Close

TEMBEA KENYA

Kenya: A hiker’s paradise you need to start exploring

The scenery and sounds you will get while on your hike are worth the mental challenge.

In Summary

• At Ol Donyo Sabuk, there are bonus points for the serene views you get once you are past Thika town and driving alongside the vast pineapple farms when the sun is rising.

• The way Ol Donyo Sabuk is formed, all you have to go on is a beautiful, large and dense forest, a long winding road and a couple of of rocky uphill paths.

Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park.
Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park.
Image: KWS

When people talk of wanderlust, the images brought to mind are lavish countries abroad with sparkling blue oceans like that of the Caribbean or crisp white backdrops like that of Santorini.

The thing is, you cannot really call yourself a lover of travel and adventure when you have not yet explored your own home country.

Kenya is filled with so many beautiful and unique places - you cannot even begin to exhaust the list. It is no wonder classic movies like the Lion King have sought inspiration from our beautiful land.

 
 

One way to explore these places, is hiking. If this sport is more to your taste, then you are petty much spoilt for choice.

The mountains, hills, valleys, national parks and so on in this country, that you may or may not remember from your days of Geography are plenty and ready for you to conquer.

Either you have the option of finding a reliable tour company with organised group hikes or if you are a solo adventurer, you can always go by yourself.

There are many advantages on opting for organized group hikes. The first being meeting new people that, in hindsight, could also be a disadvantage as you might end up meeting some unpleasant characters. (I once got into an argument with someone who was of the opinion that hiking boots are not good for hiking. Yes, take a minute to let that statement ink in.)

There is of course convenience too, you get to sit back and relax as someone else drives you.

For those of us who enjoy road trips but do not actually enjoy the driving part, this is a special advantage. You do not get to think of anything other than preparing your hiking gear, curating an ideal playlist and bringing a positive attitude.

On the downside, most of these trips are a whole day’s affair and more often than not, the tour company almost never keeps time - as in Kenyan fashion.

 
 

Therefore, if you are somebody who is on a time crunch or would want to spend a Saturday doing more than just one thing, you will not be too happy on these trips.

For the solo adventurers out there, you already have two great and quick options.

There is Ol Donyo Sabuk, more commonly known as Kilima Mbogo; located in Thika.

There are bonus points for the serene views you get once you are past Thika town and driving alongside the vast pineapple farms when the sun is rising.

The scenery at Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park.
The scenery at Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park.
Image: KWS

The mountain is at most an hour away if you leave Nairobi on a Saturday Morning at 6 am.

The only thing you need to do is take caution against the drunk drivers that may be trying to get to their homes along Thika road at that time. Unfortunately, I have had enough such encounters.

Let it be known that Kilima Mbogo is not an easy hike. In my opinion, it is at least a six out of 10 in terms of difficulty.

This is for one reason only: they say that hiking is 70 per cent overcoming the mind whereas the remaining 30 per cent is the work your body has to put in.

Well, if that is the case then a lot more mental challenge is involved when climbing this work of nature.

Why you may ask? Unlike other mountains, there is no summit you can see and constantly psyche yourself into reaching.

The way Ol Donyo Sabuk is formed, all you have to go on is a beautiful, large and dense forest, a long winding road, a couple rocky uphill paths and the occasional sign boards letting you know how far you have reached and how many more kilometres you have until the summit.

My hiking buddies and I are convinced the signboards are not accurate as sometimes it feels like we have covered five kilometres rather than the two kilometres that the signboards purport.

However, it is not all bad. The scenery and sounds you will get while on your hike are worth the mental challenge.

In addition, if you are worried about the name of the mountain suggesting you will bump into Mbogos (Buffalos), do not worry: the only thing you are likely to encounter is their droppings.

On the occasion that you do bump into them, useful advice would be to lie prostrate on the ground, do not look at any buffalo in the eye and at all cost, do not climb a tree no matter how much your instincts tell you that is the best option.

I do not know how true this fact is but it’s one of those you learn in your early days and it never leaves you; a buffalo can project its urine quite high up a tree, and it will cause its victim to itch uncontrollably leading to your fall and eventual demise at the buffalos hands (or should I say horns?).

If you want to take it more slowly, there is also the option of Ngong Hills.

You can imagine my surprise when I realised this was a great hiking spot instead of being merely a place for picnics and the occasional random university student plot.

On these hills, you either have the option to cover all seven hills including going through the forest and emerging on the other side: Kona Baridi.

However, you would have to organize your transport to be waiting for you on that side, as coming back to the main entrance parking is not a feasible option.

On the other hand, you could begin your hike at the entrance, starting from the main road up to the picnic point and only turning back at the beginning of the forest.

By then you would have covered four hills and technically another four on the way back. You also do not require a guide with this option, as the open hills are not as dangerous as the thick and sometimes dangerous Ngong Forest (unlike Kilima Mbogo, you might encounter a few rogue buffalos in the forest; therefore an armed guide is advised).

With that being said, do not think about it too much­ - you might convince yourself out of this great experience.

This coming Saturday, just get yourself into a car at dawn and drive to one of these hiking spots. On the bright side, there is no losing scenario.

If you go and you do not like it, at least you finally get to confirm hiking is not for you. If you go and you do like it, then you have started a passion that cannot be exhausted in this beautiful country we call Kenya. Happy hiking!


More: