At 5,199 m. high, Mount Kenya is Africa’s second highest mountain. It offers easy or challenging ascents with superb scenic beauty.
To the Kikuyu tribespeople it is the home of the Supreme Being: Ngai, a name also used by the Maasai and Kamba tribes. In traditional prayers and sacrifices, Ngai is addressed by the Kikuyu as Mwene Nyaga: the Professor of Brightness. The name comes from Kere Nyaga, the Kikuyu name for Mount Kenya, meaning Mountain of Brightness – Ngai’s official home.
Part of the mountain’s fascination is the variation in flora and fauna as the altitude changes. The lower slopes are covered with dry upland forest, the true montane forest begins at 2,000 m. is mainly cedar and podo. At 2,500 m. begins a dense belt of of bamboo forest which merges into the upper forest of smaller trees, interspesed with glades. In this area the trees are festooned with high altitude moss.
These forest belts are host to many different animals and plants with at least 11 unique species. Game to view includes: Black and White Colobus and Sykes monkeys, bushbuck, buffalo, elephant and lower down Olive Baboon, waterbuck, black rhino, black fronted duiker, leopard, giant forest hog, genet cat, bush pig and hyena. More elusive is the bongo, a rare type of forest antelope.
A number of other rare or endangered species can be found here: Sunni Buck, Mt Kenya Mole Shrew, skinks (lizard), and a variety of owls. Occasional sightings have been recorded of albino zebra.
The high altitude heath at the top (3,000 – 3,500 m.) is generally open, dotted with shrubs: African Sage, protea and helicrysum. The peak (above 3,500 m.) is moorland, with little game other than high altitude zebra and eland common in the norhtern moorland.
There is only one lodge inside the Park, seven climbers huts and three self-help banda sites. Just outside the Park there are three lodges and another self-help banda site.
Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park is a fascinating day trip out of Nairobi, only 65 kms away. The mountain rises to 8,000 ft, covering 20sq. kms. Particularly attractive for hikers or families wanting some freedom and exercise out of their vehicle. Visitors are recommended to approach via the spectacular Fourteen Falls on the Chania River. The Park’s attraction is its beauty and views of Mounts Kenya and Kilimanjaro. There is game including baboon, colobus, bushbuck, impala, duiker and abundant birdlife for ornithologists.
The name is Maasai, meaning ‘Mountain of Buffalo’. Today some 250 buffaloes roam the slopes. Kikuyu traditionalists call it Kea-Njahe, known as the ‘Mountain of the Big Rain’, one of Ngai’s lesser homes.
The solitary mountain rears up to 2,145m from an otherwise flat area. The steep ascent requires a 4WD vehicle. Near the summit lies the grave of Sir William Northrup McMillan (1872-1925) and his wife Lady Lucie. He was a huge Scot, raised in St Louis, Missouri, USA. He arrived in Kenya in 1901 for the big game shooting, playing host to Roosevelt during his famous 1911 safari at their ranch Juja Farm (now a popular location for film crews). He and his wife were great philanthropists, creating the MacMillan Library in central Nairobi.
Also in the area is Mwea National Reserve (altitude 3,000-5,000 sq. ft – opened January 1976, covering an area of 68 sq. kms), 180 kms from Nairobi. Its main feature is the meeting of the Tana and Thiba Rivers within the Reserve and the Kaburu and Masinga hydro-electric dams.
Elephant is plentiful in the Reserve. Other prevalent game includes buffalo, impala, hippo, baboon, vervet and Sykes monkeys, warthog, bushbuck, waterbuck, hartebeest, lesser kudu and jackal. Crocodiles are also found in the dams and two rivers.
There is no hotel-type accommodation in these Reserves or Parks. Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park has one campsite. Mwea National Reserve has two picnic sites: Gichuki Island and Hippo Point.