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Discover Aberdare National Park – Kenya’s Mountainous Wildlife Sanctuary

Aberdare National Park is situated in the Aberdare mountain ranges, covering an area of 767 square kilometers at altitudes of 2000 to 4000 meters above sea level.

It is characterized by mountain ranges, valleys, rivers, moorlands, savanna grasslands, rainforests, bamboo forests, tropical forests, and streams.

The park boasts 250 species of birds, 778 plant species, and various wildlife, including the African big five.

The park is home to the beautiful Aberdare mountain ranges, covering about 100 kilometers from Nairobi through the park to Thompson’s Falls, forming the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley.

Aberdare is home to some rare wildlife species in the country, like the Black leopard and many others.

The park derives its name from the Aberdare mountain ranges dominating the park.

The mountains derive the name from Lord Aberdare, the late former president of the Geographical Society.

The mountains are the third highest in Kenya, providing excellent mountaineering opportunities to travelers.

The park is one of the most popular of all Kenyan national parks.

Entry Fees & Tariffs

Entry Fees & Tariffs

The entry fee to Aberdare National Park will depend on whether you’re a Kenyan citizen, resident, or foreign non-resident.

Foreign non-resident adults will pay $52, and their children will pay $26. Foreign residents and East African residents will pay Kshs 515 for adults and Kshs 215 for young children.

Non-resident students will pay $26.

Foreign residents will have to show documents indicating their residency to enjoy these rates.

Children paying the children’s rates must be under 18 years and over 3 years of age.

Historical Significance and Naming of Aberdare Mountains

Historical Significance and Naming of Aberdare Mountains
The Aberdare Mountains

The Aberdare mountain ranges were a hiding place and refuge for the Main Mau uprising leader, Dedan Kimathi.

The fighters used to hide within the mountain caves from colonialists during the rebellion.

Aberdare ranges were also affected during World War II, Burma campaign; there was a lot of bombing, but nevertheless, the natural habitat wasn’t greatly damaged, and it thrived thereafter.

The park was established in 1950. In 1952, Queen Elizabeth, while staying at Treetops hotel, found out that she was Queen after learning about her father’s death, King George VI.

The first white man to see Aberdare mountain ranges was a Scottish explorer known as Joseph Thompson, who named the mountain ranges after Lord Aberdare, the then-president of the Royal Geographical Society.

The Aberdare mountain ranges have played a very significant role in religious circles of the Kikuyu people who have lived within its slopes for several years until it was established as a national park.

The Kikuyu people refer to the mountain as “Nyandarua” in their local language, translated to mean “drying hides” due to its distinctive looks on the silhouette.

The Kikuyu also believe that the god known as “Ngai” resides in the mountain.

The Aberdare mountain ranges were also referred to as “white highlands” in the 1920s when a large population of Europeans settled in the area, more concentrated at Wanjoni valley, which they nicknamed “Happy Valley.”

They also settled at Kinangop Plateau, which was later included in the national park area.

They mainly cultivated pyrethrum and wheat in large farms, which were later subdivided after independence.

A few of those settlers’ children still live in some parts of the valley. In 1959, Queen Elizabeth had a royal lunch with her husband, Prince Philip, and the site is now known as “The Queen’s Cave Pavilion.”

Location and Accessibility of Aberdare National Park

Location and Accessibility of Aberdare National Park

Aberdare National Park is located 150 kilometers from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, 25 kilometers from Nyeri town, at the Aberdare mountain ranges in Nyeri and Nyandarua counties in central Kenya.

It’s about 150 kilometers by road from Nairobi and 87 kilometers from Naivasha.

The park headquarters are just 15 kilometers from Nyeri town.

Tourists can also board standard chartered flights to Mweiga and Nyeri airstrips, close to the park, from Nairobi.

Animals and Wildlife in Aberdare National Park

Animals and Wildlife in Aberdare National Park
Elephants roaming near Ark Lodge

Aberdare National Park offers one of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on a Kenyan safari, with several wildlife species to be seen in the park.

Some examples of animals seen include elephants, leopards, black rhinos, warthogs, bushbucks, African wildcats, blue duikers, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, serval cats, golden cats, bongo, giant forest hogs, spotted hyenas, African civet cats, defassa waterbucks, blue duikers, and many others.

Top Activities and Things to Do in Aberdare National Park

Top Activities and Things to Do in Aberdare National Park

Below are the top things to do in Aberdare National Park:

Game Drives

Game drives at Aberdare National Park are one of the best ways to view wildlife.

The best time for a game drive is during the early morning hours or late afternoon so that you can watch some nocturnal animals coming out or going back to their dens.

