The fresh air rushes against my face and feels crisp as our car pulls through the Tigoni dam that signifies our entry to the Brackenhurst indigenous man-made forest. The drive through the forest gives me a dreamy-like feeling that I am in the coolest wonderland, closest to nature as I could ever be.
A two-kilometre drive through the thick indigenous forest, whose trees I later learn were “fetched” from across Africa during a tree planting exercise that has taken more than two decades suddenly brings me to a security gate.
After check-in, we are directed to our destination past colonial houses that are fused with modern architectural structures – This is Brackenhurst Resort, a popular non-alcoholic destination for families, conferences, team building, and a host of community cultural events.
I am here to sample an extraordinary event dubbed Forest Festival. Going by the huge crowds lining up for admission, I am sure that it will be an adventure, and fun parked experience.
The last time I visited Brackenhurst Resort was in 2000. By then, except for the small portion where the colonial country hotel stood, the rest of the land was almost bare.
I remember I could see endless acres of evergreen Limuru tea plantations that resembled an expansive green carpet. I remember vividly also sampling a clear view of Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro from a particular spot that I could not identify during this visit.
On this visit, however, things are different. I realised that to see the monumental mountains of East Africa, I would have to walk the two-kilometre stretch back to the main road to see these iconic African tourist attractions.
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I learnt from Maureen Gathoni, my host that an ambitious reforestation initiative started 20 years ago, resulted in the present forest – syntropic agroforestry that is replicating and accelerating the natural forest of ecological succession.
Research later indicated that syntropic farming is an innovative approach to regenerative agriculture, which allows for the creation of dynamic, successful, and economically viable ecosystems that restore degraded soil biodiversity.
By understanding and respecting nature’s complex system, agroforestry imitates the natural regeneration of forests and provides a harmonious integration of our food production systems.
This system of farming plays a big role in combating climate change through carbon planting and promoting our ecosystem.
At the grounds hosting the forest festival under tree canopies, the atmosphere is that of fun. Visitors and exhibitors have a busy time amidst a fun-filled entertainment programme. From muppet shows, cultural-afro-fusion beats, nyatiti players, and an animal park, that was a crowd-puller.
The animal corner hosted a donkey, sheep, goat, hens, and the nicest and whitest pair of rabbits. The corner was a darling of the children, some of whom going by their excitement had never seen these animals before.
After one hour of exploring the festivities, it was now time to sample a forest bathing experience, another popular attraction of the family-packed event.
There was hearty entertainment, that blended cultural, and African fusion beats.
As the tractor driver took us through the forest, I could see that the forest restoration efforts had yielded enormous results – an increased number of bird species at Brackenhurst forest from 35 to 187 over the past 20 years.
It is endearing to see the collection of trees, some rare species all collected from across Africa.