​Expert Reviews – Aberdare NP

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Expert
Brian Jackman   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Multiple times

Brian is an award winning travel writer, author of safari books and regular contributor to magazines such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa.

8 people found this review helpful.

Wildlife Refuge on the Roof of Africa
Overall rating
3/5

Unlike the rolling savannahs and thorn tree country of lowland Kenya the Aberdares are a world apart, a sky-high paradise in the clouds, whose dense hagenia forests and deep ravines provide a refuge for all kinds of animals including some seldom seen elsewhere, such as the elusive bongo. Melanistic serval cats roam the high moorlands above the tree line and the Aberdares are about the only place in the world where you might – just might – see a black leopard. The entire park has been ring-fenced to keep its elephants in and the poachers out.

There are only two places to stay, both situated in the northern salient. Treetops Lodge has the history. It’s Kenya’s oldest lodge and is where Princess Elizabeth was staying when her father died in 1952. But I prefer The Ark, a triple-decker ship of the forest that lies deeper in the salient beside a floodlit waterhole. Elephant, buffalo, leopard and giant forest hog are regular nocturnal visitors. When daylight comes, head for the high country above the bamboo zone. You could almost imagine yourself to be in Scotland. But then you see a herd of eland and know you are standing on the roof of Africa.

Expert
Lizzie Williams   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: November

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

3 people found this review helpful.

Kenya’s equatorial misty mountains and famous ‘tree lodges’
Overall rating
3/5

Kenya’s Aberdares feature dramatic peaks, deep valleys, waterfalls cascading down sheer rock faces, and undulating moorlands. On the downside, the weather is generally misty and damp thanks to the altitude (the highest peak, Mount Satima, is 4001 metres), and wildlife in the high moorlands is rarely seen. A more feasible option is staying at one of the two ‘tree lodges’ in the lower-altitude Salient section; Treetops and The Ark. Both offer fairly simple rooms, but they have viewing decks over waterholes and are perhaps better described as ‘hides’ with accommodation. On my stay at The Ark, I was thrilled by the procession of wildlife that emerged from the forest including a couple of dozen elephants, a large closely-packed herd of buffalo, and several spotted hyena that brazenly darted around the elephants’ legs. The bird tables at the lodge too attracted pretty birds like speckled mousebird and resplendent sunbirds, as well as a couple of daring genets. However, criticisms of the ‘tree lodges’ are that they are usually busy with large tour groups, and when the floodlights are switched on, the waterholes take on rather a theatre-like ‘staged’ ambience. Nevertheless for a quick overnight safari, they offer an excellent opportunity to see several species almost from the comfort of your room.

Expert
Ariadne van Zandbergen   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Dry season

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

2 people found this review helpful.

Treetop hotels are offering a different kind of safari
Overall rating
4/5

A visit to this densely forested park in the highlands of Kenya is a nice change from the hot savanna reserves. Buffalos, elephants, bushbuck and monkeys are readily seen. You can drive around the park and you should pick up a fair amount of game, but I love settling down for a couple of days in one of the tree-lodges, which act as hides on stilts within the park. Treetops and The Ark both offer an almost unique experience. They both date back to colonial times and the stuffy atmosphere has been maintained to a huge degree. Both overlook a waterhole. A saltlick almost guarantees a good stream of animals coming past on every given day. At night, with spotlights on, the viewing continues. One of my highlights was witnessing an interesting standoff between a black rhino and her calf and a group of hyenas.

Expert
Alan Murphy   –  
Australia AU
Visited: June

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

1 person found this review helpful.

The easiest wildlife watching in Kenya
Overall rating
4/5

The scenery is truly wonderous at this sky-high park, where East Africa’s savannahs are left far behind and temperatures plummet. Instead you’ll find valleys carved between soaring forested peaks, waterfalls, thick bamboo forests and moorlands all shrouded in misty drizzle.

There are only two places to stay, both designed for package tourists. But the experience is something special. I stayed at The Ark, a 4-storey lodge perched on a forested bluff where guests peer out of windows, or off balconies, at a floodlit waterhole and surrounding grasslands to view elephant, buffalo, waterbuck, bushbuck, giant forest hog, and, if lucky black rhino. If that all gets a bit much you can retire to your room where a series of buzzers lets you know when something interesting is outside!

It has a very packaged feel but if you like sipping a glass of red by the open fire while watching elephants play around in mud baths just outside, then this is the experience for you.

Expert
Philip Briggs   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

1 person found this review helpful.

Life in the Treetops
Overall rating
3/5

For most visitors, myself included, a visit to this montane park really means a visit to one of two so-called ‘tree hotels’ (hide like construction where all game viewing is done from the hotel and all rooms face a waterhole) that lie on its forested lower slopes. Treetops is the older of these, founded in 1932, and having attained global fame in 1952 as the place where Princess Elizabeth was staying when she unknowingly became the Queen of England upon the death of her father George VI. Royal connections aside, a newer hotel called The Ark is the better bet for good game viewing, with buffalos, elephant, rhino and various antelope making an appearance most nights, and lion and leopard also regular visitors. Other forest wildlife likely to be seen at The Ark includes the lovely black-and-white colobus monkey, a beautiful spotted cat-like predator called a genet, Harvey’s red duiker, and some alluring birds.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.4/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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