Unique Tharaka Nithi
Visit Tharaka Nithi and experience its breath-taking beauty!
Ura-Gate to Meru National Reserve
Opening of the Ura-Gate by H.E. the Governor,Tharaka Nithi county marked a milestone in the development of Tourism in our County as its connects Tharaka Nithi County to Meru National Park. It is 290 KM from Nairobi and 116KM from Ishiara- Chiakariga- Marimanti-Ura Gate Junction.The park has two main access routes, the other one being through Murera Gate which is 348 KM from Nairobi. The route traverses dramatic and striking landscapes of Tharaka along Ishiara- Chiakariga- Marimanti Road.Meru National Park is one of Kenya’s major parks established in 1966 with unspoilt 870km² stretch of complete wilderness, located to the North-East of Mount Kenya, straddling the equator and bisected by 13 rivers and numerous streams. It has diverse scenery from woodlands at 3,000 feet on the slopes of Nyambene Mountain Range, Northeast of Mount Kenya, to wide open plains with wandering riverbanks dotted with doum palms. It covers 1800 sq Kms, and is the core of an ecosystem of the larger Meru Conservation area (MCA) that includes Bisanadi National Reserve, Kora National Park, Rahole National Reserve, and Mwingi National Reserve an additional over 5000 sq.kms of wilderness.
This is the location of the proposed investment found the base of Mt Kenya 5298m asl, the second tallest mountain African on second to Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
The Chogoria forest station lies between North Maara and Nithi Rivers. The forest is located within the newly created Maara District. To the northern boundary is Imenti South District. All of the forest area is within Tharaka Nithi County. The forest is approximately 160km north of Nairobi City and easily accessible through a tarmac road up to Chogoria town and then 7km by an all-weather road from Chogoria town to the forest station.
Topography Chogoria forest stretches from the eastern undulating rich agricultural area westwards to the moorland on the boundary with Mt. Kenya National Park which has the icy peaks of Batian (5,199m a.s.l). Mt Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and second highest in Africa after Mount Kilimanjaro. The mountain is of volcanic origin dissected by several glacial erosions. It was formed approximately 100-400 million year ago. There are several topographical features in Chogoria forest that are typical of all forests around the Mountain and include small glacial lakes, glacial moraine, foot ridges, plateaus, valleys and icebergs.
The altitudinal changes up Mt. Kenya determine the amount of rainfall with rainfall differences recorded within short distances. This has a bearing on climatic conditions within Chogoria forest station which is on the eastern slopes of the Mountain. It has average tem-peratures that decrease by 0.6 for each 100m increase in altitude. An afro-alpine type of climate, typical of the tropical East African high mountains, characterizes the higher ranges of the forest. The altitudes with the highest rainfall are between 2,700 and 3,100m. Frosts are generally common above 2,500 a.s.l. Rainfall ranges from 900mm to 2,300mm. Chogoria forest has bimodal rainfall patterns with long rains occurring from about October through No-vember and short and short rains from about March through June. The rainfall is influenced by the Inter- Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) which is associat-ed with the southeast trade winds blowing from Indian Ocean (Speck, 1982) and occasional convectional cur-rents from Lake Victoria and Congo airstream (Ojany, 1930).
Chogoria forest shares the same geological origins as the rest of the Mt. Kenya Forest Reserve which was formed by tertiary to Pleistocene volcanic activity between 2.6 and 3.1 millions ago (Baker, 1967). The activities of the central vent generally ceased about 2 million years ago. However, there have been more recent eruptions on the eastern side resulting in the formation of Ithangune and Muugi hills. Originally, the crater in National park would have exceeded 6,500 meters but is now in a state of advanced dissection. Chogoria forest consists of basic and intermediate rocks including phonolites, trachytes, basalts, kenytes and syenites.
The soils in Chogoria like all the MT. Kenya region soils falls under Spec 1978 and Sombroek et’al, 1982 classification of four broad types as follows;
- Regosols, Histosols and Andosols soil types are on the upper slopes of the forest between 2,400 and 4,000m a.s.l. They are dark and of lowbulk density. The soils are rich in organic matter and are mainly formed from young pyroclastic rocks.
- The lower slopes soils, below 2,600m on the southern flanks of the forest, are highly influenced by the amount of rainfall received in the area. The characteristic charac-teristic red-clay soils are well drained and are grouped under three categories namely Nitisols, Cambisols and Andosols.
Chogoria forest is a source of several rivers and their tributaries that include Nithi, Mwithaga, Gichi and Maara. There are other numerous smaller streams that also originate from the forest. These rives and streams are major tributaries of Tana River, which flows through the drier Mwingi, kitui and Tana River Districts into Indian Ocean. It serves as a life-time for people, Livestock and wildlife downstream.
