Before a team of international scientists ventured into the Mathews Range and uncovered more than 100 species of plants and animals never before recorded, including tiny rats, bats and butterflies, no one thought much of it.
Like Madagascar which developed a rare collection of fauna and flora because of its isolation, Mathews Range has evolved its own unique residents. This spectacular range of mountains that stretches for more than 150 KM from north to south, sits between the barren wastelands of the north and the busier savannah plains of Laikipia.
The BBC, in a podcast on their website titled ‘Bats, rats and frogs found in Kenya’s Matthews Range’, referred to the range as, ‘the most isolated patches of tropical mountain forest in East Africa’. Natural springs and rivers are located in the valleys of the Matthews Range. These sources of water provide for both wildlife and the local Samburu people.
The range was named after a Welshman, Sir Lloyd Mathews. Sir Lloyd served in her majesty’s navy before rising through the ranks to finally be knighted and appointed First Minister. He later died of Malaria in Zanzibar in 1901.
Within Mathews Range, you will find a variety of fauna and flora, including forests of juniper and cycads, rhinos, elephants, buffalo, leopards and other large mammals. In fact, many of the ancient cycads are only found in the Matthews area and nowhere else on earth.
On the southern end, you will come across Warges Hill which rises to 2,688 M, making it the highest point in the range. Warges is followed by Ol Doinyo Lenkiyo mountain, which towers 2,375 M above sea level to claim the highest point in the middle range.
While you are here, you may probably hear of how Ol Doinyo Lenkiyo means the mountain where the child got lost. You could perhaps ask the Samburu elders here over a cup of tea why the mountain was called so. Try not to take too much sugar as they do though. We bet you are not half as active as they are.
The 850,000-acre Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy, in the heart of the mountains, provides a home to a number of endangered species including the African wild dog, grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, de brazza’s monkey and colobus monkey.
The range is also a good place to spot a number of birds and butterflies. The Hartlaub’s Turaco, would be especially a treasured sighting with many who have seen it suggesting it could make a good candidate for Kenya’s mascot because it bears all the colours of our national flag.
There is, of course, the hill they call sweet sixteen because of the way it is shaped like a young woman’s pointed breasts, that you need to make sure you see before you plunge into the coldness of the seasonal Ngeng River. Certainly worth every second and penny.