From camel rides to spotting black rhino, we share our top 10 things to do in Laikipia.
17 Oct 2022
31 Oct 2022
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Planning a Kenya safari? You might want to add Laikipia to your hot list!
Have you ever spent the night in a tree tent, been on a camel trekking safari, or made plaster casts of animal tracks? You can experience all this and more on a visit to Laikipia, a sparsely populated region to the north of Mount Kenya with spectacular high-altitude plateaus and forested valleys. It’s possibly Kenya’s best-kept secret.
Laikipia is made up of private wildlife concessions and family-owned ranches, many of which work with local communities, using tourism as a mechanism for pioneering wildlife conservation. Some of Kenya’s most luxurious lodges are found here, all offering exclusive safari experiences that you won’t find in the main national parks and reserves.
Laikipia’s isolation is part of its success. Away from the confines of the national parks, rare species such as the Aquatic Sitatunga have flourished, and the wildlife population here is the second largest in Kenya, just behind the Masai Mara. This is a land where vast herds of elephants and buffalo roam far and wild, whilst lions laze in the sun and leopards sit high in the trees, waiting patiently for breakfast to wander past. Laikipia is also one of the few places where wild dog populations are on the rise, and black rhinos are a huge success story, with around half of the country’s population of these critically endangered animals found here.
A Laikipia safari is perfect for safari enthusiasts and anyone looking for an active and immersive wilderness adventure away from the crowds. Here are a few of our favourite activities:
1. Spend a night under the stars
Fly camping is the perfect intrepid adventure without giving up your home comforts. Discover the bush after dark and enjoy a campfire dinner, before settling down to gaze at the ceiling of stars speckling the night sky. As you drift off to sleep, listen to the symphony of nocturnal calls, with cackling hyenas and grunts from distant lions. A thrilling experience in the heart of nature, this is safari in its purest form. Wake naturally to the sunrise and enjoy a warm cup of coffee to get you ready for the day ahead.
Where to stay
El Karama Lodge is one of our favourite family-friendly lodges complete with a swimming pool, poo safaris and of course sleeping out under the stars. Walking up to hot tea (or hot chocolate for the little ones) and cinnamon rolls cooked in the embers of the fire takes some beating!
If you are looking for a romantic luxurious experience under the stars, then you can't beat Loisaba Starbeds where four-poster beds which are sat on wheels are rolled out onto platforms overlooking Kiboko Waterhole. Heaven.
2. Go camel trekking
A traditional mode of transport in Kenya, camel trekking is a unique way of exploring Laikipia’s drylands. Walks range from short taster trails to multi-day journeys, travelling from camp to camp. After a hearty camp breakfast prepared by a chef, your guide will take you into the wilderness where the wildlife is used to camels, meaning you can enjoy closer encounters than on any safari game-viewing experience.
Where to stay:
Karisia walking safaris specialise in walking safaris supported by camels in the Laikipia and Samburu region of northern Kenya. The length of the walk can be tailored to your own individual needs, you can choose from classic or luxurious accommodation and the camels will carry all luggage (as well as any tiered legs!)
3. Head out on a bush walk
Discovering the bush on foot is an exhilarating adventure, allowing you to get well off the beaten track and really connect with the nature all around you. The pace is relaxed and your experienced guide will point out dung and animal tracks, as well as identifying the smaller creatures you often miss on game drives. If you’re willing to walk further afield you may spot elephants, giraffes and rhinos at close quarters.
Where to stay
Laikipia wilderness camp specialises in walking safaris and will focus these around a specific interest such as photography, following a specific species or focusing on animal behaviour. They also host bush wildlife courses that aren’t FGASA accredited but that have been developed along their syllabus for wildlife and nature enthusiasts.
Wilderness camp is a small, personal camp which focuses on making every day unique based on guests individual interests. It offers a myriad of activities from bush walks to fly camping, rock climbing and rafting.
4. Enjoy a horseback safari
If you’re looking to get up close and personal with nature, horseback safaris are hard to beat. Wildlife doesn’t see horses as a threat, allowing you to enjoy intimate encounters unlike no other. Imagine mingling with a herd of zebra as they graze, or galloping across the grasslands alongside a lolloping giraffe. Both beginners and experienced riders can be catered for and the guides will adjust the pace levels accordingly.
Where to stay
Ol Malo combines luxury, authenticity, personal service and adventure perfectly. Set on a family ranch in the heart of Laikipia it blends luxury with home comforts within a stunning wilderness setting.
