Attractions in Nyeri County
1. Wajee Nature Park
Just 2 kms beyond Karatina Town en-route Nyeri Town the Mukurwe-ini Road Junction is reached, which is quickest route to Wajee Nature Park, one of the oldest alternative attractions within Nyeri Circuit. This 10-hectares of unspoiled indigenous forest with many planted exotic trees became a park in 1992, before which Wajee was, for many years, an ancestral land belonging to Jagi Gakunju; CEO, African Air Rescue. In 2008, it was taken over by Wildlife Clubs of Kenya. Within the confinement of its sea of green forest are countless opportunities for birding. You arrive as a birdwatcher and are walking on hallowed ground that harbours a spectacular variety of birds, estimated to be at least 126 bird species, which include four exquisitely rare types: Hinde’s babbler (endemic to Kenya), the African wood owl as well as the seasonally migratory Blackcap warbler and European bee-eater. The nature trail, through tunnels and turns, is bedizened with variegated flora. The park is also home to abounding numbers of squirrels.
A generous grass-thatched rondavel serves as a gathering and resting place. For trippers willing to spend at night or two, the original 3-bedrooms family house raised in 1941 is available as a rental. All the rooms have electricity and running water. In addition, two white washed, grass thatched twin-bedded rondavels are also available, charmingly set-up amongst the flowering shrubs and bird baths. There’s also a pretty camping site for up to 20. Tents, mattresses, ground sheets and camping stoves can be provided at a small fee. For cultural tourism there is a replica Kikuyu homestead, with illustrations. The high-standing Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga – home of Gikuyu hero and heroine of origin – is within striking distance. Mount Kenya can be seen in the distance on a clear day. Wajee is set 21 kms from Karatina Town along the Mukurweini-Mihuti-Gakonya Road, just 1.2 kms from Mihuti Market, and about 5.4 kms from Mukuruwe-ini Township.
2. Njigari Forest Hike
Nature will reward your courage to be at Njigari as you divest yourself from the demerits of gridlocked roads and expanding towns, into a trail weaving through health-giving bamboo forests, hilltop plenaries, picturesque waterfalls and past ancient podo trees. Njigari Forest Trail, at the southeast corner of the Aberdare Forest, commences nearby Njigari Center (15 kms west of Othaya Town) cutting through a section of the Nyayo Tea Estate and ascending for about 1 km to the Aberdare National Park fence, ushering you into the pretty, dense forest. The 12 kms forest trail, rated moderate, is fairly long-distance, typically taking about 8 hours to hike. “Not for long in the giant Podo forest, the trail evolves into a huge bamboo garden; some shooting, others rotting, others hugging, others standing alone, others broke and dying along elephant tracks, and yet others have broken but growing again; nature has so much to teach” – HikeManiak. It is a hike of fetching sceneries on many steep ascents, challenging in parts, accomplished by almost anyone with average fitness. Ensure to carry plenty of water and snacks, wear sturdy shoes and carry a poncho. The hike through the Aberdare Reserve must be in company with by park rangers. For group trips contact Hike Maniak.
3. Chinga Dam
The Karatina-Mukurwe-ini Road is also one of two ways to get to Othaya Town and to Chinga Dam. Completed in 1957, this is to date the largest reservoir dam in Nyeri County. Since then its water level has fallen due to silt accumulations. According to a recent study by the water agencies, the mud is now about 18 feet deep. At its deepest the dam is 40 feet. All the same, this man-made marvel sits beautifully in the center of a woody-landscape, part of which was cleared for its construction, with hemmed-in tea farms and embarking slopes that include the filmy Karima Hill. The primary interest for trippers is boating around the dam. Once at the Dam, information should be obtained on arrival concerning hiring of the hop-on hop-off boat taxis. Generally, this region enjoys a lovely climate, however, early morning are bothered by fog. Across the road from the Dam is the pretty Chinga Falls. The best months for visiting the place are December to February, and those to be avoided are March to May, in the rains. The weather is cold and gloomy between May to August, thus restricting boating and hiking. Othaya is 16 kms from Mukurwe-ini. And Chinga Dam only 7 kms from Othaya.
4. Karima Hill
The tapering, dome-shaped Karima Hill, reaching about 2,014 ms at the highest point, was enlisted as a National Monument in 2000 thanks to its rich cultural heritage and its outstanding biodiversity. Covering an area of about 265 acres, it uniquely lies between Aberdare Range and Mount Kenya Forests notable as key biodiversity placements within the Eastern Montane Biosphere. Of interest at Karima Hill are the 109 recorded bird species, 21 exotic tree species, Kamwangi and Gakina sacred shrines, the 400 year old large sacred Mugumo tree, and the indigenous knack of traditional or medicinal therapy of the flora. Even so, this site is faced with logging hitches. Although there are forest guards in the forest, many isolated cases of illegal logging within the forest exist. Restoration efforts are underway after a significant part of the forest was cleared in the late 1990’s.
5. Gathuthi Tea Factory
17 kms north of Othaya Town is the larger Nyeri Town. The short drive between these two major towns takes one through a picturesque roller-coaster drive as the steep slopes fall away into the valleys primarily covered by tea farms. Tea is one of the most valuable exports of Nyeri which is prominent around the areas proximate to the Aberdare Range. Much of the beauty of the highlands around Mathira, Othaya and Tetu is on account of the sweeping tea farms. Gathuthi Tea Factory, 15 kms from Othaya Town and 11 kms from Nyeri Town, is one of the easily accessible tea factories that welcomes guests and provides insights on the processing of tea, from farm to cuppa. The tours include stops at the weighing, fermentation, timed-dying, sieving and grading divisions and, of course, a cup of their best in class tea. It processes about 15 million kgs of green leaf annually.