A Flying Fox at The Forest

Last weekend I finally made it to The Forest, two and a half years after it first opened its doors to the public. You’re probably familiar with it: the outdoor adventure centre in the Kereita Forest with the longest zip line course in East and Central Africa. It was one of those things that had lingered on my to-do list for far too long, somewhere in-between ‘climb Mount Kilimanjaro’ and ‘deep clean the oven’.

But The Forest is much more enjoyable, and convenient, than those two lofty goals. It’s only 60km from the centre of Nairobi, along the Naivasha top road. Take a left at the Total Petrol Station in Kimende Town, and then a right through the underpass. This last 8km stretch of the route is very well signposted, through the pine woodlands of the Kereita Forest. I should also mention that there’s a Ksh 200 per person Kenya Forest Service fee at the entrance.

Once we had arrived at The Forest, my fiancée and I were shown around by Marketing Manager, Edel Chege. She led us first through the Adventure Centre – an impressive building with a huge curved glass façade and a sloping, grass-covered roof. This is the heart of all activities at The Forest, and it sits suitably at the top of a ridge with commanding views across the Aberdare valleys beneath it.

We walked out onto a wide terrace, where we found a generous buffet of grilled meats, curries and vegetarian dishes. There’s a good à la carte menu too, and you can order a variety of cocktails from the bar.

Right next to the Adventure Centre is the main attraction: the first of six zip lines stretched out above the Kereita Forest. The full course is 2.2km long, and the zip lines have an average distance of 370m. They are managed by an independent adventure tour operator called Flying Fox, who have also set up zip line courses across India. I wonder if I was the first ‘Fox’ to fly along their zip lines…

The course is operated under European Union safety regulations, and all zip liners do a trial run on a much shorter line to ensure that they are familiar with the ideal posture and braking technique. ‘Lean back or you’ll get an unexpected haircut’, was a crucial bit of advice we were given.

Instead of completing the entire 2.2km course, which takes two hours and costs Ksh 2,800 for adults and Ksh 2,300 for children, we opted for the much shorter two zip-line circuit, which costs Ksh 1,800 for both adults and children.

The first, by the Adventure Centre, is called ‘The Colobus Catapult’, and the second is aptly named ‘The Lumberjack’, because you fly just a few metres beneath the canopy of a tall tree in the centre of the valley. It may have just taken 35 seconds to zip across each line, but it was exhilarating, and the views are breathtaking.

We also had time for a quick bike ride, using the newly introduced e-bikes. Their electric motors gave us a much-needed push up the steep, muddy tracks of the forest.

Mountain biking and zip lining are just two of a wide range of activities on offer at The Forest, including paintballing, archery, fly fishing, footgolf, horse riding, tree planting, nature walks, riding forest rovers (off-road Segways), and more. There are four campsites, too, and they plan to open an eco-lodge called The Escape over the course of the year, featuring chalets on stilts by the Gatamaiyo River.

So whether you’re planning your next office teambuilding excursion, or a weekend break from the city, consider a trip to The Forest. And don’t, like me, let it become a recurring item on a never-ending to-do list.

Activity bookings should be made in advance at www.theforest.co.ke, or by calling 0711 112233, or 0711 223366.

Published in Kenya’s Sunday Nation