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Mount Kenya National Park

Kenya's highest peak, one of Africa's largest mountains.

One of the world's highest National Parks, Mount Kenya (second only to Kilimanjaro mountain in Tanzania) is an extinct volcano some three and a half million years old. Straddling the equator, the ‘safari mountain' offers a unique mosaic of mountain rivers, forest, moorland, rock and ice and is crowned by the glittering twin peaks of Batian (5,199 m) and Nelion (5,188 m). The sacred home of Ngai, God of the Kikuyu people, Mount Kenya is Kenya's biggest mountain, a national icon, a climbers' Mecca, the nation's namesake, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site and a Kenya safari destination beyond compare.

Kenya Safari Fact File
Altitude: the mountain ranges between 1,600-5,199 m above sea level.
Area: National Park 715 sq km, National Reserve 2,124 sq km.
Location: Nyeri District, Central Province.
Distance from Nairobi: the nation's largest mountain, straddles the equator, 175 km north-east of Nairobi.
Gazetted: the National Park was gazetted in December 1949 and the National Reserve in July 2000.
Activities: mountains climbing, game watching, birding, hiking, nature walking.
Climate: as a result of its mountain geography, Mount Kenya's weather is notoriously unpredictable and varies with altitude.
At points over 4,000 m mountain altitude, Mount Kenya is usually freezing cold, misty and windy. During sunshine, daytime temperatures may rise to over 15˚C (over 4,000 m) and during periods of cloud cover they may drop to nearly 0˚C.
Vegetation: Kenya's mountain alps feature alpine and sub-alpine flora with montane and bamboo forest, moorland and tundra amongst the highest peaks.
Montain wildlife: includes; giant forest hog, tree hyrax, white-tailed mongoose, elephant, black rhino, suni, black-fronted duiker, bongo, leopard, Mount Kenya mouse shrew, hyrax, duiker and the endemic mole-rat.
Birds: 130 recorded species.

What's in a name?
To the indigenous people who lived in central Kenya for thousands of years, Mount Kenya had various names. The Kikuyu, who make up the bulk of Kenya's modern day population, called their largest mountain Kirinyaga, which roughly translated means, the ‘white' or ‘bright' mountain. The Embu people, meanwhile, called their tallest mountain Kirenia (the mountain of whiteness), and the Maasai called it both Ol Donyo Eibor (the white mountain) and Ol Donyo Egere (the speckled mountain).

Namesake of a nation
Anthropologists and linguists believe that the modern name ‘Kenya' comes from the Akamba people, who called this world famous safari mountain Kiinyaa, the ‘Mountain of the Ostrich', because in their opinion the dark rock and speckled ice fields looked like the tail feathers of the male ostrich.

Maasai laibons immortalized
The tallest mountain peaks of Batian, Nelion and Point Lenana were all named by Sir Halford Mackinder (who made the first recorded conquest of the mountain heights) in memory of three legendary Maasai laibons or medicine men, all of whom were renowned for their wisdom and bravery.

A giant born of fire and ice
Like most of East Africa's mountains, Mount Kenya is an extinct volcano with a massive volcanic cone, circular in shape and around 70 km in diameter. Born between 2.6 and 3.1 million years ago, it formed as successive layers of volcanic lava erupted with massive force from a central vent, which had burst open in the earth's surface.

Once the highest mountain in Africa?
Rising a majestic 5,000 m above its 800 m high surrounding plains, Mount Kenya is the second highest mountain in Africa (after Mount Kilimanjaro's 5, 896 m). Experts believe, however, that at its birth it may have been 1,000 m higher, which would have made it Africa's highest mountain.

Glaciers 16 km south of the equator
Considered the perfect example of an equatorial mountain, though it straddles the equator, Mount Kenya is permanently crowned in ice. A number of glaciers extend from the peaks, the largest being the Lewis Glacier, which lies along the route from Teleki Valley to Point Lenana via the Austrian Hut.

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