Discover Machakos County
Brief Overview of Machakos County
Machakos County is the land of pleasurable scenery. It spreads over some 5,953 km2 of the south-western quarter of Kenya, along the boundaries with Makueni County (south), Kajiado County (south-west), Nairobi and Kiambu Counties (west), Kirinyaga and Muranga Counties (north-west), Embu County (north) and Kitui County (east), and it extends from the east side of the Kapiti Plains south-east of Nairobi to the west side of Mbooni Hills; west of Athi river as a dissected plain surrounded the hills. It is approachable from the north by an 88 kms drive along the B7 Embu-Siakago Road to Kanyonyoo Market, and then a drive of 83 kms along the A3 Thika-Garissa Road through Matuu and Sabuk to Thika. Masinga Dam and Mwea National Reserve straddle its northern frontier.
At the moment, Ol Donyo Sabuk area to the north has been the most successful at attracting travellers to Machakos County, largely because of Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, nearby fourteen falls and MacMillan Castle. Ol Donyo Sabuk or Mount Kilimambogo, the highest hill in Machakos forming a triangular isolated mass, elongated parallel to the surrounding rocks, is the primary interest at the park. Formerly the haunt of sizeable colonial farmlands, with cattle raiders and plentiful wildlife which from time to time swooped into the hamlets in search of food, this remote typically African bushland has a lot to offer, both in majestic scenery and presenting nature at its least disturbed stage. The north Machakos-Thika area, in contrast to the area south of Machakos County, is less hilly and comprised up of ancient rocks concentrated in the east area of Ol Donyo Sabuk.
The fast developing road system has made organisation to places of interest in Machakos County much easier. The tourism industry is only partly developed and there are enormous possibilities for improvement. Machakos County, of course, is a land of variety and splendid hillscapes, and there are plenty of day trips that await. Many of its fabled hills are found in the central and southern area, easily reached on a drive of a little over 65 kms from Nairobi to Machakos, its largest. Those who arrive at Machakos, using it as a jumping-off place, can opt to hike, walk, ride or drive through many hillocks to be found here. Lukenya Hills, easily recognizable by the scarps on its eastern margin and trending in a north-east strike close to A104 Nairobi-Mombasa Road is a revered hiking trail.
Salient Features of Machakos County
- County Number 16
- Area – 5953 km2
- Altitude – 3734 ft
- Major Towns – Machakos, Athi River
- Borders – Nairobi, Kiambu, Embu, Kitui, Makueni, Kajiado, Muranga
Brief History of Machakos County
Machakos was the earliest district in Kenya, aside from the Coast belt, in which there was any permanent European settlement. The eastern half of the area fell into the Kamba Native Land Unit administered from Machakos, while that part of the area south of the railway was Maasai country administered from Kajiado. European farmlands occupied the central area between the Kamba and Maasai reserves. Machakos Town was founded in 1887 as the first administrative post for the British East Africa Company in the hinterland, before the headquarters was moved Nairobi two years later. It is widely thought that the reason for this move was because the Uganda Railway by-passed Machakos Town. Still, others believe the move was attributed to the hostilities and conflicts between the local traders, natives, the settlers, and the government railway construction officials.
Places of Interest in Machakos County
1. Masinga Dam
The A3 Thika-Garissa Road runs east to west in the northern area of Machakos to Kanyonyoo Market, from where the B7 Embu-Siakago Road runs northerly almost at right angle from the A3 en route Embu through Kaewa and Kivaa. 102 kms northeast of Thika Town and shortly after passing Kaewa Centre you reach the turnoff to Masinga Dam, accessed on an all weather 5 kms that is motorable year round. Commissioned in 1981 and spanning 120 km2, Masinga Dam is the largest man-made lake in the East and Central Africa Region; the equivalent of Lake Naivasha. Masinga Dam’s two vertical Kaplan turbines generate 40 MW, that’s first transmitted to Kamburu Dam then onwards and upwards to Nairobi. For tourism, Masinga Dam is the most developed of the five Seven Forks Dams, with water-sports and boating trips to Gichuki Island (in the middle of the dam) being part of many things to enjoy here. There is also the homey and reasonable Masinga Dam Resort located adjacent the Masinga Reservoir. Kamburu Dam at the southwest area of Mwea National Reserve is found 10 kms west of Masinga.
2. Seven Forks Run
The Seven Forks Hydro-electric Power Project that was forged along River Tana between 1981 and 1999 contributes 65% of Kenya’s hydro-electricity. Although not a popular touring circuit, the Seven Forks Dam can be toured consecutively. One unique route to scout the Seven Forks Project begins at Kiambere Dam and goes past Kindaruma and Gitaru, in Embu County, before dropping in at the amusing Kamburu Dam, straddling the boundary betwixt Embu and Machakos County. The final stretch aims for the roomy Masinga Dam set along Machakos and Embu border. All five power station dams are linked by good road network.
