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The Aberdare Mountain Ranges

The Aberdares are also known as Scotland with Lions.

Best time to visit: September, October, January, March

Safaris: Art Safari, Woman to Woman Safari, Explore Kenya Safari, Introduction to Kenya

Activities: Game Walking, Hiking, Horse Riding

Accommodation: Mobile Camping, Adventure Camping

Temperatures:
Day: 26° C to below freezing, 80° F
Night: 14° C, 60° F to below freezing

The Aberdare Mountain Ranges soar to peaks of 13,000 feet and dip into deep, V shaped valleys with streams and rivers cascading over spectacular waterfalls, including Kenya's longest fall of approximately 1,000 feet. Located in the heart of the Kikuyu tribe highlands area in central Kenya, traditional folklore states that the Aberdare Mountains are one of the homes of Ngai, God.

To the east of the ranges are the fertile farming lands of the Kikuyu tribe, which were settled by the colonists in the early decades of the twentieth century. The area between the Aberdares and Mount Kenya is part of what became known as the European highlands. To the west, the range falls steeply away into the Rift Valley and offers superb views of Lake Naivasha and the distant Mau Escarpment.

There are three main eco-systems within the Aberdare Mountains: the forest, which gives way to dense bamboo forests, which itself gives way to moorland as the altitude rises.

The forest is home to a multitude of elephant, buffalo, giant forest hog and the endangered black rhino. The Aberdares are also an excellent area for spotting the elusive leopard and occasional sightings have been made of the Golden cat. Black and white Colobus monkeys and Sykes monkeys are easily seen, as are waterbuck, reedbuck, duikers, serval cats and bushbuck. Melanistic cats appear to be quite common in the high altitudes of the Aberdares as black serval cats are spotted fairly often.

The forests of the Aberdares harbour Leopard, elephant, rhino and more game animals, birds and reptiles.

The best viewing in the forest areas is in the Salient area of the park, where both Treetops and The Ark lodges provide nighttime viewing in this area of slightly less dense forest. As you rise in altitude through the bamboo belt, it is possible to spot the elusive Bongo antelope and the giant forest hog. Bird viewing is excellent; keep an eye out for the magnificent crowned eagle as it hunts for one its favorite meals, a Colobus monkey.

Once above 10,000 feet, the bamboo gives way to rolling moorlands, where crystal clear streams are well stocked with trout, and varieties of lobelia, groundsel and heather cover much of the ground. Here eland, lion, elephant and buffalo may be found in addition to the numerous birds, such as the Jackson's francolin, sparrow hawk, African goshawk, sunbirds and plovers.

The moorland area offers superb scenery and excellent opportunities for high altitude hiking and fly-fishing, which is encouraged as the trout is not an indigenous species.

The area is also famous as the 1950s headquarters of the Mau Mau Rebellion, with 'General' Kimathi's hideout still a much-visited attraction. Princess Elizabeth became Queen of the United Kingdom while staying at the now famous Treetops Lodge.

A very different landscape from the wide, open plains of the African savanna, the Aberdares have been described as 'Scotland with lions' and is a well worth a stop on any tour of Kenya.

Copyright Melinda Rees of Eco-resorts

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