Adjacent to the northern border of Nairobi county and home to more than a million citizens, according to The Star, Kiambu County boasts a variety of economic and entertainment activities. Thika, the largest town in Kiambu has more to offer the world than the agricultural products it is so famous for. Connected to Nairobi by the Thika Super Highway. It is also easy to get to and visit the following places, two of which are in Machakos County. For a weekend or road trip, the following sites are a must visit.
Natural Waters – Fourteen Falls
Located about 65 kilometers north east of Nairobi town off Thika-Garissa Road, Fourteen Falls is one of the most iconic waterfall features in Kenya. Babs Hoffman once said, “Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey”, a disclaimer that clearly describes the kilometers of dirt between the main road and the entrance to Fourteen Falls. The dust is simply unbelievable but I chose to see the housing structures that are both old and fascinating. To this day, how the mud blends with the dust and few building stones to create a structure are still unfathomable.
Closer to the falls, the air changes and although the place is particularly dry due to its location and global changes, the waterfalls cascade beautifully over the rocks. During the rainy season, the farthest fall from the entrance has a couple of divers performing exceptional tricks on the deepest part of the water body. Though this is dangerous, illegal, and spoken against by the county officials it is still a sight to behold. You also have to boat ride to the other side to view this and for a first visit, I highly recommend it.
The falls also offer a team building field farther down the falls which is the perfect spot for a day out with your crew. Carry your own gear and balloons, hula hoops and white field dust to play ‘Protect your Balloon’, hula hoops the ice break respectively should have you covered for the whole day. Bring your own snacks as there is little in the way of food around the falls. It can also be an eating competition game. Also remember to clean up your mess, for the sake of all the wild birds and animals that share the habitat.
Hiking – Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park
This amazing national park in Thika, still 65km from Nairobi off the Thika-Garissa road actually hosts the Fourteen Falls though it has a variety of alternative entrances. Fourteen Falls is just one of the attractions of Ol Donyo Sabuk though most people simply limit their visit to the falls ignoring the whole world of beauty within the park. The animals there are rarely violent but sticking with the travel group and close to your safari car is advisable. HBW Alive has featured the park in one of its articles as a park with amazing birdlife. The park claims homage to about 45 different species of birds including but not limited to a variety of weavers, the African hawk eagle, the augur buzzard, the purple breasted sunbird and the mourning dove. The dominant animal is the buffalo though olive baboons, leopards, bushbucks, aardvarks, and pythons can easily be sighted.
The activities in this park include game viewing, camping and mountain climbing which can be completed in a day. Kilimambogo is the mountain in the park whose literal translation is ‘big mountain’. The park has a lot of history as it was home to Lord Macmillan who arrived in 1901 and entertained numerous public figures such as the former U.S president Theodore Roosevelt. Bird watching is not a developed activity and you have to take out your camera and brave the morning cold to document your bird experience. The park has a resort where you can choose to stay if you prefer to be closer to the wild than to civilization. On the summit of the mountain, views of Mount Kenya in totality and Fourteen Falls on the other side are simply worth the hike.
Where to Stay- Fourteen Falls Lodge
Situated just 10 kilometers outside Thika Town and 22 from the center, this lodge offers the tranquil environment synonymous with untouched nature. If you want the ideal interaction between Kenyan culture and the natural environment then this is the perfect lodging. On a busy weekend, you may get the chance to gatecrash a wedding reception or even watch from a distance as locals really to love the site. The singing and dancing is typically African and watching the smiles never get old. On my most recent visit, I witnessed a biracial wedding and the array of traditional fashion and modern gowns were so cheerful and colorful. Thika gets very hot during the day and if you are camping at the lodge, your tent is unbearable. This is the reason they offer a swimming pool complete with a baby pool and an on-site instructor. Nevertheless, you may have to check with the personnel as the charges are normally not included in the camping charges.
During the daytime, the small red gate offers a gateway to another adventure. The area is full of trees and shrubs that are so intertwined together it gives the feel of an untouched park before civilization. There used to be a tiny zipline right next to the water pond they warn about crocodiles but it has since been removed. The tree walkway, however, is still there and the thrill is still everything I remember from my first time there in 2014. In terms of accommodation, you can select the different size African style traditional huts and cottages depending on the size of your family or group. You can also choose to camp on their camping site if you visit for a whole weekend. You definitely have to try their roasted goat meat as it is rich and tasty.
Quick Stopover – Chania Falls
Depending on where you travel from either from Nyeri or Nairobi, at one point you will have to pass through Thika town. The best thing about Chania Falls is that you do not have to deal with the traffic as it is right before the flyover into Thika with a direct link to Nairobi. Nonetheless, the falls are on the opposite side of the road to Fourteen Falls though the travel through Thika town should take less than 10 minutes. The advantage is that you do not have to make a detour to get back to Nairobi from Chania Falls as there is a direct road from the falls. This strategic location makes this site one of the best places as it also has a variety of eating joints close to the Chania Falls. In Kenya, Nyama Choma (roasted meat) is a delicacy and most citizens go out of their way to have it especially during weekends.
For the perfect Kenyan food experience perusing through the menu and enquiring suggestions from the service staff should provide the best experience. Kenyans are wired to be extra helpful and it is a requirement that big hotels have employees that speak a variety of languages. The most basic of English skills should get you through it. This tip is also helpful if you get lost somewhere and are unable to maneuver your car around the sites. Be extra careful, in every crowd, there is always the risk of a dishonest person.
Whether you live in Kenya or you are just visiting Nairobi for a quick conference or Expo, visiting Machakos County through Thika is an amazing experience. Less than a two-hour drive from Nairobi factoring in the traffic this is an experience you should never forego.