Discover Kiambu County
Brief Overview of Kiambu County
The higher western region of the populous Kiambu County is covered by equal proportions of farms and forest reserves, together with portions of the Aberdare Range that rises to about 4000 ms east of the Rift Valley. The A104 Mombasa-Uganda Road which cruises across the western area of Kiambu, from Kikuyu to Kijabe, passes right through some of these forests. Its extreme western border skirts the steep fault-scarps of the Rift Valley Escarpment. The middle region of Kiambu carries a similar unveil of greenery, where its invariable bright red soils support flourishing coffee, tea and dairy farms around Gachege, Githunguru, Limuru and Kikuyu. In its eastern region, as the land slopes to meet the lower-lying Machakos County, the land is less verdant with less hills and scarps that abound in the west. This is heavily settled and developed. The A2 Cape to Cairo or Nairobi-Nyeri Road travels across the eastern region, from Githurai to Thika.
Although Kiambu County has no official National Parks and Reserves, there is adventure – in abundance. Almost one fifth of Kiambu County (476.3 km2) is under forest cover. Its upper highland zone, in the region around Lari which is an extension of the Aberdare Reserve, is dominated by highly dissected ranges. It is very wet, steep and cragged, yet, it is a cardinal water catchment resource. All in all, Kiambu County has the largest correlative tree cover in Kenya. The latest spot for adventure-makers within these forests is the swashbuckling 2.2 kms zip-line over the Kereita Forest which takes venturesome trippers flying high at speeds of about 60 kph over the variegated forest canopy. The 6 zip-line tour packs-in a devil-may-care punch of adrenaline and offers unprecedented views of the magnificently cited Kereita Forest for the self-assured speed junkie.
The fact that Kiambu County is a peri-urban and dormitory region for Nairobi City means its infrastructure and its hospitality industry is go great guns and evolved. Kiambu Town, its capital, is surrounded by hilly Kikuyu farmland that are fast-growing under urbanization as Nairobi City expands and more people settle in neighbouring townships. Kiambu Town is seen as the future anchor to Nairobi, that will sooner or later expend its limited space for growth. Currently, it has a 40% rural to 60% urban outlook. Likewise, Kiambu County is the entry point to Nairobi from every corner of Kenya, which it links to Nakuru, Kajiado, Machakos, Muranga and Nyeri Counties. For the golf-lovers, Kiambu County is famous as the golfing capital of Kenya, with no less than five acclaimed courses.
Salient Features of Kiambu County
- County Number 22
- Area – 2543 km2
- Altitude – 6500 ft
- Major Towns – Thika, Kiambu, Limuru
- Borders – Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Muranga, Nyandarua, Nakuru
Brief History of Kiambu County
Much of the history of Kiambu before 1895 has been obliterated by time and is largely a big unknown. It is thought that the Wandorobo Tribe were the utmost inhabitants of Kiambu County. By the turn of the 19 century, a wave of Kikuyu settlements were impinging on the southern flanks of the forested Aberdare Ranges acquiring land from the Wandorobo and settling in great numbers. The arrival of European settlers is also by no means clear, but, by 1890 missionaries and traders had began passing through Kiambu. The Crown Lands Ordinance, which was effected in 1902, shifted ‘the rights to the land’ to the settler farmers.
Places of Interest in Kiambu County
1. Kinale Forest
Kinale Forest, set at Lari, is one of the surpassing roadside attractions between Nairobi and Naivasha – alongside the memorable view of the Great Rift Valley near Limuru. This forest forms the lower sections of Nyandarua Forest, more proper Aberdare Forest. The unusually reposeful forest – a classic lovers patch – is best known for the symmetry of its slender softwood planted forest and its evergreen carpet of trim indigenous grass. Kinale Forest is also a photographers paradise owing to the play of light on the trees and its pretty symmetry. If the roadside lure of Kinale becomes irresistible, it is perfectly okay to drop-in at the forest and enjoy a few fleeting moments wandering it on foot. There is no cover charge for entering Kinale Forest. It is found at Lari about 61 kms from Nairobi.
2. Kereita Forest
The 47 km2 Kereita Forest, also known as Kikuyu Escarpment Forest, marching with the southern end of Aberdare Range and eastern ridge of the Rift Valley, is the paragon of the primeval forests in Kiambu. Since 1996, Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) has worked assiduously with the locals around the Kikuyu Escarpment with a primary focus on conservation and reforestation in response to anthropogenic pressures. The adventure outfit at Kereita is simply known as The Forest. From their base, adventure-makers can “answer the call to the wild” in more than a few ways that include riverine walks, fly fishing, exploring Thaba Falls, mountain biking, horse riding, archery, paint-balling, foot golf, and tree planting. Unique to The Forest is its 2 kms long zip line, operated by the Flying fox, which is Kenya’s longest. It offers unparalleled views of Kereita Forest and Aberdere Range. There is also an on-site restaurant and a goodly camping site. For a more conservation-oriented trip, callers to the forest can visit Kereita Tree Nursery based at KENVO’s Resource Centre, adjacent to the forest. The second nursery at Carbacid, begun in 2004, is primarily funded by the Carbacid mining company, which mines carbon dioxide in the area. Kereita is also designated as an Important Birding Area home to at least 120 bird species including Turacos, shrikes, cuckoos and the rare Abbott’s starling. It is found 40 kms from Nairobi.
