Tharaka Nithi County

Discover Tharaka Nithi County

Landscape around Tharaka Nithi County.  Image Courtesy of Wiki Commons
Landscape around Tharaka Nithi County.  Image Courtesy of Wiki Commons

Brief Overview of Tharaka Nithi County

The strikingly tableland Tharaka Nithi County, bound by the Equator and Meru County in the north, west by the lowermost eastern footslopes of Mount Kenya, south by Embu County, and in the east by the Meru National Park and Mwingi National Reserve, has, in the context of its spatial terrain, many inselbergs and ranges that stand out prominently. Over one-third of Tharaka Nithi County lies on the gentle eastern slopes of Mount Kenya which is cool, healthy and fertile, with good rainfall supporting a dense population subsisting mainly on farming. A gradual diminution in the rainfall, fertility and density of population takes place as you move eastwards towards Mwingi National Reserve and Tana River corresponding to a drop in elevation from 6,500-7,000 ft. above sea level on the lower edge of Mount Kenya forest to 1,600 ft. at Mwingi National Reserve and the Tana River valley that stretches from here southerly trending. Cultivation is largely superseded by pastoral herding in these lower-lying areas of the County.

Concomitantly, Tharaka Nithi County can be split into two distinct topographic zones: the eastern slopes of Mount Kenya and the Basement System terrain. Of its rivers, Maara River is its most prominent, and marks the boundary between Meru and Tharaka Nithi Counties including the shared Mount Kenya forest that is estimated to be about 360 km2 in area.  The highland region of Tharaka Nithi is comprised of Maara and Chuka which receive adequate rainfall to support the thriving agriculture found here. The semi-arid areas around Tharaka support a thriving livestock enterprise and plenty of wildlife resources. The principal line of communication in Tharaka Nithi County is the B6 Embu-Meru Road which crosses its western quarter between the towns of Kyeni and Chogoria (through Chuka and Marina) and travels just 15 kms outside the Mount Kenya forest. The C92 Nkubu-Embu Road splits it down the middle between the towns of Tunyai and Kathwana (and from where the C93 Kathwana-Mwingi Road branches out).

Much of the beauty seen around Tharaka Nithi County arises from its clear-cut ecological zones and indubitably from the phenomenal beauty of Mount Kenya with its superb alpine flora, fauna, and as a mountain climbing destination. The snowy-peaks of Mount Kenya which lie just south of the Equator are the most conspicuous landmark in Tharaka Nithi – that is one of the five counties whose border extends to the apex of Mount Kenya along with Embu, Meru, Kirinyaga, and Nyeri. It also has a handful of cultural and historic recreational resources that remain undeveloped. As a destination, Tharaka Nithi is still an underrated circuit despite having a very pleasant scenery which varies from heavily wooded country in the north to a vast arid rangeland in the south. Thirteen permanent rivers and streams make certain survival of its farmland, wildlife and industries. These also feed about twenty waterfalls – tiny and large – which are impressive.

Salient Features of Tharaka Nithi County

  • County Number 13
  • Area – 2662 km2
  • Altitude – 600 to 5200 ms
  • Major Towns – Kathwana, Chuka, Chogoria
  • Borders – Meru, Nyeri, Embu, Kirinyaga, Kitui

Brief History of Tharaka Nithi County

In 1992, Meru District, also known as Greater Meru, was broken up into four regions – Meru Central, Meru North, Meru South and Tharaka.  Later, Meru South, also known as Nithi District, was combined with Tharaka to assemble Tharaka-Nithi District. In 1998, Tharaka Nithi District was divided into two districts, Nithi and Tharaka, but, the Kenya Supreme Court decision of 2009 reversed the division and under Kenya Constitution of 2010 it became a county.

View of Lake Michaelson in Mt. Kenya National Park.  Photo Courtesy
Lake Michaelson in Mount Kenya National Park.  Photo Courtesy of Wiki

