What was once a farming area with huge livestock ranches, Laikipia is today one of Kenya’s most progressive and biggest success stories in conservation. It’s a vast, sprawling area with a wealth of wildlife said to be even better than that of the famous Maasai Mara.
On the north-eastern side of the Great Rift Valley, and on the north-western side of snow-capped Mount Kenya lies the flat plateau of Laikipia, considered to be the gateway to the more wild and remote northern frontier territories of Kenya. It’s an area of vast open spaces and untamed wilderness, which many claim can give the Maasai Mara a run for its money; not only in terms of sheer numbers of wildlife, but also for overall safari experience. Apart from Ol Pejeta area, which can get congested, the rest of these sprawling highland plains provide more than enough space for a safari par excellence.
What was once an area of huge livestock ranches, Laikipia is now one of the most progressive and successful conservation areas in Kenya. The emphasis is on smaller, luxury safari tourism with fewer numbers and creating a co-operative and sustainable income for the local tribes that made Laikipia their home centuries ago; the Samburu, the Ilaikipiak and the Mokogodo Maasai.
Wealth of wildlife
Laikipia has the lion’s share of the country’s endangered species, including almost half of Kenya’s black rhino population. It’s also seen successful growth of wild dog populations with several established packs and is now recognised as the second most important site for them in Africa. You’re also likely to encounter large numbers of unique Grevy’s zebra and elephant. Most of the rare game in Laikipia is actively managed, some with radio-collars for tracking and protection. On occasion, you may even be lucky enough to become involved with local conservation activities.
The animals in Laikipia, especially the rarer species, tend to be closely managed, with predators often radio-collared in order to track them. Wildlife rangers monitor individual rhino, keeping an eye on them day and night. While this might strike you as unnatural, it’s hard to argue with the results; better understanding of animal movements, behaviour and population trends, and even occasional opportunities for visitors to be directly involved in wildlife conservation activities.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
This is one of the oldest of Laikipia’s conservancies which also incorporates the rolling grasslands of Lewa Downs. There’s an interesting mix of landscapes from riverine woodland and scrub bushveld to expansive, endless plains, all providing an excellent environment for an astonishing variety of wildlife. The conservancy protects a respectable population of white and black rhino as well as about 350 Grevy’s zebra and a small population of the rare sitatunga, a water-loving antelope that’s usually found in the riverine forests of central Africa.
Getting to Laikipia
Three airstrips service the scheduled safari flights into Laikipia; Nanyuki (the main one), Loisaba and Lewa Downs. Transfers from the airstrips to the safari lodges usually take under an hour. For the more remote lodges, you may want to charter a plane directly to their landing strips.
Tours & Safari
What used to be an area of huge livestock farms is now one of Kenya’s best conservation success stories. Ranchers in Laikipia are working with local communities to protect wildlife and generate employment from luxury tourim with fantastic results.
The Laikipia district stretches over a vast area from Mount Kenya to the arid northern regions, sprawling between a network of perennial waterways that empty into the great Ewaso Nyiro River and support an abundance of wildlife.
You’ll find several endangered species safely harboured in Laikipia. About half of Kenya’s black rhino population, several healthy packs of African wild dog and the finely-striped Grevy’s zebra have found refuge there. Other wildlife is also here in abundance with some 2,000 elephant which roam freely across the area.
There are three airstrips that service scheduled flights into Laikipia. The main airstrip is Nanyuki, followed by Loisaba and then Lewa Downs. In general, the airstrips are less than an hour’s game drive from the safari lodges. When accommodation is more remote, we advise chartering a flight to their private airstrip, especially if you’re travelling in a group.
Speak to us about your Laikipia safari wishlist. We would be happy to provide you with ideas and recommendations
The Laikipia area has seen a growth in private wildlife conservancies, as well as private ranches. To cater for visiting tourists, some of the conservancies have built safari lodges with various degrees of luxury, although most tend to be high-end where you can expect to be pampered.
Stretching over a vast area from the foothills of Mount Kenya to the shores of Lake Baringo, the Laikipia Plateau is one of Kenya’s lesser known wildlife areas. There are a variety of lodges, mostly luxurious and upmarket.