Nyandarua County

Discover Nyandarua County

View of a section of Sasamua Dam near Njabini.  Photo Courtesy
Section of Sasamua Dam near Njabini. Image Courtesy The Star

Brief Overview of Nyandarua County

Nyandarua is a long narrow county lying uniquely between the Great Rift Valley and Aberdare Range. End to end along the entire eastern frontier, from Njabini in the south to Ndaragwa in the north, Nyandarua is traversed by the 120 kms long Aberdare Range, which is a year round great scenery with an abundance of rare montane flora not usually found in the tropics. This is also a sanctuary for elephant and buffalo. Even without the possibility of seeing game, the views of the prudently dazzling Aberdare Range, marked by heavily gullied and forested tops, that in some sections become sheer cliff walls, offers a splendid attraction.

Many travellers take in the Aberdare Range on a touring circuit which includes the Aberdare National Park. A good number of the latter, on reaching Naivasha, turn right, and take a fascinating road that goes over the Aberdare Range before dropping down into Nyeri. On a lesser extent, travellers with only the objective of a wildly beautiful drive, on reaching Naivasha-Floyover Bridge 62 kms from Nairobi, turn left, then left en route Njabini. A rarely busy road marching along with the wildly-beautiful range for 50 kms through Njabini, Engineer, Ndunyu Njeru and Miharati. From Miharati drivers can drop over to Naivasha Town or to Nyahururu – through Ol Kalou. If, instead of turning left into Njabini from Flyover, one proceeds along C67 Flyover-Gatura Road, the drive goes over the Aberdare Range before terminating at Thika-Mangu Flyover on A2 Nyeri Road.

​Nyandarua is crossed with a handful of other scenic roads which include Gilgil-Nyahururu Road, Njabini-Naivasha Road and Ndunyu Njeru-Ndaragwa-Nyeri Road. Forefront among its lighthouse attractions is Lake Ol’Bolossat, a pleasing highland lake. Nyandarua as a whole falls into the Central Highlands and the combined geological activities, together with a good climate, has resulted in the formation of extensive areas of plateaus and scarps, mountains and hills; most notable of these is Aberdares that offers first-rate opportunities for expeditions.

Salient Features of Nyandarua County

  • County Number 18
  • Area – 3245 km2
  • Altitude – 8380 ft
  • Major Towns – Ol Kalou, Engineer, Njabini
  • Borders – Laikipia, Nyeri, Kiambu, Nakuru, Muranga

Brief History of Nyandarua County

Up until the colonial ascendancy, life in the sparsely populated Nyandarua was dependent on subsistence agriculture much the same as the interior of Kenya. Most of the fallow land was annexed during the colonial dominion and effective barriers created to pave way for the famous ‘white highlands’. Aside from land degradation to create more space, Nyandarua was also popular as the Happy Valley. The Wanjohi Valley was once home to the ‘Happy Valley Set’ famous for their decadent lifestyle and exploits as verified by the old ruins they left behind. Many of the incumbent residents of Nyandarua were resettled during the 1960’s through the Kinagop Resettlement Scheme among various settlement schemes.

View of Mount Kenya from the Aberdare Range.  Photo Courtesy Kendi Borana
Mount Kenya from Aberdare Range. Image Courtesy Kendi Borana

Best Places to Visit in Nyandarua County

1. Matches Dam

The primary source of water in Nyandarua is rainwater which ends up in dams. It has one lake (Lake Ol Bolossat), about 222 small dams, 280 boreholes, 6,244 shallow wells and 96 springs. A total of 22 rivers flow through the County, of which eight are permanent embodied by Malewa, Ewaso Narok, Pesi, Turasha, Chania, Kiburu, Mkungi and Kitiri. One of the largest dams, Matches Dam, the rarity on the left located at Magumu – about 2 kms before the Njabini Flyover, was constructed during the post-independent era of the late 1960s and 1970s as a part of a far-reaching campaign to provide sufficient sources of clean water for subsistence and development in rural Kenya. Set in a year-round green belt of country with numerous monkeys living in the surrounding woodland, Matches Dam offers a detour to have a look-see of a well-kept no-frills secret destination.

