Nyeri County

Attractions in Nyeri County

17. Nanyuki Airstrip

Nanyuki Airstrip, which has been operated and maintained by Tropic Air since the early 1990s, is a busy jumping-off place for many prodigious air journeys to the labyrinthine and wondrous Northern Frontier of Kenya and even further to Congo. “Despite having evolved into a vibrant air hub, the airfield’s charm has remained unchanged – with its simple wooden buildings, extensive lawns, and incredible scenic location” – Tropic Air. It has a 1.2 kms strip running parallel to the A2 Nairobi-Nanyuki-Moyale Road with all-round picturesque views, best enjoyed from the impressively rough and ready time-honoured Barney’s Bar and Restaurant which has also remained unchanged for decades. This is set in a spacious garden betwixt the air strip and highway, providing a unique place to have a nice meal before travelling north. Rated highly, the exquisitely prepared European continental dishes are the star here. Seeing the small planes landing and taking off backdropped by Mount Kenya is the bonus. It is open daily from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm, and found just 2 kms before the main town en route Nyeri.

Inside Nanyuki Airstrip. Image Courtesy of Tropic Air
Inside Nanyuki Airstrip. Image Courtesy of Tropic Air

18. Nanyuki Equator Marker

In spite of the universal intrigue of crossing the equator and by the same token crossing both hemispheres of the planet, it is hardly a fascinating idea in Kenya considering the equator cuts across Kenya from east to west, virtually splitting it into two almost equal halves. Most equator crossing points in Kenya along the major roads have an obligatory pillar, but are otherwise bland and uneventful. Rather oppugnant, the equator crossing at Nanyuki has earned a reputation as somewhat of a stopover, to take in the equator crossing ceremony. Granted that Nanyuki is a busiest town in Laikipia County, the locals have devised pawky and fairly simple set-ups to demonstrate the Coriolis Effect: An inertial or fictitious force that seems to act on objects that are in motion within a frame of reference that rotates with respect to an inertial frame. Due to the earth’s rotation, the air mass curves relative to the earth’s surface. In the north (hemisphere) this effect causes the air to deflect ‘to the right’ of the direction of the air movement and in the south the deflection of the air is ‘to the left’ of the air movement. “If you are standing on the equator at Nanyuki in Kenya and see this experiment live, the Coriolis effect will have a long-lasting effect on your memory”. – Be on the road

19. Mount Kenya Safari Club

Originally built as a holiday home for famous American actor William Holden – one of the biggest box-office draws of the 1950’s and 1960’s – this sublime hotel with dazzling gardens and stunning views is now one of Kenya’s unique hotels and as famous as the icon it was built for. Mount Kenya Safari Club is unique in that it caters, luxuriously, for the world’s wealthy. Set on the slopes of Mount Kenya, above Nanyuki, it boasts a heated swimming pool, a chain of ornamental lakes, frequented by hundreds of rare birds imported from the world over, and such facilities as riding, safari trips, a golf course, bowling greens, croquet, and a private wildlife sanctuary. The Club also has its own team of African dancers, and is internationally regarded as one of the best resort of its kind in the world. Its 120 rooms set in 100 acres are hemmed-in by well kept lawns, gardens, trout filled rivulets and, priceless all-round views. It is located 10 kms from Nanyuki Town, turning left onto a dirt road nearby Lions Court and the Equator Marker.

Fairmont Mount Kenya Experience. Published by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

20. Mount Kenya Animal Orphanage

The secure and secluded Mount Kenya Animal Orphanage, situated adjacent to Mount Kenya Safari Club, is a safe refuge and rehabilitation centre for harmed and orphaned wildlife. At the orphanage they give orphaned, injured, abused and frightened animals a second chance to thrive in safety before being released back to the wild. Likewise, travellers and students benefit from their education program and get to see the wildlife up-close. Their rehabilitation project, partly aiming to prevent extinctions, has been a big success, not least for the breeding of the endangered mountain Bongo and Grevy’s zebra. With the help of these projects, the rare white zebras are finally safe from extinction, thanks to a novel captive breeding and release back to the natural and ancestral wild habitat. It is located 10 kms east of Nanyuki Town, taking a left turn off nearby the equator marker or an alternative along Mt Kenya Road near ASK Nanyuki Showground.

21. Nanyuki War Cemetery

Nanyuki War Cemetery is found 4 kms along a rough road from the township, turning left onto the road into Mount Kenya Safari Club. The cemetery is down the roadway on the left hand side, set well back with the grassed entrance drive marked by boundary stones. The route is well signposted from town. During the Second World War, Nanyuki Town was the key rail head for the advance into Ethiopia, via Isiolo, Marsabit and Wajir and was also an important advance base for the Royal Air Force. The war cemetery was started during hostilities by the Army, the first burial taking place in February 1940. In 2008 the nearby Civil Cemetery burials were transferred here. Today the Nanyuki War Cemetery contains 196 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. There are also 36 non-war burials and one Abyssinian war grave found within the cemetery. It is reached via the Mount Kenya Road, turning left near Nanyuki Show Ground.

Nanyuki War Cemetery. War Memorials in Kenya
Nanyuki War Cemetery. War Memorials in Kenya

22. Nanyuki Town

Dubbed “the Best Western” owing to a subtle resemblance of a classic western movie set, the obscurity of Nanyuki has always been fascinating. Spatially, it marks the northeast gateway into Nyeri County, and conversely as the gateway to Northern Kenya. Not far from the main town, the first bridge over Nanyuki River marks the unofficial boundary between Nyeri and Laikipia County. A little further ahead, the River also mark the unofficial border between Laikipia and Meru Counties. It is popular as the jumping-off place to the conservancies of Laikipia situated to its west and north. It is also home to a permanent training support unit for British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) and Laikipia Air Base (formerly Nanyuki Air Base). Time and tide have evolved its initial social structure based on race and class and today Nanyuki is the “melting pot of the north” folding in many local communities from the three counties, and beyond.

Founded in 1907, as the railway head for the East African Railway to Ethiopia, Nanyuki has since its inception been classified as a “Leisure Outpost”, and the evidence is telling. It is revered for its hotels, its outdoor endeavors, its cultural pursuits, its enviable nightlife and socializing. Indubitably, it is one of the most cosmopolitan towns in Kenya – next to Nairobi and Mombasa – and nowhere is this diversity more apparent than in its range of standard restaurants, making for useful health and stretch rests. Some of the household names here include Le Rustique, Kongoni Camp, Cape Chestnut, Tusks Restaurant at the Mount Kenya Safari Club, The Painted Dog, Barney’s Restaurant and Kungu Maitu. “A song is sung of Nanyuki being ‘mwisho wa reli’ – the end of the rail road – to imply it was the epitome of all fantasies and leisure activities”. Indeed, most of its iconic hotels predate the 1950’s – Mount Kenya Safari Hotel (1930), Nanyuki Sports Club (1945), Silver Beck Hotel (1946) and Sportsman Arms Hotel (1950). The latter opening 12 years before the first hotel was built in the Mara (in 1962).