Hidden away in the up-market suburb of Karen is the indigenous tropical dry Oloolua forest. It is home to the Institute of Primate Research (IPR). The 5 km nature trail was established by the National Museums of Kenya providing an oasis of tranquility for city residents looking to escape the city hustle and bustle. The Oloolua nature trail meanders through thick forest vines and undergrowth below giant indigenous trees and bushes, in some places following the course of the Mbagathi River that cuts through the forest.
Along the trail are caves, rumored to have been hiding places of Mau Mau freedom fighters during the colonial days. This awesome cave is 37 meters long deep into the forest surface. Today it is a home for bats and other small mammals that inhabit the area.
After the caves, a bamboo garden with worn out benches sits by the river. Picnickers love this spot. This magnificent mono cot grass species has created an atmosphere that invites you to take a rest and to reflect and embrace nature in a silent world. Further down is the river and a papyrus swamp offering a glimpse into the rich biodiversity of this indigenous forest. The papyrus plant is beautiful and evokes reflections on religion and ancient worlds. The Egyptians first made paper from this plant. It is mainly only found in swampy wetlands and requires special conservation efforts. From here on, the trail climbs out of the river valley, occasional bursting upon glades bathed in bright sunlight before diving back under the canopy of the cool forest cover.
Last and perhaps the most spectacular of the attractions in the forest is the 20-foot waterfall. This is a breathtaking sight with the fall draining into the Mbagathi river. As you pick your way along the trail to the waterfall, you’ll go past a wooden tower that was constructed some years back for viewing a Crowned Eagle’s nest that was situated nearby. Scientists used this tower to study the Crowned Eagle’s behavior in its natural habitat.