Day Hike in Kamweti Forest via the Castle Forest Lodge
Kamweti Forest lies on the slopes of Mount Kenya in Kirinyaga County. Though not popular or well-known by this name, it is one of the indigenous forests in Kenya forming part of the Mount Kenya Forest National Park. This is one of the rarely used routes to get to the Lenana Peak of Mount Kenya and can take 5-7 days trekking with the Castle Forest Lodge being the starting point and Kamweti Camp being the first stop to the peach tent for an overnight stay.
Apart from the long treks to Mount Kenya, it is possible to go for day hikes through the forest starting at the Castle Forest Station Gate. This day hike can be easy to moderate and can be done by people with no experience in hiking. It only requires the right attitude and company to conquer the 20km trek which can take 4-6 hours depending on pace.
1-day Hiking Adventure
It all starts with a drive from the capital city, Nairobi through the Thika Superhighway to the Kirinyaga/Kutus Road and then branching off to Kimunye Road. This drive takes approximately 3 hrs, with a stop-over at Sagana to buy some snacks and have breakfast. Hence, it is advisable to start the journey from Nairobi as early as 6 am to start the hike while the weather is still cool.
It all begins at the Castle Forest Station gate, to get maximum experience, it is advisable to begin your hike at the gate especially if you love to learn about plant species, trees and birds. There is also the option of driving up to the Castle Forest Lodge which is approximately 3km from the gate.
Starting the hike at the station gate, give you more time to explore nature while you learn a lot with some diversion from the main road to some thin trail in the heavy forest. After a hours walk, you get to the Castle Forest Lodge entrance which marks the end of the vehicle trail and begins the use of old elephant and buffalo trails.
The forest starts to get thick and dense as you move further deep with a good view of Mount Kenya from a distance. It is also possible to identify elephant and rhino tracks and dung in the narrow trails. So much to learn of the various species of trees, birds and small insects. There are also so many wild berries to taste on your way.
The climax of the Kamweti Forest is the ford waterfall that majestically splashes its water from up a rocky surface. Takes some effort to manoeuvre through the thick bushes to get to the foot of the fall but with determination, you pull through. Though water is so clear and inviting it is as cold as ice-making your feet to go numb in a few seconds. It takes time for your feet to get used to and even though the sun might be shining, the water seems to get colder as you move deeper. This waterfall gives a new meaning to forest bathing and as the splashing of water down a rocky surface while the trees swing above and the wind blows, bringing a refreshing feeling to your body.
If you still have energy after a great time at the waterfall, you can change your trail while going back to the station gate. This involves exploring more parts of the forest instead of using the defined hiking trail. It makes it more exciting exploring through the thick bush and you might be able to catch some Columbus monkey hopping from one tree to the next. Though covering 20km is not easy, the satisfaction of forest bathing makes it all worthwhile and you carry experience and memories to live with till your next expedition.
Things To Note:
- Never venture into the deep forest without an experienced guide. The forest station always provides its guards to hike with people.
- The forest has wild animals like elephants, rhinos, monkeys and many more. Avoid making noise while hiking and also keep off their track in case you sight them.
- You are allowed to carry snacks of your choice as you hike but do not litter as this is a natural habitat with no hired people to clean up. The litter might be harmful to the animals that call this place home.
- Do not wander away from your group as the thick forest has no defined path and it is easy to get lost.
- It is not advisable to hike alone especially if you are not familiar with the area.
What to carry:
- Wear hiking clothes preferably long sleeves and covering your legs to avoid being scratched by the bushes. Hiking shoes that are waterproof and can do well in muddy terrains. Carry a raincoat as showers can be experienced unexpectedly. A sun hat is also advisable, especially in the sunny season.
- Carry extra clothes to change in case of muddy terrain or when it rains.
- Carry water and snack to take when taking breaks in between the walk, it does not need to be heavy. A fruit, some sugar glucose, biscuits and water will do.
- Binoculars and a zoom camera are a must-have especially for bird watching and some insect photography.
- If you are a foreigner, a passport or proof of identification might be required especially if you had not booked for the hike beforehand.
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