The view from Satima's Dragon's Teeth, Twin Peaks

Monday April 11 2022
dragon's teeth

At Dragon's Teeth. PHOTO | RUPI MANGAT


Cedar Retreat is high on the northern part of the Aberdares, nestled in the forest glade towering with red cedar, podo, African olives and brittle-wood.

The trees are indigenous, some more than a century old, all covered in green moss and wispy old men’s beards, lichen hanging from the branches. They survive only in clean air so we breathe deeply and sit on fallen trees.

The following morning we scale the higher peaks on the moors of the Aberdares. The more ambitious have their eyes on Satima, the highest point of the Aberdares at 4,000 metres above sea level, on the range that stretches 160 kilometres. The next group settles on the rugged jaw of the Dragon’s Teeth, while I aim for “as far as l can go”.

The landscape changes from the close canopy to the East African rosewood (Hagenia abyssinica) forest on higher slopes, followed by the open glade of golden grasses and sculpted peaks in the alpine zone. Our hike takes us past the first monoliths that are the Twin Peaks. A group of six vanish in the moorland. When Martin Kibet, my guide from Cedar, points to them, they look like stick figures.

We plod on. Kibet is keen for us to make it to Dragon’s Teeth. Far below is Lake ol Bolossat, the fresh water body that is a stronghold for the critically endangered grey crowned crane.

More granite peaks stand out on the high range, rugged and sculpted by the wind, sun and rain. As we reach higher ground, we reach the alpine zone with giant groundsels and large lobelias that only grow on the mountains of equatorial East Africa.


Suddenly Kibet stops. He points to a slither that vanishes into a hole between the rocks. When he describes the colour and size to Job, the other guide, he’s sure it’s the rare Montane viper that’s only found in the alpine zones of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares.

Then the peak we're aiming for appears. An hour after the first sighting we’re finally in the Dragon’s Teeth, where tall jagged walls and crannies pop with large groundsels and lobelias. A scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird, only found in the Aberdares, perches on the long spine of a lobelia.

It’s a spectacular world so high up.