3. Mwea National Reserve
Overlooking Kamburu Dam and the plains of Machakos County is the 42 km2 Mwea National Reserve, a country of brooding open grassland, scattered acacia and baobad with a few far-between rolling hills. Kamburu Dam situated on the east and southeast harbours an interesting variety of fauna and flora, notably of its crocodiles and hippos. A boat can be hired at the park gate to tour Kamburu Dam. Also seen at Mwea National Reserve is the confluence of Thiba and Tana Rivers. It is home to more than 200 species of birds including the rare Hinde’s babbler, endemic to Kenya. Launched in 1979, it hosts a good concentration of wildlife including elephants, kudus, antelope, giraffe and Burchell’s zebra. An electric fence has been put up in some areas to keep wildlife in and poachers out. From Embu Town, it is reached on a good 41 kms tarmac road to Mavuria through Gachoka and Kiritiri, then on a 15 kms road which runs parallel to the northern boundary upto the park gate. There is a longer, alternate route from Nairobi via Thika, Matuu and Masinga Dam (160kms) on a good road which is surfaced until Masinga. 10 kms is covered on all-weather road, to Makima Gate.
4. Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park
The relatively small 21 km2 Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park situated 30 kms east of Thika Town, along the A3 Thika-Garissa Road, is dominated by the forested top of Ol Donyo Sabuk Hill. A considerable part of its top, excepting the summit itself, is covered by forest consisting of lofty trees, of which Conopharyngia and Croton are the most important. Plants of the forest floor include Cape peppers, stinging nettles and Aneilema pedunculata (or the “Mickey Mouse” flower). Ol Donyo Sabuk is also known as Mount Kilimambogo, an epithet that answers to the few buffaloes that use this forest as a refuge, grazing outside it after dark. Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park is more scenic than faunal and makes a delightful goal for a weekend trip. The object of many trips here is an active adventure up and down Ol Donyo Sabuk Hill, on an 8 kms ascent which is well rewarded with knockout views at the summit; making up for what little wildlife is found within the park. Here, Mount Kenya stands guard to the north beyond a saucer-shaped valley separating the two. On most days, Yatta Plateau and Mount Kilimanjaro can also be easily glimpsed, immediately south and far southeast, respectively. Westwards, the flat volcanic scrub plains stretch away towards the Mua Hills. A round-trip takes about six hours on a moderate walking pace. Other interests at the Park are the MacMillan Grave, nearby MacMillan Castle and Fourteen Falls.
5. Ol Donyo Sapuk Lodge
The cozy Ol Donyo Sapuk Lodge, set on 50-acres at the foot of Ol Donyo Sabuk Hill and just a stone’s throw from the park, is a popular weekend getaway. The 20-rooms lodge features a tennis court, a swimming pool, a terrace, a lounge and bar. Against the backdrop of Mount Kilimambogo (Ol Donyo Sabuk) it is a guaranteed success, yet in addition it really is full of great outdoor activities that take full advantage of this picturesque area. One of the popular ways to enjoy the landscape of Ol Donyo Sapuk Lodge is on horseback safari which takes to the hill and its surrounding rural-scape. Ol Donyo Sapuk Park is also a walker’s lair, and the quiet scarcely inhabited area around the lodge is easily relaxing. Of particular interest for callers to Ol Donyo Sapuk Lodge is the MacMillian Castle, Fourteen Falls and Ol Donyo Sabuk Park. It is located 23 kms from Thika Town.
6. MacMillan Castle
Completed in the early 1900’s as the residence for William Northrup MacMillan at the heart of his sweeping 400 km2 sisal and coffee Ol Donyo Sabuk Farm, the colossal 32-rooms medieval-style MacMillan Castle complete with underground bunkers is a kindred lesson in the excesses of the privileged colonial settlers and life during pre-independence Kenya. Its owner, William MacMillan, arrived in Kenya in 1904, for game-hunting safari. It was while on safari that he was taken aback by the fine landscapes and decided to settle in Kenya. As it goes, “he was captivated by this new country, stayed and became one of the famed settlers in Kenya.” The American-born millionaire first settled at Chiromo in Nairobi, and then moved into his outlandishly baroque hunting lodge at Juja Farm, before he finally took residence at his masterpiece castle. A happy go lucky and fun-loving chap, Northrup is fondly remembered for throwing down unbridled shindigs at his castle, entwined with excessive mores and a list of eminent guests including Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt and Prince Amedeo. After his death in 1925, the estate almost instantaneously fell apart. The castle was initially used as a hospital for the British Empire and later abandoned. It then lived-through a long stint of neglect when it was mercilessly vandalized up until 2008 when it was gazetted as National Monument and restored as a museum. Although Lord MacMillian, buried on Ol Donyo Sabuk Hill, was famous for his love of a “good old get-together” he also made a big contribution to development of agriculture.
Northrup, the American Big Game Hunter, Gentleman Buccaneer and Philanthropist with money to burn, did not quite fit into any of these categories. He was a one-off, but a prominent member of that early pioneering group, whose input was so important in shaping the future of Kenya.
7. Fourteen Falls
Especially worth a call on soon after the rain season, when River Athi fills up its fourteen separate falls, this is one of the most mesmerizing waterfalls found in Kenya. Fourteen Falls also deputes the boundary with Kiambu 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.