Places of Interest in Tharaka Nithi County

1. Mount Kenya National Park

Originally known as Mount Kirinyaga, loosely translating to the “Mountain of God” or “Kirima kia Nyaga”, Mount Kenya is, without doubt, the most pleasing scenery around Central Kenya. Overlooking Kikuyuland, this UNESCO World Heritage Site takes up all the land around the mountain over 11,000 ft and the lower lying regions of Lewa Conservancy and the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve which were included in the world heritage area in 2013. Mount Kenya National Park is more scenic than faunal, and is most venerated as a hiking destination. It offers exciting prospects for day excursions as well as a rewarding challenge for the strong-minded and avid mountain climbers aiming for Point Lenana (3rd highest peak), Point Nelion (the 2nd highest peak), or Point Batian (the highest peak).  Point Lenana is the most popular destination for hikers, which is easily accomplished in three days (round-trip) by almost anyone who is fit. It was once summitted by a girl of 8 years. There are seven diffrent hiking trails in Mount Kenya National Park to Point Lenana. As with many mountain parks, a good watch for weather is important and hikers should only consider the dryer parts of the year. Between December to March, or between July to October (the dryer seasons) conditions are optimum for a hiking-adventure to Point Lenana.

Mount Kenya National Park Hiking Routes.  Courtesy of Adventure Alternative
Mount Kenya National Park Hiking Routes. Courtesy of Adventure Alternative

2. Chogoria Route

Most hikers aiming to hike Chogoria Route make Chogoria Town 58 kms north of Embu and 41 kms south of Meru along B6 Road their starting-off place. The Chogoria Route leaves Mutindua Village above Chogoria Town (to the east of the mountain) and follows a ridge north of the Nithi River to the Urumandi Hut (10,100 ft.) at the forest edge. It continues along a well-marked path along the north ridge of the Gorges Valley to Hall Tarns and finally traverses the eastern and southern slopes of Point Lenana to reach Top Hut. It was the traditional trail up the mountain in the 1920’s, and is still used occasionally by hikers who require the assistance of Meru porters. Its drawback is its length, for the ascent to Top Hut requires three days. Chogoria Route stretches out for 30 kms from Chogoria Gate to Point Lenana on the eastern side of Mount Kenya and it is the longest route to Point Lenana, and perhaps the most difficult of the seven trails.

For all the difficulties of using it, hikers are rewarded with once-in-a-lifetime views including Lake Ellis, the Temple, Lake Michaelson, Hall Tarns, the Giant Billiard Table, Ithaguni Hills, Nithi Falls, Vivienne Falls and Mugi Hill. It has spectacular cliffs too. Chogoria has been vouched for as the most scenic route to Point Lenana. From Chogoria Gate it takes on average 5 days, round-trip. Most hikers on arrival at Chogoria Gate opt to drive up through the Bamboo Forests to Mount Kenya Bandas and the first stopover. This shortens the trip down to 4 days. Day 2 takes on the 17 kms stretch to River Nithi Camp over a wide forest track with plenty of wildlife to sights en route. The popular Urumandi Hut near Nithi Falls is no longer in service. From here hikers can scout Nithi Falls, Lake Ellis or Mugi Hills. From Nithi Camp it is 5 hrs to Minto’s and the jumping-off camp to Point Lenana. The pre-dawn final push for Point Lenana begins around 3 am and take about 3-hours, arriving just in time for sunrise. The descent goes through Shimpton, Mackinder’s Valley to Judmiere’s Camp and the last layover.

From Lake Ellis to Lake Michaelson is a jaw-droppingly beautiful six hour walk, rejoining the main Chogoria trail then rising along the sweep of the Gorges, or Nithi, Valley.  Far away up to our right, the main peaks – Batian, Nelion and Lenana edged into view. – The Literary Traveller

3. Lake Michaelson

Although this sits just over border in Meru County, no conversation of Chogoria Route, and for that matter hiking Chogoria Route, would be complete without a mention of the splendorous lochan of Lake Michaelson that occupies one of the glacially excavated rock basins in the moorland area of Mount Kenya National Park. It is one of the more memorable sights seen along Chogoria Route; which speaks volumes about its grandeur. It is sighted between Nithi River Camp and Camp Minto, mostly on day three. The first impression on the hiker is how blue the water is despite this being the most photographed of the 27 tarns in Mount Kenya National Park. Lake Michaelson is encircled on three of its sides by the steep crags formed from centuries of erosion grandly carving pier-like obelisks that are spectacularly distinguished as “the Temples”. The magnificent Lake Michaelson, with mirror-like reflection and crystalline clarity, which is located at 14,000 ft., is also a treasured campsite for mountaineers as well as a popular sojourn on air-trips. On most days Vivienne Falls can also be sighted from here.

