After nearly three years living in Nairobi, finally I got into the Ngong Hills in January this year. The first thing to greet us after we entered the reserve area was a wind farm. We continued up the hill to the large radar from where aeroplanes flying into Nairobi’s international airport get their navigation signals. This is where we parked and started our walk.
Karen Blixen suggested the name “Ngong” came from the Maasai word for “knuckles” and indeed the row of hills do look like a set of knuckles. The full Maasai name for the hills however was ‘Enkong’u-e-nchorro-emuny’, which simply proved too difficult for the explorer Joseph Thomson to pronounce and so he named them “Ngong” for short. The Maasai story of how the hills were formed tells of a giant who was stumbling north from Mt Kilimanjaro, who tripped and as he fell stuck his knuckles in the ground leaving the formation we see today.
The Ngong Hills seem to form a boundary wall between one environment and another. On our left (as we headed in the direction of Corner Baridi), lay bustling Nairobi and her suburbs while on our right was a larger drop to the dry and under-populated Great Rift Valley. The differing amounts of development on either side was contrast enough, but what struck me stronger was the difference in colour – green on the left and brown on the right.
I’ll have to confess right now that we did not get very far! Our intention to get all the way to Corner Baridi certainly didn’t come to fruition. There are buffaloes roaming the hills so it is a good idea to hire a guide if you are feeling energetic enough to go all the way. We weren’t and were happy with the birdlife we could spot in the trees on the closer hills. We tried to sneak up on an Auger Buzzard for a nice photo, but he didn’t allow it.
So instead we sat atop one of the knuckles and put together a marketing plan for OTA. What a wonderful place to get creative and let the mind be free! It will probably need to be our regular “thinking place”.
It is chilly up there, so if you do plan to take a hike on Ngong Hills then it’s wise to wear layers – climbing up of course breaks a sweat, but the wind on top as you marvel the view cuts right through you.
It’s also a good idea to pack some snacks and water before you get into the reserve as there is nowhere to purchase food up there. Ngong town has supermarkets and is the last stop before entering the reserve. Carry a trowel and toilet paper as there are no toilets up on the hills.
If you want to hike all the way from Ngong to Corner Baridi you should allow four to five hours and organize someone to pick you up at the other end.
The Ngong Hills are where Denys Finch Hatton, Karen Blixen’s lover, is buried and your guide should be able to point to the exact location. The hills were a favourite place for Blixen and Finch Hatton to go hunting, especially for lions. The lions are gone now though, so it is safe to walk and enjoy the same beautiful scenery the couple enjoyed 100 years ago.
Travelling to Lakes Magadi and Natron, hiking in Ngong Hills and visiting the forests around Nguruman, OTA’s Easter Birding Safari is your chance to view a myriad of species in different environments. Kenya’s southern lakes are a breeding haven for water birds and migrants between March and June so this April you will surely be rewarded with many exciting sightings.
This Easter Birding Tour focuses on excellent customer care, safety and responsible travel. Plus we are offering a FREE Nairobi tour before or after the trip including visits to the Giraffe Centre, Elephant Orphanage and Kazuri Beads factory.
Visit http://www.ota-responsibletravel.com/#!birding-tour/cfme for more information.