The Ark of Africa

Preserving the Wildlife of Kenya's Aberdare Mountain Range

 

It’s easy to think that Africa is a mix of hot and dry, or hot and humid — desert or jungle.  But high above the Rift Valley, the highlands of the Aberdare mountain range of central Kenya provide a variety of wildlife filled habitats.  With the Aberdare National Park and the Solio Ranch protecting the habitats, they have become an ark for the preservation of the animals of the highlands.

 

The Aberdare National Park covers the higher areas of the Aberdare Mountain Range of central Kenya and the Aberdare Salient to their east. Animals easily observed include the lion, leopard, african elephant, african hunting dog, giant forest hog, bushbuck, mountain reedbuck, waterbuck, cape buffalo, suni, side-striped jackal, eland, duikers olive baboon, black and white Colobus monkey, and sykes monkey. Rarer sightings include those of the golden cat and the bongo – an elusive forest antelope that lives in the bamboo forest. Animals like the eland and spotted and melanistic serval cats can be found higher up in the moorlands. The Aberdare National Park also contains a large population of the black rhino. Visitors can also indulge in walking, picnics, in the rivers and camping in the moorlands. Even the bird viewing is rewarding, with over 250 species of birds in the park, including the endangered Aberdare Cisticola, Jackson’s Francolin, sparry hawk, goshawks, eagles, sunbirds and plovers. It is a traditional belief of the Kikuyu that the Aberdare Mountain Range, where this park is located, is one of the homes of Ngai, or God.

Visitors to the park can find different types of accommodation according to their taste, ranging from the Treetops tree-house lodge, to the Ark – built in the shape of Noah’s Ark – and three self-help banda sites, eight special campsites and a public campsite in the moorland. There are also five picnic sites. Both Treetops and Ark provide excellent nighttime wildlife viewing. From here, visitors can observe various animals, such as elephant, buffalo, lion and rhino, which get attracted to the waterholes.

For lovers of all creatures great and small, the Ark  has launched a webcam that streams live video 24/7 of wild animals coming to its floodlit watering hole and salt lick.  Guest wannabes, Ark-o-philes or the just plain curious can virtually observe elephants, buffalo, impala and other game quench their thirsts, soak up nutrients, vie for position or try to get “teen-agers” to obey. Simply double click: http://www.thearkkenya.com/live-webcam-feed.

Of course, nothing beats the real thing.  Visitors to the quirky venue, modeled after Noah’s Ark, have the advantage of not only watching the phenomenon first-hand from one of the boat-shaped lodge’s four “decks” — they can take unforgettable photographs and videos.

Those who want to stay at The Ark will not have to suffer 40 days and 40 nights of rain – instead they will be treated to a cool climate and gorgeous scenery including nearby Mt. Kenya, highest mountain in this East African nation and a World Heritage Site.  The Ark is an historic and “must-see” Kenyan property whose uniqueness comes from a reversal of the game drive – animals come to the people instead of the other way around. Die-hards can make use at night of a buzzer system that alerts guests to sightings at the watering hole: one buzz for elephant, two for rhino, three for leopard, and four for something even more dramatic (use your imagination).

Visitors to the area may also be interested in staying at the Aberdare Country Club, strikingly set on the crest of a hill in a wildlife sanctuary that covers the higher areas of the heavily-forested Aberdare Mountain range of central Kenya. recently rennovated to maintain the heritage of the property with its English country club look and its decadent 1930’s colonial high-life atmosphere.  Cottages are set into the hillside with commanding views of the lodge’s extravagant landscaping and a breathtaking panorama of the mountains beyond.

Living the revival of the 1930’s high life means rooms and suites that boast fireplaces and beds are warmed with hot water bottles to stave off chilly evenings.  Completely renovated bathrooms use high-standard, natural materials, wood and stone.

Common areasinclude the bar, reception area, swimming pool and conference room.  A Health Club featuring gym and yoga areas is a new addition as is a VIP suite replete with self-contained kitchen. Golf carts ease transportation for guests staying in the elevated cottages. Other upgrades include renovation of the riding stables, bringing the nine-hole golf course up to standard, and re-stocking the game sanctuary with a greater variety of wildlife.

Activities include day and night game drives, nature walks, golf, gym, sauna, steam and massage, tennis, horseback riding and swimming in a heated pool.

Or you can move farther afield to explore the Rift Valley, particularly for the opporunity to see the rinos at Solio Ranch.

Solio Ranch is a privately owned wildlife conservancy geared toward rhino conservation. The 17,500-acre reserve, 22 km north of Nyeri Town, plays a major part in the protection and breeding black rhinos in Kenya. The rhino is a member of the ‘Big-Five’, which are a key tourist attraction. Solio Ranch is recognised as one of the most successful private rhino breeding reserves in Kenya. The animals live in harmony with other wildlife, including the buffalo, zebra, giraffe and plains game such as eland, oryx, impala, waterbuck, Thompson’s gazelle and warthog. By the end of 2009, Kenya had 635 black rhinos and 353 white rhinos in various conservation areas around the country.

The world’s first private rhino sanctuary, Solio Game Reserve was started in 1970 when Courtland Parfet, the owner of Solio cattle ranch, fenced off a large section of land and dedicated it to conservation; since then, breeding has been so successful that rhino from Solio have stocked game reserves all over Africa.

Several safari outfits provide opportunties to encounter the ranch’s protected wildlife, and visitors can stay at the cozy six-room Solio Lodge.

The Aberdare National Park and the Solio ranch create an ideal opporutnity to see nature up close, support the protection of the habitat and animals, and pamper yourself in the process.

 


Aberdare National Park in Kenya’s website is www.kws.org/parks/parks_reserves/ABNP.html

Aberdare Country Club’s rooms start at $150 during the low season.  Find out more at  www.aberdarecountryclub.com

The Ark’s rooms start at: US$255 for a double room, and include full board, taxes and service charge. Rates for a single start at US$150 with same inclusions.  Find out more at www.thearkkenya.com

Solio Lodge is located on the Solio Ranch.  Find out more at www.thesafaricollection.com/properties/47-solio

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