Forest bathing: A healing experience

Saturday, December 7th, 2019 00:00 |
The tour group heading to Ngare Ndare Falls.

There’s something about nature and particularly the forest that calms the nerves, that refreshes the mind and makes you feel alive. In Japanese medicine, they call it forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, which is a pillar of healing. HARRIET JAMES explores where you can enjoy the benefits of being one with nature this festive season

Imagine sounds of a slow stream and chirping birds, the smell of leaves, rays of sun piercing through tress, a cool breeze and crisp air. Does it feel like your worries are disappearing and a sense of clear mind and calm creeping in?

Forest bathing entails breathing in fresh, clean air as you walk leisurely and take in the beauty of nature. It was developed in the 1980s and since then, it has become the centre of healing in Japan. While there are presently 44 accredited shinrin-yoku forests in Japan, there are various forest areas in Kenya where one can enjoy the benefits of nature therapy. 


I have participated in such an activity twice with a tour company known as Yofi Adventures. I have recently come to appreciate group travels, thanks to benefits such as networking with new people and also, it’s a quick way of accessing destinations without the hustle of finding your own means. The first forest adventure I went on with the company was to Ngare Ndare, a 5,540-hectare forest situated on the northern slopes of Mt Kenya. It is around 50km from Nairobi, which is about two hours with flowing traffic. We had to get there early as the place is usually packed on the weekends, with companies turning up for team building and other groups in safari vans adventure chasing. The forest has a half a kilometer canopy walkway, which is one of the few in the world, and the first in the region. I walked in first, being afraid of heights and of course, because I had to take the photos of those behind me. Being the first is better as you get over your fear in advance and also fully concentrate on walking and not on the loud screams of the scared ones.


The forest straddles a migratory corridor for jumbos, rhinos and buffaloes, and you might get lucky to catch a glimpse of one walking underneath as you head to the other side. It is also a maternity ward for elephants. “This is where they nurse their injuries, recuperate and also give birth,” explains our ranger Zablon Kimaita. I never understood why Ekra, the team leader and CEO of Yofi, began our itinerary with the canopy walk, but later on, I thanked her for that wisdom, which I also recommend to others looking to visit. You save time and have the canopy all to yourself.

Next, we hiked the forest up to the Ngare Ndare waterfall. For a comfortable hike, always wear the right pair of shoe, which has grip and won’t make you slip. Also, carry plenty of water.

Ngare Ndare is managed by the community; the immediate neighbours of the forest, the ranger tells us, as we sat down enjoying the refreshing view of a waterfall. The two words, which mean water and goat, are derived from the Maasai dialect. The community reports unusual occurrences and since 2002, there has not been any incidence of poaching, only three dead elephants, that passed on as a result of natural causes. The ranger also tells us about the water, explaining that it is blue because its carbonated, and that it can heal various skin conditions if used continuously.


I felt refreshed and rejuvenated after the trip and did not hesitate to take another when the opportunity with the same tour company came up. This time, it was to Kereita or The Forest. It is around 60km from Nairobi in Lari, Kiambu county. It is part of the Abedare National Park, and one can enjoy nature while engaging in various activities such as zip lining, paintball, archery or take a ride through the forest on a mountain bike. I would recommend that one arrives here early as, just like Ngare Ndare, the place is ever packed with adventurous travellers.

After the adrenaline rush at the zip line, it was time for a nature walk and taking in what the eco system had in store, as well as taking as many photos as I could. We caught a glimpse of the refreshing Boyo Falls and the magnificent Gatamaiyu River. It was threatening to rain heavily, hence, after the nature walk, we headed to our vehicle and drove straight back to Nairobi.

More on Lifestyle