It might be small in size but Kenya’s Aberdare National Park provides a vastly different experience to the country’s more famous savannah reserves. Created to protect the Aberdare Mountains of the Central Highlands, it comprises two ecosystems unusual to Kenya: a moorland plateau and a swathe of dense rainforest. The result is that visitors on an Aberdare safari can expect not only unique and spectacular landscapes but will also enjoy good game viewing particularly in the Salient, the eastern forested section.
Although harder to find than on the open plains of the Masai Mara, lion elephant, rhino and buffalo are present in the park as are rare antelope species including the much sought-after bongo – an elusive antelope that lives in the bamboo forest. Other forest species such as black and white colobus monkey, giant forest hog, golden cat and leopard are seen regularly along with around 250 bird species.
The park’s top accommodation is set in the game-rich Salient – where the mountain range slopes off to the east. We’d recommend staying at either the well-known Tree-Tops Lodge or Solio Lodge – both overlook a salt lick and floodlit waterhole to deliver the park’s best from-your-chair game viewing. If you want, you can even be alerted at night in the event of a special sighting.
Generally viewed as a year-round destination, Aberdare’s mountainous setting means that mist and rain may occur at any time. The best time to visit Aberdare for a safari is during the drier months of January and February and between June and September; heavy rain can be expected between March and May.
Situated about 180kms north of Nairobi, the Aberdare National Park is both easily accessible and well-sited. It lies near Kenya’s best Rift Valley lakes and can be conveniently included on an itinerary that takes in iconic safari destinations such as the Masai Mara and Amboseli.