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Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park

Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park                                          
A rugged, hump-backed outcrop of ancient rock jutting high above the Athi Plains and hazily visible from Nairobi, Ol Donyo Sabuk is a densely forested mountain known to the local Kikuyu as 'The Mountain of the Buffalo', and to the Maasai as 'The Big Mountain'. Just one road leads to its summit, which offers magnificent 360' panoramas over the Athi River, the pineapple fields of Thika and the snow-capped peaks of both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. Within easy reach of Nairobi, the lush vegetation and cool air of this compact and scenic National Park make for an ideal day trip or camping weekend.
The Park is essentially comprised of the mountain's slopes and ravines and is entirely forested except for a small area at the top. Within the halo of primal forest at the summit you may also find some of the giant plants more commonly associated with the Afro-alpine zones of Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon (particularly giant lobelia).

Driving to the summit
The Park's one road leads directly to the summit (4WD required all year round), a flat open glade marked by a large survey beacon. The summit is the focus of the Park and offers breathtaking views, especially in December and January when the air is particularly clear.

Walking to the summit
Long prohibited for security reasons, the 9 km walk from the main gate (where 2WD vehicles may be left) to the summit is now possible so long as you take an armed KWS ranger with you. The walk to the summit will take around 3 hours. KWS rangers must be booked through the warden and a small fee is payable for their services.

An unusual burial site
7 km along the road that leads to the summit lies the grave of Sir William Northrup McMillan, a wealthy American farmer. Here also rests his wife, her maid and the family dog. Born in St Louis, USA, Sir McMillan was nearly seven feet tall and reputedly so fat that he had to walk through most doors sideways (his First World War sword belt measured five feet four inches).
The first person to experiment with the domestication of wild game in Africa, Sir McMillan also attempted to breed wildebeest on his farm, juja, a large estate at the foot of the mountain. Extrovert and sociable, he made the top of 0l Donyo his social domain where he dispensed a degree of hospitality that became almost legendary. Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901- 1909), stayed at juja in 1909 while on safari in Kenya. Sir McMillan decided the mountain was the most fitting place for his own burial.
'He was buried on 0l Donyo Sabuk. The hearse was made with skis on the bottom and a tractor pulled it up the hill, followed by the mourners. Many cars burned out their clutch-plates, so the burial took place there instead of at the top, which had been the original plan.


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Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park                                       
"Ultimate Panoramic Experience"
The Ol Donyo Sabuk national park is located about 85 km north-east of Nairobi in Machakos district of Eastern province. The ecosystem constitutes a mountain which is entirely covered with dense montane forest except for a small area at the top.
Buffalo are the dominant animals in the ecosystem. Other wildlife include bushbuck, leopard, olive baboon, colobus monkey, vervet monkey, Sykes' monkey, Kirk's dik-dik, bush pig, common duiker, reedbuck, rock hyrax, bush-baby, tree and ground squirrel, aardvark,  porcupine, mongoose, python and monitor lizard. The park is home to 45 species of birds and the easily spotted ones include; white-browed sparrow weaver, grey- headed sparrow weaver, African pied wagtail, mourning dove, augur buzzard, African hawk eagle, purple-breasted sunbird, yellow-vented bulbul, speckled mousebird, helmeted guinea fowl, black-headed oriole, grey tit, ring-necked dove, bateleur, great sparrow- hawk, bronze sunbird, superb starling and Mackinnon grey shrike.

Geology
0l Donyo Sabuk is a remnant of Africa's oldest erosion surface, generally regarded as late Jurassic. A residual hump of metamorphic rock, the mountain is surrounded by the monotonous lava plateau of the Athi Plains, which formed around the mountain when lava (molten rock) escaped from fissures in the earth's crust, gradually filling the valleys and smoothing the contours of the original landscape.

Access
By Road: 85 km north-east of Nairobi. From Thika town proceed 22 km along the main Garissa road to Makutano junction. At Makutano follow the KWS sign and turn right, proceeding 3 km on an all-weather murram road to Donyo town. At Donyo turn right and proceed a further 2 km to the main gate.