3. Gatamaiyu Camp
The biologically-diverse forest trail of Gatamaiyu Camp is enclosed by Kereita Forest. It marks the southern limits of the forest patches which collectively fall within the Kikuyu Escarpment. Gatamaiyu Camp is a no-frills all thrills nature-lovers spot, mostly liked for its forest trail that is marked by a rugged trail with plenty of steep-sided-valleys containing slow-flowing streams that culminate at Thaba Falls; that is the primary interest of visitors to this forest trail. Along the riverine walk, trippers can easily spot plenty of monkeys and birds. The walk commences at the Gatamaiyu Forest Gate and follows the course of the river, to Thaba Falls. A round trip takes about 2 hours. It is located 41 kms from Nairobi.
4. Great Rift Valley Viewpoint
About 2 kms beyond the turnoff into Limuru Town, round the bend, one of the most magnificent sights of Kenya unfolds. It is the astounding view of the Great Rift Valley. At Limuru Viewpoint, for hundreds of feet below, the unswerving tenacity of the flattened valley, only interspersed by few and far between extinct volcanoes, stretches away as far as the eye can see. Even the most cynical and skeptic of travellers become awestruck by the radiance of the Great Rift Valley. Indeed, every hour of day and each passing season transforms the Rift Valley to a unique sight, and a new experience infallibly. Simply enjoying the view is the star experience at the Limuru Viewpoint – an activity that could take an hour. This wondrous valley is the gateway to the Rift Valley Region and the universal welcome to Nakuru County. From here, the road drops to the floor of the Rift Valley, through Lakes Naivasha and Elementaita before arriving at Nakuru. It is located 35 kms from Nairobi (nearby Limuru), and 19 kms before Kinale Forest.
5. Munje Gardens
Sometimes known as Limuru Gardens, owing to its close proximity to Limuru Town, Munje Gardens is widely known as an events venue largely catering to weddings, corporate events and team building. When there is a breathing spell between events, these gardens are perfect for some quietude in nature. Set on a 20-acres tea farm overlooking yet more tea farmlands in Limuru, it lacks little in beauty. It is located in Nyathuguna Village, about 2 kms from Limuru Town.
6. Kiambethu Farm
It’s always a perfect cuppa and it has been at the Kiambethu Farm since 1914, when it was established by British settler farmer Arnold B. McDonell. The long lived farm, now run by the 5th generation, gained popularity from hosting an enviable listicle of prominent world figures to include Jimmy Carter, former US President. Their long-standing tea-tours include exploring their tea farms, tea breaks, lunches, and round table talks of the chronicles of tea in Kiambu. At the outset, this 350-acres tea sanctuary was one of the first commercial tea farms in Kenya. Over the years, it was reduced in size and today it covers only 35-acres. Although Kiambethu Farm is much smaller now, it is salutatory to reflect that their tea tours have been ongoing since 1960. The magic and charm live on. It is situated 33 kms from Nairobi CBD, in Tigoni, nearby St. Thomas School Tigoni.
It was bought and farmed by AB McDonell in 1910. He was a pioneer in the tea industry being one of the first to make and sell tea commercially in Kenya – now one of Kenya’s largest exports. Five generations have lived on Kiambethu and it is currently run by his granddaughter Fiona Vernon.
7. Waterfalls Inn, Tigoni
The number of hangouts and good eateries around the Limuru-Tigoni area has steadily increased since 2012, to almost 20 in mid-2018, fueling a propinquity and similitude from residents of Nairobi and its environs who like to enjoy a long day out of the city, and for a weekend staycation. The principle of many of these destinations is to provide restful hidey-holes where guests can unbend and unwind away from the hither and thither of the bustling city life. Just two decades ago, there used to be long debates over where and what to see in this area, but today the appreciation goes deeper. In the wake of numerous spots, catering to different kind of guests, the number of people visiting the area each weekend in now in the hundreds. One of the popular and inexpensive spots in Tigoni, within pretty tea-landscapes and as salubrious a countryside as can be enjoyed in the highlands of Africa, is Waterfalls Inn, Tigoni – near Kiambethu Tea Farm. As the name suggests, the waterfalls is quite an attraction. It is most liked as a picnic site after which guests can stroll to the falls or wander through the surrounding tea farms backdropped by the skyline of Nairobi. A restaurant is also available. There are no lodging facilities. A cover charge of Shs. 300 (pp).
8. All Saints, Limuru
The heart-warming ediface of All Saints Limuru, constructed in the late 1950’s, is arguably one of the most beautiful village Churches seen in Kenya. It is also one of the oldest Churches in Kiambu County still in service. All Saint Limuru epitomizes the traditional Victorian architecture and it excellently preserves the baroque details and dainty designs of the day. The first recorded service at this site dates back to 1910, which was overseen by Reverend P. Bennet in the initial Church building – which was a little timber and iron erection on stilts. Most of the wood used for the construction of the new Church was donated by Arnold B. McDonell, of the close by Kiambethu Farm. The edifice of the All Saints Limuru is also cherished for its superior workmanship and its esteem as a community project. The memories of its unifying construction are still lovingly recited here.
9. Brackenhurst Centre
Started in 1914 as the Three Trees Farm, and reestablished as the Brackenhurst International Conference Centre in 1964, it is set on a scenically-splendid 100-acres of indigenous forest in the verdant suburb of Tigoni. It has been hosting conferences in East Africa for more than 50 years. At the same time, there are plenty of activities for the casual and extempore guests, that include: its high or low rope challenge courses, touring nearby indigenous forests, its team building programs, mountain biking and birding. Brackenhurst is also a honeymooners foxhole. It is located 32 kms from Nairobi, along Banana Raini Road to Limuru.