Chogoria forest is composed mainly of indigenous plant species and its associated biodiversity that makes it unique. Most of the plant species which have been recorded in the Mt. Kenya forest ecosystem occur in Chogoria forest. According to IUCN (1994),
Mt. Kenya forest ecosystem has over 880 plant species belonging to 479 genera in 146 families. There are at least 11 strictly endemic species of higher plants and more than 150 near endemics, of woody species oc-curring in the forest; 26% are used for timber, 16% are used medically, 9% have edible fruits and 16% are used for other purposes e.g. tool handles, glue, arrow poison and soap. Vegetation zonation, species composition, distribution and structure within the forest are a function of rainfall, altitude and soil types. These determine climatic conditions and physiochemical characteristics of an area. The forest is characterized by vegetation composition heterogeneity with the Afro-alpine vegetation types of between 3,400 to 4,41m a.s.l. being dominated by tussock grass, lobelia and giant groundsel (Beck et al., 1988). Hypericum revolutum trees and giant heath are characteristic of ericaceous belt, which lies between 3,400 and 3,600 a.s.l. The bamboo forest is restricted between 2,400 and 3,000m, a.s.l. and is dominated by Arundinaria alpine. At 2,400 to 2,800m a.s.l the for-est is characterized by Podocarpus latifolia, Nuxia congesta, Helichriysum forskahlii, stoebe kilimand-scharica, Macaranga kilimandscharia, Erica arborea, and Arudinaria alpine, among other species.
The area is also interspersed with Ocotea usambarensis, which is within the moist area between 1,500 and 2,400m a.s.l, although much of it experienced selective logging in the 1990’s. The natural forest covers 11,300 ha, bush land 600 ha, bamboo 2,400 ha and grassland 1,670 ha while the plantation forest is estimated to cover 30 ha along the main road leading to the mountain top.
Chogoria forest, just like the Mount Kenya forest reserve is an important bird area and home to the threatened and little known Abott’s starling. Others are the rare African Green Ibis and the rare and little known Long-eared Owl (Asio abyssinicus graueri), endemic to Mt. Kenya. Fifty three out of Kenya’s 67 African highland biome species at least 35 forest specialist species and six of the eight species from Kenyan Mountains Endemic Birds Areas reportedly occur on Mount Kenya (Bennun & Njoroge, 1999).
Species of conservation concern found within Chogoria geographical region include Abott’s Starling (Cinnyricin-clus femoralis), Shape’s longclaw (Marcronyx sharpie), African green Ibis (Bostrychia Olivacea), African black duck (Anus sparsa), Little sparrow-hawk (Accipiter minullus), Mountain buzzard (Butea oreophilus), African crowned eagle (Stephanoaetuc coronatus), Jackson’s framcp;oms (Francolinus jacksonii), Hartlaub’s turaco (Tauraco hertlaubi), Scarce swift (Schoutedenapus myoptilus), Red throated wryneck (jynx rufocollis), White tailed crested flycatcher (Trochocercus albonotatus), and Kenrick’s starling (Poeptera kenricki). Other species of avifauna within the ecosystem include Ayres’ hawk eagl (Hieraaetus dubius), scaly francolin (Francolinus squamatus), silvery cheeked- hornbill (Ceratogymna brevis), bronze-naped pigeon (Columba iriditorques), rufous-breasted hawk (Accipiteer tachiro), harmercop (Scopus umbretta), olive pigeon (Colomba arquatrix), giant kingfisher (Megacerryle maxima), crowned hornbill (Tockus alboterminatus) and grey-headed kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala) among other common birds.
Mammals and Reptiles
Some of the rare to nearly threatened mammalian species found within Chogoria forest include Leopard (Panthera pardus), giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni),
African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana),and black footed duiker (Cephalophus nigifrons). Other non rare species common to this forest block include duiker (Neotrragus moschatus), bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), mountain reedbuck (Redunca faulvorufula), bush pig (Potamochoerus porcus), eland (Tragelaphus oryx), Harveys red duiker (Cephalophus Harveyi), Common duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia altrivallis), black and white colobus (Colobus guereza) and Sykes monkey (Cercopithecus mitis), lesser bush baby (Galago senegalenses) and greater bush baby (Galago crassicaudatus). Grammomys gigas (Rodent) and surdisorex polulus (shrew) are endemic to Mt. Kenya with the former being globally endan-gered (IUCN, 2004). The G.Gigas is found at an altitude of 2750m a.s.l. and its population is reported to be on the decline posing a major threat to the population (NMK, 2009).