Spatial Location of Lake Michaelson within Mount Kenya National Park
Spatial Location of Lake Michaelson within Mount Kenya National Park

4. Vivienne Falls

Below Lake Michaelson, high above the gorges, is the unpraised but exceptional 80 ms Vivienne Falls which is both impressive for its indelible beauty and as a relic of the extraordinaire adventures of Vivienne de Waterville – British travel writer and adventurer – after whom the falls was named in the 1930’s. Vivienne Waterville arrived at Mount Kenya National Park on December 25, 1928, aged 28, and she would spend the next two months at Urumandi Hut nearby Nithi Falls from where she explored the wild mountain highlands. “She had come there to seek solace in nature after an early life marked by epic loss” – Literally Traveller. She was the only child of Swiss-French naturalist and artist Bernard Perceval de Watteville who had been killed a few years prior by a lion in Congo. Not easily accessible, Vivienne Falls takes about 3 hours (round trip) to explore, most conveniently from Lake Michaelson. It is a relatively short distance but an incredibly treacherous one. The Falls is reached by going down two steep drops from Lake Michaelson and across a vertical rock face that leads to the rock pool.

5. Kinondoni Lodge

Constructed in 1983 to revamp the engaging Chogoria Route up Mount Kenya, this alpine backcountry lodge set at 3,000 ms in the hushed montane scape is a perfect launching base for hikers. “Anyone touring Mount Kenya National Park through Chogoria Gate in Tharaka-Nithi County must visit Kinondoni Lodge. Located about 33 kms from Chogoria Town at the heart of Mount Kenya forest and 3,000 metres above sea level, it offers a resting and viewing point for those touring the mountain. Right from the lodge you can sight various interests of Mount Kenya” – Alex Njeru. Kinondoni Lodge sleeps up to 40 in a series of wooden cottages with fine views of Point Lenana, Giant Billiard Table or Baren Table, Mpaku Marshlands, Lake Ellis, and Mau Mau Caves.  It can be reached using 4×4 vehicles for trippers not planning to hike up to Point Lenana. Some highlights at the lodge are spotting plenty of wildlife in the vicinity particularly in the morning and evening, and evening bonfires which warm the crisp nights.

6. The Mutunguruni Tree

There are probably hundreds of majestic trunks around Tharaka Nithi County and amongst the woodsy in Ndagani Village (1.5 kms north of Chuka Town) are many lofty trees to include the renowned Mutunguruni Tree. Openly preconized by the locals of Tharaka Nithi County as ‘Africa’s tallest tree’ as avouched with a placard hung on its trunk, the Mutunguruni Tree is a thing of beauty. Thought to over 200 years old, this famous 84 ms tall tree in triumphant isolation seen from far and beyond is certainly, by any standards, a very tall tree. By the same token, the area at the base of the Mutunguruni Tree has been used as a shrine for eons.  Although it has never been confirmed as Africa’s tallest tree, it is one of the paragons of nature worth a visit while in Tharaka Nithi. That said, the Mutunguruni Tree is a whooping 30 ms shorter than the tallest known tree in the world. Among the redwoods that tower above the ground along California’s coast at Redwood National and State Park is a tree named Hyperion that dwarfs them all. The epic tree was discovered in 2006 and is 379.7 feet, or 115.7 ms tall.

The Over 200 years-old Tree in Tharaka Nithi. Published by Citizen TV

7. Kierra Ridge

As early as 1912 the Kierra Ridge (or the Kierra Hill) just east of Chogoria Town had attracted the attention of prospectors. During that year Messrs. A. Gamble and W. G. Parker pegged claims on the southwest flank of the Kierra Ridge to exploit the mica pegmatites occurring there. And in 1942, the southern slopes of Kierra Ridge was yet again the subject of tantalizing geological prospects for mica and the possibility of the occurrence in them of minerals such as nickel and chronium ores. “Dr. W. Pulfrey had recognized the presence of plenteous masses of mineral rich basic rock. A reconnaissance of the area was, therefore, undertaken between April and November, 1948, to determine the extent of the basic rocks, degree of mineralization and the most favourable localities for the prospecting. The examination of these basic plutonics did not, however, give much promise”. North of the Kierra Ridge is a chain of picturesque conical hills.