10. Thayu Farm
Thayu Farm, a 5-acres farm hideout typified by fully bloomed mature gardens, the backdrop of tea farmlands and a lovely refurbished farm house, is great for day excursions or for a weekend. The establishment’s biggest trump card are its faultless lawns. On a pleasant weather’s day, a drive to Thayu Farm – passing through the native coffee and tea plantations – makes the destination magical. The farm comprises of a retreat and five Kikuyu inspired cottage huts. At Thayu Farm, trippers can also get useful insights on the Kikuyu folklore. It is located 31 kms from Nairobi, off Kabuku-Tigoni Road, and 4 kms from Tigoni Hospital.
11. Brown’s Cheese
Founded in 1979, Brown’s Cheese has since been producing 17 different brands of cheese wielding only traditional methods and ingredients and utilizing milk from 3,000 small scale farmers in the area as well as milk from their modest herd. Brown’s Cheese was voted as a “Top 100 small and mid-sized companies in 2016”. They have also earned international recognition and collected coveted awards in Africa and Europe. Brown’s natural cheeses are produced using only traditional methods and ingredients; no coloring, coating, or additives are used, with all their cheeses suitable for vegetarians. To popularize the culture of fine cheese in Kenya they operate intimate farm lunches – on appointment basis at email@example.com – for half a day of cheese tasting, lunch and tea walks and talks. Callers to the farm get to enjoy tasting of specialty high-quality artisan cheese, enjoy lunches at the farm, observe their cheese-making tour and demonstrations, and stroll through their brill and neat organic garden. “Charges are: Kids under 5 are free. 5+ are 500/-. Kids 12+ are 1,500/-. This includes pizza and ice cream for the kids as well as lunch if they would like”. Brown’s Cheese is located 30.5 kms from Nairobi along the Banana-Raini Road.
12. 100 Lights Farm
The fairyland of Tigoni, with lofty tea landcapes composing a pleasing scenery, is also a thriving farming region with plenty of farms dealing with other crops that are open for guests. It was during the colonial era that tea was farmed here over the motley collection of tea estates which forever changed its outlook, and where now one is glad of any excuse to take walks through the neat as a button farms. There have always been a number of subsistence farmers across the area both before and after the advent of tea and coffee including the small scale 100 Lights Farm found near Brown’s Cheese and Tigoni Tea Walks and Talks along Banana-Raini Road. Certainly organic farms have become a resounding success in modern times and a visit to this farm is easily combined with the traditional tea tours. It is a small farm producing traditional vegetables, kiyenyeji chicken, fruits and spices – all grown and produced organically. Right from the start the care and details of the process is rather indulging, invigorating, and wholesome.
13. Kawamwaki Farm
Outfitted as both an equestrian retreat and a thriving organic farm, Kawamwaki Farm is inviting for day-trips. Unique to this farm is that its organic farming is not sold short. No chemicals and fertilizers are used. In preference, only natural herbs and flowers, compost manure and waste are used utilizing key principles of organic farming. The results of this painstaking process, done lovingly, speak for themselves. It has a diversity of interesting plants, tree nurseries and some beautiful sections that have been rehabilitated to their indigenous state. Away from farming, their guests get to enjoy romantic horse rides accompanied by a groom through the tea farms, along the river and dam, and to some jim-dandy vantage points. From here, the distant city-line of Nairobi appears so dignified and peaceful, even perhaps glorious. Kawamwaki Farm is located 28 kms from Nairobi about 3 kms past Kentmere Club and nearby the Maramba Tea Factory.
14. Limuru Country Club
There are four main routes of getting to Tigoni from Nairobi CBD: via Kiambu Road through Kiambu and Limuru Towns; via Banana-Raini Road through Ruaka; via A104 Nairobi-Nakuru Road through Limuru; and via Limuru Road onto Kabuku-Tigoni Road. The latter is the shortest and traditional route to Tigoni. Just north of Tigoni Dam, about 1 km before Tigoni Police Station and 2 kms before Brackenhurst Centre, sits Limuru Country Club, one of the top-hole golf clubs in Kenya. “Golfing in the Limuru area began back in 1926 when local farmers Scott, Bradshaw and some neighbours established a course and hotel at what is now the Brakenhurst Baptist Conference Centre. It opened it’s first nine holes in 1949 and the second nine holes in 1952. Other than the golf course, the club consists of lawn bowling, tennis courts, a cricket pitch, squash courts and a swimming pool” – Limuru Country Club. Unique to Limuru Club is the abutting plush cricket pitch – the only cricket pitch in East Africa that has a grass wicket.
15. Lakehouse Tigoni
The romantic Lakehouse Tigoni has everyone at hello. It is hard to depose the beauty of this charming place which is set-up on a variegated 8-acres property overlooking a thriving leafy grove of old trees, Tigoni Dam and the tea terraced slopes of Tigoni. The rustic lakehouse, which sleeps 11 in 4 rooms, overlooks the Dam. The whole experience here takes a modern twist on weekend outings. The riverine area is the star here, and the adventurous at heart can have a go at their swimmable lake or ride their floating restaurant with a fully functional kitchen that seats up to 40. It has a brill and dope organic farm too. Lakehouse Tigoni is set 31 kms from Nairobi near Limuru Country Club, along Kabuku-Tigoni Road.
16. Redhill Campsite
A campsite is available on the stretch of the road overlooking the Ngecha Valley near Redhill. It is approached 27 kms from Nairobi along Limuru Road turning off near Bustani Gardens and The Dam Redhill Resort. The area is beautiful and peaceful with access to a lovely woody and a river where guests can explore the country. Facilities include: Toilets, showers and a restaurant. Tents, mattresses, sleeping bags, camp chairs, bikes, fishing lines, bait and boats are available for hire. To get the latest pricing and condition of the camping ground parties can get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org. Persons wishing to use the camping site using their own equipment are required to use the aforementioned contact for payment inquiry. Campers must be suitably clothed for the highlands. Warm clothing and a chage of it, scarfs and mittens (for the night) are necessary. From Limuru Road the Redhill Camp is about 2.6 kms along a good all-weather road.
