The landscape in this national park consists of emerald green rolling hills, dense forests that came to be known as the “green hills of Africa”. Earnest Hemmingway described the Chyulu hills as the “green hills of Africa” inspired the book written by Earnest Hemmingway titled “Green Hills of Africa”.
These hills are of volcanic nature and range from ash cones, craters as a result of volcanic eruptions which occurred over 240 years ago. Chyulu hills are also a water catchment area for Mzima springs, Tsavo river, and Galana river.
Chyulu hills national park shelters indigenous vegetation and wildlife which vary ranging from the forested area in the eastern part of the hills to the ungazzeted western part of the Chyulu game conservation area which is owned by several Maasai group ranches.
Different forms of vegetation can be seen dotted along the slopes of the Chyulu hills such as rough grassland and thicket, patches of montane forest as well as large tracts of forest which can be seen in the central-southern part of the hills with a variety of tree species.
The hills in Chyulu hills national park hold no permanent surface water but rainfall that percolates through the porous rocks provides water for many permanent water sources in the surrounding plains. The water merges with networks of the Mt. Kilimanjaro and feeds watercourses such as Mzima springs.
These hills straddle the Mkueni and Taita taveta counties and are in the northernmost part of Tsavo west national park.
The dense thickets in Chyulu hills national park are also a water catchment area for wildlife, livestock and the neighboring communities as well as shelter for the different wildlife species in the national park.
The ecosystem in Chyulu hills national park engages the variety of wildlife species in a strong competition for the available water and pasture due to the existing livestock owned by the local communities which compete with the wildlife species.
How to get to Chyulu hills national park;
- By road; from Nairobi via Mombasa road via Emali town to Loitokitok road.
- By air; flights from Wilson airport to Chyulu hills airstrip (scheduled flight), domestic and chartered flights can also be made to the airstrips which include Ol Donyo airstrip and Campi ya Kazi airstrip.
Attractions in Chyulu Hills National Park
Attractions which can be seen within Chyulu hills national park include the following;
- Levithan cave is considered the longest and deepest lava tube which was segmented by the movement of tectonic plates. These caves are divided into the upper Levithian and the lower Levithian formed by hot lava flowing beneath a cooled crust. Getting to the caves engages the tourists in a hike through the rugged wilderness with an available alternative of driving along the motorable route. The caves are well known to geologists and volcanologists and this has contributed to its fame in the world. The locals refer to the Levithian caves as “Kisula cave”. Flashlights are used during these cave explorations which look like a natural art gallery with the different colored walls, cone-shaped stalagmites which can be seen hanging above the sections of the wall formed due to cooled lava.
- Wildlife species such as giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, lions, wildebeest, impala, bushbuck, oryx, eland, reedbuck, steinbok, klipspringer, sykes monkeys and many other wildlife species can be seen as they graze along the low crest of the hills. The eastern black rhino which is one of the surviving species of black rhinos can be sighted around the northern parts of the national park.
Activities in Chyulu Hills National Park
Activities for tourists to engage in during a visit to Chyulu hills national parks include the following;
- Game viewing which is best done in the morning and despite the low densities of wildlife species in this national park, a variety of wildlife species can be sighted such as eastern black rhino, common eland, bush pig, masai giraffe, African leopard, lion, mountain reedbuck, steinbok, wildebeest and grants zebras. Cheetahs can be sighted at the plains of the Chyulu hills. The different wildlife species can be seen as they move around the national park in search for water and pasture. During the dry seasons the wildlife concentrate around swamps and other water sources as they compete for pasture and water with the livestock owned by the local communities. The wet season disperses the wildlife to find water in the outlying plains.
- Hiking in Chyulu hills national park rewards the tourists with volcanic scenery and the beauty of the wild in the Chyulu hills which are one of the youngest ranges in the world. The hikes in this national park range from magnificent grassy plains to the higher green and misty peaks. Chyulu hills provides the view of the Mt. Kilimanjaro ranges in the backdrop which is an exciting experience for the hikers. There are numerous and convenient trails in this national park crisscrossing the park used to explore the park’s wilderness. The Chyulu hills have a slope that is suitable even for the less experienced hiker and it provides a satisfying and less strenuous hiking experience to the tourist.
- Bushwalks engage the tourists in the walks with different sights for tourists to experience such as green acacia woodlands below. Different plant species can also be sighted among the heavy mists of the Chyulu hills such as flowers like species of orchids.
- Horseback riding in Chyulu hills national park engages tourists in setting out on horseback, travelling through the diverse landscape which is a unique game viewing experience with a close encounter with the wildlife species in the national park.
- Mountain biking ranges from biking through a beautiful environment in Chyulu hills national park ranging from deep swamps, edgy woodlands, making twists and turns beneath the Chyulu hills.
- Cultural encounters involve interaction with the local community which consists of the Maasai depend upon the land and defends it. The Kamba people are also resident in the Chyulu hills national park area. The Masai are generally pastoralists and they keep a variety of livestock such as cattle and goats.
- Birding involves sighting different bird species such as shelley’s falcon, cinnamon bracken warbler crowned eagle, Ayres hawk eagle, martial eagle, Abbot’s sterling and many other bird species which can be seen in the endless plains that are cut by the rugged deep black lava flows with diverse habitat for the wildlife and bird species. Bird species range from the endemic species to native species. Forest birds can also be seen in Chyulu hills national park such as the Abyssinian crimson wing, terrestrial pigeon, the cinnamon dove and many other bird species. Birding spots in this national park include at Lake Jipe which is an excellent birding spot in the south west corner of the park.
Accommodation facilities within Chyulu hills national park include two lodges while the rest of the accommodation facilities are located outside the national park and they are classified into luxury accommodation, midrange accommodation and budget accommodation.
Luxury accommodation in Chyulu hills national park includes Campi ya Kazi, Ol Donyo lodge which are the only available accommodation options within this national park in the western slopes of the hills.
Marvel in the majestic greenery and spectacular landscape views of Kenya’s most picturesque terrain, Chyulu hills as you visit the green hills of Africa.