Spatial Location of Matches Dam in Nyandarua County
Spatial Location of Matches Dam in Nyandarua County

2. Heni Viewpoint

The extraordinary Great Rift Valley Viewpoint along the A104 Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret Road (6 kms beyond the Limuru turnoff) is the most spectacular of the three viewpoints which attract the courtesy call by tens of motorists everyday. The second is that at the C67 Njabini-Gatura Road interchange, about 30 kms ahead. A viewing slip-road off the A104 Road for viewing the Great Rift Valley has been in existence for many years. The third at the Heni Village provides as much, if not more, variety of the Great Rift Valley than the antecedent places. And it has surprisingly become very popular in part because of the development of recognizable eateries overlooking the bonanza – and part of the reason it is unofficially known as Pizza Inn Viewpoint. For the motorists from Nairobi this is a convenient rest and stop for refreshment before embarking on the journey down to Naivasha, Nakuru, and beyond. From the comfort and convenience of the commendable food court at Heni Kobil Petrol Station one can soak up views of this wondrous landscape. Immediately south of the viewpoint stands Kijabe Hill that aligns with Mount Suswa further south. In the east, rising from the flat valley, lies the magnificent Mount Longonot. In the north is Kinangop Step. The height and abruptness of the scarps of the Rift Valley, particularly in accessible areas, about Heni for instance, are spectacular when compared with the flatter parts of Kenya, and it is this feature which is vividly impressed on the traveller. The Heni Viewpoint is set along the border of Nakuru and Nyandarua Counties.

3. Kijabe Hill

Reaching 2,915 ms (ASL) and 400 ms above the surrounding landscape at the south edge of the Kinangop Step, Kijabe Hill is considered a precursor to many of Nyandarua’s superb hiking destinations (notably of the Elephant Hill and Ol Doinyo Lesatima) owing to its proximity to Nairobi and the easy-to-moderate level of difficulty. On a similar note, Kijabe Hill marks the southernmost edge of Nyandarua County along its boundary with Nakuru County. By the same token, it marks the steep sloped corner of Kinangop Step – a 16 kms step on the side of the Great Rift Valley. Eke-named the miniature Mount Longonot, which stands sentinel just a few kilometres north, Kijabe Hill is geologically thought to be an old eruption that burst out following the astronomical faulting of the Great Rift Valley. It takes on average 5-6 hours (round-trip) to hike Kijabe Hill. Make sure you carry food and drink and attempt to start as early as possible. Considering its light vegetation and clear line of sights it may not be necessary to arrange for a local guide, but, hikers should elicit some cordial tips from the natives. From the summit hikers can relish views of Mount Longonot, Great Rift Valley, Lake Naivasha, and much more. It is located 55 kms from Nairobi and Mai Mahiu is a popular start-point, with the trip terminating at the Flyover-Njabini Junction.

Kijabe Hill Hike. Published by Kenyan Visionary

4. Kinangop Step

Immediately north of Kijabe Hill spans the Kinangop Plateau or Kinangop Step, that extends to the far north, tilting slightly northerly with an altitudes ranging from 2500 ms to about 2680 ms. Although this flattened marginal strip, step or plain, is commonly referred to as a plateau it is, in-fact, a step on the side of the Rift Valley forming a plain or platform which is about 16 kms long. The surface of Kinangop Step is conspicuously smooth and much of it is under cultivation, though a portion particularly in the south is covered by forest. The Step forms a natural geological boundary between Rift Valley and the Aberdares. This plain is deeply dissected by Makungi, Kitiri, Turasha and other rivers, all tributaries of the Malewa River, which ultimately discharges into Lake Naivasha. Along its southern limits it forms a catchment for tributaries to the Athi and Tana Rivers.