8. Yatta Plateau
Rising 150 ms over the surrounding landscape and spanning 210 kms from near Ol Doinyo Sabuk National Park, in Machakos County, marching south along the western bounds of Tsavo East National Park, Yatta Plateau is best-known as the world’s longest lava flow. It is marked by a narrowed flat to gently undulating bush-covered ridge with a maximum altitude 450 ms above sea level. Along the A109 Nairobi-Mombasa Road, shortly after the turnoff to Kibwezi, the striking upland of Yatta Plateau can be easily seen – to the left if heading to Mombasa and to the right if heading to Nairobi – first appearing as a perfectly sketched line in the distance and as a wooded range as you near Voi. Athi River skirts the western side of the Yatta Plateau while River Tiva flows on the eastern side. The plateau is rarely inspected at close quarters mainly because it occurs in the less developed northern area of Tsavo East that is less accessible but can be toured by crossing Galana River on a causeway at the Lugard’s Falls where the routes extends via Mopea Gap north to Tiva River near Wathoni, and east of Lali Hills.
9. Kanzalu Hills
Hiking enthusiasts who love going off the beaten trail to find hair-raising ledges with breathtaking views will find that Kanzalu Hill near Tala rarely disappoints. A moderate-to-challenging ascend to the upper reaches of the 1,730 ms Kanzalu Hill rewards one with astounding views that delight almost to the blink of fear, especially at Kanzalu’s most treasured place at the naturally formed ledge of an un-fenced large overhang outcrop at the summit. For here, the belt of semi-arid country stretches northeasterly to merge with Kangundo Hills. To the east, Mua Hills stand guard with the shimmering line of Athi River forming abstract loops and bends outwith. The chain of highlands formed by Kanzalu, Kangundo and Machakos Hills, and Ol Doinyo Sabuk, has been, and is, a major watershed. Its deflecting action is illustrated by the Athi River, which flows east-south-east from its source to Athi River Town, then north-east before turning to flow in a south-east direction round the northern end of Ol Doinyo Sapuk. On most days, at the summit of Kanzalu Hill – one of the most exciting hiking experience in Machakos County often sold short – hikers can also spot Mount Kilimambogo and Yatta Plateau. Kanzalu Hill (near Kanzalu Hill Primary School) is in direct connection with Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, 54 kms north, on a good road passing through Tala. The popular route is along the Northern Bypass (either through Ruiru or Embakasi), and then via C100 Kangundo-Tala-Kanzalu Road.
10. AIC Kangundo
After Nzaui Mission Station (AIC Kalamba) was set up, P. Scott, F. Kreiger, and W. Hotchkiss began scouting for other suitable sites for mission stations. Soon they opened the second and third stations at Sakai and Kilungu in Machakos District. By July 1896 the original seven missionaries were joined by other eight missionaries. Among the eight were Scott’s parents and sister. As the leader of AIM (now AIC), Scott divided up the missionaries among the three stations. In October 1896, Scott opened a fourth mission station at Kangundo. In his words, this was better than the first three mission stations. Scott wrote in his diary, “we found the place exceeded our expectations as it is perhaps the most fertile spot we have seen from the Coast up”. Owing to the favourable climate and spartial position, he made Kangundo the headquarters of AIM’s operations. In 1903 the headquarters of AIM were relocated from Kangundo to Kijabe – 133 kms away.
11. Komarock Shrine
“Approaching Tala Town, a rocky outcrop that was but a speck earlier on comes to view. This is the famous Komarock, considered a shrine by many. The hill, we are told, is a sacred place”. The center of interest here is the 70 feet tall concrete statue at the summit. Fabricated in 2000, the statue depicting Jesus Christ in the arms of his mother Mary after the body was lowered from the cross turned this otherwise abandoned run-of-the-mill hill into a liked interdenominational place of prayer and reflection. And there are “no fence, guardrails or blockades, making it accessible to all and sundry”. Yearly, on the first Sunday of February, thousands of Christians from all over Kenya congregate at the Komarock Shrine for the annual prayer pilgrimage which includes a 3 kms walk from the base to the summit where the enormous Komarock Statue stands sentinel. The ascend reenacts ‘The Way of the Cross’ – a devotion in Christianity which recalls with mindful affection of the last stage of the journey that Jesus walked in his earthly life’. Komarock Shrine is located 63 kms from Nairobi via Kangundo-Tala Road.
12. Hyena Caves
For cavers and walking lovers a long afternoon out at Hyena Caves at Syanthi Village is the next best thing to hiking Ol Donyo Sabuk or Kanzalu Hill. An early start from Nairobi could see you accomplish a tour of these caves and a hike at either hills. Then a drop in at Komarock Shrine en route Nairobi could round up a perfect trip of the mid-north area of Machakos. The dandy underground Hyena Caves locally known as ‘Maima Ma Mbiti’ are arguably the best caving site in Machakos County. As the name suggests, the early occupation of these caves is thought to be a loft for hyenas, which once roamed freely in this area. Hyena Caves, comprised of an elaborate labyrinth of well-lit tunnel with just a small eerie dark section, make for a unique caving adventure. These are located 10 kms from Tala along C99 Kangundo-Kenol Road, passing the turnoff to C98 Kangundo-Kanzalu Road, and 800 ms from Kathaana Centre at Syanthi Village.
