Aberdare National Park 4.001 m
The Aberdare National Park was established in 1950. The hilly park lies in between 1.829 m and 4.001 m above sea level (Oldonyo Lesatima) and covers an area of 767 km². The Aberdare hills stretch over 70 km to end 40 km before Nairobi.
Tectonic forces lifted the earth’s crust 5 to 6 mio. years ago and while the Great Rift Valley dropped which caused many volcanic eruptions. Few volcanoes are inside the Great Rift, some on the edge, majority outside. Erosion rounded off the peaks for thousands of years and created moorland at 3.000 m.
In the year 1884 Joseph Thomson, a Scottish explorer, named them after the president of the ‘Royal Geographical Society’, Lord Aberdare. The old name Nyandarua, given by the local tribe of the Kikuyu, means drying cow hide, which characterizes the shape of the landscape. In the 1950s the Mau Mau rebellion used the area as hiding places.
To reduce the conflict between animals and human population an electric fence is surrounding the park. At several places illegal shambas (vegetable plantations) were cleared away and given back to nature.
Several crystal clear rivers flow through the moorland and cascade over a series of high waterfalls. Released trouts attract anglers from far and near.
The climate can be frosty at night and moderate at day time. Rain has to be expected at any time of the year with higher rainfalls during rainy season. But even then, most likely the sun fights the clouds and colours the sky to a deep blue. The precipitation amounts to 1.000 mm per annum on the drier northeast side and to 3.000 mm in the south east. The whole area is a very important water catchment area feeding several big rivers.
Depending on the altitude the vegetation varies drastically. Leaving the agricultural part of the Kikuyu’s behind you pass through thick forest followed by bamboo forest. A bit higher the vegetation contains mainly Hagenia and Podocarpus trees, some decorated like Christmas trees by lichen. Climbing higher the vegetation clears and changes to St. John’s worth bushes, Lobelia, Senecia, Tussock grass, Erica and heather bushes. You will come across small flowering plants related to those in the Alps and Rocky Mountains.
Even the vegetation builds partly a thicket you can still find animals like Buffalos, Elephants, Monkeys, Bush and Reed bucks, Black-fronted Duikers and a big variety of birds. To get one of the Black Rhinos, black Serval cats or a leopard is good luck. Just to catch a glimpse of the rare Mountain Bongo and Golden Cat is like winning in the lottery while Giant Forest hogs can often be met near The Ark Lodge. The fascinating landscape and mountain vegetation are totally different to other areas in East Africa – you will experience a part of Africa as you have not anticipated!
Hike with us to the higher areas and admire the alpine flora as well as the fascinating landscape! To reach Lesatima you need to be accompanied by a ranger. See here
Aberdare National Park – wildlife and bird species
Elephant, Leopard, Spotted Hyena, Serval (also melanistic), Golden Cat (very few sightings), Bush Buck, Mountain Reedbuck, Defassa Waterbuck, Black-fronted Duiker, Mountain Bongo (rare around Lesatima), African Buffalo, Giant Forest Hog ((Hylochoerus m. meinertzhageni – the largest of the 3 subspecies), Zorilla/Striped
Polecat, Hare, Olive Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Mount Kenya White-throated Guenon (Cercopithecus albogularis kolbi), Kikuyu Colobus (Colobus guereza kikuyuensis), Nutria, Kenya Tree Squirrel, Black Rhino (rarely seen)
Bird species in and around Aberdare National Park
Inside the park
African Black Duck, Crowned Hawk-Eagle, Mountain Buzzard, Montagu’s Harrier, Black Goshawk/Great Sparrowhawk, Augur Buzzard, Scaly Spurfowl, Jackson’s Spurfowl, African Rail, African Finfoot, African Olive-Pigeon, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-fronted Parrot (Poicephalus gulielmi massaicus), Hartlaub’s Turaco, Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Mustached Green Tinkerbird, Black Saw-wing, Grey Wagtail, Mountain or Black-tailed Oriole, Cabanis’s Greenbul, White-starred Robin, Aberdare Cisticola, Hunter’s Cisticola, Black-throated Apalis, East Mediterranean Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator niloticus, hard to trace), Doherty’s Bush-shrike (hard to see), Golden-winged Sunbird, Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Grey-headed Nigrita
