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The fertile slopes of the central Highlands were recognised by European settlers as being great farming country for tea, coffee, wheat and flowers. Many came and took the land with the colonial government's blessing. There was little regard for tribal land or local customs and this created great resentment, which erupted into the bloody Mau Mau Rebellion of the 1950's.
Dedan Kimathi was the notorious Mau Mau leader and had his terrorist headquarters in the thick forests of the Aberdare Mountain Range. He knew the forest well and it took a considerable manhunt to track him down in 1956.
The Aberdares retain an air of mystery and it would be easy to get lost amongst its thickly wooded hills and mountains, the highest of which reaches to a lofty 14,000 feet (4,267m). The mountain air is rare and crisp and the Aberdare Rainforest is a vital water catchment supplying the whole of Nairobi. Water cascades over spectacular waterfalls and into rivers swimming with trout.
Aberdare National Park is famous for its tree-house hotels - Treetops and The Ark. With walkways and accommodation raised into the forest canopy, you can watch animals from a unique vantagepoint. Positioned by waterholes and natural salt licks, animals provide constant entertainment and seem undisturbed by the stream of curious visitors, some of whom stay up all night to catch sightings of shy animals by floodlight. There is even a viewing hide dug below ground with windows level with the waterhole, where elephants fee come within inches of your face.
ANIMALS & BIRDS
A trip into the treetop lodges of the Aberdares is quite unique and the rooms have a bell system, to wake you up for particularly good sightings, whereupon you can go to the viewing decks or just peer out of your window. For example a leopard may warrant two rings, while a hyena might only get one ring.
Elephants dominate the waterholes and salt licks and when the lions and hyenas want a drink they have to contend with elephants seeing them off at great speed. Leopards are shy and are best seen under the night-time floodlight.
Game drives or walks through the forest may reveal some of the monkeys for whom this is ideal habitat, and some of the many birds found here. At about 10,000 feet (3,048m), the bamboo thickets are the favourite haunt of the bongo, a rare and elusive forest antelope.