We met our driver for the week in the morning, Amos, who was a man of great knowledge and humour. It was a pleasure to spend the time with him too.
The journey north to Aberdares national park was 3 hours but didn’t feel like it. The road was so smooth and the scenery so green there was plenty to see and some time to sleep. We were to spend the night at Treetops lodge situated in the national park itself and surrounded by a waterhole which is frequented by plenty of animals. You actually arrive at a sister hotel, Outspan, where you check in and have lunch, with Treetops itself is 30 mins drive away. Outspan had a gorgeous view of Mount Kenya and (the first and only) free wifi. What’s not to love?
If you choose to visit here, it’s worth noting that you shouldn’t take a large suitcase with you. My parents took a biggish one because they went to Zanzibar for a extra week and since you get taken by van to Treetops with lots of other people they had to take out overnight things into a smaller bag and leave their large luggage at Outspan. Though their luggage was safe in a locked room it’s just a bit of faff. If you need a lot of luggage because you’re away for a long time then it’s not a problem, but take an overnight bag to move things into.
As soon as we arrived at Treetops a big bull elephant wandered up to the water. He had a badly damaged trunk from wandering into villages before a fence was put up around the park, but thankfully he still can use it without any problem. It just looks like it’s going to come off whenever he flicks it upwards.
A whole herd of elephants joined the male and stayed all evening. The male was eating red deposits on the floor which we were later told to be salt. Leaving small deposits on the ground is an attempt at deterring elephants from using their tusks to dig into the ground for the natural salt. It works up to a point, but the herd spent all evening digging and eating the mud.
The temperature dropped a bit being at a higher altitude so I was glad of the hoody I brought with me. I only brought it because of the cold in the UK! We had time to sit and relax and watch the animals. At 5.30pm Stephen, the naturalist of Treetops, gave a talk on the hotel and the animals there.
Elephants have been destroying the trees in the area which is why Treetops isn’t so much in the treetops anymore. Trees are being deliberately planted with the help of visitors staying more than 1 night and areas are being fenced off. The original Treetops was tiny…
It was built in 1932 in a single fig tree by Eric Sherbrooke Walker who wanted to try to curb hunting. It was burnt down in 1954 by Freedom fighters and a new one was built at the current site in 1957, across the water from the original. The position of the new building was specifically to be able to take better photographs with shade from the sun on one side. Up until 2011 facilities were shared. Luckily for us, it has undergone extensive renovation and can now accommodate 36 rooms with 84 guests each with their own bathroom.
Stephen went on to talk about animal behaviours, but I won’t spoil it by writing it all here. You’ve got to visit for that pleasure! He has written a book you can buy from the hotel which is well worth doing.
The uniqueness of Treetops is demonstrated by the alarm system in each room which you can switch on or off. If an animal arrives in the night the alarm will sound with 1,2,3 or 4 buzzes. Once for hyena, twice for leopard, three times for rhino and four times for elephant. At about 10.30pm the alarm buzzed once for hyena but they were difficult to see in the dark as they kept on the far side of the water.