Aberdare National Park Kenya protects the mountain range of the same name. Tree hotels are designed for guests to observe wildlife coming to waterholes (or salt licks) in pristine forest habitat. Wildlife viewing from this elevated position is a remarkably rewarding way to see animals otherwise difficult to spot in the dense vegetation.
All the Big Five are present. Buffalo and elephant are common, and there is a chance to see black rhino at one of the tree hotel waterholes at night. Lion and leopard tend to stay at higher altitudes in the park and are difficult to spot. Black-and-white colobus monkeys are a real treat, while bushbuck and waterbuck are particularly common.
Aberdare NP is home to all of the Big Five. However, it is not a typical Big Five destination. Bushbuck and defassa waterbuck are very common and sightings of elephant and buffalo are almost guaranteed. Leopard and black rhino are sometimes spotted at one of the tree hotel’s floodlit waterholes at night. A lion is rarely seen. Aberdare National Park Kenya
The park is a refuge to many interesting forest creatures, including several primates such as black-and-white colobus monkey and sykes monkey. Nocturnal animals, including giant forest hog and large-spotted genet, often visit the waterholes at night. The forest is also home to the very elusive and beautiful bongo antelope. Unfortunately, numbers have decreased over the last few decades and sightings are extremely rare.
Wildlife viewing in the Aberdares is good throughout the year. Heavy rain occurs year-round, but June to September and December to February are the driest months. When staying at one of the three hotels, the rain shouldn’t interfere with your safari. Elephants and some antelopes disperse to the higher altitudes during the Dry season.
Aberdare is a scenically diverse area. And as with any mountain range, there are different habit zones at different altitudes. At higher altitudes are bamboo forests and Afro-alpine moorland set among steep ridges with beautiful waterfalls and river valleys.
Wildlife watching is good in Aberdare year-round. If you don’t intend straying far from a tree hotel, visit in the Wet season (October to May) when low-season rates and vacancies make wildlife viewing from your balcony extra-enjoyable. Otherwise, avoid the heaviest of the park’s rainfall in the Dry season (June to September), when local roads are more navigable.
The forests and moorlands of Aberdare NP are a birder’s paradise – more than 290 species recorded. The striking Hartlaub’s turaco one of the interesting visitors at the bird feeding platforms at the tree hotels. The indistinct Aberdare cisticola is endemic, and therefore unique, to the region and can be found at higher altitudes. Several interesting sunbirds found in the park including the rare scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird which can be found on the mountain peaks.
Aberdare NP offers good bird watching throughout the year, but the best time is from November to April when the migrants from Europe and North Africa are present. This partly coincides with the Wet season when many species can be seen in breeding plumage as they are nesting. Aberdare National Park Kenya
Most of the forest and moorland specials are however resident throughout the year, so the drier months (from June to September and December to February) might be a good compromise for bird watching and forest hiking.
The Aberdares offer good wildlife viewing throughout the year, but heavy rain can be a hindrance. Most people will spend at least one night at one of the tree hotels – it is possible to see a lot of wildlife from the hotel without venturing further. People who want to explore the park extensively – especially hikers – should choose to visit in the Dry season from June to September or January and February.
The altitude in the Aberdares varies widely – from 1,952 to 3,894m (6,404 to 12,776ft). Temperatures drop by about 6.5°C for every 1,000m you climb (or 3.5°F per 1,000ft), so even within the park, there are wide climatic variations. The climate is usually cool and misty. Heavy rain occurs year-round, averaging as much as 3,000mm per annum in the southeast areas. Being close to the equator, temperatures are quite uniform throughout the year. Warm and waterproof clothing is essential.
Even in the Dry season it still rains a lot. This is the coldest time of the year with afternoon temperatures around 15°C/59°F. Nighttime and early mornings are cold – just a few degrees above freezing.
June & July – It is mostly sunny but it can rain at any time. The average afternoon temperature is 15°C/59°F.
August & September – Rain increases slightly in August and temperatures are picking up a little bit in September. Afternoon temperatures reach up to 16°C/61°F.
Although the Wet season runs from October to May, there is a drier period from December to February separating the ‘short rains’ from the ‘long rains’. There are many overcast, cloudy days and it can rain for long periods.
October & November – ‘Short rains’: The rains usually increase sometime in October. Afternoon temperatures are around 17°C/63°F.
December, January & February – There is a period of less rain between the short and long rains. The exact timing is difficult to predict and it will still be wet some days. These are the warmest months with afternoon temperatures up to 18°C/64°F. Aberdare National Park Kenya
March, April & May – ‘Long rains’: April is the wettest month. It rains most days, but not always for the whole day. Tracks might become slippery and difficult to navigate. Early mornings are slightly less cold with average temperatures around 5°C/41°F.
Aberdare National Park is located 160km/100mi north of Nairobi and 20km/13mi southwest of Nanyuki. The drive from Nairobi takes about 2½ to 3 hours. Getting to Nairobi is easy as this is one of the biggest transport hubs on the continent. International flights arrive in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi.
In our opinion, most parks and reserves in Kenya are safe and the Aberdares is no exception. Crime in any developed park-like the Aberdares is extremely rare.
Several vaccinations required before coming to Kenya in general, and the Aberdares to a lesser extent. Because of the high altitude, no malaria risk in the Aberdares.