Spatial Location of the Keirra Range or Kiera Hills in Tharaka Nithi
Spatial Location of the Keirra Range or Kiera Hills in Tharaka Nithi

8. Kierra Viewpoint

From Chogoria Town, in the northwest corner of Tharaka Nithi County, it’s a 10 kms drive north via B6 Embu-Meru Road to Igoji Center and the first gateway township in Meru County. The drive between these two towns and northerly to Nkubu 16 kms away is revered for the breathtaking view of Kierra backdropped by Kierra Ridge. The Kierra Viewpoint at Kanthiga Village – between Kaaga and Runogone near Meru Town, has been in existence for many years and offers the best views of one of the knockout landscapes in this region. Set at the doorstep of Mount Kenya, this heart-warming lookout takes in the ranges, forests, plains and hillocks. This is reminiscent of the stupefying view of the Great Rift Valley. Known locally as Kierra or Mukera, which loosely translates as a valley, a trip to Tharaka Nithi and Meru Counties should not omit a look-see of this lovely vista.

9. Inanduru Bat Caves

The lonesome Inanduru Cave situated in a steep cliff along the banks of River Maara on the northern flanks of Kierra Range at Ganga Village within Matuguni Location is a home to almost one million of these spectral creatures. Bats have historically suffered from human persecution owing to myriad misconceptions about them.  Quite the contrary, bats are a salient keystone to pollination and a gainful check on insects, and play a germane role in the circle of life.  For bat-lovers Inanduru Cave has a heart-stopping display of these nocturnal mammals especially at dusk when the cloud of bats head-out to feed.  While it may spook some, the locals seem oblivious to the unveil. They have learnt to coexist. In fact they themselves are direct beneficiaries by collecting the bat-dung for farm-use. A fee small fee of sh. 300 per person is paid toward the preservation of the cave.

10. Weru Tea Factory

Tea is one of the most important exports of Tharaka Nithi County. It flourishes to a large extent in the upper highland zone and much of the beauty of this area arises from the tea-landscapes. Weru Tea Factory situated 2 kms from Marima, midpoint between Chuka and Chogoria, is the only tea factory in Tharaka Nithi County. This also welcomes tea-lovers to gather a few insights on the enriching journey of tea from farm to cup. A tour to this factory includes demonstrations on weighing, fermenting, dying, grading and, of course, a cup of their finest tea.

11. Kijegge Range

Chuka and Chogoria Towns along B6 Embu-Meru Road are linked to Kathwana Town and the C92 Road by Chogoria-Kirurumwe and Chogoria-Ikumbo Roads. Even so, C29 Road is an adjunct of B6 Road starting at Ena (in Embu County) travelling through Tharaka Nithi and terminating at Nkubu (in Meru County. Immediately east of Kathwana sits the Kijegge Range and arguably the most prominent of its uplands. Much of the Basement System rock in Tharaka Nithi County, mainly the gneisses of granitic composition, form lines and groups of inselbergs rising from a fairly flat floor. Some of them such as Kierra, Kijegge and Kiagu rise upwards of 1,500 feet above the surrounding plain. Tana River, the recipient of all the drainage in the region, is a notable example of a strike stream having selected for its course within the area a series of relatively less resistant migmatitic gneisses confined between the resistant granitoid gneisses of Mumoni Range (east) and Kijegge Range (west). “The thickness of the strata at Kijegge Range appears to be due to duplication by close folding. The right-angled bend made by Chemala-Lansa and Kantangu-Kiuguni basic body in the northeast part of the County is repeated to a less distinct degree in adjoining formations indicating a large, probably synclinal, flexure”. 33 km2 of the forest around the Kijegge Range were gazetted in 1959 as a “National Forest Reserve”.

Spatial Location of the Kijegge Range in Tharaka Nithi County
Spatial Location of the Kijegge Range in Tharaka Nithi County

12. Mumoni Hill Forest Reserve

This is located in the northwest edge of Kitui County and reached 64 kms north of Mwingi Town along the C93 Mwingi-Kathwana Road, at Katse. Mumoni Hill, emerging as a wooded inselberg, rises to 1811 ms (6000 ft) and 700 ms from the surrounding arid scrub land plains. To the north, Mumoni Hill is separated from Kijegge Forest Reserve in Tharaka Nithi by a broad valley cut through by Tana River which lower in the south is dammed to carve out Kiambere Dam – completed in 1987 along the border between Embu and Kitui Counties as part of the Seven Forks Dam Project. Mumoni Hill forms the larger parts of the 104 km2 Mumoni Forest Reserve alongside Muvoria Hill Forest Reserve set in its immediate south. Both these hillscapes were gazetted in 1993 as a forest reserve owing to their importance as a water tower for the densely populated Mwingi North region. For tourism, Mumoni Hill Forest Reserve is a walkers and bird-watchers wild-escape, where colourful birds like raptors, hindes babbler, palied harrier, Somali biome and martial eagles have been regularly spotted. Although still underdeveloped, the reserve is crisscrossed by a vast network of pathways from which nature-lovers can appreciate its rich floral and avi-faunal beauty as well as its fetching mountain scenery. 375 plant species were identified in 2006.