13. African Heritage House
The usual route to the central and southern areas of Machakos is via the A104 Nairobi-Mombasa Road. There are two alternatives routes via Ruiri-Kangundo Road, and via A3, C100 and C97 Makutano-Kitui Road. Along the first, just 23 kms southeast of Nairobi, near Mlolongo, sits the acclaimed African Heritage House. Inspired by the mud designs apposite with many traditional societies in Africa, this house is popularly-known as the continent’s first pan-Africa gallery. Conceptualized by Alan Donovan (a widely travelled humanitarian expert) and former Vice President Joseph Murumbi, in 1979, African Heritage House has embraced from its beginning a sincere love for showcasing African art, music, festivals, costume, food and exhibitions culminating in an age-less and deeply moving expo of Africa’s diversity. Praised as ‘the most photographed house in Kenya’, and doubling as a museum and lodge, it is a living documentary and a far-reaching history vault of so much art and originators stories collected from 40 years of travelling in Africa. At first glance, each piece and sculptor appears self-explanatory, yet, collectively, the art takes one on a self-reflecting trip of Africa’s diversity. Art aside, African Heritage House lacks very little in beauty, with stellar views of Nairobi National Park, Athi Kapiti Plains, and Ngong Hills.
14. Athi-Kapiti Conservancy
The Athi-Kapiti Plains roll-out in the western part of Machakos County marked by an exceedingly level plane, being cut only by seasonal stream channels. The scale and beauty of Athi Kapiti Plains from a distance is best appreciated on the approach into Nairobi from Athi River, or from a vantage point in the southern area of Nairobi. A seemingly endless flush plain only broken by three inselbergs – Wami, Theki and Kyumbi- it only slopes upwards to the east, becoming more undulating, utill it merges with the uplands near Machakos Town. Athi-Kapiti Plains that’s contiguous with Nairobi National Park is a major wildlife dispersal area and also one of the most expansive wildlife plains. Inside the Aithi-Kapiti Plains sits the 40 km2 Athi-Kapiti Conservancy and one of the easily accessible wildlife viewing areas in Kenya outside of the Nairobi National Park. This holds a great diversity of Kenya’s most stirring wildlife, some rare, including the only white-morph cheetah found in Kenya. It is located 41 kms south of Nairobi City.
15. Kwa Kyelu Wildlife Sanctuary
Kwa Kyelu Wildlife Sanctuary is part of the consortium of Athi-Kapiti Wildlife Conservancies Association along with Eretto Kipeto, Kipwa Conservancy, Lisa Ranch, Machakos Ranching, Nanapa, Olerai Wildlife Community Conservancy, Rimpa Conservancy, Silole Sanctuary and Ulu Conservancy. It was begun as a private wildlife collection for the late Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo and it included lions, cheetahs and plains game. In recent times, Kwa Kyelu Wildlife Sanctuary has faced some internal problem leading to KWS taking possession of its animal while they sought out matters. Kwa Kyelu was part of an initiative by KWS, rolled out in 2010, which encourages landowners living with wildlife to keep and foster wild animals and/or flora for commercial or for aesthetic value and educational purposes under the wildlife operations and sanctuaries project. Other similar projects include commercial utilization of reptile farms like Nile Crocodiles in Kikambala (Kilifi County) and Galaxy Crocodile Farm at Sagana.
16. Stony-Athi River
Rising on the easten flanks of the Aberdare Range and conjoined by the Nairobi and Embakasi River, Athi River is Kenya’s second longest river flowing 390 kms from its headwaters to its mouth at the Indian Ocean. Close to Athi River Town and along the A109 at Athi River Bridge (shortly after passing the interchange to A104 Cape to Cairo or Kitengela-Namanga Road) Athi River is nicknamed as Stony-Athi owing to the multiplicity of river boulders easily seen as you cross Athi River Bridge. Nearby Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, Athi River cascades over to form the wondrous Fourteen Fall before commencing the treacherous journey across the arid landscape of Tsavo National Parks as Sabaki River and draining into Indian Ocean, near Malindi, as Galana River. Athi-Galana-Sabaki Rivers forms a key life line for both man and wildlife along its 390 kms journey.
17. Small World Country Club
This is located midway between the turnoff to Daystar University and Lukenya Hills along the A109 Nairobi-Mombasa Highway, 41 kms southeast of Nairobi. One of the lodge’s biggest attraction, is, of course, its proximity to Nairobi and several of the lighthouse attractions in Machakos County. Small World Country Club consists of a well-built block-type double-storeyed complex, as the central building, containing guest rooms, dining rooms, lounge and bar. “The units at the resort come with a seating area, a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a private bathroom with a hairdryer and a shower – Bookings. In addition to the contemporary touches, each room has a sun-terrace. A footpath from the main complex leads to a large garden area, detached rondavels and a swimming pool.