5. Ragia Forest Trail

Ragia Forest is one of twenty forests that consist the 1,149 km2 Aberdare Forest Reserve which expands over four counties: Nyandarua, Muranga, Kiambu and Nyeri. Ragia Forest covers 26 km2, of which 17 km2 is a natural forest, 8 km2 is planted forest and 1 km2 is glades. It is the 6th southernmost forest following, Kamae, Kieni, Kinale, Kereita and Uplands. Ragia Forest Trail is reached via the C67 Flyover-Magumu-Njabini Road through the Ragia Forest Station and takes on average 6 hours (round-trip). The hike proceeds deep into thick bamboo and follows elephant trails down the valley to march along Sasumua River and going past a pleasant waterfall simply known as Number 18. From number 18 the trail aims for an exacting descent which forms the better part of the trail to yet more sights and a second falls, and to the ghostly Mau Mau Caves. From here the trail goes past a bamboo forest en-route the main forest road which marks the end of the Ragia trail. The usual start and finish point is the impressive Sasumua Dam.

Ragia Falls Aberdares – Summit Seekers KE

6. Sasumua Dam

Sasusua Dam, the fourth largest in the country covering an area of some 11 km2 – with a reservoirs catchment of 107 km2 – is only exceeded in capacity by the Masinga, Ndakaini and Turkwel Dams. It lies in the Ragia Forest and is part of the stunning exploits along the Ragia Trail and along the main road to Njabini. Sasumua Dam along the Sasumua River (a tributary of Chania) nearby Njabini Town was commissioned in 1956 primarily to supply water to Nairobi City; set about 90 kms south. With a capacity of 15.9 million m3, it supplies the city with 15–20% of its water, or about 64,000 m3 each day. North of Sasumua Dam sits the South Kinangop Forest from where the Aberdare Massif rises, and its south scarp or prominence known as the Elephant Hill is a famous hiking destination.

7. Cheese House

Since the appliance of the Crown Ordinance Act in 1902 – in this Act, and in all conveyances, leases and licences and in all agreements, notices and documents relating to ‘productive’ land being granted to colonial powers and settlers – the mostly European settlers took control of the inchoate farming industry, to help grow the industry and develop the economy, by preference taking up the “White Highlands” around Central Kenya where the climate was very favorable. These farms often came with demands for strict economic, ethical and environmental behaviour, and rather attractive terms, encouraging the arrival of many settlers. And in the late 1940’s there was a new player: Major Aslin Atherton. He had been awarded a parcel of land in the Kinangop area. “On this land he put up a house and succeeded a dairy farm, earning him the nickname cheese. For what some consider a picturesque structure, the name is quite befitting. Over seventy years later, the house built by ‘cheese’ is a testament to solid workmanship” – Melanie Kabunja. While the old colonial houses around Kenya are as diverse as they are impressive, Cheese House checks all the boxes, with soaring ceiling and pitched wooden roofs, landscaped gardens and picket fence, and quintessential sharp angular walls and stack columns so well presented here of British country homes. At present the site of Karangatha Health Centre, ‘Cheese House’ is an outstanding relic of the unique builds associated with this chapter of the history of Kenya. It is situated 25 kms from Flyover-Njabini Interchange via C67 Thika-Gatura Road, taking a turnoff to Karangatha shortly before arriving at Njabini.

8. Njabini

The 23 kms drive from Flyover interchange to Njabini Town and the verging 16 kms to Engineer Town is a drive across pretty farms, and almost every inch of this lightly-populated area is beautiful and exemplified by sweeps of Aberdare Range sighted in the east. Then, there is the beauty of old colonial houses which give away its history as a ‘white-highland’ previously settled exclusively by the settler farmers who made good of the rich and fertile soils. Njabini Boys School, for example, was originally known as Brown Trout Inn – a former resort for the settler farmers. And going through Njabini Town, that is conspicuously built on two separate ridges across from each other, it is easy to uncover the antiquated European houses, ideas, religion and social customs on this farming boondocks.

