Central Kenya

Mount Kenya

The Aberdares

Samburu National Reserve

Buffalo Springs National Reserve

Shaba National Reserve

Meru National Park

Bisanadi, North Kitui, Rahole National Reserves & Kora National Park

The Rift Valley Lakes

Maralal National Sanctuary


Mount Kenya is the country’s highest mountain. Sitting astride the equator its icy summit reaches to 5199 m (17,058 ft.). All of the mountain above the 5199 m contour forms a national park. In fact the mountain consists of three principal zones; the rocky peak area, actually an eroded volcanic plug, with its mantle of glaciers and snowfields; the alpine zone with its distinctive giant vegetation; and the vast gentle lower slopes drenched in mountain forest and bamboo jungle.

It is no wonder that this remote majestic wonderland was considered as God’s domain by awed farmers at its foothills. Many rivers flow from the perpetual snows, among them the mighty Tana, Kenya’s largest and longest river and source of much of Kenya’s electric supply. Most visitors are content to marvel at the mountain’s beauty but some will want to attempt to reach the peaks; a feat requiring skill. But the mountain’s lesser peaks and glaciers can be scaled and walked by the fit and the adventurous. Point Lenana, 4985 m, can be easily reached. In fact the majority of visitors go to the mountain to enjoy the walking and especially the high level hut-to-hut hike round the mountain with its humbling vistas. Wildlife within the forests below the park boundary includes elephant, buffalo, lion, several species of antelope including the rare bongo and occasionally the melanistic forms of both the leopard and the serval. Much of this wildlife can be seen from the safety of Mountain Lodge which lies just inside the forest on the south side of the mountain. Mountain climbers should appreciate the need for acclimatisation over several days before attempting the high peaks. Naro Moru River Lodge specialises in assisting climbers with guides, porters and equipment. It is quite unwise to attempt to climb during the rains. The best months are January and February and late August through September. Serious climbers may seek advice from the Mountain Club of Kenya, P. O. Box 45741, Nairobi and have reference to the reading list in this manual. For those who wish to savour the mountain air, the glorious views and the peace and tranquillity which emanate from the mountain, there are many hotels around the foothills among them the famed Mount Kenya Safari Club.


Outspan Hotel, 74 beds
Mountain Lodge, 86 beds
Naro Moru River Lodge, 129 beds
Mount Kenya Safari Club, 230 beds
Meru County Hotel, 98 beds
Izaak Walton Inn, Embu, 84 beds

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The Aberdares is the established name of a mountain range which thrusts directly north from Nairobi for more than 160 km. The range was named after the then President of the Royal Geographical Society by the intrepid Scot, Joseph Thomson, who explored the region in 1883. The Kikuyu name Nyandarua is slowly gaining prominence. Part of the range is protected as the Aberdare National Park and encompasses all land over 3200 m together with a projection due east, known as the Salient, which reaches down to 2130 m near Nyeri town. The park is a fairyland, awesome in its majesty and beauty. But crossing theses mountains is an unpredictable event since rain is both frequent and heavy. The highest point of the range is Ol Doinyo Satima (the mountain of the young bull in Maa the language of the Maasai), which reaches 3998 m There is a road which traverses the mountains from Naivasha to Nyeri which can be handled by a sturdy car in good weather. At its maximum elevation the road passes through misty moorlands at about 3350 m where strange six metre tall mutants of alpine plants – groundsel, erica, hypericum, lobelia and sennecio – grow in profusion. Icy rivers plunge in glorious cascades and spectacular waterfalls. The salient which thrusts a dense forest through rich farmland is where both Treetops and the Ark are situated. The salient’s origin lies in an elephant migration route between the two mountains, now sadly no longer. But the forest is rich in wildlife; elephant and rhino, warthog, bush pig and giant forest hog, water buck, duiker, suni, dikdik, bongo and reedbuck are all to be seen. In the canopy the black and white colobus monkey performs its aerial acrobatics and Sykes’ monkey and the black faced vervet can also be found. The carnivores are represented by lion, usually more hairy and spotted than on the plains, leopard and serval, the latter often seen on the moorlands and sometimes in its melanistic state. Birds are not only plentiful but also dazzling. The crowned eagle (which eats monkeys) is everywhere and the forest echoes to the shrill cries of the Silvery-checked hornbill. The resplendent sunbirds are well represented, among them the brilliant metallic violet Tacazze, the emerald green Malachite Sunbird and on the moorlands the Scarlet tufted Malachite Sunbird, with its very long slender tail. The number of visitors to the Aberdares is high in the park rankings but this is because of the Ark and Treetops. The park itself is still very much under-visited despite its grandeur and its powerful vistas.


Treetops, 94 beds
The Ark, 118 beds
Outspan Hotel, Nyeri, 74 beds
Aberdare Country Club, 98 beds
Lake Naivasha Club, 102 beds

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Samburu National Reserve lies 325 km north of Nairobi in the hot and arid fringes of the vast northern region of Kenya. The Reserve is within the lands of the colourful Samburu people, close relatives of the Maasai, and harbours a number of wildlife species rarely found elsewhere in any numbers. These include Grevy’s zevra, the reticulated giraffe and the Beisa oryx all species found only north of the equator. The long-necked gerenuk is a graceful antelope which spends much of its time in a bi-pedal stance seeking succulence among the withered scrub which dots this harsh terrain. Scenically and faunally dramatic, for most of the year Samburu is sere under the unsympathetic equatorial sun. But relief comes form the wide swathe of the Ewaso Ngiro river which rises some hundreds of kilometres to the west on the foothills of the Aberdares and which vanishes beyond Samburu in the recesses of the Lorian swamp.

The river is at its best in the Reserve, borad and sluggish with a large population of crocodile seen on sandbanks at almost every bend. In the lower reaches, where permanent pools have formed as a tributary joins the river, are hippo. The river is fringed with giant acacias, figs and doum palms all of which provide shade and sustenance to the wildlife which comes to water. Elephant roam the gaunt hills which punctuate the scrubland and where occasional clusters of the vividly coloured desert rose challenge the arid surroundings. These elephant seek solace and contentment in the shallow waters of the river and from time to time a visitor finds herds bathing and drinking in a spectacle of unconscious pleasure.

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buffalo springs national reserve

Buffalo Springs National Reserve is separated from the Samburu Reserve by the river; less hilly and less dense than its neighbour it is equally as attractive. The Reserve takes its name from an oasis of limpid crystal clear water at the western end of the sanctuary. In addition to the wildlife found in Samburu the common zebra is also an attraction often marching with its cousin the Grevy, although they do not interbreed. An unexplained phenomenon is why the common zebra is not found on the north side of the river. Birdlife, too, is prolific with the Somali ostrich dominating the plains. Larger than its southern relative the Maasai ostrich it is more easily distinguished by its indigo legs and neck. Next in size is the kori bustard who stands a metre high. His behaviour is unpredictable, at times running or crouching at the first sign of danger and at others completely fearless of humans. The male has a remarkable display inflating his neck and neck feathers until the head seems to disappear then raising his tail until it lies along his back.

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shaba national reserve

Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, together with Shaba which lies east of the road linking Isiolo with Marsabit, form a trio of unusual and attractive game sanctuaries very different from others in Kenya. Shaba has a particular place in the history of Kenya game conservation for it was in this reserve that the authoress, Joy Adamson, was murdered early in 1980, her trilogy of books on the rehabilitation of the compliant leopard to a wild enviroment.