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From Ithumba we head back towards Nairobi before heading north to the town of Nyeri, where we spend a night before moving on the following morning to the Aberdare Park Gate. The Park protects two very different environments: the high moorland and peaks, which form the Park's main body, and the lower slopes including the Salient to the east where the vegetation is dense forest and there is considerably more wildlife. The Park’s diversity and unusual ecosystem means the park is home to a wide range of mammals, including black rhino and a number of other endangered species such as bongo, giant forest hog and wild dogs. More easily observed are black and white colobus monkey, Syke’s monkey, elephant, buffalo and the occasional leopard. Bird viewing is also rewarding, with over 250 species of birds in the park, many of which are endemic.

Below the forested slopes is rich, fertile soil that is farmed extensively by the Kikuyu. The inevitable result has been conflict between the park’s elephants and the farmers. The solution means the Aberdare Park is one of the few Kenyan reserves to be fenced, hopefully putting an end to the conflict. The electrified fence is also proving useful in protecting Kenya’s largest surviving population of black rhino, although, as always, they are difficult to find in the thick forest.

The Park is very different from most of Kenya’s other parks and is not on many tour companies’ agendas. The contrast between the Aberdares and the better-known plains of the Maasai Mara or Tsavo's thornbush could not be greater. On the high moors, looking a bit like the Scottish Highlands, it can seem a little surreal to see elephants tramping through the heather. Mist and rain occur throughout much of the year, with precipitation varying from around 1000mm yearly on the north western slopes to as much as 3000mm in the south east. Heavy rainfall occurs through most of the year making 4 wheel drive essential and at times the Park is completely inaccessible.

We will be staying at the secluded and exclusive Rhino Retreat Guest House, run by the Rhino Ark Conservation Trust, in a fabulous setting with its own salt like that attracts a variety of wildlife to the house.
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