Reptiles’ abundance and distribution differs with habitat and altitude. Although Chogoria forestreptiles have not been intensively studied, species known to occur include Adofus jackso-nii, A. alleni, Chamaeleo jacksonii, C. schubotzi, C. schubotzi, C. hoehnelii, Kinyongia excubitor, Leptosiaphos kilimensis, Trachylepis striata, Tra-chylepis varia, Trachylepis irregularis, Trachylepis bayoni, Cnemaspis dickersoni, Montatheris hin-dii, Trasops jacksoni and Psammophylax multis-quamis.
NATURAL SCENIC SITES
- a) Nithi Valley
- b) Karimani hill
- c) Ntue hill (Crater Lake)
- d) Balliand Table
- a) Mirigu
- b) Mwita
- c) Karimi
- d) Kandakane (Conservancies Zone)
- e) Kirugo the Mirungu Water fall
WATER SALT LAKES AND WILDLIFE (ELE PHANTS) WATERING POINTS, CULTURAL SITES AND SHRINES
- a) Rugando – wildlife viewing
- b) Muguu – wildlife viewing
- c) Kawe
- d) Gituraun (elephant mud-washing for elephant young ones
- e) Marigwe – Intervention zone
- a) Ndiugu
- b) Nyumba ya mburi
- c) Kirimagamba
- d) Mutrieria
- e) Matuidi
- f) Kabiro and Mirigu
CULTURAL TOURISM PICNIC SITES
- a) Gakeu forest intervention zone
- b) Gakeu (Shrine)
- c) Kajogu
- d) Muugi
- e) Kawe Gake
- f) Kajogu (Sacred Mugumo)
PICNIC IDENTIFIED SITES
There is Gakeu wetland as well as Tonic Water Source and Shrines where traditional rituals and sacrifice offering point for rain and disease healing.Also Kagugu, Kawe, Muufu and Sacred Mugumo at Kajogu.
- The Paranormal Scenery of Nithi Valley
- Forest canopy which is at Ntue Hill and Karimani Hill
- Bird watching to the high forest from Chogoria gate to beyond Iriani Campsite
- Track through Virgin forest up the Karimani Hill with a view point to the beautiful scenery of Nithi Valley
- Track through the forest up hill to the top of Ntue Hill a beautiful view of the Crater and the forest canopy of Chogoria forest and beyond.
Picnic Sites – Caves
- Ndiugu Cave – Sheltering for honey harvesters and hunters and Mau mau activities. Situated in strategic location inside the forest. It protects the people from wildlife.
- Matindi Cave – As above
- Kabiro Cave – As above
- Mirigue Cave – Forbidden secrets of Mau mau guerrilla activities. It’s a good site for tour
- Kinjigamba and Nyumba ya Mburi caves used for many years by honey hunters and medicinal collectors.
WILDLIFE TOURISM SITES
- a) Nkangani elephant breeding
- b) Gantongoro elephant mud washing as prevents for tsetse flies
- c) Giafirinaria watery point – as above beautiful scenery of Nithi Valley – Track through the forest uphill to the top of Ntue Hill a beautiful view of the Crater and the forest canopy of Chogoria forest and beyond.
a) Kawe Gate (Forest Station) – across Gindi River – Urumandi Natural bridge – Gakeu Shrine – back to Kawe Gate
b) Chilling Track-Iriani (Bairunyi Campsite – across Sabana River – Through virgin forest – up the Karimani Hill – for a beautiful view of spectral undulated Nithi Valley – down the Valley Hill to Mirigue falls and back.
c) Campsite – Site at Iriani/Bairunyi 12kms from Chogoria Forest Stations Gate and 10kms to the Natianal park gate. Surrounded by beautiful Natural forest. A good site with a field food for camping, wedding ceremonies access for water in the near river
d) Site below the Ntue Hill next to Chogoria route to the National Park. Centre Point for access to Renze sites i.e. Ntue Hill, Crater lake, Mineral water source and wildlife watering point at Rugandi, Mufuu
e) Scenic sites i.e. Kirimani Hill, Nithi Valley. Photographic and cultural site i.e. caves like; Ndingi, Nyumba ya Mburi, Kijigamba, Muriteria, Matindi, Kabiro and Mirigue
f) Access to Nature trails and animal trails – Mufuu to Rugenda
g) Kawe Gate – Kajogu Kirire are wildlife watching at the salt lick. Thande swamp
h) Kawe Gate – Uramande (natural bridge) across Gintici river beautiful site – Kawe salt lick and cultural shrine – back to Eco lodge.
i) Kawe gate (forest station)- KajoguShrine wildlife viewing – Thande swamp -Elephant view point – Kithanje – Kawe water lily – back to Kawe Gate. 7km trail with beautiful trails and the five unique tree species in Chogoria forest; camphor, Pondo, Mituja trees and Colombus Monkeys.