Mount Kenya is a national park and the highest mountain in Kenya, with a height of 5,199 meters, making it the second highest peak in Africa. It is a stratovolcano that developed about 3 million years after the origin of the East African Rift.
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Mount Kenya attracts many mountain climbers, while offering them the opportunity to admire wild plants, enjoy the purest forests, and the beauty of the surrounding scenery. There are 12 glaciers on the mountain, all of which are rapidly shrinking in size, and the four secondary peaks at the entrance to the glacial valley are literally dotted with wildflowers.
Mount Kenya National Park opened to the public in 1949 and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The park boasts stunning lakes, glaciers, peaks, and natural mineral springs. At the lowest level there are dry highland forests that give way to mountain forests with cedars, then there are dense bamboo forests, upper forests with low trees and highland moss and finally highland heaths and bushes, followed by open space where elephants, buffalo and zebras can be seen. Other animals found in the forests include bushbucks, black and white colobus monkeys and Sykes monkeys, while below the slope the fauna is much more diverse. Black rhinoceroses, leopards, hyenas, genet cats, anubis baboons (Doggerian baboons), olive baboons, water goats, pussycats and giant forest hogs are found here. Protected species include bongos (shy forest antelope) , skinks, and mole whites.
The best time to see the animals is during the dry seasons of January to March and July to October. Birds flock down during the rains, March through June and October through December.
Roads circle Mount Kenya National Park from the west (A2) and east (B6), and three towns – Nanyuki (about 200 km from Nairobi) to the north, Naro Moru (about 150 km from Nairobi) to the west and Chogoria (about 170 km from Nairobi) to the east of the mountain – are considered bases for tours and climbs. Either of them can be reached from the capital by public transportation from River Road or Temple Lane (2.5-3 hours, 300-350 sh.) . Nanyuki has an airport, which has regular daily flights from the capital’s Wilson Airport (about $130, about 45 minutes) .
There is nothing left of the crater of the volcano. Surrounded by rocks and glaciers there are 8 peaks, the main of which bear the names of Maasai leaders of the past – Batian (Batian, 5199 m), Nelion (Nelion, 5188 m) and Point Lenana (Pt. Lenana, 4985 m) . According to Kikuyu beliefs, this is where the supreme deity Ngai resides. If you are not a mountaineer, forget about climbing, not only the 5-thousanders, but even the saddle between them (the so-called “Gate of Mists”). Mount Kenya was unsuccessfully attempted by such African explorers as Joseph Thomson and Samuel Teleki. It was not until 1899 that the Englishman Halford Mackinder’s expedition overcame Batian Peak. It took 30 years before Nelson was conquered: it was Percy Win-Harris and Eric Ship-ton, the discoverer of the Himalayan Bigfoot. Lenana Point in the eastern part of the massif is considered the only major summit that is accessible to regular trekkers.
There are 4 main trekking routes on Mount Kenya at altitudes above 4,000 meters: Naro Moru (Naro Mogi Route, west and north) , Sirimon (Sirimon Route, north) , Chogoria (Chogoria Route, east) and Summit Circuit Path (Summit Circuit Path, links the others) . The trails start at the level of 2-3 thousand meters, you have to get to the start by car (20-30 km, rent about $ 75 in Naro Moru) . The trails allow you to see the alternation of jungle, alpine meadows and tundra, alternating with rock and ice.
Any of the trails on Mount Kenya require good shape, good equipment (waterproof and warm clothing, and trekking shoes) and time. The Ring Trail and Chogoria are considered the most difficult – the first because of the high altitude, the second because of the lack of overnight huts. It is on these routes that the most beautiful views and vivid impressions await you. Naro Moru is the closest base point to Nairobi, so the route with the same name is the most popular.
The best time to see Mount Kenya is from December to mid-March and June to mid-October. That said, the best time to climb the 5,000-meters is August and September. The choice of season does not affect the equipment: you will have to take the same things. For the prepared climber 6 days is enough to reach the two main peaks and to go down. Climbers and mountaineers alike follow the same routes and move apart when approaching the summits. Groups often include both climbers and trekkers, served by a single team of porters.