17. Mlango Farm
Away from all the formalistic ready food and posh table settings, Mlango Farm is a great encounter into the practice of producing everyday food. Here, milking cows ceases to be dicey and getting hands dirty is more than welcome. Children also entertain themselves plenty at the farm, enjoying the spaces and delighting in nature having good old fun like climbing trees, feeding animals, playing hide and seek, building dams in the water, baking bread at the campfire, and so on. To put in a nutshell, Mlango Farm is a pure and unadulterated simple farm-life. It’s found along Limuru Road betwixt the Redhill Campsite and PCEA Thingati.
18. The Dam Redhill Resort
Also a relatively new addition to Kiambu’s chain of outdoor offerings, The Dam Redhill Resort in one of the most popular in the county; it contains a vast track of unspoiled land and a capacious dam; and it has a floating restaurant too. It is also famous for an array of exciting outdoor activities like ziplining, biking and a kids park, more of these being centered in the dam like boating, jet-skiing and sports fishing. The site gets its name from the Redhill Dam. It is this man-made dam which offers the major attraction to the visitor, with its wooded fringes of mature trees forming canopies of deep shade. “The Dam RedHill is a getaway resort that is ideal for weekends. Located only 25 kilometers from Nairobi with breathtaking countryside views with utmost serenity that will make you want to comeback again” – Hangout. It is located 25 kms from Nairobi along Limuru Road shortly before reaching the Sovereign Suites Nairobi. It’s well sign-posted.
19. Red Hill Art Gallery
Red Hill Art Gallery provides support and a platform to encourage local creative talent and African Art. It expositions a cross-section of high-quality latter-day and contemporary African art which include paintings and sculptures. It also hosts regular displays that aim to play-up upcoming artists. Unique to Red Hill Art Gallery is its bright and lively indoors harmonized with a verdant landscape. “It offers a superb and wholly appropriate space devoted to passion for African Art. The gallery owns a large collection, amassed over a period of 25 years by the owners, that amounts to a very astutely selected cross-section of the finest modern and contemporary African artwork, including paintings and sculptures. This collection provides the foundation of the exhibition programme. What’s more, the gallery presents several shows yearly dedicated to individual artists”.
20. Banana Farmhouse
Equally impressive among the farms and farmhouses in Kiambu County is the Banana Farmhouse, which is a great hideaway to escape the pressures of urban Nairobi. The 1940’s revamped farmhouse is the feather in the cap, with fetching nuances of the wistful old colonial builds, mature garden with towering ancient trees and a trim interior embellished with a subtle avant-garde design scheme. Then, there’s their contiguous 24-acres farmland with a pond, flower beds and livestock that flows down to meet the indigenous forest patch, downhill to the river. Banana Farmhouse borders the Ruaka River. Quite therapeutic, a stroll through the farm trying to befriend the animals, most notably of its cows that are rather well acquainted with humans and sometimes seem oblivious of their presence, is a rare treat often sold short. After spending valuable time walking around the farm, guests can relax in the sun-awning poop deck with wonderful views of the pleasurable Ngong Hills. It has a pretty pool too. Other interests within easy reach are Kentmere Club, Brown’s Cheese and Kiambethu Farm. At the moment, it is only accessible to boarding visitors. It is located 20 kms from Nairobi (Westlands) along Limuru Road nearby the Karura Community Chapel.
21. Banana Hill Gallery
This is found 10 kms from Red Hill Art Gallery via Limuru Road and Ndenderu-Banana Links Road. Founded by Rahab and Shine Tani in 1995 to support art and artists in Kenya, Banana Hill Studio now hosts artwork from over 70 artists from all over Africa, with 20+ priced pieces. It exhibits some of Kenya’s most beautiful paintings and sculptures – with a big emphasis on African art. “Since inception, Banana Hill has opened its doors to East African Art, foremost by exhibiting art from neighbours Tanzania and Uganda. This increased the fame of the Gallery among artists’ circles in the region, and soon other East African artists found their way to the Gallery. In 2011 we increased our geographical scope by organizing an exhibition by Kofi Agoso from Ghana, West Africa” – Banana Hill Gallery. The Banana Hill Studio is open daily from 10:00 am-6:00 pm and Sunday from noon. It also operates an online store. A trip here is easily combined with a visit to Red Hill Art Gallery, Brown’s Cheese and All Saint Limuru. Banana Hill Gallery is set 23 kms from Nairobi via Banana Raini Road.
22. Kentmere Club
One of the easy escapes from Nairobi City is to take a joyride up to the coffee and tea plantations at Tigoni and Limuru. A much prized drive that is rarely taken. Formerly a white highland, the area around Limuru especially at Tigoni has kept hold of its old-world charm in the quaint buildings and the farmlands plied by tea and coffee. Better still, on a drive taking to this area, is drop in at one of sundry farms and farmhouses which admit both day-trip and overnight guests. Lunch or dinner at Kentmere Club on the way back could round off a perfect day. Founded in the 1920s, as the quintessential old English clubhouse popularized by upper-middle-class settlers in Kenya, it exudes both in decorum and architecture a canny far-reaching history and refinery of the prominent clubs linked with the British Empire. It is found 24 kms from Nairobi in Tigoni.
