Aberdare National Park lies in the central highlands of Kenya, averaging an altitude of 3,500 metres above sea level.
The park comprises thick forests, steep ravines and majestic waterfalls. This variation provides the ideal habitat for all kinds of unique wildlife. While the park is famous for its elephants and a hot-spot for buffalo, black rhinos, leopards, spotted hyenas, baboons, colobus monkeys, warthogs and bushbucks all live here too. Over 250 species of birds also call this 296 square mile wilderness their home.
Picnics, camping, fishing, trekking and of course, game drives are all enjoyed by visitors to the Aberdare Range.
My wife and I came here for our honeymoon (when we were living in Nairobi) and enjoyed every moment. Here’s some of the photos we took.
The park is located 98 miles north of Nairobi and accessible by road and air. Most travellers will drive by road via Nyeri or Naro Moru on the eastern side. Many tour companies in Nairobi offer trips to the Aberdare National Park. For international travellers, this is the easiest and most practical option. For domestic tourists or those who are more adventurous, self-drive is also an option. I do however, recommend a good 4 x 4 is you choose to drive yourself.
The journey by road is part of the adventure, with lots of interesting sights to see along the way. Outspan Hotel was our check-in point for Treetops and the Aberdare Country Club is used as a check in spot for those staying at The Ark. Both hotels offer some interesting wildlife viewing of their own, with many unique birds, insects and small mammals to watch while you enjoy lunch.
For those travelling by air, the nearest airstrip is the Mweiga (on the opposite side from KWS Park Headquarters along Nyeri – Nyahururu road).
Treetops is famous for being the place that Queen Elizabeth II was staying when here father (George VI) passed away, on 6th February, 1952. The original tree house she stayed at was later burned by Mau Mau freedom fighters in 1955 and replaced by a larger lodge, built in and around the trees. One of the attractions of Treetops is the watering hole and natural salt lick, which attract animals during night and day.
We were very lucky to have stayed at Treetops when we did. Sadly, due to the after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenya’s oldest safari lodge was forced to shut down after almost 90 years. It’s unclear at this time, whether the lodge will re-open in the future.
For a similar experience, guests now have the option of visiting The Ark instead. The Ark features four viewing areas and 60 rooms.
Aberdare Country Club is also an option if you want to stay outside the main gates. This is also used at the point of check-in and a picturesque lunch spot for those staying at the Ark.
There’s also a host of campsites within the park too.
Our experience of the Aberdare Park is that it’s definitely THE place to come if you want to see buffalo. They’re everywhere! You can see some of my hundreds of buffalo pictures below 🙂
The park is a haven for these beautiful and majestic creatures. It’s estimated that up to 2,000 elephants call the Aberdare National Park their home. We really enjoyed spotting the elephants, including several babies…
We’re not sure what species of spider this is (if anyone can identify it, please comment below!). However, the guide who accompanied us seemed to think it wasn’t a friendly one. As he spotted it on the inside roof of our vehicle, he calmly told my wife to stop driving. I was in the passenger seat for this part of the drive, with the spider directly above me! The guide then proceeded to tell me to open the door and get out, very slowly. When my wife realised what was going on, she had already leapt out of the car quicker then me! I managed to get a quick shot of the spider as the guide released it from the car.
I’m not sure if it really was dangerous but we definitely felt safer when it wasn’t riding with us! The lesson here is to do spot checks of the vehicles for anything that may have crawled inside.
There’s no shortage of wildlife to spot here, although the dense forest areas can make sightings more difficult. The park hosts the big five but lion sightings are rare. The forests are also home to the elusive Mountain Bongo of which the wild populations are estimated at <100 and limited to the forests of Aberdare and Mount Kenya region.
You are more likely to spot baboons, colobus monkeys, rhino, leopard, warthogs, bushbucks and such like. If you’re a bird lover, there’s also many different species here.
Watching the fireflies light up the night sky was quite a magical experience. We spotted them from the deck at Treetops, while watching the elephants and buffalo come down to the water hole.
The terrain is mostly good, with some rough patches and steep inclines to consider. The tracks can be muddy though, especially after rains. I’d recommend either using a 4 x 4 or booking a game drive with a reputable tour company or hotel. It’s not worth trying to tackle this park in a regular car – some parts are also fairly remote and at least when we visited, we barely saw another vehicle pass us.
One of the main attractions for visitors is a trip to see the stunning waterfalls. The highest in Kenya are Karuru waterfalls which drop down 273 metres over 3 ledges. Chania falls is smaller but also extremely beautiful. We only managed to see the Chania falls – which were stunning and set in quiet and tranquil area. You can climb down the steep ravine in front of the falls for a closer look.
Video by Dave Mani
I recently came across Dave Mani on YouTube and love the videos he and his wife pull together. Take a look at this one, which talks about the Aberdare Park and specifically the Ark.
I hope you enjoyed looking at our photos from Aberdare National Park. I’d highly recommend a visit here if you have a few days to spare in your itinerary. It’s very peaceful and world away from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi. Make sure to bring some warmer clothes though – the higher altitude make it very chilly, especially during the night and early mornings. If you’ve been here or would love to go, let me know in the comments below!
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