13. Mwingi National Reserve

Formerly known as Kitui-North National Reserve and oft-times dubbed as the Mwingi North National Reserve and more proper as Mwingi National Reserve, this occupies about 70 km2 of the southwest edge of Tharaka Nithi. It is one of four protected and contiguous areas that comprise the larger 4,400 km2 Meru Conversation Zone in company with the Meru National Park (north), Bisanadi National Reserve (northeast) and Kora National Reserve (east). As a result, this reserve is a designated as a “wilderness zone” by Kenya Wildlife Service that allows for fly camping, camel and horseback safari”. The reserve is flanked on the northern frontier by the River Tana. Due to the fact that Mwingi National Reserve is bordered by other reserves, it is frequently visited by various game from the neighboring parks. Animals that are found in Mwingi Reserve include caracals, elephants, hippos, leopards, lions and several antelope species among others”. Traditional game viewing is still extremely limited and there is no accommodation. Travellers aiming for the reserve must have a strong wish to venture off the grid. It can be accessed via C93 Mwingi-Kathwana Road turning off at Kamuwongo Centre and through Kyuso Village or via Meru National Park.

14. Kibuuka Falls

There are numerous rapids and low falls along all the main streams in Tharaka Nithi County. The more prominent falls, however, of which there are many over one hundred feet in height, occur around Mount Kenya and which were all were doubtless carved out during the lower Pleistocene. One of the most notable falls in Tharaka Nithi County is the Kibuuka or Grand Falls with a height of almost sixty feet situated east of Kijegge Range on the Tana River. It occurs just a short distance from the confluence of Rivers Kathita and Tana, and with Kijegge in the background it is one of the best kept secret destinations of this region. Aside from being scenically-splendid Kibuuka Falls is also a culturally important area not least because it is thought here that the Tharaka and Nithi Tribes split and dispersed.  Kibuuka Falls is also the proposed site for the planned High Grand Dam which on completion will be the second biggest dam in Africa, second only to Aswan Dam in Egpyt. “The proposed 165 square kilometer High Grand Falls Dam, which will cost Shs 150 billion, is expected to hold almost 5.6 billion cubic meters of water that will be used to irrigate over 250,000 hectares of land and produce 700MW of electricity” – TARDA. It is located 14 kms east of Kathwana.

Video of Kibuuka Falls. Published by Tharaka Nithi County

15. Kajuki Eco Lodge

Situated along Kathwana-Kareni-Chuka Road and within reach of Embu and Chuka Towns, Kajuki Eco Lodge which is framed by the fine background of the Kijegge, Muuguni, Kierra and Ntugu forested hilltops serves as a strategic stop over for hikers aiming for the Chogoria Route up Mount Kenya National Park and as a layover for trippers to Tharaka Nithi.  Some of the highlights at Kajuki Eco Lodge include its stocked-bar and the roomy outdoor garden with well-kept lawns and day-trips to Kibuuka Falls.  It’s found 5 kms west of Kathwana Town.

16. Marimanti Bamboo Lodge

Surrounded by thickets, woodies and an unblemished backcountry, Marimanti Bamboo Lodge set on 7-acres is all about relaxing, unwinding and repairing the soul.  It is conveniently located just 100 ms off C92 Kathwana-Marimanti-Ura Road to make this an agreeable and useful jumping-off place to Meru National Park through the Ura Gate 30 kms away. The lodge is comprised of 7 detached stone-built cottages with private verandas. The rooms have a standard double-bed size and hot-water. More room layouts can be arranged. Other amenities include: an outdoor rest areas shaded beneath mature trees, a swimming pool, restaurant and a well-stocked watering hole. By night the lodge is a beyond-money lookout to appreciate the enliven African night-sky.  By day, it is a great starting-point to range over the sights, sounds and cultures of Tharaka Nithi County including a trip of the impressive Ikwa Falls and to Meru National Park.

