Regarded as one of Kenya’s top parks to visit for both first-time and avid safari-goers, the Aberdare National Park is a fairly small national park located in Kenya’s cool central highlands along the Great Rift Valley. Aberdare National Park boasts two unique landscapes; a moorland plateau and areas of dense rainforest and lush mountainous regions of valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and forests.
The Aberdare National Park offers a totally different safari experience to the better-known, open savannah parks of Kenya. When you visit the Aberdare on safari, you’ll not only enjoy unique and spectacular scenery, you’ll also experience excellent game viewing.
The Aberdare National Park is well located and easy to get to, making it a great addition to your Kenyan safari itinerary.
With so much to see, do, explore, and experience, here are some of the top reasons why you should visit Aberdare National Park in Kenya.
Highlights of visiting Aberdare National Park in Kenya
- Home to the Big 5
- Has the second largest black rhino population
- In Kenya’s Central Highlands, it has a unique range of moors and tropical forests
- Much cooler and more pleasant climate than many of the other parks
- Chance to see rare forest animals like the bongo antelope, Colobus monkey, black leopard
- Photographic hides close to salt licks and waterholes get you close to big game
- Year-round safari destination with excellent game viewing
Abundant Wildlife & Rare Game
Naturally, wildlife viewing is one of the primary reasons to plan an African safari adventure. Aberdare National Park boasts a vast diversity and robust population of wildlife. Avid wildlife enthusiasts will have the pleasure of seeing every member of the renowned African Big 5, elephants, lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhino in their natural habitat, with sightings of elephant and buffalo almost guaranteed. Aberdare National Park also has the second largest black rhino population.
In addition to the Big 5, Aberdare National Park is home to a distinct variety of remarkable and extremely rare wildlife species and forest-dwelling game. Some of the rare species you may be lucky enough to see include, the black serval, the black leopard, the black-and-white Colobus monkey, skyes monkey, golden cat, giant forest hog, the nocturnal greater galago, Harvey’s red duiker, and the eastern bongo, the country’s most elusive antelope that lives in the bamboo forests.
If you time your trip to Kenya’s Aberdare National Park to coincide with the dry season, you’ll be able to witness the bountiful abundance of wildlife congregating at the waterholes, as well as the rare black leopard and black rhinos if you’re lucky.
Exceptional Bird Watching
Undoubtedly one of the top reasons why you should visit Aberdare National Park in Kenya is its prolific birdlife and bird watching opportunities. The moorlands and forests of Aberdare National Park are home to over 290 species of birds. Some of the less common bird species avid birders can look forward to spotting at Aberdare include, the rare scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird, Hartlaub’s turaco, Red necked Spurfowls, and the Aberdare cisticola, which is entirely endemic to the region.
As many of these remarkable bird species can be found at higher altitudes like mountain peaks, be sure to pack some powerful binoculars for a satisfying bird watching experience.
One of the many great things about Aberdare National Park is the fact that it is considered to be more of a year-round safari destination compared to other national parks and reserves in Kenya. This is due to its mountainous area which can experience both mist and rain all year long.
While it is possible to enjoy an exceptional and exciting safari experience at the Aberdare National Park throughout the year, the drier months of January and February and June to September are typically the best times to visit, especially when it comes to game viewing. The dry season is also the perfect time for those looking to explore the park more extensively, such as avid hikers.
Dry season highlights include (June – September):
- It is mostly sunny and there is less rain
- Large herds of animals congregate around the waterholes allowing for exceptional wildlife sightings
- It is the best time for hiking and exploring the moorland zone at higher altitude
- Driving around the park is easier
Wet season highlights include (October – May):
- Bird watching is excellent and migratory birds are present
- Park, hotels, reserves, and lodges are less crowded
- Low season rates apply
Downfalls to visiting Aberdare National Park during the wet season:
- Heavy rainfall can be a hinderance to wildlife sightings
- Wildlife visibility is low due to misty, rainy conditions
- Rainfall can interfere with game drives, hiking, bushwalks, and other safari experiences
Along with the exciting prospect of enjoying close encounters with wildlife and spotting rare and endemic birdlife, Aberdare National Park’s stunning scenery has captured the hearts of many. Boasting endless miles of woodlands, forests, swamps, and anthill-dotted plains, exploring Aberdare’s beautiful panoramic backdrops and unique landscapes are an adventure in itself.
Whether you’re walking or driving through the undulating savannah plains and picture-perfect African landscapes of Aberdare National Park, the vast range of scenic natural wonders and remarkable wildlife will provide you with endless photo opportunities to capture your experience.
Aberdares Mountains & Mount Kenya
Rising to 5,199m / 17,057ft high, Mount Kenya is the largest mountain in Kenya and the second tallest in Africa, topped only by the famous Kilimanjaro. Linked to the more westerly 3,999m Aberdare Mountain Range by an elevated grassy saddle, these two massifs represent extremes of geological antiquity. Both Mount Kenya and the Aberdares Mountains are protected within a national park.
The two mountains collectively support most of the country’s surviving Afro-montane forest and Afro-alpine moorland and share many ecological affinities. The Aberdares Mountains and Mount Kenya are host to an exceptional diversity of fauna, as well as all the iconic members of the African Big 5, alongside more localised forest species such as Sykes monkey, black‑and‑white colobus, Harvey’s red duiker, mountain antelope, and giant forest hogs.
Space, Privacy & Exclusivity
If you’re eager to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy a more exclusive safari experience in Kenya, Aberdare National Park is the ideal safari destination. As Aberdare does not see as many visitors compared to Kenya’s larger and more popular parks like the Masai Mara and Amboseli National Park, a trip to Aberdare National Park means you get to enjoy more space and privacy.
Positioned to provide true away-from-it-all indulgence, it will feel like you’ve escaped to your own piece of unspoiled African wilderness. The only ‘interruptions’ you’ll encounter are wandering elephants, curios giraffes, lions roaring at twilight, laughing hyenas, high-pitched bird calls, and, if you’re lucky, a leopard basking in the midday sun. This makes for an intimate and unforgettable one-on-one encounter with nature and a more fulfilling African safari experience.
Aberdare National Park is one of Kenya’s more historic wildlife parks with a profound colonial history. Well established lodges like Treetops and The Ark are not only regarded as two of the top safari lodges for first-time and avid safari-goers visiting Aberdare, but continues to boast about their illustrious guest lists from days gone by.
These historic treetop lodges gained overnight fame in 1952 when it hosted the young Princess Elizabeth on the very night that her father King George VI died, and she became the uncrowned Queen of the United Kingdom.
Kenya is regarded as one of the world’s most pristine African safari destinations. Home to some of the best – if not the best – parks, conservancies and game reserves in Africa, people travel to Kenya from all around the globe to experience one of the most unique African adventures.
To ensure you have the ultimate African safari experience when visiting Kenya, have a look at our ‘Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Kenya‘ blog for all the best places to go on your trip.