Chagaik Arboretum: Like a lover’s whisper

Saturday December 09 2017

The foundation stone at Chagaik Arboretum in Kericho. PHOTO | TOM MWIRARIA


Trundling past Nakuru through the East African rift nicknamed ‘the cradle of mankind’ one soon enters into a zone with an expanse of emerald as far as eyes can see.

The land is Kericho, a slumbering beauty that breathes out soft and icy air. Here, November feels like winter in the US; the icy air creeps beneath ones clothes leaving you with a myriad goose bumps and uncontrollable teeth chattering.

It is home to tea giants such as Unilever Kenya, James Finlay and Williamson which arguably makes it one of the richest counties in Kenya.

Beyond the skilfully refined, flavourful tea, Kericho holds another secret treasure: the Chagaik Arboretum. For a long time, it has been a tranquil retreat for lovers of calm, relaxation and photography. The arboretum was founded in the 1940s by a tea planter named Tom Grumble and is surrounded by tea plantations.

A lily-covered pond sprawls by Chagaik's peripherals down the valley and a blend of luxuriant forest-green indigenous trees and emerald grass carpet make it bloom. The air is soft, secretive and aphrodisiac like a lover’s whisper. Soft lulls from indigenous trees swaying with the wind and music from chirping birds rent the air.

Orange rays spill through the canopies and buss over the sprawling verdant grass below. The twilight, silence and song work together to produce a Celtic like tune. The pines are three flag-posts tall, reaching towards the lavender skies of Kericho.



The thick, dark Bamboo hold secrets only known to the vervet monkeys. Deep inside the woods is an eerie silence that is suddenly broken when a monkey swings between branches with fluidity, making its innate ability to judge distances and pull its own body weight up an acrobatic feat.

Its animated and soulful eyes seem human except for the dark, round and deeply burrowed sockets. The vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), is a non-human primate; a herbivores with a black face, grey body hair colour and a majestic tail. It serves as a nonhuman primate model for understanding human social and genetic social behaviours.

According to the Oxford Journal article titled Systems Biology of Vervet Monkey, the primates have been found to have human-like characteristics such as anxiety, hypertension and alcoholism. They live in a group of 7-10 and when they reach sexual maturity, males migrate to a distant group to reduce the amount of genetic variance which could result to inbreeding.