Discovering Kenya’s Hidden Gems

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I set off on an action-packed seven day road trip with the Kenya Tourism Board, covering places such as Karura Forest, Limuru, Aberdares National Park and Diani.

Our seven day trip organized by the Kenya Tourism Board encompassed a circuit around parts of Central Kenya and South Coast. We were in to discover some of Kenya’s hidden treasures that make for good weekend escapes. All set with two 4×4 touring cruisers, we were ready to explore the country.

Shimba Hills

We had begun the day’s activities by taking up the famous Heritage Tour offered by the Sarova Stanley Hotel. Throughout the tour, I felt as though in a museum of sorts, taken back in time through the rich, authentic history of Nairobi’s first luxurious hotel. Did you know that the hotel’s Thorn Tree Cafe traces its roots to one of Nairobi’s first makeshift post offices? The “Tree Mail” was a centrally placed acacia tree that allowed travellers to pin mail onto its trunk! Sarova Stanley is a historical charm and definitely has a story to tell.

Thorn Tree Cafe, Sarova Stanley

The adventure kicked off at Karura Forest, which is one of the largest urban gazetted forests in the world. It is a very convenient recreational facility for individuals and families to take up trail biking, running, walking and dog-walking within the marked nature trails. There are also scenic waterfalls and caves to see, open fields to enjoy some ball games, a tennis court as well as picnic sites. Visitors can also spot a few animals within the forest such as monkeys, bush bucks, bush pigs, various bird species, some reptiles among others.

Zip Lining at The Forest

After spending our first night at Brackenhurst, I was excited about our second day. I was hoping to escape the mist but the rain and cold persisted. However, being an adrenaline junkie, the activities lined up for the day had me excited. The Forest in Kereita is a superb outdoors facility offering a myriad of activities such as zip-lining, mountain biking, archery, horse riding, paint-balling, foot-golfing and camping. Few skids and falls during the trail biking added to the fun.

Misty morning at Brackenhurst
Aberdare Country Club

We were in for a long drive from Limuru to the Aberdare Country Club in Nyeri, where we spent our second night. The country club is set within its own wildlife sanctuary and as such it was delightful to spot baboons, antelopes and peacocks while heading to the dining area for breakfast. The lush gardens and cozy cottages set on a hill made it an ideal country getaway destination. The beauty of the property was very evident as one overlooked the Aberdare Ranges to the west and Mount Kenya to the east. I wished to have spent more time there but we had an early day planned out.

Aberdare National Park

Majority of the trip was characterized by rain and it was therefore not surprising to be met by a fallen tree only a few kilometres into the Aberdare National Park. A few animals did not shy away from crossing into our driveway but I felt intimidated by the massive size of the buffaloes. Huge canopies, forested gorges and massive open moorlands are characteristic of this park, making it an ideal location for mountain scenery photographers. As we drove up the hilly terrain, it was interesting to spot different types of vegetation that kept varying with the altitude.

Magura Falls, Aberdare

I was mostly drawn by the intriguing waterfalls situated inside the Aberdare. We visited the Chania Waterfall, Magura Falls and Queen’s cave. The majestic falls have a way of making one feel like a miniature being. For a moment I lost myself in the calming sounds of the falling waters. The Karuru Falls are the largest and most popular falls inside the Aberdare but we were not fortunate to visit them on that day.

Chania Fall, Aberdare

Having spent a full day at the park, it was time to hit the road again and head to Nanyuki. We checked into Maiyan Villas where we would spend the next two nights. I was eager to catch a glimpse of the mountain upon waking up but it was too cloudy. Even while heading towards Timau for our day’s excursion, we were still not lucky to spot Mt. Kenya. Nonetheless, my mind was set on exploring the Ngare Ndare Forest.

The Forest is set between the Borana and Lewa conservancies and it was therefore intriguing to see a number of fallen trees thanks to the elephants. Ngare Ndare is popular for its azure pools that form beneath its three main waterfalls. People can plunge into one of the pools and enjoy a nice swim. In addition, there’s a 500 metre long canopy walk. It however took a lot of convincing for some to take up the scenic walk that’s set 40 feet above the ground.

Fairmont Mt Kenya

We were treated to an impromptu lunch at the Fairmont Mt Kenya Safari Club. I must admit this was one of the most beautiful properties I have been to. The hotel is situated inside the Mt Kenya Wildlife Conservancy which provides visitors with access to animals inside the orphanage.

Fairmont Mt Kenya
Fairmont Mt Kenya

We woke up to our final Day at Maiyan Villas. Checkout was at 10:00am giving us enough time to walk around the property. Each villa has a heated plunge pool and jacuzzi and varying room suites. The resort also has a number of ball game courts, offers biking, boat rides as well as horse rides. To properly wrap up the central circuit, we were treated to the majestic views of the Mountain over breakfast.

Maiyan, Nanyuki

With all our heavy clothing packed very far down our bags, we were set to welcome the coastal leg of the trip. We took a connecting charter flight from Mt Kenya Airstrip to Wilson Airport before proceeding to Ukunda Airstrip. Upon arrival, we checked into the Swahili Beach Resort where we would spend the final three nights.

Shimba Hills

The coastal circuit tour kicked off with a visit to the Shimba Hills National Reserve, which is Kenya’s home to the endangered sable antelope that inhabits the wooded savanna in East and Southern Africa. There are few animals in the game reserve hence the main attraction is the Sheldrick Waterfall and Nature Trail. We had to trek downhill for 2.5km in order to get there. Our ranger guided us down a trail which was dotted with mud, canopies, ants and a river crossing. Part of the trip’s highlight was removing our shoes to cross over (luckily no crocodiles). The ground was very slippery and I really hoped I would not slip into the mud. Upon arriving at the waterfalls, everyone dashed to the water like little children.

Sheldrick Falls

We later headed to Shifoga (Shimba Hills Forest Guides Association) Cultural Village where we got to learn about the Mijikenda Culture. There’s a lot of conservation being done by the Forest Guides. We were taken through the ‘Kaya’ model and got to also witness an exorcism ritual take place. This was a nice twist to our coastal adventure; one without the beach.

Swahili Beach

Our scheduled visit to Wasini Island and Kisite Mpunguti Marine Park was cancelled due to bad weather. Despite it raining all day, we had a superb time at the Swahili Beach Resort. This wrapped up our activity packed expedition around the country. Wonderful memories were made and beautiful gems were discovered. Kenya is indeed a magical country. Get on the road and get exploring!

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