18. Lukenya Hills
Recognizable by the rutted scarps on the eastern side, Lukenya Hills trending in a north-east strike close to A109 Nairobi to Mombasa Highway form part of the superb highland chain of hills in Mackakos County. Separated from Iveti Forest Reserve and Mua Hills by a wide shallow basin-like depression, the sequestered Lukenya Hills are a popular hiking destination. There are various hiking trails around Lukenya Hills which are also excellent for mountain-biking adventures. Most travellers to Lukenya Hills opt to use Lukenya Getaway as a jumping-off place. With a day to spare, you can visit Lukenya Motocross with an overnight rest at Lukenya Getaway. Lukenya Hills are located 50 kms from Nairobi’s CBD.
19. Swara Plains Wildlife Conservancy
The family-run 20,000-acres Swara Plains Wildlife Sanctuary nearby Lukenya Hills holds about 3,000 game animals on its acacia-wooded savanna. Originally acquired in the 1960’s by the conservation pioneer Mr. David Hopcraft, Swara Plains remained an untravelled sanctuary up until 2000 when the Swara Acacia Lodge was opened to the public. Unique to Swara Plains Wildlife Sanctuary is that there are no dangerous animals within the sanctuary and nature walks and biking through extensive 100 kms parkways – through the wilderness – is as popular as safari game drives. By the same token, children of all ages are very much welcome and encouraged to explore here. “One of the unique features of Swara Plains, and what I think is one of its biggest selling points, is the ability for guests to go on night game drives. In those conservancies where they aren’t forbidden, night game drives are often really expensive, where as in the Swara Plains it’s free if you have your own car and provide your own spotlight” – Jan Fox. At the heart of Swara Plains Wildlife Sanctuary is the 13-cottages Swara Acacia Lodge, with its traditional thatched roofs and rustic stance contrasting beautifully with the savanna and thicket surroundings. For the avid campers, there’s a great camping ground with running water and washrooms. Firewood is included in the Shs. 1,600 camping fee. Then, there’s the snugly Hop-Inn Bar.
20. Lukenya Motocross
The crowd-puller and greatest asset at the adventure-outfit Lukenya Motocross is the quad bike circuit: An adrenaline-packed course that takes riders through various challenging sections including a tricky-to-navigate mud patch; past the wildlife near Lukenya Hills and through rough and tough sections of dirt, rocks, bush and savanna. The course, which takes on average 30 minutes to complete, has been expertly build to maximize on the thrill factor and to incorporate high safety standards. Given the picturesque setting around Lukenya Hills and the genuinely fine layout of the course, quad biking at Lukenya Motocross is worth all the effort of travelling there. For those who fancy something more tenuous and quieter can settle for rides on the hover boards, segways and scooters (on a specially build track). Other amenities include the 11-rooms lodge (with deluxe and standard rooms), outdoor restaurant and lounge, a large swimming pool and camping ground. It is located only 51 kms from Nairobi. To get there, head out on the A104 Nairobi-Mombasa Road until Athi River and take the turnoff to Daystar University. From the turnoff Lukenya Motorcross is about 4 kms away.
21. Maanzoni Sanctuary
The 10,000-acres Maanzoni Sanctuary on the other side of Lukenya Hills from Lukenya Motorcross is a beautiful grassland wilderness with lots of game easily spotted roaming the plains. Maanzoni Sanctuary boasts a peaceful ambiance for trippers who desire to get away from the bustle for some bucolic surroundings. At the heart of the sanctuary sits Maanzoni Lodge. A 360-rooms complex set-up on 28-acres. Some highlights at Maanzoni Lodge include unlimited game views, birding, outdoor swimming pool and their multi-cuisine restaurant. Places of interest near Maanzoni Sanctuary include the Kwa Kyelu Wildlife Sanctuary, Lukenya Hills and Lukenya Motocross. It’s located 44 kms from Nairobi’s CBD.
22. Amazing Kenya Retreat
Also found in the 10,000-acres Maanzoni Sanctuary is the private and secluded Amazing Kenya Retreat comprised of only 5-ecofriendly cottages. This offers a splendid mix of romance, relaxation and adventure. And is the best seat in the wildlife theater of Maanzoni – which comes to life very early in the morning around 5:00 am before the wildlife succumb to the heat of the plains, as early as 11:00 am. Although the wildlife spectacle never dies down entirely, the husher daytime hours offer tranquility and serenity, swayed by the light sound of the meadow and symphonies of countless birds (loud chirps, chips and buzzes), and makes for good relaxation time and zen reading. “When I listen to the meadow sounds I feel a light sadness, but this feeling is very pleasant, because it brings me back to the happiest days in my life.” For adventure-makers, day time at Maanzoni provides an opportunity to bike around the sanctuary and seek out the animals in their hiding spots; mountain biking at the nearby Lukenya Hill or even excursion to the Kitengela open market. By evening, callers to African Kenya Retreat get to enjoy romantic bush dining, sun-downers, and star-gazing.