Spatial Location of Njabini in Nyandarua County
Spatial Location of Njabini in Nyandarua County

9. Elephant Hill

The taper, symmetrical and steep scarp on the south tag-end of Aberdare Range spectacularly named Elephant Hill – both for its shape and for the abounding numbers of elephants in these forests – is proper hiking country, classified as moderate to difficult, yet, in addition, it really is full of heartwarming sights; in conformation to the acclaimed beauty of the elephant. Along the trail, Sasumua Dam, Ndakaini Dam, Mount Kipipiri, and, the Honi, Wanjohi and Rift Valley Valleys are sighted. Elephant Hill is a part of Aberdare Simbara: a series of hills that form the mountainous part of the Aberdares. The Simbara is uninhabited, with unnamed streams, grassy slopes, deep valleys, bogs and dozens of dykes. Many a sad hiker have regretted not adequately planning for the hike especially for the second push up the rump of Elephant Hill. This has tested the resolve of many, who, taking a chance on the ever impeding cloud, discovered it was really not much fun. Stories of the wardens high consternation over an downpour that appeared hours away, only to drench hikers in minutes, are not rare. It always rains here and a hike should be planned in good weather – that is not in April, May and October. Obvious perhaps is to take snacks and water and wear sturdy shoes. It takes on average 8 hours (round-trip) to hike Elephant Hill. The trail starts at Njabini Forest Station near Njabini Town. Generally speaking, the fees for engaging a ranger are USD 25 for local residents, and USD 40 for non locals.

10. Aberdare Range

Aberdare Range is composed of an elongated 120 kms long massif – stretching from Kiambu to the end of Nyandarua – which forms part of the eastern wall of the Rift Valley. It runs on a north-south strike. At the northern-end, marked by steep valleys and isolated hills, the range descends gradually from the Lesatima Peak towards Nyahururu. On the southern-end, the land descends steeply south from the Elephant Hill (Kinangop Peak). The 762 km2 Aberdare National Park which is a venerable theater of rare alpine flora, waterfalls on icy rivers and vast wildlife resources is the centerpiece of the Aberdare Range. The scenic drives from Njabini to Miharati, Naivasha to Nyeri, Gilgil to Nyahururu are all quick ways to discern just how truly stunning the Aberdare Range is. In Nyandarua County, the Aberdare Range builds up to Ol Doinyo Lesatima (4001 ms), Mount Kipipiri (3347 ms) and Elephant Hill (3127 ms). These also forms its highest hallmarks. The lower slopes of these three scarps are forested with woodlands and bamboo forests. At lower altitudes, and especially along the rivers, dense, lush bushland (sometimes of stinging nettle) go unbroken for miles upon miles.

Joseph Thompson, in 1887, named the Aberdare Mountains (originally known as the Nyandarua or Kikuyu Range) and fixed their position on a map. He was, however, criticized by Von Hohnel, in 1891, and John W. Gregory, in 1894, over the positioning and nomenclature of the peaks and rivers.

11. Rurimueria Hill Trail

“ln the northern Aberdares, on Kipipiri and in valleys near the southeast edge of the area, the exposed volcanic rocks are basaltic lavas of a distinctive type. In fact, the principal centres of eruption of these basalts were around Satima and Kipipiri. Closely similar basalts were erupted including Rurimueria, Nyandarua and Kijabe Hill, probably during the same volcanic phase. Denudation has long ago removed any trace of the craters of these volcanoes and other lavas have been erupted on and around them.” – R.M. Shackleton. From the higher peak of the Elephant Hill in the southern area of Nyandarua County, the overall dip of the Aberdare Range is north-easterly trending, the range deeply dissected by numerous streams, a feature that is most pronounced in the Kijabe area where scarcely a single ridge is wider than half a mile. ln the northern Aberdares, the Satima, Kipiriri and Rurimueria Peaks are the highest areas, in that order. The Rurimueria Hill Hike commences at Kingangop through Ndunyu Njeru Forest Gate. It is rated moderate to difficult. “Rurimueria is under the Kenya Wildlife Service. Besides the entrance fee, one is required to pay for a guide. Given its beaten nature, a local guide is also provided. You will need someone who’s been brought up there, believe me. The mountain knows her children.” – Wacera