23. Goldenscape Tree Africa
Established in 2004, as a small tree nursery aiming to educate farmer on how to invest in four chief areas of timber investment, fruits investments, greenhouses and bamboo tillage, Goldenscape Tree Africa has gone a long eco-probity way to mobilize the citizenry concerns into positive actions, to protect and enhance the ecosystems for generations. Trippers to Goldenscape Tree Africa get a chance to be involved in tree planting and regeneration of the environment, excursions in the forests, touring the nurseries, touring their greenhouses and plant market. It is located 17 kms from Nairobi at Lower Kabete area, near Nairobi University.
24. Watson Scott Memorial Church
The tiny Watson Scott Memorial Church, which was pre-fabricated in Scotland before been shipped into Kenya in 1909, holds a history of great import of the rise and spread of Christianity in ‘Kikuyuland’. Listed as a National Monument, this pocket-sized Church that was the first official PCEA Church in Kenya also commemorates the life and times of Mrs. Minnie Watson, a Scottish missioner who diligently served in Kikuyu for more than thirty years before retiring to Dundee, Scotland, where she died in 1949. During her 30 years in Kikuyu, she founded a list of schools for girls and boys. One of her pupils, Jomo Kenyatta, went on to become Kenya’s foremost president. It is located in Thogoto, Kikuyu.
25. Church of the Torch
By 1921, missionary work started in 1898 by Thomas and Minnie Watson had grown by leaps and bounds, and the tiny Watson Scott Memorial Church just alluded to had been outgrown. In 1929, Mrs. Watson laid the foundation brick for the Church of the Torch, also known as PCEA Thogoto, that was completed in 1933. In 2008, it was gazetted as a National Monument: “May this Church of the Torch continue to be a beacon of light and hope, even in our darkest times.” Its august neo-gothic design was modeled from the Presbyterian Cathedral in Blantyre, Scotland. Also located nearby are the Thomas and Minnie Memorials.
26. Fort Smith
“Welcome……This way for High Tea”, reads a high-sounding pediment which still hangs at the entrance of Fort Smith. Surprisingly undocumented, the olden and unassuming Fort Smith is an outstanding historic building which marks an important milepost in the history of Kenya. Built in 1888, ten years before the arrival of the famous lunatic line in Nairobi, it was an importunate symbol that the colonial enterprise in Kenya was now in high gear. Later, Fort Smith gained unwelcome notoriety as the site where freedom-fighter Waiyaki wa Hinga was tried and hastily sentenced to exile. Sadly, this landmark is now on a path to its crumble. It is located 15 kms from Nairobi, at Ndumbu-ini Village, near Kikuyu.
The history of modern Kenya starts with the railway. Sir Charles Eliot, the commissioner of British East Africa who presided over its construction, proclaimed after the task was completed that: “It is not uncommon for a country to create a railway, but it is uncommon for a railway to create a country.” – Excerpt from the 1843 Magazine, August 2016
27. Ondiri Swamp
The papyrus fringed Ondiri Swamp, “a misnomer because it is not a swamp per se but what is known as a peat bog, and Kenya’s largest highland bog”, is found just 1 km from Kikuyu Town. It possesses very unique oddities. Covering about 30-hectares, and the only known quaking bog (a spongy and shaky ground with no foundation) in Kenya, it is foremost a major inlet for Nairobi River and joins other minor streams rising from Kikuyu Escarpment to drain into Athi-Sabaki-Galana River – one of the two major rivers alongside Tana River terminating at Indian Ocean. As with many things swamps, Ondiri is thought to draw much of its water from underground seepages, which explains why it retains reasonable amounts of water even the dryer periods of the year, with little infiltration loss. It is also thought to have a dumbfounding depth of 10 kms. The second deepest wetland zone inside Africa following one in Doula Cameroon. Furthermore, this artless swamp functions as an underground outlet for Lake Naivasha. Ondigi Swamp is a popular leisure oasis and its callers particularly like to hop on the bogs. The little-known Nyakumu Swamp is located 20 kms from Ondiri Swamp.
28. Sigona Golf Club
Designed and constructed by Berkley-Mathews starting 1939, the sightly Sigona Golf Club with the pleasing austerity of its wooded surroundings is an 18-holes course which offers a formidable yet rewarding round of golf. Its toughest hole, number 7, that measures 465 yards for men played to a par 4, is a much-talked about challenge in the golfing circles. Sigona Golf Club, situated on a 250-acres prinked piece of land, is among the most prestigious golfing courses in Kenya. In addition, Sigona Golf Suites offer decorous accommodation for business and leisure travellers. It’s located 20 kms from Nairobi along Nairobi-Nakuru Road.
29. Wadi Degla Club
The high-end leisure and multi-sport Wadi Degla Club is Kenya’s premier full scale and privately-owned sports club focusing on wellness for both families and professional athletes. Wadi Degla Club also has two other members-only academies, at Migaa and at Karen. Its highlights include: its squash and tennis courts; its soccer fields; a multi-purpose court; its training pool; a jogging track; a walking track; and four talent academies – Arsenal soccer, Darwish squash, Wadi Degla tennis and Swim America. It is found along Runda Drive, near U.N.
30. Windsor Golf Club
Ranked as one of “Africa’s Best Golf Resorts” by Business Daily and among the “11 of the world’s top city golf clubs” by CNN, the Victorian styled Windsor Golf Club lacks nothing in beauty and luxury. “What makes the course unique is the fact that it’s carved out of a tropical rainforest,” explains avid local golfer Mike Macharia – CNN. Aside from its fine 18-holes championship golf course, there’s also tennis, squash, cycling and petanque. Accommodation is provided in 130 tastefully-furnished rooms spread across acres of beautiful gardens from where guests can enjoy 4 restaurants, 3 bars, a club house, business centre, gym and spa, scenic jogging track that winds through a tropical forest and a heated pool. It is found 14 kms north of Nairobi in Ridgeways, via Kiambu and Kigwa Roads.