In the region around the park in and around Solio Conservancy
Black Duck, Martial Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Greater Kestrel, Lanner Falcon, African Hobby, Eleonora’s Falcon (very rare), Harlequin Quail, Striped Crake (rare intra-African migrant), Denham’s Bustard (quite rare), Great Snipe, Red-fronted Parrot (Poicephalus gulielmi massaicus), Hartlaub’s Turaco, African Emerald Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Eurasian or Common Cuckoo, Barn Owl, African Grass Owl, Marsh Owl (Asio c. capensis), Freckled Nightjar, Alpine Swift (Apus melba africanus), Mottled Swift (Tachymarptis a. aequatorialis), Narina Trogon, Bar-tailed Trogon, Broad-billed Roller, Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater, White-eared Barbet (Stactolaema leucotis kilimensis), African Black-throated Barbet, Rufous-necked Wryneck (Jynx r. ruficollis), Flappet Lark (Mirafra rufocinnamomea torrida), Black Saw-wing (Psalidoprocne h. holomelas), Mountain Wagtail (Motacilla clara torrentium), Tree Pipit,
Purple-throated Cuckooshrike (Campephaga quiscalina martini) (rare), Montane Oriole, Hinde’s Babbler (endemic in Kenya), Mountain Illadopsis (Illadopsis p. pyrrhopera), Abyssiniian Hill-Babbler (Sylvia (Pseudoalcippe) a. abyssinica), Cabanis’s Greenbul, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Mountain or Olive-breasted Greenbul (, Little Rock Thrush, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush (Geokichla piaggiae kilimensis), Mountain Thrush (Turdus a. abyssinicus) , White-starred Robin (Pogonocichla stellata intensa), Black-collared Apalis (Oreoleis p. pulcher), Red-fronted Warbler or Red-faced Apalis (Prinia rufifrons smithi), Chin-spot Batis (Batis molitor puella), Black-throated Wattle-eye (Platysteira peltata mentalis), Tacazze Sunbird (Nectarinia tacazze jacksoni), Kikuyu White-eye, Jackson’s Widowbird, Long-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes progne delamerei), African Firefinch (Lagonosticta rubricata haematocephala), Kandt’s Waxbill, Thick-billed Canary (Crithagra burtoni albifrons)
Endemic bird species in the Aberare region
Moorland Francolin (Scleroptila p. psilolaema), Hinde’s Babbler, Aberdare Cisticola, Sharpe’s Longclaw, Mackinder Eagle-owl (Bubo mackinderi)
Accommodation inside Aberdare National Park
The Ark Lodge is a night observation lodge in the mountain forest. From various platforms you can watch Elephants, Buffalos, Bush Bucks coming to drink and lick salt. Giant Forest Hogs are coming to graze and Spotted Hyenas in search of a hunting opportunity. At night strong spot lights help seeing what is happening in around the pond.
It is also a place where mountain bird species can be easily spotted.
The rooms are a bit small but the experience is amazing. Food and service are good.
Fishing Lodge Bandas are in the moorland at 2.920 m. We carry food, drinks, fire wood and bring our safari cook along. You can see the sun raise over the valley and watch Black-fronted Duikers, Bush Bucks, Buffalos and rarely a Black Serval Cat. The rooms are comfortable and you even get a hot shower. It is very romantic to sit at the fire in the dining room in the evening.
Camping is not very comfortable at this altitude since temperatures can drop below 0 degrees Celsius.
Accommodation outside near Aberdare National Park
Aberdare Country Club is a house from the colonial time. Cozy bungalows were added. Meals are either taken on the terrace or in the dining hall. The large land is dotted with old trees. Especially for birders it is worth taking walks. Enjoy views to Mount Kenya.
Rhino Watch Lodge has tents and bungalows and is not far from the entrance to Solio Conservancy. It is also at a good location for a hike up Oldonyo Lesatima.
Sandai Ranch is a nice family run place. Great views to Mount Kenya and a lovely surrounding. You can walk and ride horses.
Le Prestine in Nyeri is a very special place! The owner is a tree lover. He has planted so many indigenous trees in the compound and along the path outside the lodge. It is one great place to find Hinde’s Babbler.
Our safaris to Aberdare National Park
The Ark – a fantastic night observation lodge
Aberdare Country Club
Fishing Lodge bandas at 2.920 m
Unfortunately the road to Karuru Falls is not always passable
A few more impressions of the very diverse Aberdare National Park