12. Mount Kipipiri

Situated in northeast region of Nyandarua County, 16 kms north of Engineer at Geta, Mount Kipiriri (sometimes described as Kipiriri Hill) rises almost 914 ms above the surrounding plains to 3347 ms as the second highest peak. It stands apart from the main Aberdare Ranges on the east, from which it is separated by a valley that’s deeply trenched by the streams draining it on either side. Kipipiri Forest Reserve, which has an initial gazetted area of 50 km2, currently covers 39 km2. Hiking Mount Kipipiri starts at Geta Forest Station, at Ndunyu Njeru. The trail commences with a scenic walk across the Wanjohi Valley, then up the steep trails to the summit. It takes 8 hours (round-trip) on a casual hiking pace.

13. Mount Kipipiri Golf Resort

This proposed mega-project set on 1,400 km2 in Kipipiri and in propinquity of Mount Kipipiri, will be, on realization, Nyandarua’s premier living, leisure and recreational destination. The construction of the primary infrastructure for the Mount Kipipiri Golf Resort, its golf course and club houses was anticipated to take three years starting February 2017. The projects aims to incorporate 600 holiday-homes, an 18-hole golf course, a shopping mall, hotel, convention hub, eco-lodges, polo field, nature gardens and walking trails, and an office complex.

14. Ol Doinyo Lesatima

Ol Doinyo Lesatima, simply known as Satima, is the pièce de résistance of the many spectacular scarps and rock faces on the Aberdare Range. And with just a metre over 4,000 is the third highest peak in Kenya. The Satima Scarp found on the north-western edge of Aberdare Ranges, and which more or less marks the north-eastern frontier of Nyandarua County, “is the most scenic and gentle of all the trails in the Aberdare Range – with the route hugging the escarpments above undulating valleys and hills of rich alpine and sub-alpine flora to include rare species of lobelia, erica, giant helichrysum and tussock grasses” –The East African. There is no difficulty in ascending to Satima, but is a mountain walk of pleasing beauty and interest which goes past the Dragon’s Teeth (the sporadic spread of jagged rocks that rise above the consistently wet boggy moorlands), undulating hills, deep incised river valleys and remnants of volcanic vents. It takes on average 7 hours to complete the 14 kms trail starting-off at Wandare Road head. For more inspiration read Jambo Nairobi’s Guide to Hiking Satima.

Climbing Mount Satima. Published by Ayub Kiplagat

As we rested for lunch before the descent and to hike back to base camp, the guide warned us that most afternoons at Satima are marked by “snowfall.” We laughed and told him to banish such thoughts. After just about five minutes of descending, there were not so distant rumbling of thunder. It was suddenly very still. The park guide told us to brace ourselves for a cold afternoon shower. But even before ponchos and other waterproof gear was out of backpacks it grew dark and the most violent hailstorm was upon us.

15. Dragon’s Teeth

Satima Hike can be approached from one of three gates into Aberdare National Park: Wandare Gate, Shamata Gate and Rhino Gate. The latter being the most popular and quickest route to Dragon’s Teeth on the way to Ol Doinyo Satima. Dragon’s Teeth is on the  furthest side of the park with car access mainly using the Shamata and Rhino Gates. On this route, midpoint to Satima Peak, across the moorland and pale-weathering lavas, identified as phonolites, rises the awe-inspiring Dragon’s Teeth – a sheet of porphyritic quartz trachyte. As a recent write describes the experience: “Dragon’s Teeth had been on my bucket list for quite a while and for those of us that love the African great outdoors, then you probably understand the predicament of having way too many options and not enough time. The added thrill to the dragon’s teeth expedition is the fact that very few people have gone to this magical place”. To Rhino Gate, you drive out to Nyeri (or Nyahururu) then head north via B5 Nyeri-Nyahururu 30 kms away. Travellers might find it useful to drop in at Mweiga KSW Office to get passes to the park: Citizen Kshs. 300, Residents Kshs. 1030 and Non-Residents USD 52. “From Mweiga, the turnoff for the Rhino Gate is at a town named IDP, (not on google maps). On your left, past Mweiga, look out for a big gas factory, hard to miss, ask the boda-boda people which road is for the Rhino Gate because there are two roads within 250 ms of the spot and only one is the right road”. Once in the park, drive for 10 kms to Twin Peaks, where there hiking trail begins, with a road sign to Satima Peak, along which the Dragon’s Teeth is a 2 hour hike away.

