People like being on top because of one reason- power. That’s why we all have a slight resentment toward our bosses. There’s a lot of benefits that come with being on top and one of them is that you get to enjoy the view. I have a couple of reasons as to why I have never gone hiking in Kenya despite the numerous hiking opportunities that pass me by every year.
Aside from the fact that I’d probably shit my pants, I don’t know the best locations for beginner hikes in Kenya. I sought to enlighten myself and the thousands I represent with the information presented below. If you’re wondering what some of the best locations for beginner hikes in Kenya are as well as tips on what to expect, sit back and enjoy your read.
-If you’re crossing one county to another for a hike, consider that there’s going to be a change in sea level. Just because you live in a hot area, don’t expect the conditions to be the same in a different area. Such a change in altitude can cause dizziness, nausea and headaches.
-Make sure you take sips of water, deep breaths and walk at a steady pace. Darwin might have convinced you otherwise, but on a hill or mountain no one is rushing you to do what you might not be able to do.
-We can learn a lot from weather. When it’s hot, we rush to complain and desperately crave cold weather, but when it’s cold we’re doing the opposite. Lesson- never change your needs to suit someone else’s.
-You can do your best to follow the forecast, weather predictions, heck, you could even send out a few tweets to the meteorological department, but all this will never guarantee that the weather will remain as the weatherman says it will.
-On your way up a mountain, you’re likely to experience hailstones, light showers, unbearable heat or cold, mist, etc. Solution? Keep moving!
-Never expect the trail to be the same. Just because the bottom was Savanna, doesn’t mean the middle will be too.
-It’s easy to travel in a group and preferably with a guide.
-If this is your first time hiking in Kenya, make sure you wear essential hiker clothes. Wear shoes with a good grip and not a pair of rubber shoes or sneakers. Your backpack needs to have well-padded straps. Carry a raincoat with you, water and snacks.
-First time hikers should ditch the shorts since they offer zero protection against thorns or potential bruises. It’s best not to wear any dangling earrings, bracelets or any form of jewelry too.
Best places for beginners to go hiking in Kenya
Ngong Hills are located about 22Kms South West of Nairobi. Once you get to Ngong Town you’ll have to walk past Ngong Police Station up until you meet a Kenya Forest Reserve barrier. Half drained, sweaty and questioning why you decided to go hiking in Ngong Hills in the first place, you will now be officially entering Ngong Hills Forest Reserve. And the hike hasn’t even began yet!
You’ll need to walk 1 or 2 more Kms before you see the first hill. You’ll pass some windmills on the way and it might just be a great time to take that selfie.
It would be much simpler to just have a car drop you at the first hill, but c’mon, where’s the fun in that?
There are 7 hills. As you climb the 4th hill, you’ll already be deep into Ngong forest. If you’re lucky (or unlucky) you might spot a few buffaloes. Once you complete the 7th hill, you’ll want to give yourself a pat on the back. The view is breathtaking and you will feel like you are in the presence of the Creator. You will feel like Columbus discovering a distant land of treasures. You will feel the breath of God. You will feel tired.
At this point, hikers have two notions; keep going all the way to Kona Baridi or turn back and go back the way they came. What’s yours?
Ngong Hills make for a perfect beginner’s hike in Kenya because the hills are physically challenging, pocket friendly and suitable for a day climb. Some hikers climb one or two hills and call it quits. However, what’s the use of starting something if you don’t intend to go all the way?
-Ol Donyo Sabuk aka Kilimambogo
Ol Donyo Sabuk is located 25 Km East of Thika town. It’s a national park under Kenya Wildlife Service. The climb up Kilimambogo is a tough one, especially the first 5 to 6 Km stretch while using the footpath. The marram road you meet almost feels like manna from heaven which will then give you a gradual ascend to the top.
You’ll enjoy the sight of the forest on your way up. You almost feel like Gandalf exploring an enchanted forest. After walking for about 2-3 hours, you’ll finally make your way to the top without even realizing it.
Tip: If you want to catch the view of a lifetime, you may consider climbing the telecommunication masts at the peak. Not to worry, there are workers stationed here who’ll help you climb the mast. This can definitely get you a little anxious because of the height, but hey you just hiked Kilimambogo and I believe you can do this. The climb will definitely be worth it because you’ll get to see Nairobi at a distant South, the surrounding plains used as pineapple fields, Masinga dam and, on a clear day, Mt Kenya to the North and Mt Kilimanjaro to the West. Typing that sentence alone had me anxious for a beginner’s hike at Kilimambogo!
Kijabe hill is located right next to Mt Longonot. The best way to describe a hike at Kijabe Hill would be this; short and intense. It takes beginners about 30 minutes to climb this hill, but don’t be fooled, she can have you panting by the time you reach the top.
Once at the top, the view that awaits you is spectacular. You will literally have a front row seat to a breathtaking display of the floor of the Rift Valley, the Mt Longonot crater, Mt Suswa at the far horizon and the short Mt Margaret which is just a few kilometers from Mai Mahiu town.
It’s a perfect place to catch the sunset, but the cold strong breeze will force you to make your way back down just as fast as you went up.
Climbers can ask the friendly locals for directions or use sight-navigation to access the hill. One important point to note is that the route you use determines the difficulty level of your experience. Different expert climbers as well as beginner hikers have had different experiences with climbing Kijabe hill. Some call her a walk in the park while others say this was one of their toughest climbs. All in all, one thing remains, the whole experience is definitely exciting!
Now that you know the best places for beginners to go hiking in Kenya, I hope that I will be spotting you on one of these locations very soon. It’s always safer to go hiking with a trained guide or group. You can find prices for entrance fees et al., for all these places on the KWS Website.
The last thing you need is your guide or tour group pulling a Steve Harvey or showing up late. If you’re looking for a reliable and experienced team for your next climb, you may consider checking out HiKenya Adventures. This group of trained individuals is the best helping hand any beginner hiker in Kenya could ever wish for!
(Info on hiking sites courtesy of HiKenya Adventures. I do not own these images. Credit goes to owners)