Aberdare National Park Safari Guide
Aberdare National Park protects the mountain range of the same name. One of the best national parks in Kenya.
Pros & Cons
Good wildlife viewing in beautiful forest habitat
A chance to see unusual nocturnal animals
Great photo opportunities
Guided hiking is available
Wildlife & Animals
Aberdare NP is home to all of the Big Five. However, it is not a typical Big Five destination. Bushbuck and defassa waterbuck are very common and sightings of elephant and buffalo are almost guaranteed. Leopard and black rhino are sometimes spotted at one of the tree hotel’s floodlit waterholes at night. Lion is rarely seen.
The park is a refuge to many interesting forest creatures, including several primates such as black-and-white colobus monkey and sykes monkey. Nocturnal animals, including giant forest hog and large-spotted genet, often visit the waterholes at night. The forest is also home to the very elusive and beautiful bongo antelope. Unfortunately, numbers have decreased over the last few decades and sightings are extremely rare.
The forests and moorlands of Aberdare NP are a birder’s paradise – more than 290 species have been recorded. The striking Hartlaub’s turaco is just one of the interesting visitors at the bird feeding platforms at the tree hotels. The indistinct Aberdare cisticola is endemic, and therefore unique, to the region and can be found at higher altitudes. Several interesting sunbirds are found in the park including the rare scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird which can be found on the mountain peaks.
Best Time to Visit
The Aberdares offer good wildlife viewing throughout the year, but heavy rain can be a hindrance. Most people will spend at least one night at one of the tree hotels – it is possible to see a lot of wildlife from the hotel without venturing further. People who want to explore the park extensively – especially hikers – should choose to visit in the Dry season from June to September or January and February.
June to September – Dry Season
It is mostly sunny and there is less rain
Animals congregate around the waterholes in front of the tree hotels
Roads are less slippery and driving around the park is easier
Best time for hiking and exploring the moorland zone at higher altitude
Hotels get very crowded
Elephant and some antelope move to higher altitudes away from tourist facilities
October to May – Wet Season
Hotels are less busy, making wildlife viewing from hotel balconies very special
Low season rates apply in April and May
Bird watching is excellent and migratory birds are present
Visibility can be low in misty, rainy conditions
Rain can interfere with game drives and hiking
Roads get very slippery and muddy
Weather & Climate
The altitude in the Aberdares varies widely – from 1,952 to 3,894m (6,404 to 12,776ft). Temperatures drop by about 6.5°C for every 1,000m you climb (or 3.5°F per 1,000ft), so even within the park there are wide climatic variations.
The climate is usually cool and misty. Heavy rain occurs year-round, averaging as much as 3,000mm per annum in the southeast areas. Being close to the equator, temperatures are quite uniform throughout the year. Warm and waterproof clothing is essentia
Dry Season – June to September
Even in the Dry season it still rains a lot. This is the coldest time of the year with afternoon temperatures around 15°C/59°F. Nighttime and early mornings are cold – just a few degrees above freezing.
June & July – It is mostly sunny but it can rain at any time. The average afternoon temperature is 15°C/59°F. It is recommended to bring warm and waterproof clothing.
August & September – Rain increases slightly in August and temperatures are picking up a little bit in September. Afternoon temperatures reach up to 16°C/61°F.
Wet Season – October to May
Although the Wet season runs from October to May, there is a drier period from December to February separating the 'short rains' from the 'long rains'. There are many overcast, cloudy days and it can rain for long periods.
October & November – ‘Short rains’: The rains usually increase sometime in October. Afternoon temperatures are around 17°C/63°F.
December, January & February – There is a period of less rain between the short and long rains. The exact timing is difficult to predict and it will still be wet some days. These are the warmest months with afternoon temperatures up to 18°C/64°F.
March, April & May – ‘Long rains’: April is the wettest month. It rains most days, but not always for the whole day. Tracks might become slippery and difficult to navigate. Early mornings are slightly less cold with average temperatures around 5°C/41°F.
Aberdare National Park is located 160km/100mi north of Nairobi and 20km/13mi southwest of Nanyuki. The drive from Nairobi takes about 2½ to 3 hours. There are daily scheduled flights to the Nanyuki airstrip. Getting to Nairobi is easy as this is one of the biggest transport hubs on the continent. International flights arrive in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi.