Mount Kenya National Park is located 175 km from Nairobi and was opened to visitors in December 1949. It covers an area of about 715 square kilometers around Mt Kenya, between altitudes of 11,000ft and 17,058ft above sea level. Mount Kenya, or "Kere Nyaga" as the Kikuyu call it, meaning the Mountain of Brightness, rises to 5,199m above sea level and is the second highest mountain peak in the entire continent of Africa. The Kikuyu tribe believes Mount Kenya to be the abode of the Supreme Being - Ngai, who is addressed as "Mwene Nyaga", meaning the Professor of Brightness, in their traditional prayers. Mount Kenya attracts mountain climbers, and there are routes of varying degrees of difficulty that lead to the top, all offering spectacular scenic beauty.
The park was opened to visitors in December 1949. Visitors can stay at the only lodge present in the park. There are also seven climbers' huts in the park, and three self-help banda sites. There are three more lodges and an additional self-help site just outside the park. Visitors can indulge in some very rewarding wildlife viewing, as well as mountain climbing. Also, the Naro Maro airstrip is located in the park.
Spectacular scenery is an important aspect of the park, with lovely lakes, tarns, glaciers, peaks and natural mineral springs in the area. The vegetation naturally varies according to the height. Dry upland forests are found in the lower slopes, which change to montane forest from 2,000m upwards. This forest generally consists of cedar and podo. The vegetation changes to a thick bamboo forest at around 2,500m which, in turn, changes to the upper forest of smaller trees and high altitude moss. Visitors can observe a variety of plants (of at least 11 species) and animals including the black and white Colobus, Sykes monkey, bushbuck, buffalo, and elephant. At lower altitudes, animals like the olive baboon, waterbuck, black rhino, black fronted, duiker, leopard, giant forest hog, genet cat, bush pig and hyena are found. A rare sighting is the elusive bongo, a forest antelope. Other endangered species found in the forests include the Sunni buck, Mt. Kenya Mole Shrew, skins (lizard), and different types of owls. The albino zebra is another less frequent sighting.
The forests give way to high altitude heath and shrubs between 3,000m and 3,500m altitude. Above 3,500m there is open moorland, where animals like the high altitude zebra and eland are to be found.
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