The Laikipia region is in central Kenya, to the north-west of Mount Kenya. It’s a 9,500 km² plateau with plains stretching from the magnificent escarpment bordering the Northern Frontier District all the way down to the Rift Valley. Laikipia is one of the most rewarding safari areas to visit in Kenya. It’s a richly scenic region with a wide diversity of game. While its game-viewing is probably only topped by the Masai Mara, a Laikipia safari has the distinct advantage of being off the main wildlife circuit.
Game-viewing in Laikipia
Though this area of Kenya is generally hot and arid, two rivers, the Ewaso Nyiro and the Ewaso Narok give much needed water. The plateau habitat include grasslands, basalt hills, acacia bush and even cedar forests. Naturally this diversity of habitat leads to a diversity of wildlife. Which in turn leads to good predator populations. Thus lion, leopard and cheetah sightings are common. There’s also plenty of plains game including some dry land “specials”. Such as the Somali ostrich, gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe.
Laikipia has over 50% of Kenya’s heavily endangered white and black rhino population. And one of the largest elephant populations in East Africa. It is also one of the best places to see wild dog.
But the Laikipia region is not just one National Park. Rather it’s a series of wildlife conservancies, privately owned ranches and bush homes. Whic all work together to conserve wildlife. Back in the 1990’s the economic viability of wildlife tourism (as opposed to cattle farming), became apparent. Farmers, ranches and local tribes partnered up to create wildlife conservation areas. So in consequence Laikipia is the only area in East Africa where wildlife numbers are actually increasing!
Laikipia Safari Camps
Safari camps in Laikipia are personal, intimate, often luxurious and relaxed. As so many of the camps are privately run and outside national wildlife reserves, they offer a wider range of activities alongside game drives. Bush walks, camel trekking, mountain biking and horse riding are all possible. The key attribute of Laikipia safari camps is exclusivity.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
This is a superb wildlife conservancy in the south of Laikipia with excellent wildlife sightings. Several bush camps are found there including Ol Pejeta Bush Camp, Porini Rhino Camp and Kicheche Laikipia Camp.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is particularly known for its large population of black and white rhino. And you have an excellent chance of seeing both. Ol Pejeta also boasts reticulated giraffe, the rare Grevy’s zebra, plenty of plains game and a healthy complement of predators. In fact Ol Pejeta Conservancy has the highest resident game-to-area ratio of any park or reserve in Kenya.
Ranches of Laikipia
Further to the north are large private ranches and Samburu tribal lands. Loisaba is a 61,000 acre private game conservancy in the heart of Laikipia. It has the Ewaso Nyiro river on its southern boundary. And dramatic escarpments and wildlife plains in the north. Other recommended ranches and bush homes include Sabuk Lodge, Sosian Lodge and Ol Malo House.
Lewa Downs Conservancy
Wildlife is also concentrated in the Lewa Downs conservancy. Which is one of Africa’s conservation success stories with all of the Big Five on offer. It provides a refuge for a number of endangered species including about 10-15% of Kenya’s black and white rhino population. And it is home to the largest single population of critically endangered Grevy’s zebra.
The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (LWC) has developed this huge tract of land (60,000 acres) as a wildlife conservancy. LWC researchers and staff are available to share their information with lodge guests, either during informal evening discussions, or in the field. Sitatunga, a water-loving antelope is another rare species to be found here. With 350 bird species, Lewa is also one of Kenya’s best birding areas. There are several safari options including Lewa Safari Camp and Lewa House.