26-02-2021 by Leni Frau
They call it 'Tarzan's Paradise'.
The azure pools formed by the waterfalls of the Ngare Ndare forest, amidst liana rocks and wild animals are unquestionably one of Kenya's wonders to visit.
The lush Ngare Ndare indigenous forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies at the foot of Mount Kenya, on the border between Laikipia and Meru Counties and between the well-known and popular Borana and Lewa reserves. It forms a vital corridor linking it to the slopes of the country's highest mountain and is a route used ancestrally by elephants.
However, it remains a hidden gem and not much visited, except by residents and those already familiar with the area.
Since 2009 it has been under the protection of the Ngare Ndare Forest Trust, which is managed by local communities in agreement with the Kenya Forest Service.
Walks amidst an infinite variety of trees and plants, lianas and caves, paths of leaves and red earth with the chirping of many species of birds and the rustling of squirrels, lead after an hour's walk from the camping area to the foot of the waterfalls which, with rocky overhangs up to 15 metres high, form small lakes of crystal-clear and very cold water that the local residents know as "the pools". It's hard to swim, but in the warm season, with proper preparation, the experience is unique. Especially if an elephant happens to be watching your evolution from above (walks must always be taken with a guide). The pachyderms rarely come down to bathe at the waterfalls, as it is difficult to climb up, although according to local accounts a happy, splashing family has been found.
In past years the forest has been surrounded by farmland, developed on the southern side, and there have been clashes between the farmers and the elephants that came down to the valley and damaged their crops. A few (fortunately small) fires have also undermined the ecosystem, but recently the communities of the six indigenous tribes (Ngare, Ndare, Manyagalo, Mbuju, Kisima and Subuiga) have joined forces to create a sustainable economy that respects the forest. In addition to agriculture and pastoralism, the Trust promotes beekeeping, the collection of healing herbs, the planting of fast-growing trees so as not to obtain firewood by felling the centuries-old forest trees, and other activities that can also be financed by ecotourism. Already some 20 young locals, after the necessary training, have found work as forest rangers in Ngare Ndare.
An uncontaminated paradise to safeguard... and visit!
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