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Elephant and African buffalos by a floodlit waterhole at night.
  Aberdare NP
Size: 767 km2/296 sq mi.
Best time to visit: All year round. The roads crossing the mountain range may not be passable during rainy seasons.
Wildlife & attractions: Game viewing at night in Treetops Lodge and The Ark. Bongos (a large antelope) is present, but rare. Otherwise a mixed wildlife.
Getting there: 2.5 hours on fairly good tarmac road from Nairobi via Nyeri.
There are airstrips in Mweiga and Nyeri on the eastern side of the park.
Aberdare map
Aberdare map.
Kenya map
Kenya map.
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Aberdare National Park
Safari glossary
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Aberdare National Park
Aberdare National Park is situated north of Nairobi in central Kenya. It includes much of a volcanic mountain range called the Aberdares, or Nyandarua, stretching some 100 km/60 mi from north to south. Most of the park is covered in montane forest and moorland. Streams flow through steep ravines, and the range has many waterfalls. The highest peak is Ol Donyo Lesatima (3,999 m/13,120 ft). Another peak, Kinangop, reaches just above 3,900 m/12,800 ft. Map of Africa Namibia Botswana South Africa Zambia Mozambique Malawi Rwanda Tanzania Kenya Uganda
The lowest part of the park is the eastern, called the Salient, beginning at 2,100 m outside Nyeri Town and sloping upwards towards the west. This is a forested area where the Aberdare's main tourist attractions are situated. They are Treetops Lodge and The Ark (see below), two tree lodge where the main activity is game viewing from the lodge.

Mountain wildlife
The forests have a nice wildlife, including elephants, rhinos, African buffalos, various antelopes, bush pigs, and cats such as lions, leopards and servals. Black (i.e. melanistic) servals and leopards are sometimes seen. The rare African golden cat is said to be present in the park, but has not been recorded by documented observations. Another rare species is the bongo, a forest antelope that visitors with some luck may spot around the lodges.

Monkeys may be seen, including the black-faced vervet monkey, which is also seen in many savanna parks, the black-and-white colobus and the blue monkey, the latter two seen in forests only. Crowned eagles, hornbills, turacos and montane sunbirds are some of the forest and mountain birds to look for.

Game viewing at night
The main activity when staying in Treetops Lodge or The Ark is watching the wildlife from the lodge. Both have waterholes that are lit by night, which is an interesting time for game viewing. You may see not only nocturnal animals such as genets, white-tailed mongoose and porcupines, but also shy species such as bongo and bushbuck.

Light-sensitive binoculars (such as 7x50 or 8x50) can be used in floodlight, while you can't see much, if anything at all, in compact binoculars.

More about binoculars

Few visitors
A majority of the visitors to Aberdare National Park come to stay in a tree lodge in the Salient, while the other parts of the park have few visitors. It is a park of great beauty, offering a rewarding day or two away from the crowds, should you venture further into it than to the tree lodges. Don't expect to see the same good numbers of animals as in the main savanna parks, such as Masai Mara. Instead, enjoy the scenery and the bird life.

Observation deck view at Treetops Lodge.

Apart from the lodges and hotels below, there is also accommodation in bandas inside the park and in camping sites just outside. There are also hotels of different standard in the towns around the park, for example in Nyeri.

Treetops Lodge is one of the most famous lodges in Kenya. It's located in the Salient, just inside the park border, and is built next to a waterhole where wildlife comes to drink. The waterhole is floodlit at night, and the main attraction of this lodge is the night game viewing. Don't expect too much, though. The lodge has been around for half a century, and the area is just inside the park border, not very far from farmlands etc. Both factors affect the wildlife, and the numbers of animals seen may vary a lot from visit to visit.

The lodge is a large wooden building on stilts, looking like an oversized tree house. There are 50 small rooms, many of them overlooking the waterhole. The bathrooms are communal. There is a large restaurant, and a bar overlooking the waterhole. You get the best views from the roof terrace. The stairs at the southern end of the lodge lead to a ground-level observation room, where you may get close to animals outside, especially at night. The tree house design includes many narrow stairs leading, so you need to manage stairs to enter the building and move between your room, the restaurant, the observation decks etc. Children younger than 7 years are not allowed to stay in the lodge.

Web site:

Outspan Golf and Country Club just outside Aberdare National Park is where visitors to Treetops Lodge meet before being transferred to the lodge by bus. It has some 40 rooms and 3 cottages, all with ensuite bathroom, satellite television, Internet, and balcony or veranda. The hotel has dining room, bar, lounge, swimming pool, and squash and tennis courts. It offers game drives in Aberdare, bird walks, fishing and outings in the surroundings. When we have visited, it has not shown a 'country club' standard.

Web site:

The Ark is also located in the Salient area of eastern Aberdare National Park, but further west into the forest and at higher altitude than Treetops Lodge. It has 60 rooms with private bathrooms, restaurant and bar. It's newer than Treetops, and has the same game viewing concept. Children younger than 7 years are not allowed, except for during special children's nights.

Aberdare Country Club is close to Nyeri east of Aberdare National Park, a 45-minute drive from the Ark. It has some 45 rooms with private bathrooms and balconies. There is also a restaurant, bar, conference facilities and swimming pool. The country club offers activities such as golf, horse riding, tennis and trout fishing. It also has a 5 km2/2 sq mi sanctuary where animals can be seen.

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Page updated 17 February 2009