Aberdare National Park
Some of the rarest animals in Africa—bongos, melanistic black serval cats, and small, fierce golden cats—live in the rarified atmosphere of high mountainous Aberdare National Park.
It is a world apart from the surrounding grasslands and cultivated areas. Much of the Aberdare mountain range is included in this 296-square-mile (767-km2) isolated volcanic massif which forms part of the eastern wall of the Rift Valley. In high moors grow 30-foot (7-m) heathers and lobelias, mutants of alpine plants, and on lower eastern slopes, luxuriant forests where heavy rain falls through most of the year. In rushing trout streams clawless otters compete with giant kingfishers to feed on freshwater crabs. Waterfalls cascade hundreds of feet.
In the forest are red duikers, diminutive suni antelopes, bushbucks, elephants, buffalo, giant forest hogs, and colobus monkeys, and some of the oldest trees in Kenya, gnarled, twisted cedars and hagenias. Cape chestnuts can be covered with delicate pink blossoms.
Black leopards have been recorded, as well as black genets and nearly-black male bushbucks, a melanistic reaction, it’s believed, to the sun’s burning ultraviolet rays this close to the equator.
Four species of scintillating metallic sunbirds brighten the glades including brilliant violet tacazzes. Crowned monkey-eating eagles are everywhere. Uncommon montane francolins as well as scaly and Jackson’s varieties and silvery-cheeked hornbills enliven woods and moors with noisy calls at dusk. African goshawks are here, along with crowned and Ayres’ hawkeagles, mountain buzzards, and rufous-breasted sparrow-hawks, among over 250 bird species.
Aberdare is home to two famous lodges where wild animals come to water holes and saltlicks and can be seen under floodlights through the night: the Ark—most likely place in Kenya to see bongos—and Treetops, where England’s Queen Elizabeth was visiting when she learned of her father’s death and her accession to the throne. There are also park campsites.
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