Spatial Location of Marimanti Baobab Lodge in Tharaka Nithi County
Spatial Location of Marimanti Baobab Lodge in Tharaka Nithi County

17. Ikwa Falls

While Kibuka Falls is the larger and more popular waterfalls in Tharaka Nithi County, the lesser-known Ikwa Falls along Kathita River is more aesthetically pleasing. At most times of the year the Ikwa Falls forms a pretty 30 ms-wide cascade and which is exemplary soon changes soon after the rain season when the falls extends to about 50 ms-wide. It is made up of about 15 separate falls. Situated deep in the neck of the woods about Marimanti Center, an afternoon walk to Ikwa Falls is a no-frills all thrills simple life return to nature expedition. It is found at Marimanti Village, 31 kms before Ura Gate to Meru National Park.

18. Mutejwa National Reserve

First established in 1959 as the Mutejwa Forest Reserve in Tharaka Sub-county south and west of Meru National Park, the 13.76 km2 reserve aligning with the Nithi River, best-known for its variety of wildlife, was reestablished as Mutejwa National Reserve in 1895. It was created to protect wildlife in the dispersal area of Meru National Park. The focal point at Mutejwa is the low-lying Mutejwa Hill encircled by a navigable network of trails which for day-trippers offer an out of the ordinary safari adventure to spot wildlife including gazelles, monkeys, and ostriches. Also of interest are walking tours along Nithi River, cave exploration, birding and hiking up the Mutejwa Hills; which is the largest hillock in Tharaka Sub-county. It is not a difficult drive to get to Mutejwa National Reserve and for the traveller who has done the sought game parks it makes an interesting new trip. The C92 Kathwana-Marimanti-Ura Road passes just outside its flanks, 50 kms northeast from Kathwana Town. There’s no accommodation at the reserve.

19. Meru National Park

There are two gates into Meru National Park. Via A2 Nanyuki-Meru Road and C91 Meru-Nchiru-Maua Road – entering at Murera Gate – distance from Meru to Murera Gate 67 kms. Via B6 Embu-Meru Road and C92 Embu-Marimanti-Gatunga Road – entering at the Ura River Gate – distance from the B6 Embu-Meru Road to Ura River Gate 61 kms. Famous as where “Elsa the Lioness” was rehabilitated, in one of the prettiest national parks in Kenya, the 870 km2 Meru National Park is also a warm tribute to Peter Jenkins; the warden of that time who converted it from a devastated landscape to one of the best run in Kenya. The park itself is generally a hot low country but extremely well watered, with no less than 9 permanent rivers. One of its main rivers, the Rojewero, roughly divides the park into two contrasting zones. To its north, the country is an open acacia savannah grassland, and in parts combretum bush, under black cotton soil. “To the south of the Rojowero River the country is of the red sandy soil type, cut by innumerable sand luggas, and the vegetation is dense commiphora, wait-a-bit and thron shrub interpersed with baobab trees.” It commences at an altitude 2600 ft (north) at the foothills of Nyambene Range dropping down to 1200 ft (south) at Tana River where it links to Mwingi National Reserve and Kora National Park. It is contiguous with Bisanadi National Reserve along its eastern frontier. Unique to Meru National Park is that it lacks a focal point of a great spectacle. Instead, it manifests itself as a valuable ecological area where wildlife can be spotted in plenty. Moreover, the park is small enough with well laid out roads and there are fully-equipped lodges. It is a peaceful park that is well worth more than one visit. Having such diverese types of habitat wildlife, and the birds in particular, are second to none. There is excellent course fishing in the all the Rivers, and a fishing permit can be obtained from the park’s office.

Map of Meru National Park. All Rights Reserved to Expert Africa
Map of Meru National Park. All Rights Reserved to Expert Africa

20. Ura Gate Festival

Opened in September 2014, Ura Gate to Meru National Park gives access from Tharaka Nithi County to this pretty park. There are are two main accesses into Meru National Park, at Murera and Ura. Ura Gate follows a bitumen road from Chiakariga Town. En-route Ura, trippers can make a quick detour to sight Ura Falls. In August every year Ura Gate hosts the popular 3-days Tharaka Festival which is by and large an extol of cultures in Tharaka Nithi and her neighbours: Somali, Borana, Kamba, Embu, Kikuyu and Maasai. The event aims to sensitize and unyoke campaigns geared towards the conservation of Meru National Park.