23. Machakos Peoples Park
This is the first target for first-time visitors to Machakos Town. It is reached 17 kms from A104 Mombasa-Nairobi Road along the C99 Katumani-Konza Road; 80 kms from Nairobi. It can also be reached via the C97 Makutano-Machakos-Kitui Road. The 40-acres Machakos People Park setup at the footslopes of the free-standing Kiima Kimwe Mountain is a nature-lovers paradise and arguably one of the best public outdoor parks in Kenya. Revamped and reestablished in 2014, Machakos People Park is lauded as the most illustrious and well thought out community welfare projects by a County Government in Kenya, and whose care and pre-commission throughout the project is commendable. Popular as a picnic site and patronized by callers from far and wide, Machakos People Park offers a free-for-all delightful place to bond, relax and unwind. With all round beautiful vistas of Kiima Kimwe, Mua Hills and Iveti Forest Reserve, it serves as a great stop over for trippers planning to take in Machakos Town or further into Kitui County. Among the highlights at Machakos People Park include a 5,000-seater open-air amphitheater, a liberal man-made lake, parkways, and grounds.
24. Old Fort of Machakos
From Machakos Peoples Park it is a short 5 kms hop to Machakos Town and at Machakos Police Station is an interesting object of virtu of its famous history. Although there’s inconsiderably little left to suggest the existence of Old Fort of Machakos, which was first identified as a viable station by Fredrick Jackson in 1889, this was the first administrative headquarter for the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEA) in the interior of Kenya. Machakos had been envisioned as the rail head of the approaching Kenya-Uganda Railway and well on its way to become Kenya’s capital city. In one of the most debated last minute changes, Nairobi was chosen as the rail-head. Although no one reason was given for the sudden change, history suggests that a recent famine in Machakos and internal wrangles among the railway officials had forced the hand of Head-Engineer George Whitehouse, against the wishes of IBEA Commissioner John Ainsworth. In its heydays, Old Fort of Machakos had been a heavily guarded blockhouse akin to a high-level government office. It was demolished in 1921 and was only survived by two invaluable pillars which mark the site for the envisioned rail base. A pediment on one of the ‘pillars’ found at Machakos Police Station reads:
“The pillars mark the entry of the Old Fort of Machakos founded by Frederick Jackson of the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1889, enlarged and strengthened by Captain L.D. Lugard of the Norfolk Regiment in 1890. It was the first company founded by Imperial British East Africa on the interior of East Africa and from this John Ainsworth established law and order over Ukambani”
25. Gelian Hotel
This is found near the corner of C97 Makutano-Machakos-Kitui Road and C99 Machokos-Kangundo Road in the outskirts of the main Machakos Town. The 7-stoteyed and 4-star rated Gelian Hotel with a total of 95 rooms (2 presidential suites, 4 ambassadorial rooms, 36 deluxe suites, and 53 standard rooms) is elegantly designed with comfort and style to suit both the business and casual traveller. The establishment’s biggest trump cards are its convininent location near Machakos Town and the superb views of Kiima Kimwe which is especially exemplary when sighted from the roof-top astro-turfed terrace. Some highlight at Gelian Hotel include a spa, sauna, gym, business center, sports lounge and a lovely swimming pool. It is also within walking distance of Machakos Golf Club.
26. Kiima Kimwe
A hike up Kiima Kimwe, to the upper reaches and the summit, in one of stellar hiking launches in Machakos County, and a memorable and rousing experience. This offers compelling facilities for taking in the landscapes and photographing. Quite unmistakable and easily recognizable by its deep gulleys, the bulk dome of Kiima Kimwe, just outside Machakos Town, is an imposing and breathtaking sight. Reaching 6,078 ft east of Machakos Peoples Park and south of the main Machakos Town, this isolated hill where Rivers Liyini, Maruba, Miwongoni and Metheu converge, was traditionally cherished as ‘The State House of Akamba’ serving as a base for Local Native Councils. Or again, it is on the Kiima Kimwe that the celebrated Prophet Masaku of the Akamba People is believed to have lived in the 1700’s. And there are yet more fascinating allegories to beckon the hiker to Kiima Kimwe: “On the hill is a crater they believe Masaku drew water from but due to prolonged drought it has since dried up and a hulking 26 ms high rock which was child’s play for Masaku to leap over” – Standard Media. Kiima Kimwe is located 1 km from Machakos Town via Machakos to Kitui Road.
27. Machakos Golf Club
This is found 1 km from Machakos Town along C99 Machakos-Kangundo Road. The road travels northerly through Mitaboni before arriving at Kangundo Town 39 kms away. The 9-holes course with long sprawls of indigenous grass on a course that previously had more brown than there were greens measures 3,206 yards for men and 2,870 yards for women, played on a par-36 on the Front 9. “The course went through a major change in 2007 where the former Browns were replaced by Greens which were done to USGA specification and planted with a Bermuda grass species that is adapted well to the local conditions. Also, thousands of maturing trees have been planted and line the fairways which are generously wide. In the dry season, the ball runs a lot making everybody a long hitter until the rains when handicaps take an uphill turn owing to its length.” The course is scenic with a seasonal river running through the middle to a dam which supplies water for irrigating the greens, tees and fairways. Its toughtest hole, the 7th played to a par-4, is a 474 yard dogleg right monster with a carry of 300 yards to clear the corner – the second shot plays into the wind to a blind green that slopes away from you and is guarded by huge bunkers on either side. To encourage the sport, the club hosts regular tourneys each weekend including Machakos Ladies Open Golf Day. Some of the major tournaments held here are Madison Insurance Golf Tournament, Kitui Golfers Tournament and Konza Technopolis Golf Tournament. Other amenities at Machakos Golf Club are table and lawn tennis, snooker, squash, a darts room, swimming pool and a pro shop.
