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Ol-Donyo Sabuk National Park, a rugged hump-backed outcrop of ancient rock.


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Ol-Donyo Sabuk National Park.

A rugged, hump-backed outcrop of ancient rock jutting high above the Athi Plains and hazily visible from Nairobi, Ol Donyo Sabuk is a densely forested mountain known to the local Kikuyu as 'The Mountain of the Buffalo', and to the Maasai as 'The Big Mountain'.

Just one road leads to its summit, which offers magnificent 360' panoramas over the Athi River, the pineapple fields of Thika and the snow-capped peaks of both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. Within easy reach of Nairobi, the lush vegetation and cool air of this compact and scenic National Park make for an ideal day trip or camping weekend.

The Ol-Donyo Sabuk Park is essentially comprised of the mountain's slopes and ravines and is entirely forested except for a small area at the top.

Within the halo of primal forest at the summit you may also find some of the giant plants more commonly associated with the Afro-alpine zones of Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon. The Park's one road leads directly to the summit, a flat open glade marked by a large survey beacon.

The summit is the focus of the Park and offers breathtaking views, especially in December and January when the air is particularly clear.

The walk to the summit will take around 3 hours. Rangers must be booked through the warden and a small fee is payable for their services. 7 km along the road that leads to the summit lays the grave of Sir William Northup McMillan, a wealthy American farmer. Here also rests his wife, her maid and the family dog. Born in St Louis, USA, Sir McMillan was nearly seven feet tall and reputedly so fat that he had to walk through most doors sideways.

As its name would suggest Ol Donyo Sabuk Park, buffalos are the dominant animals in the Park the saltlick below the summit often attracts them, bushbuck are also easily spotted. Leopard and porcupine are also in residence, but may prove more difficult to spot in the thick bush.

A very common and much-photographed member of the 'Big Five' safari line-up, the African or Cape buffalo is closely related to the domestic cow and is the only native African cow.

Generally docile, buffalo can be extremely dangerous when threatened or surprised and must be regarded with extreme caution, especially lone bulls or cows with calves. Easily identified the buffalo is stocky, black or dark brown, and features distinctive upturned curving horns that broaden at the base and meet over the forehead in a 'boss' shape. Voracious eaters spend most of their lifespan consuming fodder to maintain their strength and stamina.

Easily spotted species of birds at the Ol-Donyo Sabuk Park include: white-browed sparrow weaver, grey- headed sparrow weaver, African pied wagtail, mourning dove, augur buzzard, African hawk eagle, purple-breasted sunbird, yellow-vented bulbul, speckled mouse bird, helmeted guinea fowl, black-headed oriole, grey tit, ring-necked dove, great sparrow- hawk, bronze sunbird, superb starling, red-cheeked cordon bleu and Mackinnon grey shrike.

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