Travel to Aberdares Mountains – High Peaks & Waterfalls
The Aberdares are the third highest range of mountains in Kenya, reaching a summit of just over 4000m. This massive range is well known for its thick salient forests, and their prolific game. These high altitude forests are broken by moorlands and plains, and through the abundant tree cover there are sensational views of the Rift Valley and the peak of Mt Kenya.
The Aberdares can be explored by vehicle, or on foot. There are trekking trails throughout the forests, and across the moorlands. A few days spent here is one of Kenya’s best forest treks.
The foothills of the Aberdares are ideal for exploring on horseback and there are crystal clear mountain streams that abound with Trout. The Aberdares are a great place for waterfalls. There are a series of spectacular falls along the range, and at Nyahururu, Thompson’s Falls have became a popular rest stop for travellers.
The Aberdare range is traditionally Kikuyu land, known originally as Nyandarura the name for a traditional rack for drying animals skins and hides, which the spine of the range resembles. The Kikuyu have long used these fertile slopes as farmland.
The current name was given by British Explorer Joseph Thompson in 1884, to honour of Lord Aberdare then President of the Royal Geographic Society. Thompson was a prodigious bestower of names, particularly his own. He is responsible for the Thompson’s Gazelle, and in the foothills of the Aberdares, the local landmark of Thompson’s Falls can also be found.
Today the Aberdares are a gazetted National Park, and the surrounding slopes are predominantly Kikuyu farmland.
The Salient forest of the Aberdares is very rich in big game. Large herds of buffalo and elephant are often seen, especially at the Salt Licks and waterholes of the Forest Lodges.
The impressively huge Giant Forest Hog is often seen at night, and there are many leopards here, and a few rhino. One of the rarest residents is the beautiful Bongo antelope. In the treetops around the lodges, Colobus monkeys are often seen, while at night bush-babies and genets slip quietly through the rafters.
There are game drives and treks possible through the Salient. The Forest Lodges are an excellent way to see game. Built high over well lit waterholes and salt licks, these lodges are visited by a procession of oblivious game throughout the day and night. This allows guests to watch the wildlife from the comfort and warmth of the lodge. This privileged position gives guests the rare opportunity to observe natural behaviour and interaction as various animals emerge from the forest.
The bird-rich Aberdares are very popular with birders. At least 200 species have been recorded, including African Green Ibis, African Cuckoo Hawk, Cape Eagle Owl, Mountain Buzzard and Hartlaub’s Turaco. Rare species include the Scarlet tufted Sunbird, long tailed Widowbird, African grass owl and the Aberdare Cisticola on the moorlands.
This is good country for an adventurous wild trek through the forest. There are no well defined trekking routes through the Aberdares, but there is a lot to explore. There is a well marked trail and observation at the beautiful Karuru Falls. From this high vantage there are also excellent views of the entire range and the distant Gura Falls.
There are also wooden walkways across the lower Chania Falls. If you’re feeling hot, and brave, you may wish to attempt a plunge into the icy waters here.
The lower, densely forested Salient has plenty of game, both big and small. The upper slopes have high moorlands and open plains, which are ideal for walking, rising to a summit of 4000 metres at Satima.
There are excellent views across to the snow capped peak of Mt Kenya and the surrounding plains. The Aberdares have plenty of streams for the Trout fisherman to explore. Excellent local trout can be found, and there are plenty of tranquil forest glades for peaceful, undisturbed fishing.
Some of the lodges and hotels in this area have stables and organize rides around the foothills of the ranges. The Country club has a private game sanctuary that is open to riders. Riding in the sanctuary among herds of giraffe, zebra and eland makes for an unusual equestrian excursion.
This area is the heartland of the Kikuyu, and visitors may wish to sample some traditional Kikuyu cuisine, widely available in these areas. Favourites include Irio and Githeri, both bean and maize based stews. This area is also known for it woven wool products, including matting and clothing.
This is the heartland of the Kikuyu, and you may want to buy an example of the best known Kikuyu handicraft, a Kiondoo. These very useful woven bags have become very popular as handbags.
Main road access to the Aberdares is via Mweiga or Nyeri, both easily accessed from Nairobi by bus/matatu or private transport. You’ll need your own transport, or to be part of a safari, to get to the forest. There are good roads within the park, though 4WD is needed during rain.
- Take an adventurous wild trek through the forest.
- Rugged terrain, streams and waterfalls combine to create an area of great scenic beauty.
- Chance to encounter large herds of elephant and buffalo.