Spatial Location of Ol Doinyo Satima in Aberdare National Park
Spatial Location of Ol Doinyo Satima in Aberdare National Park

16. Buxton House

About 10 kms north of Miharati and Mount Kipipiri sits the much-talked about but less-visited Wanjohi Valley, which has almost mythical status in Kenya and famously-known for the legacy of decadent lifestyle and exploits of the settler-farmers in the 1940’s. “Geoffrey Buxton, the pioneer colonial farmer in the area, had moved up from the dryer Rift Valley with its meagre rivers and a relentless dusty wind that earned Gilgil its name. And so, after finding his ideal farming country, he called this new haven Happy Valley”. The area is indeed a beautiful one, lying on the Kinangop Plain which is contiguous with the fine Ol Bolossat Plain at the foot of the Satima Scarp; and close to Ol Kalou and Ol Joro Orok. Geoffrey Buxton, the grandson of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, British MP, would be the first farmer to settle in Wanjohi Valley, completing his house in 1908. It was a double story house, made of mud and still stands today, but is desperately in need of repair for its idiosyncratic beauty and place. It introduced a never-seen-before sturdy architecture to this village. The hulking Buxton House, set hard against Aberdare Range, must have been a sight to behold in its heyday, in the 1940’s. Unfortunately time, neglect and vandalism have gotten the best of this beauteous country mansion. It’s located about 15 kms from Ol Kalou Town.

The famed book and movie “White Mischief” that told the story of Lord Errols death also made popular the Happy Valley, its lifestyles, and fine palatial houses. Many decades on, time and tide has not waited on many of these houses. Nakuru and Nyandarua are awash with many ominous mansions from the era. Although most are in derelict state.

17. Dundori Forest

With several roads radiating out of Ol Kalou Town, this could be said to be the communication hub of Nyandarua County. From here, there are direct routes to Naivasha through Gilgil, to Nyahururu through Ol Joro Orok, and to Nakuru through Dundori Forest. Dundori Forest, which is contiguous with the Bahati Forest in Nakuru County, is an important water catchment ecosystem for Lakes Nakuru and Elementaita being the headwaters of Rivers Ngoshur and Mbaruk that flow into these two lakes. It covers about 38 km2, of which, 51% is listed as a ‘productive zone’ where trees can be planted. And at both these forests the disappearing Shamba System is still utilized (a method of establishing forest plantations in which farmers tend young plantation trees as they produce food crops) which has exacerbated extensive illegal logging. After decades of wanton destruction in both these forests, renewed steps-forward to regenerate has seen tremendous changes in patching the cleared spots. Of particular interest, while driving across Dundori Forest, are sights of the densely wooded Dundori Hills.

18. Lake Ol Bolossat

From Ol Kalou it is an easy 23 kms drive due north to Ol Joro Orok, which lies about 5 kms west of Lake Ol Bollosat. On a long day out adventure-makers can traverse the lake (in pleasant weather) from either north to south or vice versa. Lying on Kinangop or Ol Bolossat Plain that is proximate to Wanjohi Valley, at the footslope of Ol Doinyo Lesatima and flanked by the magnificent Aberdare Range on its eastern marches, Lake Ol Bollosat is a plateau of romantic views. It is the highest of the 7 lakes at Rift Valley, set at over 7,600 ft., asl. This 43 km2 freshwater sagar on a very flat plain, skirted by a 36 kms long taper escarpment, is a most spectacular scenery, and is the only lake to be seen in ‘Kikuyuland’. It is filled by rivers and underground water seepage from the Aberdare Range and streams from Dundori Hills and Forest. In 2017, Lake Ol Bollosat was gazetted as a ‘protected wetland area‘ in part to mitigate any destruction and to foster its perpetuate birdlife. Still untouched by mass tourism, it has remained a hidden gem where travellers can drop-in and spend a few fleeting hours unwinding, or, take it in at the snug cabin-styled Samawati Cottages, set 500 ms from the Lake.