31. Paradise Lost
This wondrous 54-acres farm situated right in the middle of a native coffee farm is scenically attractive. It oozes such beauty that its name “Paradise Lost” aptly describes both the landscape and its experience. Reposeful riverine walks along Gichi River to the caves eroded by the river with their entrance screened by the impressive Paradise Lost Falls, miles on miles of undisturbed trails for biking, camel and horse rides, in good shape picnic and rest areas, and patches of thick forest looking out to the coffee farms and beyond. All offer a lively adventure for all ages and a rewarding and invigorating day-outing. Other activities include fishing, boating on one of the largest man-made lake in Kiambu, birding and coffee farm tours. A modest cover fee is charged to access it (adults-400 and children-300) towards its maintenance and development. It is located 14 kms north of Nairobi along Kiambu Road with some road signage to guide you there.
32. Fairview Coffee Estate
It’s no secret that Kiambu County is a weighty producer of premium coffee in Kenya, and specifically “Arabica” coffee. At the Fairview Coffee Estate, trippers can experience some of the best coffee and learn from coffee masters. Fairview Gardens was to begin with designed as a romantic getaway for its octogenarian owner and his sweetheart who have produced some of the world’s finest coffees for over four decades. And now this hidden treasure has been opened up to the public to enjoy its beautifully manicured gardens during significant occasions. Started in 1909, the 100-acres Fairview Coffee Estate has accumulated a rich history of coffee farming and visits to Fairview begin with a tour of their farm holding upwards of 80,000 coffee trees; and then to its factory, with the piece-de-resistance of the tour being the testing and tasting their premium coffees’. Other highlights include the pretty and kept mature garden with a centerpiece man-made dam and the close by Riara Falls. Morning tours take place between 10 am-12 pm and afternoon tours between 2 pm-4pm. Both take on average 40 minutes. It’s set 15 kms from Nairobi via Kiambu Road, past Muthithi Gardens.
33. Kiambu Golf Club
Kiambu Golf Club was begun in 1916 with only 3 holes. In 1959 it was extended to 9 holes with the effort of Mr. E. B. Horne and the local villagers. It was later brought up to date with the browns converted into greens and with ace calibre of a nine-holes layout. The course’s length is 6858 yards with a par 72. Owing to proximity to Nairobi, the club has an open policy for non-members who wish to play on their greens and also hosts a number of popular tournaments to foster the sport. Kiambu Golf Club is set 15km from Nairobi on your way to Kiambu Town and a 100 m from Kiambu Police Station along the road to Kirigiti Centre.
34. Kiambu (St.Paul) Churchyard Memorial
Kiambu Town is about 16 kms from Nairobi via Kiambu Road. St Paul’s Church is close to the Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology, and can be reached about 300 metres along the turn off to the right, signposted to Ruiru. The single private memorial to the Earl of Erroll is close to the hedge on the left hand side of the churchyard, under a Frangipani tree. Shortly after Kiambu Institute of Technology, downhill past the riverbend, take the earth feeder road on the right hand side and drive approximately 100 metres. The church gate is situated on the right hand side and on entry the graves will be found on the left hand side of the church. There are a number of civilian graves in rows. The Commonwealth war grave is in the second row and second from the hedge of the church. It is not marked by a Commission headstone, but by a permanent private memorial.
35. Evergreen Park
The simplistic but delightful Evergreen Park, centered around their man-made dam, is a budget and family-friendly public outdoor park. If you’d rather relax than join in with the fun-play, there are plenty of sitting areas set around the park. The highlights at Evergreen Park is fishing or boating at the lake, which is the center piece. It is especially ideal for simple budget group picnics. Callers to this laid back and relaxing park would also be interested in visiting the nearby Royal Gardenia Ground. Evergreen is located about 20 kms north of Nairobi City, along Nairobi to Kiambu Road and close to the Northern Bypass overpass.
36. Northlands City
Envisioned to be the largest private development in Kiambu County, the Shs. 500 Billion mega Northlands City – under the docket of the influential Kenyatta Family – is a large scale residential and commercial development on the prime 11,000-acres Juja Farm. At the moment, this farm is home to Brookside Dairies and Gicheha Farm. When complete, Northlands City will be a self-reliant mini-city that offers plenty to investors, shoppers, businesses, tourists, and families.
37. Ruiru Sports Club
“Ruiru Sports Club started as a tennis club back in 1922. The club was moved to the present site in 1923 where land was available for a golf course. This was laid out by Mr. Overtone who was a Colonial Police Inspector at Ruiru. The course was re-constructed on an improved layout by club members in 1930 using large gangs of African Labourers and reconstructed the tees and browns. The pioneer golf captain was Mr. G.J. Glassford in 1930. Mr. John Ross took over as golf captain for the next twenty consecutive years, between 1931 to 1950. The club had 30 golfing members with reciprocal arrangements with Thika, Makuyu, Nyeri, Nanyuki and Eldoret. The first stone clubhouse was built in 1924. Since then it has been enlarged on a few occasions. The sport bar was presented to the club by Mr. B. Kopperud. Ruiru Sports Club has an open policy for day-golfers and temporary membership with a modest cover charge for playing the greens. Other facilities: bowling greens, tennis court and club house. It is located 32.5 kms from Nairobi CBD vial A2 Nairobi-Nanyuki-Moyale Road, near GSU Camp.