28. Mua Hills
The drive along both C97 Makutano-Machakos-Kitui Road and C99 Machokos-Kangundo Road cuts through the eye-catching landscape of the U or crescent-shaped Mua Hills which dominates much of the southern and eastern areas of Machakos County. Mua Hills, more proper a continuous unvarying range, trend northeasterly from Kyumvi and the A104 turnoff to Machakos Town, astride the C97, to Ngelani (inner limit) and Mitaboni (outer limit) from where they swing southerly to terminate close to Machakos Town. Considerable erosion and cut-backs by the raging rivers, which mostly drain west, gives Mua its precipitous appearance. Owing to their unbroken ridge-like apperance with clumped trees in between patches of grassland and thickets, the Mua Hills lack a famous focal point although these are an exhilarating hiking destination. Spatially, these sit between Lukenya Hills and Iveti Hills and take up the epithet of Mua-Mitaboni-Iveti Range in the region along C99 and north of Machakos. From the highest point, of about 6,810 ft, are worthwhile vistas of Sinai, Iveti, and Mitaboni Hills.
29. Iveti Forest Reserve
Sometimes known as Kathiani Forest after the locality it falls under just 11 kms north of Machakos Town, the 347-hectares Iveti Forest Reserve is contiguous with Mua-Iveti-Mitaboni Range. The central feature of the forest is the wooded dome of Iveti Hill covered mostly by eucalyptus; the main exotic tree species on this hill. Here too, the slopes are conspicuously dissected, on the east, by layers of steep valleys and flat spurs. A well marked road is used by motorists to drive through the reserve to its far end. The population density around Iveti Forest is high, up to 500 inhabitants per km2, and over the years the forest has been the subject of wanton destruction, although it’s salutory to mention that the Kenya Forest Service has been decisive in averting the worst of the crises. Of a more recent development, in 2019, “a non-governmental organisation opposed the planned felling of 22 hectares of exotic cypress and pine plantations at Iveti saying this will adversely effect the region’s weather patterns” – Business Daily.
30. Kituluni Hill
Northerly heading from Machakos Town along Machokos-Kangundo Road, one find themselves on a good tarmac road running through pretty farmlands and forest patches backdropped to the east by the Mua-Iveti-Mitaboni Range. Then, 12 kms from Machakos Town at Kituluni, you round a sharp bend, and one of the extraordinary attractions of Machakos County unfold before you. It is one of those oddities that has to be seen to believed, and for the very skeptics at heart believed to be seen. It is the sensational Kituluni ‘Anti-gravity’ Hill also known as Kyamwilu ‘Gravity’ Hill. It is rather impressive how quickly the skepticism carried by every first-timer to this oddity is nipped at the bud. A very quick demonstration of simply pouring water out a bottle and watching it flow up a visible gradient is quite dumbfounding. Almost anything rolls up the peculiar Kituluni Hill, which covers an area of no more than 1 km2. Some say, if you park your vehicle and engage neutral gear it will simply roll up. “Few places in Kenya own such stranger-than-fiction stories that defy science. Outsiders may reject them out-of-hand but locals hold them with firm conviction.” – Nation G.
31. Kamuthanga Fish Farm
In 2019, Kamuthanga Fish Farm became the first of its kind to be awarded the EcoMark Africa label by the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO), being conferred the EMA certificate at the platinum level (the highest of four certification levels) as a solid reflection of how its tilapia is produced at farming level, in a sustainable way that incorporates cardinal social and environmental aspects in the production processes. This modern aquaculture enterprise at the slope of Mua Hills comprised of an intricate system of tanks, tunnels and pipes hosting almost one million fingerlings has steadily grown as one of the unique aquaculture model in Kenya. There are special tanks for laying eggs, breeding fingerlings of different ages, sex-exchange tanks, grower-out tanks and lots of science and technology that makes for a fascinating tour, far interesting than one would expect. “We breed, rear and sell fish at all stages, from fingerlings to adult tilapia. We sell about 70 tonnes of tilapia and thousands of fingerings annually” – Nation Media. Callers to Kamuthanga Fish Farm can discover and explore one of East Africa’s biggest fish farm and learn about the rare procedure of reserving sex in fish and stages in fish development. It is found about 19 kms north of Machakos Town at Kamuthanga via C99 Machakos to Kangundo Road.
