The Aberdare Forest is the perfect way to begin an exciting safari. There is a lot of game and beautiful scenery.
Most visitors to the Aberdare National Park travel only to one of the famous tree hotels, which we did on our second night. But our entire first day was spent deep in the park all the way up to the spectacular Karura waterfalls.
The Aberdare is a huge park, stretching almost 100 miles from Thomson’s Falls (Nyauhuru) in the north to east of Naivasha in the south. About 50 miles of east-west tracks link the west side with the east side, and the habitats traveled over this route are astounding.
We didn’t traverse the park, but rather entered from the east at around 7000′ through the Moi Nyayo Tea Estate into the middle forests just below the bamboo line. There was a lot of evidence of elephant, but we saw none.
We climbed through the bamboo forests, which were horribly dry and brittle, and encountered our first family of elephant at around 9,000′. The family of eight individuals was literally encased in white flowering bush shrubs that must have hidden a small marsh.
We continued onto the moorland bumping into Jackson’s francolin all along the way, but it was very dry and we didn’t see the mountain reedbuck as we usually do. Instead, we encountered bushbuck above 10,000′ which is rather odd. Once again, I think the unusual weather is contributing to the unusual animal situations we’re finding.
Near the top of the road, though, rain had fallen and it was quite green and lush. So the waterfalls were lovely, and it is a welcome half-hour trek from the carpark to where several viewing stands have been constructed. On the way back we had our box lunch.
The kids were much more adventuresome with our lunch than their parents! I showed everyone how to bite off the top of a passion fruit and suck in the seedy fruit, and India fell in love with the taste. She began trading parts of her lunch for fruit from others.
Ada remarked on how beautiful the park was, and that’s half the reason for the day’s outing. Peter said it was the most beautiful place he had ever been. It was a bonus when we descended into the heavy forests near the park’s edge and began seeing great game. We encountered several elephant families, a lot of buffalo, and more bushbuck and baboon.
But the highlight of the whole day was seeing several families of colobus monkey. The first sight of a colobus brought screeches of delight from Emma and Phoebe. Phoebe immediately pronounced the monkey the best animal in the world! They are truly striking, thick black coats covered with a long white manes. Their very long, bushy white tails fly among the forest as they leap from tree to tree.
We got to The Ark tree hotel just as a number of elephant arrived. After Zanzy got his requisite tea down, we went immediately to the bottom turret and watched fabulous elephant encounters as multiple families came to dig for salt.
Later, in fact, more than 30 elephant congregated on the salt lick at the same time, with remarkable behaviors as certain families met or remet others. There were very young babies, and the mothers combined to try to keep all the males away.
Until super-Ele arrived! One of the largest male elephants I’ve ever seen, he must certainly have approached six tons and stood 11-12′. The females didn’t try to move him out of the salt lick, and he went politely among the different families introducing himself to the special delight of the youngsters.
The day ended after dinner with giant forest hog and hyaena. Everyone left their buzzers on, which awakens you to anything special, but the day had been so exciting, not a soul stirred the whole night long!