Exploring the Aberdares

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Welcome to Aberdare National Park.

We woke up excited to set off on our second full day in Kenya and our first day on safari. After breakfast at Tribe Hotel, we bid farewell to Nairobi and headed out to the Aberdares, a beautiful mountain range in Kenya’s central highlands. The area is lush, green and full of wildlife, from colobus monkeys to leopards to elephants.

Golf Course at Abedare Country Club

Baboons play on the golf course at Abedare Country Club.

Our first stop was at Aberdare Country Club, a deluxe resort set on a private wildlife reserve. Our four-course lunch featured just-picked vegetables and herbs from the club’s organic garden, as well as free-range meats and fine European cheeses. Dessert was homemade vanilla ice cream, freshly churned in the resort’s kitchen.

One of the club’s unique features is a 9-hole golfcourse in the midst of the wildlife reserve. Animals have free reign of the property, and many of them enjoy lingering on the golfcourse and watching humans at play. They usually keep a modest distance from people, although the baboons have occasionally been known to chase after the balls. (Apparently they like to make it an extra challenge to play under par.) The club is also one of the few hotels in Kenya to have a heated outdoor pool – a nice touch, since the evenings in this part of the world tend to be cool.

Elephants at the Ark

Elephants play in the mud at the Ark.

After lunch, we took a bus to The Ark, a sister lodge of the Aberdare Country Club that is located in Aberdare National Park. Located next to a watering hole and surrounded by mineral-rich soils, The Ark is an excellent place to view large game. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by about 20 elephants who were digging their tusks into the soil to loosen it, then using their trunks to lift the dirt into their mouths and suck the minerals out of it — all just a few feet away from the viewing decks located on each of the lodge’s four floors. Cape buffalo waded in the shallow watering hole and black forest pigs played near the water.

The Ark is also a great place for birders. Our host, Charles, guided us on a short pre-sunset birdwalk, where we saw more than a dozen species including double-collared sunbirds, turascos, mousebirds, common bulbuls, black-headed herons and yellow-billed storks We also spotted a couple of sunis, a type of forest antelope that doesn’t grow much larger than a housecat.

After sunset, we had another delicious four-course gourmet meal and returned to the viewing area to watch the elephants take a nighttime swin in the watering hole and watch a ginet (a relative of the mongoose) enjoy an evening snack before retiring to our rooms. We were lulled to sleep by the peaceful song of marsh frogs.

Elephants at the Ark

Enjoying the view from the third floor of the Ark.

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