Bird Watching

Aberdare National Park is home to over 250 species of birds recorded.

Some examples of birds found in the park include the African thrush, Hartlaub’s turaco, Ayres hawk eagle, Augur buzzard, golden-winged sunbird, montane white eye, crowned eagle, Jackson’s francolin, hunter’s cisticola, moorland chat, Aberdare cisticola, Abyssinian crimson wing, African goshawk, African paradise flycatcher, African green pigeon, African yellow warbler, bronzy sunbird, bar-tailed trogon, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Doherty’s bush shrike, Jackson’s francolin, Montagu’s harrier, mouse-tailed green tinker bird, olive birds, narina trogon, rufous-chested sparrowhawk, silvery-cheeked hornbill, Taccaze sunbird, white-headed wood hoopoe, and tambourine dove, among the rest.

Hiking

Several hiking trails have been established in the park for tourists to choose from.

Trout Fishing

Tourists planning to go fishing while at Aberdare can hire fishing gear at Aberdare Fishing Lodge.

The best fishing areas are at rivers and open glades. The best rivers for fishing are River Gura, River Chania, and Amboni River.

You must get permission from the park to fish at Aberdare National Park.

What to See – Must-See Attractions in Aberdare National Park

What to See - Must-See Attractions in Aberdare National Park

Below are the top things to see in Aberdare National Park:

Aberdare Mountains

The Aberdare Mountains or Nyandarua, known by the local people, provide good hiking and mountain climbing opportunities for tourists.

The highest peak is Mount Satima at 4000 meters above sea level.

The second highest peak is Mount Kinangop at 3,906 meters above sea level, Chebuswa is the third highest at 3364 meters above sea level, Table Mountain is the 4th highest at 3791 meters above sea level, and Elephant at 3590 meters above sea level.

Each peak provides magnificent views, beautiful sceneries, and supports several wildlife and bird species.

Waterfalls

The Aberdare mountain ranges are renowned for being home to numerous waterfalls, with the commonly visited one being the magnificent Karuru Waterfalls at Aberdare National Park, which happens in three phases.

The first waterfall is 117 meters high, the second waterfall is 26 meters, while the third waterfall is 130 meters high.

For the best experience, you can hike to all three waterfalls.

Other notable waterfalls are Magura Waterfalls and Gura Waterfalls.

Each waterfall provides its unique beauty and habitat, and you can choose one of the waterfalls to hike and have a packed lunch.

Beautiful Scenery

Aberdare National Park offers some of the best scenic views in Kenya of the Great Rift Valley.

It’s an ideal place for photography.

Rare Animal Species

Aberdare National Park is home to various rare animal species like black leopards and rare bongo antelopes, which you might not easily see in other national parks.

Mugumo Fig Tree

The famous Mugumo fig tree found within Aberdare is a very old tree that is very sacred to the Kikuyu people living around the area.

The Kikuyu regularly used to hold religious, cultural, medicinal, fruit-bearing, rain catchment, cattle fodder, and refuge purposes by building rafts in high branches.

The tree acted as a meeting point between the Kikuyu people and their god Ngai by conducting spiritual rituals, bringing gifts, and sacrifices to the trunk.

The Mau Mau rebellion fighters against British colonial rule made gapping crevices on the Mugumo tree trunks their post office, making it a secret rendezvous for its messengers and fighters while hiding in the Aberdare mountain ranges.

Commanders of the two main battalions left each other’s letters on the Mugumo tree trunk.

The fighters nicknamed the Mugumo tree “Kimathi Post Office” in honor of their leader, Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi.

The tree played a very important role because it would have been next to impossible to coordinate troops at that time.

Unfortunately, it’s believed that one of the Mau Mau fighters that had been captured and tortured was forced to reveal the deep secrets of Mau Mau fighters because some messengers got arrested by British officials when they went to pick up letters.

Aberdare Video

Best Time to Visit Aberdare National Park

Best Time to Visit Aberdare National Park

Aberdare National Park is an all-year-round destination, experiencing two dry seasons and two wet seasons every year.

Though the park is open all year, some seasons are more favorable than others.

The best times for visiting are during the dry seasons of June to August and December to February when the animals in the park concentrate on permanent water sources, and the vegetation is also not thick, making it easy to spot wildlife.

The best time for bird enthusiasts to visit is from November to April when migratory birds from North Africa and Europe are found in the park.

Accommodation Options in Aberdare National Park

There are several accommodation options to stay in while visiting Aberdare National Park, including Treetops hotel, The Ark, Aberdare Country Club, Fishing Lodge, Aberdare Cottages, Sapper Hat, and Tusk Camp Banda, among others.


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