Meru National Park
Meru National Park is wild and beautiful. Straddling the equator and bisected by 13 rivers and numerous mountain-fed streams, it is an especially beautiful area of Kenya. It has diverse scenery from woodlands at 3,400ft (1,036m) on the slopes of Nyambeni Mountain Range, north east of Mt. Kenya, to wide open plains with meandering riverbanks dotted with doum palms.
Hundreds of bird species have made the park their home – among them the Pel’s Fishing Owl which can be heard hunting at night by the river and the rare Peter’s Finfoot. Being extremely secretive these duck-like birds are usually spotted hugging the tree-sheltered water’s edge. Keen birdwatchers should also keep their eyes peeled for the relatively rare Palm-Nut Vulture which feeds on a mixture of carrion and, not surprisingly, palm nuts.
Mammals inhabiting the park include leopard, cheetah, elephant, lion, both Grevy’s and plains zebra, hartebeest, hippo, reticulated giraffe and some decent sized herds of buffalo. The big cats can sometimes be difficult to spot due to areas of tall grass cover and dense bush land.
The Meru National Park has a chequered history and fared terribly during the late 1980’s when poaching became rife and the entire white rhino population which had been introduced into the park was annihilated.
Meru became more famous after the worldwide release of the 1966 film ‘Born Free’ which charted the story of a hand-reared orphan lioness named “Elsa” by animal conservationist Joy Adamson. (George, Joy’s husband, had been forced into shooting Elsa’s mother after she attacked him). When Elsa eventually died, Joy buried her and is herself buried at the same site – Adamson’s Falls – next to the Tana River. A small plaque marks the grave among the often abstract shaped weathered granite blocks that have been formed by the waters.