38. JKUAT Botanical Gardens
Begun in 2014, these gardens are truly something to behold. They hold varied several floral clusters nurtured in their unique habitats, to include: the African indigenous plants site; the medicinal plant garden; the rare and unique plant garden; the orchard – with wild edible fruits; the bamboo garden; the Asian and exotic plants garden; and the aquatic plant garden with a particular observation deck. The JKUAT Botanical Gardens, within the precinct of JKUAT University, were a collaborative project between JKUAT Uni and Wuhan Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Science. It is expected that in about ten years time JKUAT Botanical Gardens will be a replica of the Wuhan Botanical Garden that span 40-acres. It’s located 34 kms from Nairobi at Juja via Nairobi-Nyeri Road.
39. Juja House
Erected in 1902 as a hunting lodge for the distinguished settler farmer William Northrup Macmillan, who arrived in Kenya in 1901 for big-game hunting, Juja House is an antique of the rapturous and epochal era of big-game hunting. The spiels of William N. Macmillian in Kenya precedes him and this house is part of his intriguing legacy. This house got international fame when Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) spent a night here on her way to Nyeri. While Juja House is expansive, by any standards, it is a pale shadow compared to the 34-rooms Macmillian Castle near Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park where Northrup resettled later. Juja House is located 31 kms from Nairobi City near JKUAT Uni.
40. Mount Kilimambogo
Easily sighted from most areas along the eastern quarter of Kiambu County and prominently at Juja and Thika, the 2,034 ms high dome-shaped bulk of Mount Kilimambogo located in Kyanzavi area is one of the noteworthy landmarks in Machakos County. Also known as the Ol Donyo Sabuk, which loosely translates as “big mountain” in the Maasai dialect, this wooded mountain has spectacular scenes. Its present-day name was contrived from the menacing group of buffalo (Mbogo in the native Kikuyu) that used the forest as a refuge, grazing outside it after dark. The 21 km2 Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park comprises the forested top of this hill. It is more scenic than faunal and makes for a pleasant goal for a weekend hiking adventure. Other interests nearby Mount Kilimambogo include the popular Fourteen Falls and Lord Macmillan Castle both within easy walking distance. Then, there are Sabuk Guest House, Summit Rock and Turacco Camp Site, and Ol Donyo Sabuk Lodge. It is located 96 kms northeast of Nairobi, via A2 Nairobi-Nyeri Road to Thika, turning into A3 Thika-Garissa Road to Sabuk.
41. The Rain Hotel
Put down on 12-acres along Kenyatta Road in Gatundu, Rain Hotel has the very best of this rural country. In fact, it was founded with a goal of offering an easy-going wellness retreat for travellers to appreciate these therapeutic backwoods. Unique to Rain Hotel is their wide gazebo that is encircled by a man-made lake looking out to the playground and verdant landscape. To push the experience a notch up, Rain Hotel guarantees its guests an organic African styled fresh-food cuisine experience. While marking time, guests can soak up the zen-like scenes here with river walks, pretty gardens, or cycling around the trails. Quiet is what its all about here, in an unpretentious, low-key and friendly space. It has a state of the art sport centre too. It is located along Kenyatta Road off A2 Thika Road.
42. Karunguru Coffee and Golf Estate
It takes a lot of efficacy to produce world class coffee and engendering premium coffee requires enormous efforts in quality control and years of investment. It is no mean feat to claim the title of ‘producer of world’s best coffee’ and especially in Kenya which is ranked as the second biggest producer of premium coffee in Africa after Ethiopia. So when Karunguru Coffee and Golf Estate claim a stake in this grandiloquent-sounding title, their experience is a guaranteed success. Dealing 100% in Arabica Coffee on a 300-acres estate in Juja, Karunguru Farm has been continually farming coffee since 1928, as one of the largest and earliest coffee farms in Kenya. Coffee was introduced to Kenya in 1893. Much to the joy of coffee-lovers who call on it, tours around the farm are done on vehicle across the farm, which has exceptional vistas. From here, the journey takes to its trim colonial-themed main house for lunch and coffee-tasting. Tours are open from Tuesday through to Saturday, from 11 am to 4 pm. Advance booking is required. It is located 37 kms from Nairobi, along Kenyatta Road (Exit 14 on Thika Road).
43. Ndakaini Dam
Granted that Ndakaini Dam sits just over the border in Muranga County, it is associated more with Kiambu and is also known as Thika Dam. Commissioned in 1998 with a catchment area of 75 km2, it’s best-known for supplying 85% of the residents in Nairobi with water. For tourism, Ndakaini Dam is still largely an underrated beauty. Located about 81 kms northwest of Nairobi and 41 kms west of Thika Town via Thika-Gatura Road to Gatanga-Ndakini Road, Ndakaini Dam offers beyond-money serenity and solitude. At the same time, it’s poignant to reflect that this prepossessing dam set amidst a pleasing natural forest within the tranquil and bucolic village of Gatanga is a man-made site. There is also the Muchiri’s Retreat for trippers looking to stay a night or two near Ndakaini Dam.
44. Chania Falls
Chania Falls in Thika, easily sighted just east of the Blue Post Hotel near Thika, also roughly marks the confluence of Rivers Chania and Thika; both originating from the Aberdare Reserve. Views of Chania Falls are best enjoyed at the long-standing Blue Post Hotel that sits on a prominence directly facing it from above. Started in 1908 as a stopover for white settlers who lived and farmed in Central and Eastern Kenya, Blue Post Hotel is of itself a grandee destination of Kiambu.