Because Mount Kenya is a national park, KWS imposes special fees on all visitors (adults/children) :
- one day – 50/25 sh. through Kihari Gate , 55/25 sh. through any other gate;
- Four-day trek – 220/120 sh., entry/exit through Naro Moru Gate and Sirimon;
- five-day trek – 270/145 n., entrance-exit through Chogoria, Burguret and Kamweti Gates (Kamweti Gate) ;
- Six-day trek-320/170 n., entrance-exit through Marania Gate .
This is what the traveler has to give to the state, not counting the costs of the trek, usually organized by a local travel agency. KWS is willing to help in case of an emergency. The most visited are Kihari, Naru Moru, Sirimon and Chogoria (fees can be paid in cash at each gate).
When going on a hike, there are two things to keep in mind:
- Altitude and the risk of mountain sickness require attention to health. You will need at least one stop for acclimatization. Usually the first overnight stay above 3000 m is enough, but if you feel unwell it is better to stop climbing.
- Because of the proximity of the equator (it is only 12 km from the main summit) the duration of evening twilight does not exceed half an hour. So at the end of the day’s trek you have to speed up to get to the place of overnight stay before nightfall. You have to be careful of your energy!
You can use camps (12-15$/person), huts and tents to spend the night on the mountain Kenya. The Chogoria huts are for porters and KWS staff only, so at the entrance trekkers are often asked to present their tents and sleeping bags. You can rent it all from hotels in Naru Moru, Nanyuk or Chogoria (sleeping bag/tent $4-8$/day). You can put your tent at least 50 m away from streams and other water sources. You can’t cook food to order in the mountain camps and make bonfires; that’s why you should take a gas primus and gas cylinders in addition to food. Mountain porters and mountain guides in Mount Kenya are required to obtain a KWS license, but hire them through travel agencies and hotels ($10/1 hour/1 day).
Mount Kenya’s most popular mountain campsites:
- Met Station (Met Station, 3050 m), on the west side of the massif, 9 km from the Naru Moru Gate.
- Mackinder’s Camp (Mackinder’s Camp, 4,200 m) – in the Teleki Valley, north side.
- Shipton’s Camp (Shipton’s Camp, 4300 m) – in the Mackinder Valley, north side.
- Shipton is more often used by climbers, as it is closer to the traditional route to Batyan.
The ascent to the highest peak of Mount Kenya by the most popular route is as follows:
- Day 1 – entrance through the northern gates of Sirimon, climb to 3,300 m, overnight at Camp Yudmayer;
- Day 2 – trekking through McKinder Valley to Shipton Camp at 4,300m;
- Day 3 – trekkers get up no later than 3 a.m. and leave in the direction of Point Lenan to reach this summit before sunrise. Climbers stay in camp until lunch, though some take part in the hike to Lenana for acclimatization. In the afternoon the climbers move to the base camp at the foot of Batyan (tents) ;
- Day 4 – early ascent, assault of the altitude 5199 m and descent to Shipton camp;
- Day 5 – trekking through the McKinder and Teleki valleys with overnight stay at the weather station;
- Day 6 – leaving the park through the Naro Moru Gate.
In terms of treks, many companies offer a four-day hike on the Naro Moru Trail:
- Day 1 – entrance through Naro Moru Gate (elevation approx. 2600 m) , ascent through the forest to the weather station, rest and overnight;
- Day 2 – the first hard trek from the weather station to McKinder camp, about 6 hours in the meadows and tundra zone, altitude difference of more than 1 km;
- Day 3 – rising at 2-3 a.m., climbing Point Lenana and returning to Mackinder. The same day, after breakfast, follows the return to the weather station.
- Day 4 – Descent to Naro Moru Gate, departure.
