In 1883 Joseph Thomson became the first European to reach Thomson’s Falls. He was a Scottish geologist and naturalist who was also the first European to walk between Mombasa and Lake Victoria, which he did in the early 1880s. He named Thomson’s Falls for his father.
Long before Joseph Thomson wandered through, the central highlands of Kenya was inhabited by Kikuyus. Kikuyus are the largest tribe of Kenya making up approximately 23 percent of the country’s population today. They are of Bantu origin (Bantus came from West Africa) and moved in from northern and eastern areas to settle in the Mount Kenya vicinity. The Kikuyus are known in Kenya as business people and good traders. They are pastoralists, preferring to settle an area and grow crops than live the nomadic herdsman life of their neighbouring Maasai, Samburu and Turkana tribes. Living in Kenya’s central highlands means their traditional dress is almost reminiscent of Russia, with square woollen hats made from sheep’s skin. Where the Maasai robe themselves in brightly coloured, lightweight blankets, the Kikuyu have think sheepskin draped around them. It is very rare these days to see Kikuyu dressing and living in the traditional style but at Thomson’s Falls there is the opportunity to see some people dressed in the costumes for photos.
It’s difficult to imagine how Joseph Thomson could have found his way to the Falls looking at the terrain. At the top of the Falls is Thomson’s Falls Lodge, a colonial structure that has remained as a hotel over the decades. From the Lodge you can hire a guide to take you to the bottom of the Falls to get a different perspective. The hike down takes approximately 20 minutes through forest. The path is steep and made slippery by the spray from the waterfall. The track is quite well-defined however, unlike it would have been in 1883 when Thomson came through! Back at the top of the waterfall is another hike (turn right from the top lookout instead of left) to the highest hippo pool in Kenya.
The waterfall tumbles out of the hippo pool and falls 72 metres to the bottom. The water comes from the Aberdare Mountains and forms part of the Ewaso Ng’iro River. Thomson’s Falls is located two miles from the town of Nyahururu (formerly called Thomson’s Falls as well) in central Kenya. Nyahururu is Kenya’s highest town at 2360 metres above sea level.
Have you been to Thomson’s Falls in Kenya? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.