Treetops Hotel
Treetops Hotel is a hotel in Aberdare National Park in Kenya near the township of Nyeri, 1,966 m (6,450 ft) above sea level on the Aberdare Range and in sight of Mount Kenya. First opened in 1932 by Eric Sherbrooke Walker, it was literally built into the tops of the trees of Aberdare National Park as a treehouse, offering the guests a close view of the local wildlife in complete safety. The idea was to provide a machan (hunting platform on a tree during shikar in India) experience in relative safety and comfort. From the original modest two room tree house, it has grown into 50 rooms. The original structure was burned down by African guerrillas during the 1954 Mau Mau Uprising, but the hotel was rebuilt near the same waterhole and has become fashionable for many of the rich and famous. It includes observation lounges and ground level photographic hides from which guests can observe the local wildlife which come to the nearby waterholes. The hotel is known as the location where Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne of the United Kingdom upon the death of her father George VI during a visit in 1952.

The initial idea of Major Eric Sherbrooke Walker, who owned land in the Aberdare Range, was to build a treehouse for his wife "Lady Bettie", who liked them. The idea grew, and ultimately the couple oversaw the construction of a two-room treehouse in a huge, 300-year-old fig tree as an adjunct facility to the Outspan Hotel (which they built and owned) in 1932. Initial construction was hampered by the presence of wild animals, as the treehouse was purposely built beside animal trails leading to a nearby waterhole. Laborers and supervisors were often chased away by wild animals, which led to increased labor costs. While originally two rooms, and open only on Wednesday nights to overnight guests as a night-viewing platform, rising demand forced the Walkers to accommodate more visitors. The visit of Princess Elizabeth, and her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh to Kenya in 1952 led to their visit to the Treetops as personal guests of the Walkers. The Treetops was reinforced, and its capacity was increased to four rooms (one being for a resident hunter).

Succession of Queen Elizabeth II
Treetops shot into media limelight when Princess Elizabeth learned of the death of her father, George VI, which occurred on 6 February 1952, the night she was at Treetops, while in Kenya. She was the first British monarch since the Act of Union in 1801 to be outside the country at the moment of succession, and also the first in modern times not to know the exact time of her accession (because her father, George VI, had died in his sleep at an unknown time). On the night her father died, Sir Horace Hearne, then Chief Justice of Kenya, escorted Princess Elizabeth, as she then was, to a state dinner at the Treetops Hotel. She returned immediately to Britain. The legendary hunter Jim Corbett, a resident of Treetops at the time, wrote the now famous lines in the visitors' log book: For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience she climbed down from the tree next day a Queen " God bless her.

Political unrest
The Mau Mau Uprising, which began as a protest in 1951 and 1952 of British dominance and discrimination in the Kikuyu homeland quickly became a violent uprising. It was suppressed by the British over the period 1953 - 1954. In 1953, the Aberdare forest provided refuge to many hundreds of Mau Mau rebels, led by Dedan Kimathi. In June 1953, the entire region was declared off-limits for Africans, and orders to shoot Africans on sight were set in place. A major military operation in late 1953 ("Operation Blitz") left 125 guerillas dead. This was followed in January 1954 by "Operation Hammer", led by the King's African Rifles, which however failed to encounter many guerillas as most had already left the area. As a protest against the shoot on sight orders, and repeated military action, Mau Mau rebels burnt down the Treetops Hotel (which acted as a lookout for the King's African Rifles) on 27 May 1954 in a contentious military action or act of terror. The incident took place as the uprising was slowly being brought to an end by British military action.

Present day
The Treetops was rebuilt in 1957 on a nearby chestnut tree overlooking the same waterhole and salt lick near the elephant migration pathway to Mount Kenya, and has grown to about 50 rooms, with the hotel being built on additional stilt support. It rises straight out of the ground on stilts and has four decks and a roof top viewing platform. The accommodation is compact and cozy comprising of 50 rooms. The rise in popularity of the Treetops is partially due to Elizabeth II's visit and accession in 1952, but also partially due to their no see, no pay policy during their early years " a common business policy on safaris, where guests were not charged for services if they failed to see any big game. Visitors can observe the wildlife from the top deck, the viewing windows in the communal space, or from ground level hides. They can also take motor tours from the Treetops. The Treetops remains an overnight destination, with only overnight luggage being allowed, and visitors being driven in from the Outspan for the night. Other facilities include a thousand watt artificial moon used to illuminate animals at the waterhole during dark nights. Another unusual restriction at the Treetops is a low decibel level restriction due to the hearing sensitivity of many animals, including a ban on all hard-soled footwear. Currently, the Treetops is run by the Aberdare Safari Hotels which acquired the two properties, Outspan and Treetops in 1978. Following the success of Treetops, another treetop lodge " the Shimba, was opened by the Aberdare Safari Hotels group in the Shimba Hills National Reserve. Aberdare Safari Hotels have embarked on an initiative dubbed “Return the Bush” in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service. The initiative involves the rehabilitation of 125 Ha of Aberdare National park that has been degraded by the toll the fenced-in Elephant population has exerted on the ecosystem. The electric fencing for the paddock covering an area of 16.5 Ha around the lodge was completed. The paddocking enables reforestation as well as the natural regeneration of the local flora within the paddock.

In popular culture
Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts movement, was a resident of Nyeri and a frequent visitor to Treetops. In 1938, he commissioned a cottage on the grounds of the Outspan Hotel, which he named Paxtu. The final resting place of Baden-Powell and his wife Olave, is located nearby. Jim Corbett, hunter, conservationist, and author, who accompanied Elizabeth the second during her stay at treetops in February 6th, 1952, lived in the same house, as Baden-Powell, and is buried nearby, next to Baden-Powell and his wife Olave. The visit of Princess Elizabeth cemented the fame of The Treetops. The visit of Princess Elizabeth was immortalised in Jim Corbett's (who was a resident "hunter" at Treetops) final book Tree Tops , which was published by the Oxford University Press just days before Corbett's death in April 1955. Archival footage of the royal visit has also survived. Following the media hype over the accession of Elizabeth II, the Treetops attracted a large number of rich and famous people every year, Some famous personalities who visited the Treetops before or after the accession of Elizabeth II are Charles Chaplin, Joan Crawford and Lord Mountbatten , and a much-publicized return visit by Elizabeth II in 1983. Due to the quick change in profile of the rustic tree lodge, National Geographic ran an article A New Look at Kenya's "Treetops" in October, 1956. A large number of present day resorts are named Treetops, though only some of them actually take the name from the hotel. The number of treehouse safari lodges has increased with the success of Treetops. In Dan Simmons's book Hyperion, The Templars (a nature worshiping race) had a hotel/restaurant named Treetops on their homeworld God's Grove in the World Tree (an enormous tree whose branches nearly reached space). Treetops Hotel is also the name of an Irish racehorse.

Building Activity

  • peter ochieng
    peter ochieng updated 4 media
    about 5 years ago via
  • peter ochieng
    peter ochieng uploaded a media file
    mgao flower7
    about 5 years ago via Mobile
  • Samuel Mwenda
    Samuel Mwenda commented
    very fascinating ...still, notable entities still frequent the treetops, including world re knowned stars.
    about 5 years ago via Mobile
  • Ngarachu Kabutha
    Ngarachu Kabutha commented
    History is Beautiful.
    about 5 years ago via Mobile