The temperature was dropping rapidly and Daniel the guide was going to have to spend the night out in the open, he had refused my offer to make use of the car for the night. It was strange for me to sleep in the (relative) warmth of my tent knowing someone was sleeping exposed to the elements. We waited for his colleague with his tents and sleeping bag to show up but he never did.However the next morning he was up bright and early, no worse for wear.
Ngare Ndare (Maa for “goats water”) Forest is the main corridor between Mount Kenya and Lewa Conservancy. Ngare Ndare is the only indigenous forest in Kenya with an expanding canopy cover, and some of the ancient African Olive and Red Cedar trees within it are thought to be around 200 years old.
The forest is 4 hours out of Nairobi and just 40min out of Nanyuki so its a good location for a weekend even from the capital city. Road from the main road to the forest is about 30 minutes of murram so depending on your sense of adventure 2WD would make it in the dry season. This is a great stop over on your way to Samburu and the rest of Northern Kenya.
Cost of a visit to the forest for the day is Ksh 500 for the day .Note there is a separate fee of Ksh 1,000 for camping and Kshs 1000 for armed security. Make sure to call ahead and inform them of your intention to visit. Contact the manager Dominic on 0722 886 456 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask for Daniel, very professional and knowledgeable guide, good luck with the diploma!
Altitude is high so best time to visit is during the dry season, especially if you’re camping as there are no accommodation facilities in the forest. The campsite is located in a clearing in a bushy area so no stunning views here. However there is a proper flush toilet and running water. There is another campsite nearby in a clearer area but with no facilities.
The nights here are very cold so pack accordingly, do not underestimate how cold it can get otherwise it will be a miserable night. Luckily it is allowed to collect dead wood in the area to use as firewood.
What To See
Ten minutes from the campsite is the canopy walk that gives this post its name. The canopy walkway only one of 3 in the whole of Africa. It is an 80 ft. high aerial bridge of wiremesh and cables meandering through the tree canopy and extending 450 metres long. The walkway ends at a wooden platform 30ft. high, where you can relax and enjoy a view of the river from this elevated vantage point. Its a real treat to share the same space in the natural habitat w monkeys or birds.
In the photo below there’s a person at the bottom of the deck for perspective. Nice place to have breakfast, a picnic and even a sundowner.
The view from the deck . If luck is on your side you could even get to watch some elephant or buffalo drink at the spring below.
Waterfalls & Pools
The Ngare Ndare river emanates from springs in the forest, and creates pools and waterfalls of varying size and intensity over and over again, 7 times in total! If there was a place that seems specifically created to satisfy the human soul this is it.
From the campsite this is a 20 minute drive if you have a proper 4WD. If not, you have a ten minute drive and a lovely half hour walk which I didn’t mind at all.
Swimming and diving are permitted at the river for those willing to chance the chilly waters (did I forget to mention this is Mount Kenya’s melt water?) But really what’s the use of coming all this way only to live life from the sidelines? Jump in!
The image on the right is what the pools usually look like, the image on the left was because i visited just after the rainy season. What more incentive does one need to visit?
2 minutes into the forest and I came across a large resident family of about 20 elephants. Quite lucky as forest elephants are notoriously shy. I was able to watch them for 30min at close range.
This young one below was quite curious but still kept close to his mum. Elephant hair is more prominent on young elephants, but all elephants have it. It aids them to keep cool.
A sign of some sort? Sorry I don’t speak elephant!
- Call ahead of your visit
- Remember to gear up for the cold at night
- Toilet, shower, running water available
- Firewood available (dead collection only)
- Guided forest walks & mountain biking
- Abseiling on minor grades rock climbing sites both at the falls and at Nugu Rock
- Canyoning & swimming
- Canopy walk (great for kids and parents alike)
Congratulations are in order to Kenya as a whole as Ngare Ndare Forest Trust in Kenya was recently included as an extension of the Mount Kenya UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately this does not seem to translate to a high number of domestic visitors.
No of visitors in 2013
Note: RVA = Rift Valley Adventures – a tourism outfit. Also residents are NOT necessarily citizens.
Ngare Ndare suffers from a malady that plagues many tourism sites in Kenya, lack of domestic paricipation. See the chart below. How do we turn these figures around? Where do the problems lie? Lethargy? Disinterest? Lack of information? We need to challenge ourselves and cause a shift where we can.
Also if you want to know more about the good work the forest trust does see here.