Spatial Location of Lake Ol Bolossat in Nyandarua County
Spatial Location of Lake Ol Bolossat in Nyandarua County

19. Samawati Conservancy

Located on the littorals of Lake Ol Bolossat, just 500 ms from the waters edge, Samawati Conservancy is a secluded 20-acres paradise that blends exquisitely to the natural beauty, year round fine weather and the scenically-splendid lake. On horseback, across the lake and to the mountain trail, one could be forgiven for labeling this the most spectacular lake of them all. The overall experience is one of tranquility and repose in a delightful rural country. Samawati Cottages and the adjoining Kichakani Camp are some of the best range of self-catering accommodation found in Central Kenya. Samawati is comprised of 3 cottages, each sleeping four, all overlooking the lake. The view of the lake is the star here, and its triad of cottages have large windows fronting the lake, and a large well-kept lawn separating these. The lay of the cabins is snugly, intimate and homey.

20. Laikipia Plateau

The drive to Nyandarua from Gilgil, up the Kikuyu Escarpment, is a memorably surpassing ascent through an ecological gamut from the hot and dusty plains of the Rift Valley to the cool and fertile Kikuyu farmlands. The Kikuyu Escarpment is bound by the Rift Valley in the east, and Laikipia Plateau in the west. It also runs along the Aberdare Range and is part of the Central Highlands, also known as Kikuyuland, roughly bound by four mountains – Mount Kenya, Ngong Hills, Aberdares, and Ol Donyo Sabuk. Correspondingly, the short 13 kms drive from Ol Joro Orok to Nyahururu (Laikipia County) provides a glimpse of the rolling golden savannas of Laikipia on the Laikipia Plateau extending for 9,500 km2 of semi-arid plains, dramatic gorges and acacia-thicket covered hills. In Laikipia County, it extends east to Lake Baringo, west to Mount Kenya, and northerly to the legendary Northern Frontier District. Laikipia Plateau is occupied by a vast patch work of privately owned conservancies structured under Laikipia Wildlife Forum whose aim it is to conserve Laikipia’s wildlife, its ecosystem probity, and make-better the lives of the local people. This has enormous wildlife resources.

21. Tafaria Castle

About 44 kms from Nyahururu en route Nyeri via B5 Road at Ndaragwa sits the hauntingly beautiful Tafaria Castle, which is inspired by the ‘Medieval Gothic Castles’ popular in the 1300’s to 1400’s. On arrival holiday-makers are equal parts surprised and enthralled by the goth design blocks of dressed masonry, columned arches and towers, and which in the 21st Century rural Kenya sits writ large as a fairytale hidey-hole retreat. The landscape in no less impressive overlooking Mount Kenya, Aberdare Range and the Laikipia Plains (plateau). The singular architecture of Tafaria Castle and the encircling landscape piece together one of the most unique and heartwarming country lodges in Kenya. As its name suggests, the castle is filled with plenty of activities to keep its royal guests always smiling and happy, from its lookout-deck, horse stables, horse riding, horse carriage, swimming, archery, lawn tennis, medieval bowling, art tour, birding, and game drives. Its art exhibitions runs throughout the year either by artist-in-residence after the end of each residency or by established and upcoming artists. For accommodation Tafaria Castle has 57 rooms in its various residential quarters with a capacity of up to 160 guests in different set-ups. The Castle building has the Lord’s Room, the Chamber and seven rooms in the Lord’s Court. The rest of the rooms are set around the Castle. Then, there’s the Moat Bar, Bailey Lounge, and the Dungeon with a litzy disco and a cinema.

