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Mount Kenya National Park, the perfect place to relax on Kenya safari.


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Mount Kenya National Park.

The Mount Kenya Park is the perfect place to relax after a dusty safari and get a different take on Kenya, particularly as it is located between some of Kenya's top national parks: Aberdare, Samburu and Meru. According to the Kikuyu folklore, it is the home of the Supreme Being: Ngai, a name also used by the Maasai and Kamba to describe God. In traditional prayers and sacrifices, Ngai is addressed by the Kikuyu as Mwene Nyaga: Possessor of Brightness.

At a giddy 5199m Mount Kenya dominates the Central Highlands. It is Africa's second highest mountain, formed by a series of volcanic eruptions. It probably once had a crater not unlike Mount Kilimanjaro's, but erosion has sheared this down to a series of peaks. The mountain above the forest line is a national park and it supports rain forest and dense thickets of bamboo, while higher up the flora changes dramatically: moorland and giant lobelia and heather.

AROUND MOUNT KENYA BY AIR

The forests are home to elephants, buffalo, monkeys, antelope and giant forest hog. The bird life around the mountain is also prolific, ranging from huge eagles to multicolored sunbirds.

There are three peaks, Point Lenana can be reached by most relatively fit people, but the other two are only accessible to mountaineers with technical skills. Mount Kenya was first climbed in 1899 by Sir Halford McKinder and today is a popular peak to conquer. For the adventurous and outdoorsy types there are a variety of hiking and mountain climbing trails to choose from.

Spectacular scenery is an important aspect of the Mount Kenya Park, with lovely lakes, tarns, glaciers, peaks and natural mineral springs in the area. The vegetation naturally varies according to the height. Dry upland forests are found in the lower slopes, which change to montane forest from 2,000m upwards. This forest generally consists of cedar and podo trees. The vegetation changes to a thick bamboo forest at around 2,500m which, in turn, changes to the upper forest of smaller trees and high altitude moss.

Visitors can observe a variety of plants of at least 11 species and animals including the black and white Colobus monkey, Sykes monkey, bushbuck, buffalo, and elephant. At lower altitudes, animals like the olive baboon, waterbuck, and black rhino, black fronted, duiker, leopard, giant forest hog, genet cat, bush pig and hyena are found.

A rare sighting is the elusive bongo, a forest antelope. Other endangered species found in the forests include the Sunni buck, Mt. Kenya Mole Shrew, skins (lizard), and different types of owls. The albino zebra is another less frequent sighting.

Surrounding Area

The Central Highlands, which contain Mount Kenya and the Aberdares, are the homelands of the Kikuyu people, who hold the mountain sacred. But the fertile soil and good climate also attracted European settlers, who snatched the land out from under the Kikuyu, resulting in the seething resentment which erupted as the Mau Mau Rebellion. Since independence the land occupied by the remaining whites has been much reduced and redistributed to the Kikuyu, and the land is now intensely cultivated by them and closely related Meru and Embu people.

Accommodation

For those safari enthusiasts who enjoy 'taking it easy' - Mount Kenya Safari Club is the place to stay. Mount Kenya Safari Club has been a Mecca for the rich and famous ever since it was founded in 1959. Set in beautifully manicured grounds, this is definitely the most sophisticated and romantic way to experience the area.

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