Camping In Ngare Ndare Forest – Making Like A Monkey

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.

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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.

Getting There

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.

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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 ngarendare@nrt-kenya.org. Ask for Daniel, very professional and knowledgeable guide, good luck with the diploma!

EDIT: Entry fees for the forest are Ksh2000 citizens/residents and Ksh3000 for non-residents. Write to bookings@ngarendare.org or call 0700412532 for inquiries and more information.

The Campsite

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.

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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.

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What To See

The Canopy

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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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!

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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?

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Right image courtesy of Suzanna Cook

The Residents

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.

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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.

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A sign of some sort? Sorry I don’t speak elephant!

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Snapshot

  • 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)

Final verdict

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

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Image courtesy of Ngare Ndare Forest Trust

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.

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57 thoughts on “Camping In Ngare Ndare Forest – Making Like A Monkey

  1. Billy Oyaro

    What a detailed post with great photos. Planning to visit Ngare Ndare in early June and hopefully have an awesome experience just like you did. Good work keep ’em coming.

    Reply
  2. Annette Orono

    A good article on Ngare Ndare. Went there and the experience was awesome. Kenyans should explore our beautiful country. 1 out of 3 in Africa? Kudos.!

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Annette, thanks for checking out the article. Good to hear you had a good time there, so did I. Spread the word to your nearest and dearest about the forest, we need to get Kenyans moving.

      Reply
  3. Brikicho_

    Where have you been hiding this??? The blog is so informative. And I found myself reading all your posts!!🙌 Ngare Ndare is a must go.. Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Thanks for passing through the blog and I’m glad you’re enjoying it. It hasn’t been hidden you’re the one who’s late to the party! I always ask readers to pay it forward, so please tell someone else who would be interested. We need to get more Kenyans out and about.

      Reply
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  6. john

    Good Morning Sir/Madam,
    I kindly request to send mi the contacts.I am a chairman of the church group of youth who have the interest to visit the Ngari Ndare.
    John kinyua

    Reply
      1. Cynthia

        Hello,

        This is AMAZING!!! My thirst for adventure can finally be realised locally. Looking forward to more posts and visiting these areas. Thank you very much!

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  8. Cynthia

    Hello,

    I just stumbled upon your block. You are the answer to my thirst for adventure. I always thought that I needed to go out of the country to experience adventure but now I know I just need to find out about the places available locally. I shall for sure visit and increase the number of tourists locally.
    I have become your number one fan. Looking forward to reading more of your blog posts and visiting these places. Thanks again.

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Cynthia,
      What kind words (by the way I received all 3 of your comments 🙂 ) I am glad you’re enjoying the blog and it’s inspiring you to take your own adventures, thats what it’s all about! There’s totally no reason to look for adventure elsewhere when there’s still so much to see here.
      Even with all my travel I know I’ve barely scratched the surface so thats what keeps me going, the thought of all the places I haven’t been and all the things I haven’t yet seen….

      Reply
  9. Cynthia

    Hello,

    I don’t know if my previous post arrived so I shall just repeat.
    I stumbled upon your blog today. BEST THING EVER!!! I have always had a thirst for adventure but in my mind I always think about exploring it out of the country but you have proven that there are many beautiful places here in Kenya and not the obvious places. I vow to increase the number of local tourists. Thank you so much. Feeling excited about reading more posts.

    Reply
  10. Beth Swallow

    Very Interesting blog on camping in the NNFR. 45 years ago I stayed on Gerard Casey’s farm at Ndere, and walked to the falls in your photo, which were frequented by baboons at the time and lived high in the fig trees. I called the place “Wagtail Falls” as many of those birds could be seen there. I believe the falls were on his property and I don’t know if Casey willed his farm to the Ngare Ndare Forest Trust, or if it still remains adjacent to the NNFR? I never returned but I have very fond memories of that place.

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Beth, thanks for checking out the article and glad you enjoyed it. Interesting story you have there, I’m not really sure how the forest came to be formed but now I’m curious. I’ll ask some of the contacts I have associated with the reserve using the info you have given me and let you know if I find anything. I love a good mystery.

      Reply
  11. John Kinyua

    Hae,we the church group(Youth fellowship )would like to visit the Ngari Ndare on date 23/12/2016.kindly request for contact xo as i can get information for the application,
    waiting for the positive rspond.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Jack Ole Gathy

    Ngare Ndare i found this over TV two weeks ago and i said let me research on it…Wow would like to visit soon but let me know this, Which the best season to visit with my family of two children 2 – 4 years, dry season and with my small 2wd car?

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Jack, yes the forest is worth a visit. With a 2WD it would have to be in the very dry season, if you want to go to the pools you might have a 20min walk (driveable in a 4WD).

      Reply
  13. Tina

    Thank you so much for the blog! Where can a beginner hire the camping equipment? Can you help me with some contact or anything that I can use to get it? Cheers

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      I think it’s been the lack of awareness that the forest actually exists coupled with the lack of practical information on how to visit. In the two years since I wrote this article I’m optimistic there’s been a change in the visitor stats since.

      Reply
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  15. Soila Curtis

    I am just about to start traveling and doing lots of Camping in Kenya and I can’t stop marveling at how resourceful your blog posts are. I really do not know where to start from but I have been looking to start with close by towns, reserves, and conservancies even as I collect more resources to be able to cater for me during long distances adventures. I think I will start with Ngare Ndare and advance.
    ASANTE

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Soila and welcome to the club! I started the same way, just looking for close places and getting my confidence and experience up. Once you start finding all these cool little camping spots it will be hard to stop. Wishing you the best, may you have your own great adventures.

      Reply
  16. Sam

    Hello, we are planning to visit the site in 2 weeks time. is it the best time or how is the weather there?

    Reply
  17. Joey

    Hallo,
    I have been to Ngarendare forest and the charges are quite different from the ones you have stated above. They charge Kes 2000 for citizens/Residents and Kes 3000 for nonresidents.

    Reply

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