This weekend, we went camping with tons of friends and their kids to Gatamaiyo Forest Nature Reserve. It was such an amazing trip! We had about 24 adults and 17 kids (under the age of 5!), so it was quite the camping extravaganza.
I cannot believe we’ve never been to Gatamaiyo Forest before. It’s less than 2 hours’ drive from Nairobi, at the very southernmost tip of the Aberdare National Park. The Gatamaiyo Forest Nature Reserve is managed by the Kijabe Environment Volunteer Organisation (KENVO), who have done a fine job preserving the forest, protecting the flora and fauna inside, and protecting the village populations nearby from animal / human interaction.
We chose a gorgeous clearing at the ridge of one of the hills in the forest as our campsite. We all pitched our tents around the forest side of the campsite, and set up a fire pit toward the edge of the overlook.
After we set up camp, we headed out for a walk through the forest with our KENVO guides. The forest is truly magical, with mossy trees and indigenous bamboo thickets.
While in the bamboo thicket, we chose some nice sticks for roasting sausages and marshmallows for the kids. When we got back to camp, we let the kids make tie-dye t-shirts, which was less messy than expected, and produced some impressive shirts!
Our hosts, close friends of ours from our MSF days back in northern Uganda, made arrangements for two innovative charcoal oven pizza caterers, Oscar and Albert, to come along and cook us pizza for dinner.
This was fancy fare for bush camping, and we loved every bite! Oscar and Albert brought everything needed – ingredients, charcoal, and their ingenious pizza oven. (If you’re interested in hiring these guys to make pizza for your next party or event, please contact me and I can set you up with their details!)
After the kids went to bed, the grown-ups sat around the fire, snuggled under blankets, and chatted. It got crazy cold during the night, so we were really glad we brought so many blankets and duvets, to keep both Claire and ourselves warm in our tent.
The sunrise the next morning was just mind blowing. Words can’t do it justice, and neither can photos, but here goes….
After breakfast, we went for another walk, a bit further away this time. Claire took her very first backpack ride in the Ergo! (As you may remember, Jesse doesn’t feel very manly wearing Claire in a sling – boo…)
We broke camp after lunch, and headed back to Nairobi. We had such a wonderful time, and are so excited we found another cool camping destination, especially one so close to Nairobi! We’ll definitely be back one day…
NOTE – So many readers have contacted me asking for directions to Gatamaiyo Forest, I thought I would post the directions we used here, for reference. Below the written directions is a Google Map with a few waypoints to help you out! Also, it is important to contact KENVO before your trip to arrange for your campsite and for guides / guards. There ARE wild animals in the forest, including hyenas and elephants, both of which we saw during our camping weekend.
Take Waiyaki Way, heading towards Nakuru. At the Kangemi Flyover set your odometer to 0 and it is 39.6 km to the turn off at Kimende Town (do not head down the escarpment road but keep on the Nairobi – Nakuru upper highway).
When you get to Kimende Town turn off the main highway to the right. You will then drive back the way you came along the dirt road beside the Nairobi – Nakuru highway heading back towards Nairobi (it is called the Nairobi Road) for a few kilometers until you get to a Catholic Church on your left and there is a sign in front of you that says Ministry of Finance / Lari District. Take a left here.
Drive along this road until you come to a nicely paved road to the left. Take a left here. The Kijabe Environment Volunteer Organization (KENVO) office is at this turn. (You will not see the office – it is up the hill to your left – but if you feel you are lost then you can ask where this office is and that is the turn). This road is also the road to the CARBACID mine.
Once you are on the road to the CARBACID mine you drive for 7km. For these 7 km you will be driving along an electric fence on your right with an exotic forest there.
At about 7 km there will be a road entering the forest to the left. You must drive under an electric wire and here you enter the forest. Please be careful if you have a roof rack/roof tent/or other items on your roof that you do not hit the electric wire above.
Drive through the forest until you come to a fork in the road. Take a right here and drive up the hill. Our camping spot about was about 0.7 km from the fork in the road.