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Mt. Kenya Climbing and mountain camping experience

Mount Kenya presents the perfect destination for adventure. It is an extinct volcano some tree and half million years old. Straddling the Equator, the mountain offers a unique mosaic of forest, moorland, rock and ice, and is crowned by the glittering twin peaks of Batain (5,199m) and Nelion (5,188m). Believed to be the sacred home of Ngai, God of the kikuyu people, Mount Kenya is Kenya’s highest mountain, a climber’s mecca, the nation’s namesake, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mt. Kenya is a popular destination locally and internationally for a holiday. It lies 175km north of Nairobi and is easily accessible from Nanyuki, through the Naro Moru gate or Sirimon gate. Travelers from the Meru/Embu region can use the Chogoria gate.

The advantage with the Nanyuki side is that it is you can sample the delights of both Mt.Kenya and the Aberdares. Nanyuki is an old colonial town with many holiday facilities that can cater for diverse budgets. For those keen on wildlife viewing, the Mt. Kenya National Park may not be the best as it is heavily forested and harder to see the animals, expect for the occasional encounter. It may therefore be wiser to visit the surrounding wildlife ranches like the Sweet Waters Game Sanctuary which is just 15km from Nanyuki town. The ranch has unique and rare animals like the grevy zebra and reticulated giraffe. It is also Kenya’s only chimpanzee sanctuary.

Other popular attractions include the only known tame rhino in Kenya, called Morani, and this offers a unique chance to touch, hug or even kiss a black rhino. The big five can be seen here on a game drive. Another ranch where wildlife can be viewed easily is the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Isiolo. Lewa is also easily accessible from Nanyuki. It offers a diversity of unique and rare wildlife just like Sweet Waters. Lewa, a community conservation project, is popular for the annual marathon it hosts. Both ranches have accommodation – pricey though – and advance booking is recommended.

The giant forest hog, tress hyrax, white-tailed mongoose, elephant, black rhino, suni, black-fronted duiker, bongo, leopard, Mt. Kenya mouse shrew, hyrax, and the endemic mole rat are found in the Mt.Kenya National Park. However, you need extreme patience and luck to see these animals in the thick forest. The park’s topography requires a 4WD vehicle. Those who want to climb Mt.Kenya can drive to Sirimon gate, which is well labeled, about 16km from Nanyuki. Most of us cannot conquer the mountain within two days of our holiday, a feat better left to the professional mountain climbers. However, the non professionals among us can arrange for a half-day climbing excursion up to some designated point from where we can have a panoramic view of Laikipia and get a feel of the mountain climate.

It is relaxing experience. However, do not attempt it on your own. Let a guide show you the way and assists with carrying of luggage. This gives you a chance to join other enthusiasts and climb as a group, which makes it more thrilling. Nanyuki town has accommodation to suit every pocket – from the five-star Mt.Kenya Safari Club, to Ibis Hotel in the town centre, which offers good meals and clean rooms.

You might opt to stay at the Warden’s Cottage near the Naro Moru gate in Mt.Kenya National Park. The cottage was built in 1972 by former warden Bill Woodley and until 1998, was home to the park’s wardens. These are two bedrooms, one with a double and a single bed and the other with two single beds. There is a bathroom with hot water bath/shower and a tastefully furnished sitting room. You could also stay at the Sirimon Banda, pleasantly situated in open grassland adjacent to the Sirimon gate. It has two semi-detached units in one attractive stone banda. Each unit has two bedrooms, one with a double bed and the other with two single beds. Each unit also has a shower room (hot water) and WC, and a furnished sitting room with a log fireplace and doors leading to a small veranda. The house provides a caretaker, kerosene lamp, bedding, and toiletries. Both houses can be booked through the Kenya Wildlife Service or travel agent.

For those who love to camp, campsite with picnic tables, water and a pit latrine are offered at the park’s entrance gates – Naro Moru, Sirimon and Chogoria. However, you need your own firewood. Road head campsites are offers at Mackinders Camp, Shipton’s Camp, and Minto’s Hut (water and pit latrines provided; no fires allowed). Peak circuit campsite are offered at the Australian Hut and Top Hut and Kami and Two Tarn campsites (water and pit latrines provided, no fires allowed). Other places to stay in the area include Meru Mt.Kenya Bandas; The Serena Mountain Lodge; Naro Moru River Lodge; Mountain Roc Bantu Hotel; Castle Forest Lodge; Rutunda Log Cabins and Sportsman Arms Hotel. Advance booking is advised in most of these.

About the Author: Robert is a tour consultant in Kenya and has planned business and vacation safaris for over 10,000 tourists in the East African region. He is a tour operation- major and involved in National tourism policy development in Kenya.

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