If you are offered something like this without acclimatization at the foot of the mountain (at least one night), it makes sense to refuse: it is a serious test for the body.
Geography of Kenya. Nature, climate, flora and fauna of Kenya
The Republic of Kenya is located in northern East Africa. The country has an area of just over 582,000 km2, of which over 13,000 km2 is water surface. Kenya borders on Somalia in the east, Ethiopia in the north, Sudan in the north-west, Uganda in the west and Tanzania in the south. The southeast of the country is washed by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, and picturesque coral islets are scattered close to the coast.
In the east, Kenya owns a small section of the coast of Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria, which is second only to such inland water giants as the Caspian Sea and Lake Superior (USA). It is this lake that also gives life to the most famous African river, the progenitor of ancient civilizations – the Nile. In the north is a large and deep highly saline Lake Rudolph (Turkana).
The most distinctive geographical feature of the country is the predominance of plateaus, which rise to 1200-2500 m above sea level. Through the western part of Kenya from north to south runs part of the world famous rift belt, an extension of the fractures and grabens of the Red Sea. The colossal rifts create unique landscapes that attract masses of tourists. In addition to deep hollows and high sheer walls, the rift is manifested in the presence of volcanoes, though long extinct. Volcano Kenya is the second highest peak in Africa (5199 m). There are many peaks above 3000 m.
There are few rivers in the country. They all begin in the highlands, are relatively short, often porous. Most of them carry water into the Indian Ocean, passing through arid regions on their way and losing most of their water. Many of them dry up during the dry season
All the variety and richness of landscapes of the African continent, from evergreen tropical forests and lifeless rocky deserts, to endless monotonous savannah and a mosaic of mountainous landscapes, to the fertile beaches of the Indian Ocean and the eternal snow of the mountains near the equator, are present in the territory of Kenya.
The main part of the country is occupied by plateaus ranging in height from 500 m in the east to 1,500 m in the west. The Indian Ocean coastline is rugged, poorly dissected, mostly precipitous and almost devoid of natural harbors. Since ancient times, the main port cities (Mombasa, Lamu, Pate) are located on the coastal coral islands. From the ocean shore the surface begins to rise towards the ancient leveled plateaus (Ukamba, Kitui, Machakos, Kajiado). At the latitude of Mombasa the height of the terrain reaches 300 m already 40 km from the ocean. These monotonous plateaus in some places rise in steps to the West towards the East African Plateau, within the north-eastern outskirts of which lies the major part of the Kenyan territory.
In the western half of the country, where the Central Highlands are situated to the north of Nairobi, the ancient foundation of the African continent is crossed by a system of giant rift valleys – the Great East African Rift.
In Kenya, the meridianal Gregory Rift, fan-like branching and attenuating in Tanzania, its west latitudinal branch – the Kavirondo Rift and the Lake Rudolph (Turkana) graben are traced. On the arid bottoms of deep and wide grabens scattered drainless lakes (Magadi, Naivasha, Elmenteita, Nakuru, Hannington, Baringo); in some places rise the cones of ancient, rarely active volcanoes (Oldonyo-Lengai, Teleki). There are also numerous outcrops of gases and thermal springs, which are associated with the formation of large deposits of soda and carbonatrium salt (Lake Magadi). Rift troughs are framed by high mountains in the east Aberdeer (up to 4000 m) and in the west Mau and Elgeyo (over 3000 m). In the central part of the country rises a giant massif of ancient volcano Mount Kenya (5199 m, the highest point in the country), in the west Mount Elgon (4321 m).
In the direction of the Lake Victoria depression, the Central Highlands descend gently, in some places almost imperceptibly passing into the lakeside Nyanza Plain. To the south, towards the Masai Plateau, as well as to the north, they are cut off by steep escarpments (escarpments). To the west of Lake Rudolph stretch chains of hilly residual ridges and piles of tuffs of the Turkana Plateau. To the east of the lake begin the black lava plateaus of Gabbra and Merylle, steep escarpments breaking off to sandy deserts (Chalby, Kings). To the south and east of them, from the foothills of the highlands to the Somali border, stretches a vast flat strip (300,600 m), covered with a thick cover of Quaternary deposits. Large reserves of non-metallic minerals – kyanite, diatomite and table salt – are found there.
