Mount Kenya

Centred on Africa's second highest mountain, Mount Kenya National Park covers the most astonishing variation in terrain. The twin high peaks of extinct volcano Mount Kenya, Batian at 5199m and Nelion at 5188m, are the only places on the equator to boast permanent snow. Four days, for the fit amateur, will see you to the top of the lower peak, Lanana, and on the way up allow you to see the GM-looking giant plant life of the mountainsides, including a huge lobelia of up to ten feet high quite unlike our own garden varieties, and giant rosette plants! The two higher peaks, joined by a ridge called the Gate of Mists, are strictly for the accomplished climber and Mount Kenya is rated, even by Himalayan climbers, as one of the most difficult ice mountains in the world. To the Kikuyu, Kenya's largest ethnic group, Mount Kenya is the home of the God Ngai who sits atop the highest peak and is thus their sacred mountain.

Forested with juniper and podo from about two thousand metres, the vegetation changes to bamboo and then a thick canopy of lesser trees. Spanish moss frosts the trees, watered by the mists of the mountain slopes. Leopard, elephant, colobus monkeys, the shy bongo and buffalo inhabit the forest. Stunning sunbirds in jewel bright colors may be seen on the slopes. The Mount Kenya mole rat and the Mount Kenya mole shrew, specific to the area, are rare. The elusive golden cat can also be found at higher altitudes and it is said that on the moors there is a better chance of seeing the melanistic black leopard.

Tracks up the mountain are passable in good weather by four wheel drive vehicles. The Naro Moru track leads through the main gate to the park and takes you to about ten thousand feet. The Chogoria track, on the Meru side, takes you to about fourteen thousand feet. High altitude moorland walks are of stunning beauty. Tarns twinkle in the sunlight and the views are utterly breathtaking.