32. AIC Mumbuni
The fairly hidden and untravelled site of historic importance put on a pedestal among religious circles as one of the oldest Churches in Kenya was the foremost Church in Machakos County. AIC Mumbuni, a relic of the captivating history of the ‘Rise of Christianity in Kenya’, is found 30 kms northeast of Machakos Golf Club via C99 Machakos-Kangundo Road to Mitaboni thence east to Mumbuni. When Peter C. Scott and his missionary team arrived in Kenya, they established the first congregation in the eastern part of Kenya or Ukambani at Nzaui. As a result of Scott’s ministry in Ukambani, many indigenous Kenyans around that area and later other areas responded positively to the new gospel. These natives joined forces with the missionaries, actively evangelized, and founded Churches that were referred initially as a ministry of the African Inland Mission (AIM). Later arrivals like Hotchkiss who was joined by William Bengert and Charles Hurlburt arrived in Ukambani area around 1898. On arrival in Kenya Hurlburt settled in Kangundo which was then the headquarters of AIM. His first major achievement after arrival was the launching of Mumbuni Mission Station in Machakos in 1902. “On October 21st, 1971, at a national service at Mumbuni in Machakos led by the Reverend Wellington Mulwa, AIM ceded mission stations to AIC, and AIM became a department of the AIC in all church related matters”.
On August 17, 1895, AIM’s founding mission party set off, consisting of Scott, his sister Margaret, and six others. They arrived off the east African coast in October, and in little more than a year his idea was to establish a network had four stations—at Kalamba, Sakai, Kilungu, and Kangundo, all in Kenya. More missioner workers came from Canada and the United States, and the small group expanded to 15.
33. Wamunyu Handicraft Society
That the Akamba Community are fairly good carvers is easily demonstrable at the Wamunyu Handicraft Society where exquisite sculptors are fabricated and displayed. Wamunyu Handcraft Society is to the Akamba what the Tabaka Soaptone Industry is to the Gusii, and both display an affinity and kindred tradition of carving refined by each new generation of carvers. Began in 1965, Wamunyu Handicraft Society which employs about 2200, boasts of the most talented wood carvers in Eastern and Central Africa. Located at the southeast corner of Machakos County and about 42 kms east of Machakos town along the C97 Machakos-Kitui Road, this serves as a great stopover for trippers aiming for Kitui (and vice-versa) where they can get a firsthand demonstration of how the Akamba design and handcraft their eye-catching and ornately decorated carvings. “History has it that the Akamba learned carving from the Makonde, a tribe of gifted carvers from Tanzania. During the First World War, Mutisya Munge, a soldier for the British colonial army, learned the art of wood carving from the Makonde. On his return to Wamunyu in Ukambani, Munge continued to carve and invent new designs. He shared his knowledge with his family and some friends who took to carving as work. He later died in 1927. – Wamunyu H.
Geography of Machakos County
Machakos County has rather unique physical and topographical features. Hills and a small plateau rising to 1800-2100m above sea level constitute the central part of the county. To the west, the county has a large plateau elevated to about 1700 ms that is southeast of Machakos Town. The county rises from 790 to 1594 m above sea level. To the northwest, it has a few stand-alone hills. Some of the areas typified by hills include: Mutituni, Mwala, Mua, Iveti Forest and Kathiani.
Land Use in Machakos County
The land in Machakos County is generally under forests, government reserves, towns, game reserves, farms, ranches, industries, mines and livestock ranges. The absence of a county / national land use policy has led to the proliferation of many informal settlement, inadequate infrastructure, congestion, degradation, unplanned urban centres and pressure on agricultural land. Agriculture is the mainstay, and the main cash crops are coffee, pineapples and sorghum, which are mainly grown in Kangundo, Masii, Matungulu, Kathiani, Yatta, and Mwala.
Highlights in Machakos County
Machakos County has a number of touring sites that are yet to be exploited due to poor road networks and inadequate funding. The famous touring attractions include: Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, Iveti Forest, Kyamwilu gravitational defying area and the wood carving at Wamunyu. Tourist class hotels located in Machakos County include Gelian Hotel, Kyaka Hotel, Garden hotel, Tea Tot Hotel, Maanzoni Lodge, Lysak Haven Hotel, Lukenya Getaway and Dalas Hotel.
Population in Machakos County
As at 2009 Machakos County had a population density of 177 people / km2 that was projected at 188 people / km2 as by 2012, 200 per km2 by 2015 and 212 people / km2 by 2017. According to 2009 Kenya Population Census, Machakos County has six main towns. Although the total population in 2009 was 562,425, the same was projected to grow to 597,203 in 2012. The projections of 2015 and 2017 was projected at 634,132 and 660,012 representing 5% population growth.
Airports in Machakos County
Machakos County has no airports. It is served by Nairobi’s JKIA Airport.
Roads in Machakos County
Machakos County has a total road network of 12,152 kms of which 375 kms is bitumen surface, 10,628 kms is gravel surface, and 1,149 kms of earth surface. Some of the good roads include A104 Nairobi-Mombasa Road, C97 Machakos-Kitui Road, C98 Machakos-Wote Road and the C99 Machakos-Kangundo Road.
Climate in Machakos County
The climate in much of the area is pleasant and similar to that of Nairobi except at levels about 4,000 feet where the heat in January and February becomes considerable. In terms of temperature, July is the coldest month while October and March are the warmest. Temperature varies between 18’C and 29˚C . Since Machakos County does not experience rain throughout the year, there are some months that are considerably dry: i.e., February-March, and August-September.
National Monuments in Machakos County
There are no designated national monuments in Machakos County