Ol Donyo Sabuk Day Hike
Distance from Nairobi is About 70km
Starting Point: Ol Donyo Sabuk Park Gate
Ending point: Ol Donyo Sabuk Park Gate
Walking Duration: 5 hours
Terrain: Rough boulder-strewn motorable road, with part of the hike along steep rocky trails.Difficulty,Moderate, with some steep climbing.
The Ol Donyo Sabuk mountain, also known as Kilimambogo or Buffalo Mountain, is situated about 70km north-east of Nairobi, and about 25km east of Thika town. It is a National Park under the jurisdiction of Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) that covers an area of about 20 square kilometres, with most of its surface covered by a natural forest and habited by Buffaloes, monkeys, antelopes and other grazers. Standing at 2145m above sea level at its highest, it offers panoramic views of the surrounding plains and the distant Nairobi to the south, Masinga Dam and Mt Kenya to the north, and Mt Kilimanjaro to the west.
This mountain’s proximity to Nairobi and its relatively higher altitude than the surrounding landscape makes it a popular location for radio repeater stations. Its top is bristling with telecommunication masts set up by telecommunication providers, the military, Kenya police, Kenya Power & Lighting Company and other organizations with north bound communication links. As a result, a road that’s motorable by 4 wheel drive vehicles winds its way to the top to enable servicing of these facilities.
For hiking enthusiasts, this mountain is ideal for a day hike. The 10km climb to the top takes between 2 to 3 hours depending on your level of fitness, with the descent taking another 2 hours. At the KWS Park Gate, there is a serviced Campsite for those who wish to spend the night and do the hike very early when chances of encountering herds of buffaloes are much higher. Hikers are required to be accompanied on the hike by a KWS ranger, who provides security against buffalo attacks. All along the way up, you encounter a stunning array of flora that thrives here undisturbed by human exploitation. Barely 2 km from the top, you pass by the grave of Lord William Northrup MacMillan, an American who owned the mountain during the colonial era and hosted the former US President Theodore Roosevelt during his Safari to Kenya in 1911, and the wartime British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.
Lord MacMillan’s exploits and adventures, as well as his philanthropic legacies such as the MacMillan Library in Nairobi, are well documented. About 3km from Ol Donyo Sabuk is the Fourteen Falls on Athi River, an attraction not to be missed when you are in the neighbourhood. Access to the Waterfalls is currently managed by Thika County Council, which charges visitors a modest fee.A curious and incomprehensible practice by the gatekeepers is to also charge visitors for carrying cameras.
From Nairobi, you can get to Ol Donyo Sabuk by public means using either Thika or Ol Donyo Sabuk matatus from the Ronald Ngala Matatu Stage near the OilLibya Petrol station . From Thika, take matatus for Ol Donyo Sabuk town, situated 2km from the KWS Park Gate.
If driving, use Thika Road and at the Thika turnoff, take Garissa Road and go right past Thika for about 18km. Look out for the KWS sign to the right indicating the direction to the mountain. Take this turn and at the next junction about 1km down this earth road, turn left and drive till Ol Donyo Sabuk Town, where you take another right turn to the KWS Gate 2km from this town.
You can get further information from the Kenya Wildlife Service site.