Park Roads
The Park's main gate can be reached by 2WD, but 4WD is required to drive from the gate to the summit all year round. Open: daily 6.00 am - 7.00  pm including public holidays. Note: entry is allowed on foot and visitors will not be allowed entry after 6.15 pm.
Current entry charges: obtainable via KWS HQ, Tel: (Nairobi)  +254 (0)20 600800 , 602345. Email:

Size and Location
-  20.7 Km 2
-  Machakos District, Eastern Province.
-  Altitude: 1,524 m - 2,145 m above sea level.
-  Area: 20.7 km 2.
Distance from Nairobi: 85 km north-east of Nairobi. 27 km south-east of Thika. Gazetted: 1967.

Climate
January-March is hot and dry, April-June is hot and wet, July-October is very warm and dry, November and December are warm and wet.January-March is hot ad dry, April-June is hot and wet, July-October is very warm and dry, November and December are warm and wet.

Safari Card Required
Entry is by cash only. Tickets may be purchased from KWS Hqs cash office or from the main gate, Oldonyo Sabuk National Park. Proof of identification will be required.
- Citizens – Valid Passport or National ID.
- Residents – Valid Passport & re entry pass.

Attractions
- Montane landscape.
-  An unusual burial site, McMillan grave.
-  Wildlife Watching.
-  Abundant forest birds.
-  Fourteen Falls.

-  Scenic views of Mt.Kenya  from the summit.

People who live around the Park
(The Kikuyu (Gikuyu, Akikuyu)
The area around 0l Donyo Sabuk is one of the traditional homes of the Bantu speaking Kikuyu people, the country's largest ethnic group; their forefathers are thought to have migrated here from the east and north-east of Africa over a period of two hundred years, beginning in the 16th century. Traditionally the Kikuyu have neither centralized authority, nor tribal leaders, their disputes being settled by a council of elders. They also believe that their God, Ngai, resides on 'Kirinyaga' or Mount Kenya. For this reason, traditionally all Kikuyu homes were built with the door facing Mount Kenya. Today the Kikuyu remain in the forefront of Kenyan development and are they successful business people and  politicians. Highly influential throughout the nation's history, they were not only instrumental in leading the fight for independence, but also in providing the country with its first President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

Wildlife
-  Includes; buffalo, leopard, mongoose, bushbuck, olive baboon, colobus monkey, vervet monkey, Sykes' monkey, Kirk's dik-dik, bush pig, common duiker, reedbuck, rock hyrax, bushbaby, tree and ground squirrel, aardvark, porcupine, python and monitor lizard.
-  More than 45 species of birds have been recorded.
As its name would suggest, buffalo are the dominant animals in the Park (the saltlick below the summit often attracts them), bushbuck are also easily spotted. Leopard and porcupine are also in residence, but may prove more difficult to spot in the thick bush.

The African buffalo
A very common and much-photographed member of the 'Big Five' safari line-up, the African or Cape buffalo is closely related to the domestic cow and is the only native African cow. Generally docile, buffalo can be extremely dangerous when threatened or surprised and must be regarded with extreme caution, especially lone bulls or cows with calves. Easily identified the buffalo is stocky, black or dark brown, and features distinctive upturned curving horns that broaden at the base and meet over the forehead in a 'boss' shape. Intensely gregarious, buffalo form into herds of between 200 and 2000 animals. Voracious eaters (both grazers and browsers) they spend most of their 15-20 year lifespan consuming fodder to maintain their strength and stamina. Size: height at shoulder 140cm; weight up to 820 kg in the bull.

Butterfly kingdom
At certain times of the year, usually after the start of the rains, there is a colorful showing of butterflies on the mountain, particularly of the swallowtails and charaxes species.

Abundant forest birds
Easily spotted species include: white-browed sparrow weaver, grey- headed sparrow weaver, African pied wagtail, mourning dove, augur buzzard, African hawk eagle, purple-breasted sunbird, yellow-vented bulbul, speckled mousebird, helmeted guinea fowl, black-headed oriole, grey tit, ring-necked dove, bateleur, great sparrow- hawk, bronze sunbird, superb starling, red-cheeked cordon bleu and Mackinnon grey shrike.

Vegetation
Montane forest.

Activities
- Game viewing.
- Camping
-  Mountain Climbing.

What to take with you
Drinking water, picnic items and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight. Also useful are: binoculars, camera, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and guidebooks.

Park Contacts
Phone:       +254-20-2062503
Email:       oldonyo@kws.go.ke
Postal Address:The warden, Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, P.O. Box 1514 0100, Thika.