The Oloolua Nature Trail

It had been a long week battling a flue. It was not so bad, but I did have a running nose, a cough, a slight fever, a headache, some aches and pains. You get the picture. So, I used this as an excuse to get out of training and lay on my lazy arse for the week. But it was getting to me, and bed sores aren’t my thing. So, when the weather cleared and plans were made to go for a hike, I was the first one up putting on my (NEW!) hiking boots all set and ready for the adventure.

We visited the Oloolua Nature Trail last Sunday 15th May, 2016. It is an indigenous tropical forest tucked away in the up market suburbs of Karen, a 20Km drive from the City. I have lived in Nairobi all my life, and have visited Karen several times, but I never heard of this place.

Oloolua is actually a Primate Research Centre (Institute of Primate Research – IPR) run by The National Museums of Kenya. It has an interesting history to how it came about, and there is an exquisite 5KM Nature Trail in the middle of the Forest which provides many a treat to a hiker looking for some peace and tranquility, away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

We arrived at the trail a few minutes past 8am. Opening time was an hour away, but the guards were kind enough to let us have an early start. I could feel my chest heave as soon as we climbed the short distance from the gates into the forest. But I decided to stick with it as it was such a beautiful sight.

Oloolua is reminiscent of Karura Forest. Dense green forests line your path only to break away to desert-like grassland before arriving at the papyrus swamp. One can find a myriad of fauna along the path and interesting species of butterflies fluttering about.

Our first point of interest was the WATCHTOWER, built some 24 years ago. History has it that a particular Crowned Eagle used to make its journey from afar (America?) to lay its eggs on a particular tree in the forest. Someone (I forgot what the guide told us as I was trying hard to ignore dizzying spells from weakness) built the watch tower to observe the Eagle’s activities. Unfortunately several trees have now grown over the forest and the Crowned Eagle’s nest could no longer be seen from the Watchtower. Man’s development in the area also disrupted the natural environment and the Eagle probably found a new home to nest in. The Watchtower had 48 stairs leading to the top but we were advised against climbing them due to age and dampness weakening the logs.

As we meandered through the thicket, we made our way over broken branches, over grown roots and slippery moss-covered rocks, to the WATERFALL. What a sight. I have never been this close to a waterfall. It stood around 20 feet above us and the water collected in a pool before running into a stream to join (or form, I am not too sure) the Mbagathi River. The sound of the waterfall was accompanied by a rhythmic clunk of metal – old plumbing pipes used to take water to the Labs and Research Facility downstream and to a nearby village.

We climbed back to the main trail and made our way to the BAMBOO STANDS that were only accessible down a rickety set of stairs made of wooden planks. This was another tranquil site to observe. The benches had been rotted away, but still made for a beautiful picturesque moment.

Another set of rickety stairs took us up back on the trail towards the CAVES. Not just any any caves, MAU MAU caves (The Mau Mau were a group of freedom fighters in Kenya during the colonial period, who also found refuge in the caves at Karura Forest). the low entrance is deceptive of the 33meter depth that the caves run to. If the thought of every going into it ever crosses your mind, be prepared to be attacked by a colony of bats and some really foul smell.  (No, we did not go in, the guide told us so). The caves looked down towards a beautiful lush green valley.

At this point, the guide left us as he was called to attend to some business at the Labs. So, with instructions on how to continue ahead, we set off through thick forest vines and a rocky trail that led us to a BRIDGE over the river. By this time we had crossed over several ant trails, and I am sure somewhere along the way I may have stepped on one and one of them probably had gotten up my pants. There was this annoying piercing that I kept feeling on my left thigh, and I didn’t have a choice but to tolerate it. My breathing had normalized although I was fatigued.

We trailed through bush and rocky trails that brought us to the PAPYRUS SWAMP. The swamp was covered in thick algae and we threw rocks into the swamp to see how think the algae was. They landed on the surface with blobbing sounds. Pretty thick, I would say.

The trail, covered under the thick canopy of indegenous trees and huge mossy rocks,  then climbed up out of the swamp and towords a PICNIC SITE compete with benches, toilets and dustbins for your litter. We rested here, had some grapes, sipped on some water (we only had a half liter bottle and someone forgot to buy some for the trip) and made our way towards the main gate. For those wishing to spend more time with nature, the trail has a CAMPSITE.

The hike back to the main gate was over a dirt trail that passed  a solitary Acacia Tree. We happened to catch a very interesting Bird species hoping from bush to bush. It was black with red under-wings and a white crown. It was impossible to catch it on camera and it kept moving around.

We then crossed a bridge over a river with MANGROVES, onto a stony path (golden brick road for me – can’t believe I made it this far) and back to where we started.


The whole walk took us a little under 2 hours. We were done by 10am, refreshed. I felt much better after the hike than before, although I could tell my energy levels were low. Nothing a quick cup of coffee couldn’t fix.

Hope you enjoyed this Nature Trail with me. On to the next one…


6 thoughts on “The Oloolua Nature Trail

  1. Oh, poor soul. You know the drill… hot soups and all. I hate flues. They go straight into my stomach… currently struggling with Eat, Pray, Love. Its cold here now. How is the North?


  2. Hey lost one…was wondering where you had disappeared to… all ok?? What is your ailment… take it easy and if you must allow yourself to indulge in your favourite foods and reads ( that cures me…even if im just holding a book, it helps)…


  3. wow you are a trooper! was sick this week too and stopped all physical activity. but you picked it up quite nicely! i will go slow though, not easy when traveling and feeling weary.

    Liked by 1 person

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