Mount Kenya, standing at 5199 meters above sea level , is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro.It’s an ancient extinct volcano and it contains twelve small glaciers that are receding rapidly due to global warming.
It hosts a diverse flora that varies with altitude and rainfall : forest, bamboo, timberline forest, chaparral and heathland are disposed in that order as altitude increase until 3000 m.The Afro-Alpine zone, above 3000 meters, offers a diversity of ecosystems including grassy glades, moorlands, tussock grasslands and sedges.There are many endemic species in that zone.Giant Groundsel and different species of Lobelias are found here.
Most of its mammals are found in the lower forested areas of the mountain.African Elephants, African Lions, Giant Forest Hogs, Tree Hyrax, White-fronted duikers, mongooses, hyenas, leopards and different species of monkeys and antelopes inhabit this area.Mole Rats, Mouse Shrew, Mount Kenya Hyrax and Common Duikers are found at higher altitudes up to 4000 meters.
Birdlife is varied and abundant, which includes sunbirds, alpine chats, swifts, Augur Buzzard, Green Ibis, Verreaux Eagle, Lammergeier, Ayres Hawk Eagle, Abyssinian Long-eared Owl, Scaly Francolin, Rüppell’s Robin Chat and the near endemic Alpine Swift.
To get there i went from Isiolo to Nanyuki by bus.In Nanyuki i booked a taxi to the park for next morning.I planned to see the amazing lobelias and groundsels that can be found in higher altitudes. Although it’s not the main purpose of my blog to talk about botany i considered quite interesting to talked about it.
Next morning he took me to the park via Naro Moru, we passed the gate and we reached the station located about 3000 meters above sea level.Then we followed the road that continued until a medium-sized house where we stopped the car and started walking.We went through a forest area and then we started to climb along a steep trail till we reach the heathland area where Juniperus Procera were abundant.The first Giant Groundsels were seen along this area.
Further uphill we reach a moorland area where we could also see Giant Groundsels, Senecio Brassica.However these plants didn’t reach the larger size of individuals of its counterparts in higher altitudes.You can appreciate its yellow inflorescence and the rosette disposition of its leaves.This disposition allows them to avoid freezing and loss of water, while its whitish back part of the leaves reflect the ultraviolet rays.
At 3200 meters i began to feel a bit of altitude sickness. I barely could follow my guide but finally we could manage to arrive to an altitude of about 3300 meters where i could see the amazing views of some Giant Lobelias, Lobelia telekii, that is endemic of Mount Kenya.The furriness of the bracts of the huge inflorescence protect their flowers from freezing.It also contains an internal hollow pith to store water.
We descent quite fast and returned to the car.Afterwards we stopped for a while in the Nano Moru Station where i saw a group of Syke’s Monkeys late morning.
Syke’s Monkeys are mainly found in Eastern Africa.They are similar to Blue Monkeys although they are easy to distinguish from them by its white large collar in its chest and neck.The Mount Kenya subspecies of Syke’s Monkey, see picture above, inhabit this area, where they are found up to 3000 meters.
These monkeys were seen in a group of four individuals feeding on the leaves and grass on the ground.They stayed in the station area eating and running for quite a while.These monkeys are very nice to observe and i got entertained taking pictures of them for almost an hour.
It was a nice experience to expand my knowledge about a very unique flora and wildlife !
Next stop in Jinja, Uganda, with many pictures of birds in the source of the White Nile !!
See you soon my friends !!!