Water Resources of Kenya
The biggest river Tana (about 750 km long, the basin area is 61 thousand sq km) begins in the Aberdeer Mountains and, crossing the eastern edge of their foothills, forms a series of waterfalls. At the waterfalls Sven Falls and downstream are being built large hydroelectric power plants.
The main lakes are located in the tectonic depressions of the East African Fault Zone system. Lake Rudolf, called Bassa Norok (dark water) by the locals, occupies a narrow tectonic depression about 50 km wide and about 250 km long. Its area is 6,400 square kilometers. The water level of the lake is decreasing and salinity is increasing. Further to the south a chain of lakes stretches along the Gregory graben. The largest of them, Baringo and Naivasha, are freshwater lakes, while the rest are mineralized.
Freshwater Lake Victoria has a significant influence on the climate of western Kenya and plays a significant role in its economy.
Fertile brown soils have formed on the volcanic rocks of the well-watered Central Highlands. Along the shores of Lake Victoria are distributed meadow red-brown, the Indian Ocean black and gray soils are quite fertile, but prone to erosion. Brown-red and red-brown ferrallitic and alferritic stony, usually saline, low fertility soils prevail in the middle-high plateaus and plains of the arid regions of Northern, North-Eastern and Southern Kenya. Vast areas east of Lake Rudolph are covered with salt marshes or skeletal loams.
Climate of Kenya
Kenya’s proximity to the equator determines the main features of the country’s climate. Nevertheless, it is impossible to speak of a single or typical climate for the entire country. On the coast, which is open to oceanic air masses, southeasterly winds bring “big rains” in April and May. In spring, the northeast monsoon, or cascasi, dominates, a period of “small rains,” resulting in a distinct coastal season: two wet and two relatively dry seasons. In Malindi, out of 1017 mm of annual rainfall, 410 mm falls in May alone, and the difference between the average monthly temperatures of the coolest (July) and hottest (March) months exceeds 6° (with an annual average of 26.5°).
Away from the coast (in the western regions), temperatures are always flat, around 23 °C, with very little variation throughout the year and constant rainfall. On the contrary, on the coast, seasonality is more pronounced, and the temperatures are always higher, from 26 ° C. In April and May, the coastal part of Kenya is hit by downpours. The north of the country is always hot and dry, with conditions approaching those of a semi-desert.
One can feel cozy and comfortable in the central part of Kenya, on the plateau. On the Central Highlands, with altitudes over 1,000 meters above sea level, temperatures range from 17-21 °C. These places are often referred to as the land of eternal spring. In the town of Kericho, which is located on the very equator, at an altitude of 1981 m, temperatures do not exceed 15-16 °C. On the upper slopes of the extinct volcanoes at night lies the frost, and on Mount Kenya from 4800 m begins the snow zone. Although oriented, of course, when traveling to Kenya, you should wear light summer clothes, but a sweater may come in handy. Mornings are cool on the savannah, when everyone goes to see the animals, and at night.
Plant Life in Kenya
The variety of climatic conditions and topography have created the conditions for the emergence of a wide variety of vegetation. In little Kenya you can visit the sandy desert, grassy or woody savannah, alpine meadows or snow, thickets of dense tropical evergreen forest, mangrove forests of the ocean coast, on coral beaches under the canopy of coconut palms (if you are not afraid of falling nuts), marshy shores of Lake Victoria. But still, Kenya is dominated by savannahs and dry woodlands. In these you can see huge baobabs. Some of these giants can be up to 2,000 years old. Tall trees grow in the mountain forests, many of them are valuable woods and serve as material for numerous crafts (masks, figurines of people and animals, etc.).
