Mau Eburu – The Ndabibi – Forest Glade Trail

LocationNaivasha
Starting pointEburu Forest Gate
Ending pointEburu Forest gate
Walking durationSix hours
TerrainRain Forest
Elevation gain500m

As recently as the 1930s the Mau Eburu Forest was just the easternmost tip of the vast, 10,000 square kilometres that should be Mau Forest complex water tower. But, as a consequence of decades of deforestation, this super forest has been fragmented into a patchwork of “ecological islands”.  Eburu,  now cut off from the rest of Mau, is an “island” and the smallest of these 22 gazetted forest blocks that comprise the Mau Complex. Luckily, with the completion of a perimeter fence in 2014, the forest is better protected. The Mau Eburu Forest, save for the destruction, should comprise 8,715.3 hectares of prime indigenous forest area overlooking Lake Naivasha to the south-east, Lake Elementaita to the North and Lake Nakuru to the NorthWest. The highest peak, Ol Doinyo Eburu, stands at 2,820 metres above sea level. Eburu is part of the catchment for Lake Naivasha and Lake Elementaita, with several springs including Ndabibi River starting here.

This fragile little island of biodiversity is home to the critically endangered Eastern Mountain Bongo who’ population in the wild is less than 100 worldwide. It is under the jurisdiction of the Kenya Forest Service but there is talk of transferring to KWS.

Eastern Eburu is still geologically active, with numerous hot-springs and steam-jets that spit from fissures in its flanks. Western Eburu was formed thousands of years before its neighbour, but their summits sit just 5km apart, separated by a steep ridge.

The Trail
On this trail, it is as much what you hear as what you see that imparts a thrilling awareness of the forest’s abundant life. Many times, all may seem eerily quiet then, suddenly, a Bushbuck barks out an alarm or Turacos may suddenly reverberate around the forest, whereupon other creatures, of identities unknown, may be heard crashing through the undergrowth. Then all will fall eerily silent again. Other times, the plaintive refrain of a bird somewhere in the under-canopy is all you hear.

The Ndabibi–Forest Glade Trail takes the form of a circuit, covering a distance of 10.7 km. The trail follows the eroded course of an old cattle-track and wild animals’ trails that are at times slippery and steep. The trail should start at the Ndabibi Forest gate, but practically starts from and returns to the Gathondia road-head, about 900m from the gate and outside the Eburu Forest Reserve. Therefore, an early start is necessary in order to achieve your objective.

At the onset, it is a gentle climb from the road-head for about 600m inside the Reserve where the road forks. For the ascent follow the left-hand fork and hope to descend on the other fork if all goes well.

On this ridge, the trail leads you into thick thickets of the afforested section of the forest via animal trails before you descend into the scenic valley of nettles where the stinging nettles can be at times neck high. After crossing the stream, you climb and follow the rim of yet another ridge then once more another valley with crystal clear stream running southwards. It is at this point you make another sharp ascent leading you to the top of the ridge to form the last stretch of your trek.

At about 5.2 km from the road-head, the trail leads you up the narrow, fern-lined track through the heart of the reserve to the Forest Glade (designated) Campsite. This a convenient, open site for picnics and a good base for sightseeing forays. Forest Glade is also the starting point for two of the other Trail, The Western Summit Trail, and The Deep Valley (Waterfall) Trail

The biological diversity preserved within the forest is extraordinarily rich. On the trail, you may get to see Bushbucks and Duikers, Forest Hogs Eagles, Blue Monkeys, and Colobus Monkeys.

Hiking further on, the trail leads through the rain forest and on to the bamboo. The highest point is in closed-canopy forest, 2,538 m above sea level – a climb in elevation of 473 m from the road-head (altitude 2,065 m). From here, over the closed-canopy one can espy hazy views of Soysambu and Lake Elmentaita to the north, and Lake Naivasha to the south.

To descend, the trail joins the Main Forest Road, the narrow dirt track between the Eburu Forest Station and Ole Sirwa. Following this track to the right (towards the Forest Station), you will approach Sunbird Hill. At a fork, 1.2 km along this track, you veer right, down a steeply descending path, which after 2.8 km re-joins the main Ndabibi Trail, so completing the circuit.

Getting there

Driving:
To get there you take the Moi South Lake Road, past Hells gate turnoff, then the flower farms, and Kongoni and Elsamere conservation on until you get to the end of the tarmac and onto a graded earth road. Keep on this excuse of a road up to the Gathondia Trading Centre.
From Gathondia, the track leading up to the road-head is in very poor condition. So vehicles may have to be left at the Trading Centre. Secure parking can be arranged by your local guide.

To plan a visit, call Douglas Gachucha (0723928471), a keen birder and knowledgeable local guide who helped to map the hiking trails.

Public means:
Take public transport to Ndabibi and boda-boda thereafter. Alternatively if in a group arrange for a PSV vehicle plying the route to drop you at the road-head.

The whole trek takes 6 – 7 hours to complete.

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