45. Manyika House
Manyika House is popular as a surviving link to the heartening memoir of Beryl Markham – the first female aviator to fly-solo over the Atlantic. Both her epic journey and her life in Kenya in the 1920’s and 1930’s are recounted in her epic book “West With The Wind” which makes for a very good travel read. It gives a detailed historical account and exotic descriptions of the landscapes in Kenya. Markhan, who was also an avid horse-trainer spend most of her ‘green’ seniors years at Manyika House, a beautifully assembled colonial style house set on 5-acres within a huge coffee farm. The refurbished house now serves as a restful weekend getaway. The rustic four-rooms Manyika House has spectacular views of the green belt County of Kiambu, with Mount Kenya in the far background. Trippers to Manyika may enjoy exploring the coffee farms, mountain biking, or golfing at Thika Greens. History buffs will also find the insights to the life and times of Beryl Markham tangibly amusing. It is located 52 kms from Nairobi at Nguthuru, off Nairobi-Nyeri and Muruka-Kandara Roads, passing Thika Town and Thika Greens Golf Estate, then taking a left turnoff before Kabati-Muranga.
46. Thika Greens Golf Resort
Thika Greens Golf Resort is part of an 800 acre Golf Estate where residents are developing spectacular homes. The key feature of the Resort is an 18 hole par 72 championship golf course that sits on about 306 acres of a well manicured grass landscape. This magnificent golf course was a design by one of the leading golf architects – DDV Group of South Africa, and has been operational since 2014. With multiple tees per hole, this challenges the seasoned golfer and at the same time provides the upcoming golfer with an enjoyable course. All the leisure and living facilities at Thika Greens Golf Resort are open to both members and non-members. Facilities include: a fine restaurant and 18 hole championship course.
47. Mugumo Gardens
This sought-after outdoor park at the very heart of Thika Town offers a place of solitude to rest, unbend and unwind. Rather more interestingly, is the history of the towering Mugumo (fig) tree in the middle of the park, after which the park is named. As it goes goes, the Mau Mau paid homage to this old Mugumo Tree and often performed traditional oaths and rituals there. At one point, the local colonial government fenced it off to deter the Mau Mau from convening at the Mugumo Gardens, without much success. Myth or not, the tree was held with a very high value hitherto. Mugumo Gardens is found at the heart of Thika Town.
48. Thika War Cemetery
The Thika War Cemetery contains 128 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War; four of which are unidentified plus two non-war burials. This park, found along the General Kago Road, is a moving landmark commemorating the dauntless and lion-hearted soldiers who paid the ultimate price. The somber Thika War Cemetery offers a historic connection to the past and is a formidable location to ponder on the intrinsic values of life. It’s located within Thika Town.
49. Fourteen Falls
Especially worth a visit soon after the rain season, when River Athi fills up its fourteen separate falls, this is one of the most astounding waterfalls sighted in Kenya. Fourteen Falls also marks the boundary with Machakos County. While majority of adventure-makers to Fourteen Falls go to enjoy the stunning sight, a select band of adrenaline junkies opt for the thrilling 40 ft high dives. Fourteen Falls is located approximately 70 kms northeast of Nairobi using Thika-Garissa Road until Sabuk and about 2 kms from the Ol Donyo Sabuk Nat. Park turnoff.
Geography of Kiambu County
Kiambu County is split into four broad topographical zones – Upper Highland, Lower Highland, Upper Midland and Lower Midland Zone. The higher Upper Highland Zone is found in Lari, and it is an extension of Aberdare ranges. It is dominated by highly dissected ranges and it is very wet, steep and important as a water catchment area. The lower highland zone is mostly found near Limuru and some parts of Gatundu North, Gatundu South, Githunguri and Kabete. The area is typified by hills, plateaus, and high-elevation plains. It is generally a tea and dairy zone, though some activities like maize, horticultural crops and sheep farming are also practiced. The lower midland is much drier and heavily settled.
Land Use in Kiambu County
Kiambu County is principally an agricultural region. The small land holdings are mostly found in upper parts of Gatundu North, Gatundu South, Kiambaa, Limuru and Kikuyu. The fragmentation of the land has made it uneconomical and majority of the farmers are converting their farms into residential plots to supplement income from the farms. The large land holdings are found in the lower parts of Kiambu County especially in Juja, Ruiru, Thika, Limuru and Lari.
Highlights in Kiambu County
Kiambu County does not have national parks or game reserves. It has, however, have many touring attractions, some that are still are unexploited. These sites include Kinale Forest, Kereita, Chania Falls and Fourteen Falls, Paradise Lost, Mugumo Gardens, Mau Mau Caves, Gatamaiyu Fish Camp and historical sites.
Population in Kiambu County
Kabete Constituency has the highest population density at 2,534 people/km2, while the least densely populated constituency is Lari, with 307 perople/km2 – mainly due to the fact that a considerable part of the area is covered by forests. The high population density and growth has exerted pressure on the available land, leading to subdivision of land into uneconomical units. According to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, Kiambu County had a population of 1,766,058 – expected to reach close to 2,032,464 people by the end of 2017.
Airports in Kiambu County
There are no airports or airstrips around Kiambu County; but it is within close proximity to JKIA International Airport and Wilson Airport in Nairobi County.
Roads in Kiambu County
Kiambu County has a good road network. It has a total of 2,033.8 kms of roads under bitumen, 1,480.2 kms under gravel, and 430.1 kms under earth surface.
Climate in Kiambu County
The mean temperature in Kiambu County is 26 C – with temperatures ranging from 7 C in the upper highlands areas of Limuru and some parts of Gatundu North, Gatundu South, Githunguri and Kabete constituencies, to 34 C in the lower midland regions around Thika. January to March are the hottest months.
National Monuments in Kiambu County
- ACK Kimabu Church
- Italian Church