With its mountains, rainforests, moorlands and possibilities for great hikes Aberdare differs from the usual parks filled with savannah landscapes. Here you can enjoy the usual gamedrives alternated with beautiful hikes chasing the multiple waterfalls of the park. In addition, this park offers plenty of wildlife. The park is a protected area within the Aberdare Mountain Range, on the east of the Rift Valley and 100 kilometers north of Nairobi.
Aberdare was established as a national park in 1950 and covers an area of 766 square kilometres. The park knows many different landscapes, from high mountain peaks (up to 4000 meters) to deep valleys. As a result, also temperatures vary. Overall, it’s a very green park with its streams, waterfalls up to 300 meters high, rainforests and bamboo forests.
Many animals roam in and out of the forests here. Think of elephants, lions, leopards, East African wild dog, bushbucks, giraffes, baboons, buffalos… The park also hosts a large population of eastern black rhinos and several endangered birds species.
If you are very lucky you can even see the black leopard – as in 2018 it was photographed here for the first time in one hundred years. Their black fur is a result of melanism – the opposite of albinism – which causes a surplus of pigment in the skin or hair. Black coated leopards live in Africa and Asia, and black coated jaguars in South-America. They are rare, since of a litter only one might be black. In total it is estimated that 11 procent of leopards and jaguars are born black.
This park is also the place where in the 1950s Princess Elizabeth found out her father King George VI had passed, and that she had become Queen. She was staying at the famous Treetops Hotel when this happened, which is one of two hotels in the park. It is still open to guests, as is The Ark, the other hotel of the park. Surrounded by waterholes and with even an underground viewing area, these hotels allow for many animal sightings. A special alarm system gives you notice when you are in your room and a special animal is passing by.
Less glamorous is that the Aberdare Mountain Range is the place where the Mau Mau rebellion took place in the 1950s. European settlers saw this place as perfect for farming of tea, coffee, wheat and flowers. With permission of the colonial government they took over the countryside, but with little regard for the local customs and culture. This created resentment that led to the rebellion. The Mau Mau leader knew the forest well and used it as headquarters and hiding place until a considerable manhunt tracked him down in 1950s.