For this year’s Easter weekend break, Dad suggested we go to Aberdare after my original idea of going to Amboseli fell through. So he rounded up a crew of family friends and we drove down to the self-catered Aberdare Fishing Lodge in the Aberdare National Park.
On Good Friday, we left home at 8:30AM and drove down passing the Rift Valley Viewpoint and stopping at Naivasha for a pit stop two hours later. The drive till there was uneventful as we took in the beauty of the country since the rains transformed it into a green blanket, at least where urbanization hasn’t taken over.
From Naivasha, the closest gate – Mutubio Gate – was another hour or so away. Aberdare Fishing Lodge is 180KM from Nairobi (via Nyeri) depending on the entry gate into Aberdare National Park. Due to the sporadic rain, I didn’t manage to check what gate we used to enter. Alternatively, visitors can fly in as there is an airstrip at Mweiga Park HQ.Before heading to our cabins, we stopped at the Queen’s Picnic Site, located inside the Aberdare National Park, a habitat that is also a mine of historical information. We decided to check the 10,000ft Magura Waterfalls. While everyone went down to the falls, I took a quick nap in the car since it wasn’t wheelchair accessible.
At the foot of the falls is a cave that was once used by Dedan Kimathi, the Mau Mau freedom fighter. The cave was christened the Queen’s Cave after Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, were served lunch here by Major Eric George Sherbrooke Walker in 1952. The site is ideal for picnics, as a staircase has since been constructed leading into the cave.
Once everyone got back, we drove straight to the Fishing Lodge, comprised of a set of two timber cabins set just 100 meters apart in the central moorlands of the southern half of the Aberdare National Park.The cabins are a fantastic place to spend time with friends and family, as they are close to several waterfalls and you can spot game, hike or go trout fishing from there too. The two houses each have three bedrooms: two doubles with en-suite bathrooms and one single, which can easily sleep up to seven people per cabin.By the entrance is a small kitchen equipped with a gas stove.Beyond the kitchen is an open plan living area, with a wooden dining table, a cozy living room with sofas, a fireplace and paintings of wildlife hanging on the walls. On either side of the living area are two bedrooms, each with a double bed, a single bed and bedside tables with an en-suite bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink.
The Aberdare Fishing Lodge is self-catered so you must bring your own food and firewood, as it gets quite chilly at night. There is no electricity so make sure you charge your electronics beforehand. However, the lodge provides kerosene blankets, pillows, bed linen, towels, soap, and toilet tissue.
Also, note that there is no cellular network at the lodge, ideal for having a blissful holiday. The caretaker on site who can help start the fire and heat up water on a wood burner for showers.Mom, Dad, Diva and I opted to stay in one room together, like a giant family sleepover so you can bet I asked Diva to sit on my cold, freezing feet in an effort to warm them up. As expected, she refused and continued to pull the blankets towards her. Unfortunately, the toilet on our side was missing a toilet seat so we had to share the bathroom with my uncle who had taken the other room.
The living area opened onto a patio overlooking the moorlands with an outdoor grill and a picnic table and benches. So, we cooked our meals outside and ate there too.After enjoying a late lunch of Bhagwanji kachori and gathia, everyone opted to go for a walk down to the local Gura River below, while I opted to stay in and read, especially since it wasn’t quite wheelchair accessible. Once they returned, we enjoyed our sundowner drinks on the patio, watching the rain pour and some shy antelopes prance around.
Later, Diva whipped up a truly divine, delicious chilli paneer.Then, we got the cozy wood fire started, as it was quite cold at the 3000 meters (9800 feet) altitude. Then Dad and his friends made us Pav Bhaji as we lit the kerosene lamps.And later, chilled to the bone on the patio, we ate our scrumptious dinner by the warm fireplace. For dessert, Diva made her version of s’mores, by toasting the marshmallows and then placing it between two Chocolate Digestive biscuits. These are so good and I highly recommend you to try these out at home!Exhausted, I went to bed shortly after dessert.
While I was sleeping, Diva had spent the evening fretting about the lack of cellular network and how it would affect her Snapchat streaks. She tried to go outside the lodge to find some but decided to go out the next day to find some cellular network.
The next day, we woke up around 7AM and got ready. Well, Diva woke Dad up earlier and begged dad to take her to this one spot that had a spotty signal. There, after several frantic tries, she managed to call our cousin and asked him to take care of her Snapchat streaks. (SPOILER: They were dutifully saved!)
The caretaker heated the water on a wooden burner for showers, but since it was cold, the hot water seemed to run out.
Dressed and ready for the day, we cooked breakfast on the patio. With a selection of omelets, masala baked beans, oatmeal porridge, toast and Diva’s special French toast, everyone tucked in. As I savored my Nutella and Peanut Butter French Toast Sandwich, I spotted several antelopes from afar.Excited for the day’s activities, we packed up and left to go to Treetops Lodge. We planned to do a game drive and some sightseeing, along with a picnic lunch. We stopped at the Chania Falls. The 25-meter-tall waterfall is a catchment area for Nairobi’s water and a perfect spot for adrenaline chasers in the mood to dive.
As we drove, enjoying the game drive, spotting several antelopes, ranging from bushbucks and waterbucks to reedbucks, and buffaloes, the scenery kept changing. Every few minutes, from a lush, green bamboo forest, we would be driving through a dry, fire area with dead trees. The verdant moorland really captured my heart. And we even spotted a herd of elephants!
Satiated from spotting a herd of my faves (or my family, as Diva calls it), we stopped at the Bongo Campsite to enjoy a picnic lunch of sandwiches, before heading to our final destination of the day – Treetops Lodge!
I highly recommend this no-frills Aberdare Fishing Lodge as it is a good way to relax in a different way. Just make sure to carry lots of food, firewood and plenty of warm clothing. The lodge is owned by the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) who manage the National Park so you can book directly with the KWS.
Aberdare National Park, smaller than other national parks, just covers 766 square kilometers. The difficult terrain with high moorland has rich, red volcanic soil that provides excellent growing conditions for the emerald indigenous forest.The park is home to the second largest population of the endangered black rhinos. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any. Other animals in the park include lions, leopards, baboons (we spotted these), black and white Colobus monkeys and Sykes monkeys. There are also over 250 species of birds, including hawks, eagles and sunbirds.
Besides the Fishing Lodge, there is plenty of other accommodation in the park from luxury accommodation: Treetops Lodge, The Ark and the Outspan Golf and Country Club to various campsites.
Photos by Hitesh & Diva Shah