Have you ever been so dehydrated you’ve seen green elephants, green hippos or a giant weevil about the size of a cow? On his descent of Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania, John had these hallucinations, but that didn’t stop him from continuing up three more mountains in a two month East African adventure! A solo traveller on a mission to climb the peaks and visit the mountain gorillas in Uganda, John was looking for pocket-friendly ways to see the region. Joining group tours is always a gamble, and he regaled us with tales of the fellow travellers he met on the tours we organised for him.
Before John came to Kenya, he had spent a lot of time in Tanzania climbing three mountains (Ol Doinyo Lengai, Meru and Kilimanjaro), hanging out in the Serengeti and visiting a Maasai village. His other African goals included scaling Mount Kenya and tracking the gorillas in Uganda. So we helped him find a tour to Uganda which had the added bonus of travelling via the Maasai Mara, Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru National Park and Jinja. As with all group tours there is a chance that your travel mates might not be compatible, but it is certainly a convenient and affordable way for a soloist. He visited Elsamere, the home of Joy and George Adamson of Born Free fame, took a cruise at the source of the Nile River, and visited orphanages at Lake Bunyonyi and Nakuru.
While he was in Nairobi between trips, John stayed in our spare room, which we have on AirBnB. We were regaled with tales of his travels (he has travelled all over the world!) and he got to experience a very “local” life in Ongata Rongai. We took him for dinner a couple of times to our favourite local for nyama choma, as well as the more touristy sites of the elephant orphanage and the giraffe centre. He also went into town to visit the National Museum, which gives an excellent history of Kenya from pre-history to present. We took him to Kibera to visit the community projects of Amani Kibera and a day hiking in the Ngong Hills.
Mt Kenya was the big climax though for his Kenyan experience. Again being a soloist, the climb can be prohibitively expensive, but our colleague in Nanyuki was taking a group up and said John could join. It was a school group, as it turns out – so John hiked up the mountain with 40 teenagers!
After leaving John to hike up the mountain, Francis and I decided to take our own adventure. We spent some days exploring the area, checking out different accommodation, and having a break from the bustle of Nairobi. We ended up at Naro Moru gate for the night where we camped at the public campsite. We drove up the mountain as far as we could and then continued walking….for about 20 minutes! I don’t think I can say that I’ve hiked Mt Kenya! With rain clouds on one side and clear blue sky on the other, the weather on the mountain is unpredictable and can change suddenly. Francis wasn’t keen on lingering as there was a high chance of getting stuck if the road turned muddy.
In the morning we wandered up to Batian Guest House about a kilometre from the campsite. It is a self-catering house that sleeps eight. Stunning views of the mountain would greet you in the morning as you ate breakfast on the balcony. On our return to the campsite, baboons were running amok! Our food was safely locked up, but the creatures were everywhere! As Francis approached, they scattered but not before one broke the side mirror as he slid off the roof to the ground!
Our next stop was Aberdare National Park – a new one for me! We had a bit of a challenge finding the campsite but finally we slid down an embankment into a clearing. It was beautiful! Surrounded by trees with a river running by, we had the forest to ourselves. The next day we went for a drive around the forested Salient where we saw plenty of buffalo and bushbuck, before we headed to the moorland. Aberdare is not a big park but it is divided fairly definitely into two sections – the salient and the moorland. We thought that our chances of spotting animals would disappear on the moorland, but we were wrong. We saw elephants and then the elusive bongo! Bongos are incredibly shy and notoriously difficult to spot, so I held no hope of seeing one. But we saw two!
We visited Fishing Lodge, a self-catering guesthouse that sleeps 14 people (seven in each cottage). It is in a great location from where you can fish in the river and walk a few kilometres to the waterfalls. Aberdare has landscape one doesn’t normally associate with Africa: waterfalls, forest, and babbling brooks. So it is quite an interesting addition to the typical safari itinerary if you are looking to experience Kenya in all her diversity.
If you are looking for some (or all) of the experiences described here, please get in touch. We love planning interesting itineraries tailored to your interests and budget, and as you can see there is much more to Kenya than savannah plains. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to start planning your safari today.