The Ol Donyo Orok, also known as Namanga Hill, rises to a height of 2,548 meters above sea level, towering like a lone sentinel over the wide surrounding semi-arid plain, 22 kilometers from its nearest Tanzanian neighbor, Mt Longido. It is formed like an arrow heading north, reaching about 17 kilometers north to south, 10 kilometers east to west at its broadest point, and covering an area of 11,860 hectares. It is located about 170 kilometers south of Nairobi, near the border town of Namanga between Kenya and Tanzania.
The hill is a protected natural forest reserve that provides water to Namanga and the surrounding region.
Its mostly unexploited vegetation makes it one of Kenya’s few remaining pristine forests, with only some gathering of construction poles by the Maasai population for hut construction. The Namanga River, which is littered with boulders, forms a deep tunnel across the mountain, and there are caves where Maasai Morans perform parts of their rituals.
On the western side of the mountain, at the entrance of Namanga River Lodge, one of the trails up the hill begins. It passes an ancient bridge and an abandoned school before reaching a trail that runs parallel to water pipes that bring water from mountain streams to the town.
As the route winds its way higher up the mountain beside the Namanga River, the foliage thickens.
For the hiking enthusiast, the clear mountain river waters, rocks sculpted by years of water erosion, and caves carved into the river and mountain sides give a highly satisfying outdoor experience. The route opens up into clearings further up, providing spectacular views of the village below, the distant Mt Longido, and Mt Kilimanjaro, which is about 65 kilometers away. You could also be fortunate enough to see some of the local wildlife, such as buffalo herds, several antelope species, dik diks, and monkeys.
The round way hike up the hill might take anything from 4 to 6 hours.
It goes without saying that stopping at strategic spots along the path to soak in the views, sounds, and smells of the general area enhances the whole experience. It might also be beneficial to hire a Maasai guide.
How to Get There
Take Namanga matatus from the River Road and Ronald Ngala Street intersection at OTC if traveling by public transport from Nairobi.
If you’re driving, follow Mombasa Road to Athi River Junction and turn left into Namanga Rd. Pass via Kitengela, Isinya, and Kajiado towns on your way to Namanga.
Namanga Hill Guides
While it’s not uncommon for local guides to refuse the assistance of armed Kenya Forestry Service (KFS) soldiers, it’s a good idea to ask them to arrange for armed escort.
It’s an extra expenditure, but given the dangers, you’ll face on this mountain, that precaution might save your life.
The Kenya Forest Service, which manages Namanga Hill’s forest, does not charge a fee for trekking there. Your guide will explain their guiding and conservation costs to you.