Aberdare Mole-shrew and Aberdare Mole-rat, the Montane Viper (which occurs only here and on Mount Kenya) and the following amphibians (endemic to the central Kenyan highlands): Hyperolius montanus , H. cystocandicans , Rana witei and Phrynobatrachus kinangopensis . Endemic butterflies include: Neptis Kikuyuensis (endemic to the Aberdare Forest and the Kikuyu escarpment) and Charaxes nandina (endemic to central Kenya).
Birds: The prolific bird life features 250 recorded species.
Roads: Crisscrossed by a network of red ‘murram’ dirt roads and featuring a number of steep, rocky sections the park can often become inaccessible especially in the rainy season. 4WD vehicles are recommended.
How To Get To Aberdare National Park
By Road: 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.
By Air: The nearest airstrip is the Mweiga Airstrip on the opposite side from Park Hqs along Nyeri – Nyahururu road near Sasini Estate Farm.
What to see at Aberdare National Park
Enduring legacy of Kimathi ”Post Ofﬁce”
Aberdare National Park is also famous for freedom ﬁghters hideouts where we have Mau Mau caves that were being used by ﬁeld Marshall General Dedan Kimathi and his Mau Mau prior to independence. The Kimathi “post office”, where agents used to drop messages for Man Mau ﬁghters led by legendary Field Marshall General Dedan Kimathi in the Aberdare and Mt Kenya forests.
Aberdare National Park History
Believed by the Kikuyu people to be one of the homes of Ngai (God) and originally known as Nyandarua’ (the drying hide) due to the distinctive folds of its silhouette, the range was re-named in 1884 by the explorer, , after Lord Aberdare, the President of the Royal Geographical Society. Dubbed the ‘White Highlands’ because of the large numbers of Europeans who settled there in the 1920’s, the area also achieved notoriety due to the decadent antics of the ‘Happy Valley Set‘ of the Wanjohi Valley.
Also during the 1950’s, the dense forests and bamboo thickets witnessed much of the action between British forces and the ‘Mau Mau’ freedom ﬁghters. The original ‘Treetops’ hotel came under the spotiight of the world when the young Princess Eiizabeth descended its steps as Queen Elizabeth ll of England in 1952.
Herds of elephant against a mountain backdrop
The Pads provides a unique habitat for approximately two thousand elephants, which roam the clouded hills and misty glades and provide endless atmospheric viewing opportunities.
Spectacular waterfalls at Aberdare National Park
Aberdare National Park is renowned for its torrential waterfalls plunging from cloud-shrouded heights to spray-ﬁlled ravines. They include the magniﬁcent Karuru Falls, which drop 300m, the impressive Gura Falls which torrent from the opposite side of the same gorge, the sheer drop of the Chania Fails, and the enchanting Magura Falls which cascade across the yawning mouth of the Queen’s Cave.
Attractions in Aberdare National Park Kenya
- Game animals easily seen in the park during game viewing include; African Elephant, black rhino, leopard, spotted hyena, olive baboon, black and white colobus monkey, sykes monkey, cape buffalo, warthog, common zebra (North Aberdare), bushbuck, reedbuck. Rare sightings include those of Giant Forest hog, bongo, golden cat, serval cat, African wild cat, African civet cat, blue duiker.
- Very beautiful sceneries of Aberdare include magnificent waterfalls with the main ones being Karuru waterfalls which fall in three steps, 1st step 117M, 2nd step 26M and 3rd 130M, making a total of 273M, Chania waterfalls and may other smaller ones.
- Adding to the beauty of Aberdare are many ridges and river valleys which attract mountain scenery photographers.
- A recent marked attraction in Aberdare is the 400Kms electric fence which was completed – final post on 28th August, 2009. The fence protects the whole Aberdare ecosystem from human pressures and contains wildlife, preventing human/wildlife conflict.
- Visitors can also indulge in picnics, trout fishing (in the past the rivers were stocked with brown rainbow trout) in the rivers and camping in the Moorlands. Bird viewing is rewarding with about 290 recorded bird species, including the Aberdare Cisticola that is critically endangered and the Jackson’s francolin, which is regionally endemic, sparry hawk, goshawks, eagles, sunbirds and plovers
What to do at Aberdare National Park Kenya
Mountain climbing, hiking and walking
You don’t have to be a mountaineer to climb the peaks of the Aberdare, most of which can be conquered with little more than a strenuous high-attitude trek. There are also countless panoramic moorland hikes and forest walks. Permission is required from the Warden to walk, hike or climb in the Park and you must be accompanied by an armed KWS Ranger, whose services can be booked by contacting the Warden, preferably in advance
Excellent ﬁshing in the cool mountain streams
Both brown and rainbow trout abound in the cool mountain streams and provide excellent angling. (A sports ﬁshing license can be obtained at the Park gates).
