at Serena Mountain Lodge on slopes of Mount Kenya

Published Nation newspaper Saturday magazine 4 February 2017

Above: Nightlife at Serena Mountain Lodge at the waterhole – the genet comes out to eat on it high perch. Copyright picture by Maya Mangat

Indigenous forest surounding Serena Mountain Lodge
Indigenous forest surounding Serena Mountain Lodge – Copyright Maya Mangat

Shafts of morning sunlight filter through the canopy of the massive tall trees and spread on the forest floor. The ground is wet with the morning dew, the grass cool and the air so fresh that taking in deep breaths is rejuvenating. It’s forest therapy.

Everything is calm as we walk quietly through the enchanted glade, stopping to stare high, touch the wizened trees of many a kind and hear Benson Maina, Serena’s resident naturalist tell us things about them. He knows the forest and its denizens like the back of his hand and if it wasn’t for him, we’d miss the Suni. a tiny foot-high copper-coloured forest antelope staring at us from under a fallen tree. Active at night, the antelope feeds on fungi, fruits and flowers and during the day snoozes hidden under fallen trees. It’s a good strategy to escape from the talons of the mighty raptors or the claws of the leopard that hunt in daylight.

“See these scratches,” points Maina on the thick girth of a tree. “It’s the leopard.” Nobody knows how many there are in the forest but there’s one that’s a regular visitor to the waterhole by the tree-lodge.

In the quietness of the forest the only sounds audible are the bird song, the screech of the Colobus monkey and the tree hyrax. A waterbuck watches and when we stop, it fleets like the wind. An hour through the forest walk, our spirits soar with the aroma of tea drifting by and we take our seats on the logs to sip the hot beverage served with ‘elephant milk’ – a tot of brandy. It goes down really well in the cold.

Given a choice, l’d read a book in the shaded glade for the day. A butterfly flutters away and we stroll quietly when at eye-level, inches’ away is a Bar-tailed trogan perched on a branch. The sun lights its iridescent plumage – blue, green, violet – and in flight it shows its red belly. It’s one of the very few times l’ve seen this jewelled forest bird and never at such close quarters.

Emerging from the forest, we look again at the spot where we saw the suni – it’s lying there safe in its little hideout and we walk the planked walkway into the timber lodge and up the stairs to the open roof top from where the peaks of god’s mighty mountain on the equator stand stoic. A ray of sunshine falls on Nelion, lighting its stony peak with its twin Lenana in shadow. There’s only a little white patch of snow on Batian the highest peak that was first scaled by Sir Halford Mackinder and his companions, Ollier and Brocherel, traversing what then was the gigantic Lewis Glacier that in the last eight decades has vanished by 90 per cent. They reached the summit of Batian at noon on 13 September 1899 after several attempts.

A Crowned eagle soars over the waterhole where a herd of waterbuck drink their fill. The forest walk’s built an appetite and we’re back in the dining room past the ‘resident drunk’ – the sculpted bar-tender holding his bottles.

The clouds begin to shroud the peaks and as night falls, the nocturnal wildlife begins to emerge. The genets ignore the buffalo and climb stealthily up their perch to devour the meat on a rib. A white-tailed mongoose scurries around hunting for its meal. A family of forest hogs – nine of them – and elegant bushbucks spend the night foraging around. And we take our seat for another gourmet meal on the glades of the forest lodge.

Do at Serena Mountain Lodge

The forest walks, the hike to the moorlands and to Sagana River that flows from the mountain peaks and into the mighty Tana. Also spoil yourself at the Maisha spa with fabulous signature massages.

Check in through Ringiti gate – check Kenya Wildlife Service  for current rates.

193 kms from Nairobi – use the road from Karatina (shorter) or Chaka enroute to Nanyuki.

Mount Kenya National Park designated in 1949 is 715 square kilometers in size and at the centre of the extinct volcanic mountain. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

The first European to report seeing Mount Kenya was Dr Johann Ludwig Krapf, a German missionary, from Kitui in 1849.