The fertile slopes of the central Highlands were recognised by European settlers as being great farming country for tea, coffee, wheat and flowers. Many came and took the land with the colonial government's blessing.
There was little regard for tribal land or local customs and this created great resentment, which erupted into the bloody Mau Mau Rebellion of the 1950's. Dedan Kimathi was the notorious Mau Mau leader and had his terrorist headquarters in the thick forests of the Aberdare Mountain Range. He knew the forest well and it took a considerable manhunt to track him down in 1956. The Aberdares retain an air of mystery and it would be easy to get lost amongst its thickly wooded hills and mountains, the highest of which reaches to a lofty 14,000 feet (4,267m). The mountain air is rare and crisp and the Aberdare Rainforest is a vital water catchment supplying the whole of Nairobi. Water cascades over spectacular waterfalls and into rivers swimming with trout.
Aberdare National Park is famous for its tree-house hotels - Treetops and The Ark. With walkways and accommodation raised into the forest canopy, you can watch animals from a unique vantagepoint. Positioned by waterholes and natural salt licks, animals provide constant entertainment and seem undisturbed by the stream of curious visitors, some of whom stay up all night to catch sightings of shy animals by floodlight. There is even a viewing hide dug below ground with windows level with the waterhole, where elephants face come within inches of your face.