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Aberdare National Park

Aberdare National Park

On the slopes of the Aberdare Ranges stands a giant Mugumo (fig) tree whose look can tell of its long existence and whose history can only be termed as rich. The Mau Mau freedom fighters made crevices in the tree’s trunk which they used as a secret post office where they dropped messages through their agents. In respect of the Mau Mau leader Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi, the fig tree became known as the Kimathi Post office. The Aberdare National park is also famous for caves which were used by the freedom fighters as hide outs during the Guerrilla uprising against the British colonialists.

Of interest in this park are the moorlands, bamboo thickets, Ol Donyo Lesatima and Kinangop peaks, Gura falls, Karuru falls, Chania falls, Magura falls, streams, rivers, rugged terrains, and deep ravines. The park is home to large herds of the African elephant, buffaloes, black rhinos, rare bongo antelopes, wild dogs, giant forest hogs, Columbus monkeys, baboons, leopards, Sykes monkeys, warthogs, red duikers, reed bucks, elands, Genet cats, hyenas, and variety of bird species.

The surrounding local community is the Kikuyu who believe the ranges to be one of the homes of their God (Ngai). The locals originally named them Nyandarua (drying hide) due to their many distinctive folds. The colonialists however, knew them as the White Highlands because of the large numbers of Europeans who settled there in the 1920’s. The ranges were later renamed in 1884 by Joseph Thomson an explorer, after Lord Aberdare who was the president of the Royal Geographic Society.

Activities to participate in include trout fishing in the streams and rivers (sports fishing license should be obtained at the Park gates), mountain climbing, day and night game viewing, camping, picnicking, horse riding, photography, bird watching, and nature walks.

For effective game viewing it is advisable to book into the Tree Tops or Ark Lodges which provide an excellent platform due to their close proximity to watering holes. The Tree Tops hotel was literally built on the top of trees as a two-roomed tree house. It was rebuilt after being burnt down by African guerrillas in 1954 during the uprising and now contains 50 rooms. To get to the Ark guests have to go through Aberdare Country Club an elegant country hotel which is the access point for the Ark. From the lodges, it is possible to view elephants bathing, black rhinos squishing in muck, water bucks, buffaloes, gazelles and even the bush baby. Animal viewing is especially outstanding at night when most of them gather at the watering holes.