If you are looking for activities, Ol Malo has them by the bucket list. From traditional game drives to bush walks, riding safaris, fishing, mountain biking, visiting community projects or even milking the cows and collecting fresh eggs on this working farm.
5. Go on a poo safari (one for the kids!)
A family home away from home on a remote cattle ranch, El Karama Lodge is perfect for exploring with children and teaching them about bush life whilst having lots of fun at the same time. Here you and your children have complete freedom to enjoy the wilderness with bush tracking, footprint plaster casting, baking in the interactive kitchen, making sculptures from termite hill clay, and the ever-popular ‘poo safaris’ where you identify an animal from its poop and see what the poo can tell you about their age and diet.
There’s a glorious solar-powered eco pool to splash about in, and childminders are on hand should you fancy a bit of adult time.
6. Run the Lewa Marathon
If you’re after an epic and energetic adventure with spectacular views, why not take part in the Lewa Marathon which is held in June each year. Run across the conservancy on undulating tracks over the savannah, through acacia woodlands and along river banks, and enjoy encounters with some of Laikipia’s four-legged residents. Giraffes are particularly sociable, often accompanying runners for half a mile or so.
Where to stay
Lewa Wilderness borders Laikipia and offers spectacular views across Lewa conservancy with Mount Kenya as its backdrop. Run by the Craig family, this boutique lodge contains just nine rooms with six of these in beautifully designed stone cottages each with its own fireplace and panoramic views across the valley.s
7. Sleep in a birds nest
Segera Lodge is home to the iconic Nay Palad Bird Nest giving you a unique sleeping experience of nesting in skies and sleeping like a bird. Set tall above the African plains, with a 360 degree birds-eye-view across the wilderness, this is a marvelous experience you won't forget in a hurry. Grab your binoculars and watch the animal kingdom wake up from the comfort of your bed.
8. Spot black rhinos
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is not only home to the big five, but it can also boast having the healthiest number of critically endangered black rhinos in East Africa thanks to its conservation efforts. There are over 100 black rhino here, along with 20 southern white rhino, and it is also a sanctuary for two of the three last remaining northern white rhinos in the world. You can visit the northern white rhino sanctuary for a fascinating close-up experience. There is also a chimpanzee sanctuary that you can visit.
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp offers traditional, eco-friendly and very comfortable accommodations alongside extraordinary wildlife viewing. Set on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, the bank opposite the camp is a natural salt lick attracting a wide variety of game so you can enjoy a safari experience without even leaving the camp.
9. Track elusive wild dogs
The wild dog is one of the world’s most endangered mammals, and one of the most fascinating to watch. They are social animals, often found in packs of 10 and with a strict hierarchical structure, and brilliant hunters. Always on the move, these packs travel marathon distances which can make finding them rather tricky.
Laikipia is one of the best places in Kenya to spot our canine friends, with their large Mickey Mouse ears often being their first giveaway in the bush!
Sosian Lodge is a beautifully restored original Kenya farmhouse that lies in 24,000 acres of unrivalled and breathtaking terrain spanning across the heart of the Laikipia plateau, stretching from the Great Rift Valley to Mount Kenya.
The lodge operates simultaneously as a working cattle ranch and a luxury safari lodge and with its perfect balance of luxury and comfort is popular with families and couples alike.
10. Go fishing
Spend a lazy afternoon with Wilderness Camp by the river fishing for tilapia and catfish using a spinning rod. If you want to cool off you can take a dip in the river jumping off the rocks and paddling around the pools
Depending on the water levels, you can even try rafting in the river, a real family favourite activity.
11. Explore on two wheels
At Loisaba Tented Camp, you can take a mountain bike and your guide and explore some of the biking trails around Loisaba Conservancy. A unique and thrilling safari experience.
12. Extremely rare black leopards
Black leopards... the stuff of legends.
Can a black leopard really exist? Yes! It is essentially the opposite of an albino cat, instead with a surplus of pigment which makes its coat look black (although you can see the spots still). Also called a melanistic leopard.
Laikipia is home to an extremely rare and mysterious black leopard that is very occasionally spotted. Photographed by Will Burrard-Lucas in 2019, it is rumoured to be a century since a black leopard was last spotted in Africa.
Where to stay
El Karama in Laikipia has a leopard mirror project as a unique way of tracking and monitoring leopards without human interference.
Classic Kenya Family Safari
Start with a Laikipia safari and bush school staying at the family-friendly El Karma lodge, followed by a few nights in the world-renowned Masai Mara, before heading to the stunning Kenyan coast for some relaxation in a luxury villa.