Accommodation And Hotels At Aberdare National Park
Aberdare National Park Hotels
Lodges at Aberdare National Park
A unique day and night game-viewing lodge modelled on Noah’s Ark.
Fairmont Hotels, PO Box 58581 (00100), Nairobi.
Tel: (Nairobi) +254 (20) 2216940, 250900. Fax: +254 (20) 250200, 253075
Tel: (Nyeri) +254 (61) 55620, 55017, Fax: +254 (61) 55224
The access point for The Ark and an elegant country house hotel offering luxury accommodation and extensive facilities.
Po Box 449, Nyeri. Tel: (Nairobi) +254 (20) 2216940, 250900
Fax: +254 (20) 250200, 253075 ,
Tel: (Nyeri) +254 (61) 55620, 55017
Fax: +254 (61) 55224,
Treetops, the world famous tree-house lodge.
The Outspan Hotel, the access point for Treetops and a luxurious colonial-style hotel offering extensive facilities.
Aberdare Safari Hotels, P0 Box 14815 (00800), Nairobi.
Tel (Nairobi) +254 (20) 4452095-9 ,
Fax: +254 (20) 4452102
Self-Catering Accommodation at Aberdare National Park
Kiandongoro Fishing Lodge comprises 2 iarge stone-built, 3 bedroom cottages each offering: fully equipped kitchen (with gas stove and crockery), furnished sitting and dining area with log ﬁre, veranda, 2 double bedrooms (en suite with double bed and single bed) and l single bedroom. There is a caretaker and bedding, towels, kerosene lamps and hot water are provided. Reservations through the Warden or KWS HQ, Nairobi.
Sapper Hut (west of the Fishing Lodge), a basic wooden cabin offering: one bedroom (2 beds and mattresses only), sitting and dining area, log burning stove, veranda, pit latrine and wash hut. Visitors are supposed to carry their cooking equipments. Reservations through the Warden or KWS HQ, Nairobi.
Tusk Camp, a forest camp offering: 4 sleeping cabins (2 single beds each), ‘mess’ cabin with log ﬁre and veranda, kitchen with wood burning-stove (optional gas stove, cooking utensils and crockery are available) beddings, towels and bathroom. There is a caretaker and kerosene lamps are provided. Reservations through the Warden or KWS HQ, Nairobi.
- Fishing Lodge-Aberdare
- Sapper Hut
- Shimoni Cottages
Camping at Aberdare National Park
Public campsites include:
- Reedbuck (At The Moorlands)
- Honi Campsite
- Shamata Campsite
- Bill Woodley Campsite
- P.C Haji’s Campsite
- Muringato (M1)
- Bongo (M2)
- Nyati (M3)
- Queen Beatrix (M5)
- Kiguru (K1)
- Kifaru (K2)
- Prince Charles
A selection of ‘special’ campsites (no facilities) are available and these must be booked in advance on an exclusive use basis (reservations through the Warden or KWS HQ, Nairobi).
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How to get to Aberdare National Park
By road: Take the A2 out of Nairobi (direction Thika) into Nyeri and the Nyeri – Nyahururu road out of Nyeri. Ruhuruini, Ark and treetops gates are signposted off this road.
Gates: The following entry gates exist: Ark, Treetops, Ruhuruini, Kiandongoro, Mutubio, Wandaris, Shamata and Rhino.
By air: Via Mweiga airstrip.
Open: Daily 6.00am – 7.00pm. N01‘?! No entry is allowed on foot, and visitors will not be allowed into the Park after 6.15pm.
Current entry charges: Obtainable via KWS HQ:
Tel: (Nairobi) +254 (0)20 600800, 602345,
Fax: +254 607024
email: email@example.com, website: www.kws.go.ke
‘Safaricard’ required? Entry is by safaricard only. Safaricards maybe loaded (but not obtained) at the Mwelga Park HQ.
A Map of Aberdare National Park
What to take with you to Aberdare National Park
Drinking water, picnic items and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight.
Also useful are: binoculars, camera, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, guidebooks, warm clothing (temperatures drop rapidly at night), walking boots, compass, and maps.
When to visit Aberdare National Park Kenya
Aberdare National Park is accessible all year round however 4WD vehicles is recommended during heavy rains.
Aberdare National Park Charges And Entrance Fee
- Adults KSH: 350
- Child KSH: 250
- Adults KSH: 1200
- Child KSH: 600
Non – Resident
- Adults USD:65
- Child USD: 30
Aberdare National Park Contacts
The Warden: P0 Box 22, Nyeri, Central Province.
Tel: (Nyeri) +254 (20) 2046271
Kenya Wildlife Service, Marketing & Business Development – Nairobi
Tel : +254 (20) 600800, 602345
Fax: +254 (20) 607024