21. Waterfalls in Tharaka Nithi

The landscape of Tharaka Nithi County is chaperoned by a farrago of spectacle waterfalls both modest and large which provide a unique way to travel over the region.  All in all, Tharaka Nithi County has about fifteen waterfalls most which remain only little-known treasures and serve only as local delights. Some of the notable destinations in its index of waterfalls include: Machui Falls along Naka River; Kanda Kame and Enamwamba Falls along Maara River; Ura, Kibuuka, Iruruni, Ikwa, Machi, Ngoki, Mwanyingi, Mwita, Munyiithi, and the Katheruka.

Kinondoni Lodge in Mount Kenya National Park.  Photo Courtesy of Nation MG
Kinondoni Lodge in Mount Kenya National Park.  Image Courtesy of NMG

Geography of Tharaka Nithi County

The highest altitude within Tharaka Nithi County is about 5,200 ms at Chuka Igambang’ombe and Maara, while the lowest is 600 ms at Tharaka. The main physical feature in Tharaka Nithi is the 360 km2 of Mount Kenya Forest which is shared by Maara and Chuka. This forest serves as both a tourist attraction and as a catchments area for Tana River. Prominent hills in the county include Kierra, Munuguni and Njuguni, Kijegge and Ntugi. Tharaka Nithi County is strikingly different from other parts of Kenya in having large masses of hillocks.

Land Use in Tharaka Nithi County

Tharaka Nithi County has two major ecological zones. The highland comprised of Maara and Chuka – which receive adequate rainfall for agriculture – and the semi-arid (lower zone) covering Tharaka. The salient land use in Tharaka Nithi County is farming. Other land uses include cultural and forestry conservation. Majority of the residents are small scale farmers with an average of 3 hectares used for food and cash crop farming. Large scale farmers own an average of 6.7 hectares. Cash crops include tea and coffee grown mainly in Maara and Chuka.

Highlights in Tharaka Nithi County

Tharaka Nithi’s main attractions are its expansive landscape, cultural sites and Tana River Basin. The main landforms in Tharaka Nithi County are mountains, hills and foot ridges. Mount Kenya is the main mountain. The topography of the County is greatly influenced by Mount Kenya creating a V-shaped valleys within which main tributaries of River Tana originating from Mount Kenya forest flow. The county borders Meru National Park that offers high potential for tourism activities, yet, little tourist activities take place in these adjacent areas. A small portion of Mwingi National Reserve also sits in the southeast corner of the area.

Population in Tharaka Nithi County

Tharaka Nithi County had a total population of 365,330 based on the 2009 population and housing census. This was projected to rise to 399,735 in 2012 and 478,570 by 2017 – equating to an annual population growth rate is 1.8%. Chuka Town, in Meru South S.C., is the largest urban centre with a projected population of 45,882 residents in 2012, while Chogoria Town in Maara had a projected population of 33,378 in 2012. Marimanti is the only urban centre in Tharaka Sub-county with a projected population of 9,009 in 2012, expected to increase to 9,857 by 2017.  The average population density is 150 people / km2.

View of the stunning Ikwa Falls.  Photo Courtesy
View of the stunning Ikwa Falls.  Image Courtesy

Airports in Tharaka Nithi County

Tharaka Nithi County currently has no airports or airstrips. 

Roads in Tharaka Nithi County

Tharaka Nithi County has a total road network of 1670 kms. Of these, only 61 kms are under bitumen road. These include the B6 Embu-Meru Road and the Kathegeri-Chuka-Chogoria-Keria Road, the C92 Ishiara-Kathwana-Chiakariga-Marimanti Road, and the Chogoria-Maara Road. Other roads are earth surface.

Climate in Tharaka Nithi County

Temperatures in the highland areas range between 14 C to 30 C, while those in the lowland area range between 22 C to 36 C. Tharaka Constituency, which lies in the lower region, experiencess temperatures of up to 40 C. It has a bi-modal rainfall pattern, with the long rains in April to June and short rains in October.

Tharaka Nithi County Distance Chart
Tharaka Nithi County Distance Chart

Distant view of Vivienne Falls, below The Temple.  Photo Courtesy of Geo View
Distant view of Vivienne Falls, below The Temple. Image Courtesy of Geo View

National Monuments in Tharaka Nithi

There are no designated national monuments in Tharaka Nithi County.

Tharaka Nithi County Map

Tharaka Nithi County Map