View of the Dragon's Teeth along Satima Trail.  Photo Courtesy of Africa Geographic
Dragon’s Teeth along Satima Trail. Image Courtesy of Africa Geographic

Geography of Nyandarua County

The western boundary of Nyandarua is more or less marked by the Nyairoko River, a tributary of the Malewa River, which courses into Nakuru County and that marks its northern frontier. To the east, the Aberdare Ranges traverse its boundary with Nyeri County. The northern frontier is marked by the Wanjohi-Magomano-Ol Kalou-Gilgil Road. The perimeter boundary of Aberdare Ranges is 565 kms. Altitude varies from 2,000 ms on eastern forest boundary to 4,001 ms at the peak of Ol Donyo Lesatima; situated towards its north-eastern limits.

Land Use in Nyandarua County

Land use in Nyandarua County can be roughly categorized into national parks, forestry, roads, townships, farms, watercourses and water bodies.  Much of the land in Nyandarua County has been subdivided, allocated and settled. Most of the land held by farmers is in small scale with few large farms that are spread throughout the county. The mean holding size per household is 3.5 ha. With the increasing population and emergence of urban centres, the mean holding sizes are expected to reduce as sub-division and sale of land continues.  Nyandarua County is primarily an agricultural area: producing potatoes, wheat and maize.

Highlights in Nyandarua County

Aberdare Forest Reserve, which is located on the Aberdare Ranges, together with the Kikuyu Escarpment, which runs 120 kms northwards from Nairobi and about 40 kms at its widest point, are the eminent features in Nyandarua. Other notable physical features of Nyandarua County include the Kinangop Plateau and Ol Kalou or Ol Joro Orok Plateau which have slopes that are interrupted by low undulating hills, the Great Rift Valley in the west, and Aberdare Ranges in the east. Its gentle slopes flatten to plain-like features of marshes and swamps.

Population in Nyandarua County

In 2009, the population in Nyandarua County was 596,268. This comprised of 292,155 males and 304,113 females. In 2013 projected population was 656,348, expected to grow to 688,618 and 722,498 persons in 2015 and 2017. About 43% of the population is below 15 years, with close to 69% being below 30 years. Nyandarua County has four urban centres – Mairo-inya, Engineer, Njabini and Ol Kalou. In 2013, the total urban population was 26,655.  Population density was 52 persons / km2 in 1969 and increased to 69 persons / km2 in 1979, then to 102 and 145 persons / km2 in 1989 and 1999 respectively. The 2013 density was 202 persons / km2.  Ol Joro Orok area has a density of 240 persons / km2.

View of Buxton House on Kinangop Plains, in Wanjohi Valley.  Photo Courtesy
Buxton House on Kinangop Plains, in Wanjohi Valley. Image Courtesy

Airports in Nyandarua County

Nyandarua County has only one air strip, in Nyandarua West, which is in good condition and is operational, but is hardly-ever used. Its runway is all-weather.

Roads in Nyandarua County

Nyandarua has a total of 3,400 kms of road, of which, 224 kms is bitumen, 525 kms is gravel surface and 2,651 kms is earth surface. The earth and gravel roads are usually impassable over the rainy season. Bitumen roads are in a good state.

Climate in Nyandarua County

Nyandarua County experiences moderate to low temperatures. The highest temperatures are recorded in the month of December, with a mean average temperature of 25 Degrees C, while the lowest is recorded in the month of July, with a mean average temperature of 12 C. Rainfall in the County peaks between April and May. Kinangop and Ol Kalou Plateaus are located in the rain-shadow of the Aberdares and receive relatively lesser rainfall compared to other areas.

Nyandarua County Distance Chart
Nyandarua County Distance Chart

View of Lake Ol Bollossat near Ol Joro Orok.  Photo Courtesy of Nation Media
Lake Ol Bolossat near Ol Joro Orok. Image Courtesy of Nation Media

National Monuments in Nyandarua County

There are no designated national monuments in Nyandarua County.

Nyandarua County Map

Nyandarua County Map