Photo by Nina R.

Explore Kenya’s Aberdare Mountains

Forming the eastern wall of East Africa‘s Great Rift Valley, the Aberdares of Kenya’s central highlands have inspired humans for centuries. The local Kikuyu people call the mountain range Nyandarua, or “drying hide,” after the shape of its shadow. Peaks reach up to 14,000 feet, then give way to deep valleys carved by rivers and spectacular waterfalls.

One park, three ecosystems

Aberdare National Park protects some of the wildest areas of the Aberdare mountains. The area features impressive diversity over three ecological zones: rainforest, bamboo forest, and moorlands.

Lush rainforests carpet the valleys, providing homes for colobus monkeys, leopards, elephants, and the rest of the Big 5.

elephants with Aberdare Mountains in the background at Aberdare National park in Kenya

Elephants walk in the foothills of the Aberdare Mountains. Photo by Kim van der Waal.

Bamboo forests are found at 8,000 to 11,000 feet. Here, you might find the secretive bongo antelope. Although it’s the world’s third biggest antelope, it is not easy to find. The reason it’s so elusive? Unlike many antelopes, it is most active at night.

red antelope with fine white vertical stripes

Bongo antelope are most active at night. Photo by Mathias Appel.

Dry moorlands with low-growing plants dot the higher elevations, making them reminiscent of the Alps. Here you may find leopards, as well as antelopes of almost every size—from the rabbit-sized suni to the horse-sized eland.

light brown eland eating tall grass

The eland is the largest antelope in Kenya. Photo by David Clode.

Black rhinos, lions, baboons, giant forest hogs, and Cape buffalo are other animals you may find during a game drive in the Aberdares. Bird watching is astounding, with over 250 species recorded.

Staying at Aberdare

Would you like to see the park at night? Consider a stay at The Ark, a lodge located in the park itself. Situated next to a salt lick and watering hole, it offers amazing views of safari animals such as elephants, hyenas, and Cape buffalos. A hide next to the watering hole enables close-up photography of these magnificent creatures. If you’re here for the birds, you’ll want to rise early for a guided walk by one of the resident naturalists. Turacos, bulbuls, and robinchats are some of the many birds you may see.

The Ark is surrounded by such an abundance of wildlife, that you may be hesitant to sleep for fear of missing out on anything. Not to worry—lodge staff are happy to buzz your room for any unique nighttime sightings.

Aberdare is just one among many incredible Kenya parks. Explore more Kenya attractions.

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