About 2/3 of Kenya’s territory to the north and east is deserted savannah with sparse grass cover, which in the Lake Rudolf basin is replaced by cereal-shrub semi-desert and on the middle-altitude plateaus turns into a typical savannah. Forests are preserved in the west of the humid highlands. Mixed deciduous evergreen humid tropical forests and mangroves (about 3% of the territory) are also common on the coastal strip which receives abundant rainfall. However, typical evergreen humid tropical forests cover less than 0.5% of Kenya and are found only on the slopes of the high mountains of Kenya and Elton, Aberdeere, and Mau.
The entire flat northeast and the rift valleys are occupied by desert savannah, locally called “nyika. Nyika is characterized by a sparse forest of small-leaved shade-less trees (acacia, yuba, miloja) up to 5-10 m high and low, coarse, growing in bunches of grasses. Nyika is especially monotonous in the dry season, when trees and shrubs with black trunks, devoid of leaves but studded with long prickles, rise up among the gray-brown tough grass.
Kenya’s mountain forests are almost devoid of undergrowth and lianas. Tall trunks with smooth, light-colored bark covered by mosses and lichens below branch only at the top. Many evergreen deciduous species of these forests are Rausonia, Drippetis, Elacedendron, and Croton, which have valuable ornamental wood. Among the deciduous species, the most common are the cape chestnut, phyllanthus, and phagaropsis. In the coniferous mountain tropical (western and northern slopes of Mount Kenya, Mount Aberdeer, the eastern slopes of Elgon), slender juniper and podocarpus are predominant.
Wildlife of Kenya
Kenya belongs to the East African subregion of the Ethiopian zoogeographic area. Large herds of large wild animals are now preserved mainly in national parks and reserves, which occupy 15% of the country. The most common are antelopes (gnu, canna, oryx, topi, stenbok, bushbok, dikdik), gazelles (impala, Thomson, Granta), water goats and zebras. Large herbivorous elephants, rhinos, hippos, buffalo and giraffes are also quite numerous. Predators are widespread: lions, leopards, cheetahs, caracals, servals, hyenas and jackals.
Very rich in species composition of birds: ostriches, secretaries, tourachis, bustards, guinea fowl, griffins. Flamingos, ibises, herons, and marabou are found along the banks of water bodies. Many birds come to Kenya from Europe for wintering. In the rivers, lakes and coastal waters you can fish for trout, tuna, carp, catfish, Nile perch, mackerel and other local species.
About. 15% of Kenya’s land area is protected, for a total of approx. About 15% of Kenya’s land area is protected, for a total of about 40 protected areas. The largest national parks are Tsavo, Nairobi, Mount Kenya and Nakuru; nature reserves are Amboseli, Masai Mara and Ngong. Elephants, rhinos, buffalos, giraffes, lions, leopards and cheetahs inhabit them. Various antelopes are especially numerous. Near Malindi is an underwater reserve, preserving the picturesque coral reefs of the Indian Ocean.
The Kenya Wildlife Service recently announced that Mt. Kenya National Park will be fenced all the way around. The cost of the project is about $12 million and could become even more expensive due to high inflation and the cheapness of the Kenyan national currency. The initiative aims to protect the animals inside the park from outside attacks and poaching, and to keep farms around the park from invasion by wild animals roaming in search of pasture. Mount Kenya will follow the example of another national park, Aberdare, where the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust facilitated private donations to build a fence around the protected area.
But wildlife advocates have criticized plans to fence protected areas, which could restrict animals from moving from one park to another. Historically, elephants and other herd mammals have migrated between Aberdare and Mt. Kenya, through the Laikipia Plains, north to Marsabit Park, and on to the Great African Rift Valley.
Fences will turn Africa into a kind of safari park somewhere in Europe, and thousands of years of migration routes will be destroyed, disrupting gene exchange between populations, social behavior of animals and breeding patterns, ecologists say.