It is early morning in Laikipia, a remote and beautiful wilderness in northern Kenya. As the sun rises across the plateau, a peaceful silence extends across the Rift Valley from Lake Baringo to Mount Kenya, with only the soft and rhythmic padding of feet breaking the stillness. It isn’t elephants, or even humans making those sounds.
These occasionally grumpy ships of the desert aren’t just found in the Sahara, the Gobi and the Outback. They’re also quite at home here in the arid landscapes of Laikipia, which incidentally is the size of Wales. Thankfully large enough for me not to have to use Olympic swimming pools for comparison, or even worse, football pitches.
Camel trekking with Karisia Walking Safaris is a rather unique safari experience. It’s a good old-fashioned adventure where sleeping under canvas and dining around campfires feels just as luxurious as Egyptian cotton sheets in 5* hotels. The day begins with a bush walk, following in the footsteps of Samburu and Maasai tribesmen as they point out unusual animal tracks, medicinal plants, and geological formations. The pack camels plod along behind, carrying the mobile camp equipment and guest’s belongings. For a great vantage point and a bit of a rest from hiking, guests can ride camels too.
Animal populations here are superb, and Laikipia is a sanctuary for elephants, leopards, lions and plains game. The Big 5 live here alongside rare northern species such as the Grevy’s zebra, and the elusive wild dog.
Yet here in Laikipia it’s not just about the wildlife. It’s about the journey. There’s nothing quite like riding as part of a camel train through dry riverbeds and across majestic plateaus studded with thorny acacia and wild palms. Vistas here are huge, stretching across to forested mountain slopes and mysterious rocky gorges. It’s the sort of place that makes you feel alive and in tune with nature.
Camels are the only traffic in this area, making it a peaceful and even spiritual experience, only added to by the gentle tinkling of bells dangling from the animals’ necks. If it’s your first time on a camel, perhaps one of the shorter day treks is a good place to start. Riding these hardy desert beasts does take some getting used to, but you can always get off and walk instead. For the more adventurous, several of the lodges in Laikipia offer multi-day camel safaris exploring some of the remotest parts of the region.
During the morning the pack camels trundle off ahead so that when guests arrive at lunchtime the camp is already set up, a gourmet spread is waiting alongside cold drinks and a welcome sit down in the shade. Afternoons are about relaxing and exploring around camp where archaeological artefacts such as flints and pottery are often found, giving an insight into the long and fascinating cultural history of the area.
Evenings bring with them bushwalks and sundowners, two safari staples. Then it’s time for dining out under the stars and enjoying drinks around the roaring campfire as the air becomes cooler. After a night under canvas it’s time to wake at sunrise to the sounds of the bush and enjoy a sumptuous breakfast out in the wilds. I always think food tastes so much better outside!
Most guests like to spend a few days at one of Laikipia’s lodges after their camel trek as a treat at the end of their adventure. These are some of the most luxurious lodges in Kenya, and a great way to meet local people who work there through community involvement in tourism.