In northern Kenya, the Laikipia Plateau, west of Mount Kenya, is now recognised as a stellar safari destination with a diverse choice of wildlife conservancies such as the famous Ol Pejeta and Lewa.
Staying at Sarara camp in Laikipia was the highlights of my safari - the Singing Wells, the stunning scenery, and watching elephants drink from the swimming pool.
The beautifully scenic Laikipia Plateau region includes the Ewaso Nyiro River and the Laikipia Plains. This scenery coupled with the rich wildlife and lack of mass tourism makes this an attractive destination for the discerning safari enthusiast. It’s great for walking and riding safaris and other activities which may not be offered in some of the national parks.
The whole vast area is divided into ranches or conservancies owned by a variety of private people or community trusts. The Laikipia plateau is home to many Maasai and Samburu communities who live side by side with the exceptional wildlife of the area. Many of the lodges in the area are involved in community projects ranging from education to environmental projects.
- Ol Pejeta Conservancy: Probably the most famous of Laikipia’s wildlife conservancies, Ol Pejeta is a fenced conservancy of about 90,000 acres in southern Laikipia. It is home to the big five, as well as threatened Jackson’s hartebeests and Grevy’s zebras. It is also the only place you can seen the almost extinct northern white rhino (there are only 3 left, kept safe in a sanctuary here). Another key reason for coming here is the chimpanzee sanctuary – one of the few endorsed by the Jane Goodall Institute). It has a very good diversity of other species, and bird species number around 300.
It was bought by the charity Flora & Fauna International in 2003 and converted into a national land trust. There are about 9 wonderful places to stay here, including Kicheche Laikipia Camp, Porini Rhino Camp and Ol Pejeta Safari Cottages.
In addition to game drives, activities here include: cycling safaris, lion tracking, horse riding, dog tracking, meeting chimpanzees, and bush walks.
- Lewa Wildlife Conservancy: In eastern Laikipia. Through the management and protection of species, working together with local and neighbouring communities on conservation and development programmes, Lewa has ensured that both wildlife and people benefit from their conservation practices. Lewa is refuge for impressive numbers of the critically endangered black rhino and Grevy’s zebra. It’s also a wildlife haven for white rhino, elephants, giraffes, leopard, lion, buffalo, wild dogs and other iconic Kenyan species, plus over 400 bird species. There are five gorgeous places to stay within Lewa.
- Other wildlife conservancies in Laikipia:
Borana: Set in the east, next to Lewa, Borana is privately-owned and you can enjoy a great range of activities here such as horse riding, mountain biking, walking safari, day and night drives … The owners have been key players in encouraging and helping fund other community reserves nearby.
El Karama: This small 14,000-acre conservancy between Ol Jogi and Ol Pejeta describes itself as specialising in sustainable travel, adventure and wildlife safaris, particularly suited to families as the reserve is run by one! It has Kenya’s first bush school for children, offers bush kitchen cookery classes, and you can even learn about the owner’s bronze sculpture artwork. This and many other activities complement the superb wildlife.
Il Ngwesi: This is one of the community-owned reserves in the east of the region, developed with the aid of Borana next door. It’s a great wildlife experience as well as giving a great insight into the Maasai culture as the Maasai hosts at the lodge here share stories and knowledge about their tribe’s way of life.
Lekurruki: Tassia Lodge was built with the help of Borana and now welcomes guests to its lands, hosted by Maasai from the community.
Loisaba: In the north-west, Loisaba is part community and part privately owned. Lots of unusual activities, plus it has the famous and not-to-be-missed star beds!
Mugie: In the north-west, it includes a dam and huge lake.
Ol Jogi: With an exclusive private safari house within 60,000 acres of private conservancy. With the big five and key northern Kenyan species.
Ol Lentille: A small reserve in the north of Laikipia with 4 luxury private houses and a great range of activities
Solio: One of the more southerly reserves, Solio is privately owned. It is part ranch and part conservancy. It has had great success with a rhino breeding project, so is a great choice if you’re keen on seeing rhinos, but it also has a good variety of other wildlife.
Sosian: This is a privately-owned ranch which is part cattle ranch and part conservancy backing various wildlife and community projects locally.
- When to visit Laikipia: See our When to Go page for more detail, but as a general guide the best game viewing in northern Kenya is January to March and June/July to October. It’s not just about the wildlife, the scenery is beautiful too. April and May see the rains, but afterwards, in June and July the scenery is lush and green. July and August can be fairly chilly and December to March sees the warmest weather.