Famous Serena Lodge in Mount Kenya
The highest national park in the world, arguably, is located in Mount Kenya. This volcanic mountain is a national icon and the country’s highest mountain, wildlife preserve. It is also a Natural World Heritage and a climber’s Mecca.
Walls, secondary peaks, couloirs and ice-cliffs rise up in profusion from Mount Kenya. The edges of the jet stream shaped by nature have fashioned it into an African jewel. But to appreciate Mount Kenya’s beauty and its moods it is necessary to climb it. And that too through the juniper and bamboo forests, garlanded with Spanish moss. These climbs alter all the time in quality because of the unpredictable weather changes. For example, an ice pitch can turn into a treacherous slush during sunny days. And mountain climbing carried out in the rains has never been successful conquests. For this reason, climbing is best done during the two dry seasons of Kenya – July to early October and January to early March. An understanding of the dynamics of the snow and sun on Mount Kenya is a good starting point for any mountain climber.
Translucent mountain snow
Undoubtedly, Mount Kenya’s eternal and perpetual snows provide its real fascination. At the height of 3,000 meters, they appear pellucid, and at 4,000 meters, the ice-cliffs sparkle. These diamonds change their beauty and shape with the daily freezing and melting of the snows. But the 19th-century geographers rejected the marvel of snow on the Equator as improbable and ridiculed the reports by Ludwig Krapf, the German missionary, of a snow-capped mountain. And the most skeptical among those learned men only grudgingly accepted the eyewitness confirmation of the peak.
Glittery mountain sun
The sheer face of one cliff named ‘Diamond Couloir’ which is 700 meter high refracts the light of the morning sun. The sun during the first and the second half of the year is in the southern and northern hemisphere respectively, which creates a unique phenomenon to Mount Kenya. The south receives direct sunlight and provides ideal rock climbs in the first six months. The north face remains iced-up because it is excluded from direct sunlight and offers ice climbs. Then within days in the second half, as the solstice changes, the situation reverses.
Defiant mountain climb
John Gregory, the Scots geologist, undertook the earliest recorded ascent to Mount Kenya’s glacial zone in 1893 while the first to climb Bastian was Sir Halford Mackinder. Eric Shipton led the second expedition to the summit 30 years later. Today, the peaks challenge, provoke and stimulate masters who have conquered Himalayan routes. Indeed, mountain climbers and experts rate Kenya as the most terrible ice mountain in the world. For amateur climbers, it is possible to ascend Lenana Peak, but the higher peaks are for hardcore mountain climbers. Even then, it is highly advisable to climb very carefully because it has the world’s highest incidence of pulmonary edema due to no motor access to great heights.
Take a walk
The excitement begins with a stroll around the base of the dead volcano out of which the mountain’s ice-capped, craggy topmost peaks rise. Mount Kenya’s walks are unique with the tarns that stud the radial valleys. Indeed, its moorlands are as varied and exciting as those of the neighboring Mount Elgon and Aberdares. Magnificent predatory birds haunt the cliffs and lower peaks. Here, there is a chance of spotting the melanistic black leopard.
Famous Serena Lodge
For those unwilling or unable to ascend to Mount Kenya, it is worth spending a couple of nights at Serena Lodge. The panorama surrounding the lodge is delightful with their dramatic features. It is set in the dense rainforest zone on the slopes of Mount Kenya within the National Park in Kenya’s Nyeri District, about a three-hour drive and 193 kilometers from Nairobi.
Tree hotel beckons
Similar in concept to the tree-hotels of the Aberdares, Serena Lodge has a setting above a waterhole, overshadowed by Mount Kenya and rimmed by rainforest. The lodge boasts the most spectacular forest waterholes with a constant ballet of wildlife including a variety of bird and mammal species. The Lodge has a viewing-deck and a veranda that gazes down on to a salt lick and waterhole. Numerous herds of buffalo and elephant frequently visit this place. The lodge also offers an introduction to other wildlife of the montane forests of Kenya: from colobus monkeys to the giant forest hog accompanied by trumpeting hornbills and touracos. Chirping tree frogs and wailing tree hyraxes are regularly seen. Leopard, rhino, waterbuck, and lion are occasional visitors. A tunnel connects the lodge to a specially built viewing bunker hideout, providing the chance to get very close to the wildlife and offering spectacular photographic opportunities just meters away from the animals.
As night approaches, the surrounding trees come alive with a melee of sounds as night creatures begin their nightly rituals that make the bush so exhilarating and unique. Undoubtedly, the sweeping views across the treetops and the cold, clear mountain air beckons with opportunity for exploration and discovery.
Luxuriously decorated rooms
The Lodge has cabin-styled, timber-built rooms with a private balcony and luxury ensuite bathroom overlooking the waterhole. The furnishings of rooms are of indigenous African and wood art, decorated with rugs. The décor echoes the Kikuyu culture, featuring soft lighting and hand-woven wall hangings. The dining room serves international cuisine. Game drives, guided forest walks, and hikes to Mount Kenya are on offer. Guests also have a chance to view birdlife and game in the open forest in roofless vehicles.