There are numerous entry points to the Aberdares, but Nyeri brings you close to the Salient, where both Treetops and the Ark are located. Unlike the western part of the park – think moorland, waterfalls, peaks – the Salient is more densely forested and has frequent rains.
A popular hike to the Western part of the park is Mt Lesatima at 4,000 metres, doable in a day from the Nyeri side. With its flora and fauna more reminiscent of a Northern European landscape – although replete with buffalo and elephant – this park offers a very different experience to most safari.
Entrance costs Sh300 for citizens. For those seeking to enter via the Ark gate, you’ll need to obtain permission first (readily given) from the KWS headquarters in Mweiga.
A 45-minute drive from Nairobi is the Forest, an adventure retreat that offers the longest series of ziplines in East Africa along with a wealth of other activities such as mountain biking, archery, paint-balling and fly-fishing.
For families and friends looking for a day trip this Easter, the Forest has become a hugely popular destination for anyone seeking a bit of adventure not too far from the city.
It’s usually packed out at weekends, so head there during the week if looking for some peace. An Alpine-style cafe overlooks the Aberdares. The full zipline tour which will speed you across six ziplines costs about Sh2,500 per person.
Exploring the Mau Mau Caves
It’s rather difficult to access these caves without a knowledgeable guide to show you the way. If you do however get to this old cave near a waterfall in which Mau Mau warriors would hide out and store supplies during the 1950s Rebellion, chances are you will have the entire place to yourself.
The easiest access point is from Bantu Lodge – turn off about 15 kilometres before reaching Nanyuki – and it is a seven or eight kilometre walk to the caves. Make sure you wear your walking shoes, bring a picnic and the kids and then challenge yourself to wade out to the waterfall and keep your head under it for 30 seconds…your brain will feel frozen before 10 seconds are even up.
Boats and birds at Lake Oloiden
Most high-end properties around this area have their own boats. For the cheapest rates, however, head out to the public jetty marked by colourful wooden boats and negotiate directly with owners.
Be sure to get an experienced guide. Ours for instance pointed out about seven families of hippos which sometimes inched dangerously close to boats, heightening the thrill of the experience.
He also spotted various bird species such as pelicans, herons, storks, cormorants and the African fish eagle which is adept at spotting its prey then diving fast into the water before victoriously revealing the fish caught in its talons.
Your boat should dock on a public stretch of land marked by thick pockets of acacia trees. Here, you can go on a walking safari for as long as you please.
We spotted a herd of zebra a few metres away but the guide told us not to go too far off without him because there were buffaloes lurking around. Shortly after, we chanced upon a giraffe followed by encounters with warthogs, Thompson gazelles, water-bucks, elands and other impalas.
A new road has greatly improved its accessibility in the last couple of years and the drive down from outer Nairobi takes around 90 minutes.
Known as the pink lake for its rose hues, Lake Magadi remains one of the best places in Kenya to view flamingos up close.
Head down to the hot springs (ideally in the cooler hours of the day) a 30-minute drive from Magadi town that winds along the shores of the lake, for a dip that reputedly comes with all manner of health benefits.
As the notices warn, take lots of water with you into the bath-like pools. A guide, particularly during the wet season, is recommended, but not essential.
There’s nothing at the springs themselves in terms of refreshments and ablutions, so take everything with you. Residents pay Sh500 to enter; Sh100 for private cars.
Thanks to the SGR train, Tsavo East and West, Kenya’s largest game reserve combined, are more accessible. Instead of dodging the trucks on Mombasa Road, you could be safely ensconced at a lodge in the midst of the park within four hours of getting on the train in Nairobi or Mombasa.
Tsavo was once Kenya’s most exalted bit of African bush. It was here the famous man-eating lions of Tsavo picked off Indian labourers building the railway from the coast to Uganda.
Tsavo still has plenty to offer. It is the only place in the country where “tuskers” still roam, the elephants with tusks of more than 100 pounds (45 kg).