What would you do with 90, 000 acres? Or 40,000acres? Whereas you are in all likelihood thinking of something suburbia, the people of Laikipia have seen it fit to use their vast swathes of land as ranches cum wildlife conservation areas. This conservation effort is not only for the large ranches; even the small ones are all involved in conservation, essentially turning the whole of Laikipia into a mega park with a rich diversity of well protected wildlife. Privately held and communal lands have all been used in the conservation effort, and the people jealously guard their wildlife heritage.
Laikipia has been inhabited since time immemorial, but unfortunately there are only few archaeological artefacts attesting to the same. A few petroglyphs have been found in caves and cairns, along with stone tools that suggest hominids were around Laikipia as far back as 1.5million years ago, but modern man started living in Laikipia around 45,000 years ago.
The hunter-gatherer communities that lived here had an uncontested dominance over the land until sometime in the mid-16th Century, when Cushitic groups from what is now southern Ethiopia streamed in, and these were followed two centuries later by a large influx of the Nilotic Maa speakers who came to dominate the region until the dawn of European colonialism.
The indigenous hunter-gatherers lost many aspects of their original culture as a result of assimilation by these incoming groups; the Mukogodo (also known as the Yaaku), are nowadays identified as Mukogodo Maasai, and largely speak a Maa language. Among the older generations of the Mukogodo, you can still find a few people who speak a language adopted from the Cushitic Wardei Darya, one of the first groups they interacted with. The Mumonyot are another such indigenous group that got absorbed by the Maa speakers. These groups are largely confined to northern Laikipia.
The Maa speakers who chose to stay in Laikipia became known as the Laikipiak Maasai, distinguishing themselves from the Purko Maasai who continued their southward trek in the Rift Valley. A string of calamities, from internecine conflict, animal and human epidemics and colonial agreements, saw the Laikipiak plummet from dominance in Laikipia. In their absence, neighboring communities started streaming in, including the Samburu from the north, the Pokots from the northwest, and the Kikuyus and the Merus from the south and east.
Colonialism brought into Laikipia Caucasians and Asians, some of whom stayed on after Kenya attained her independence.
After independence, many other Kenyan communities moved into Laikipia to work in its flower farms and industries, contributing to the current diversity of Laikipia.
Much of Laikipia is a high-altitude plateau, hovering at an elevation of between 1800-2000m above the sea. Nestled between the sheer drop of the Rift Valley, the verdant Aberdare Range, and the towering Mt. Kenya, Laikipia is 9,500km2 of Shangri-La for a wide array of wildlife within the greater Ewaso Nyiro ecosystem.
Undulating hills, guano-streaked kopjes, craggy gorges and endless vistas of flatlands create a landscape that has something to offer for all beasts and plants, from the mighty elephants to the rock-hopping klipspringer.
Laikipia’s weather is largely moderate, with temperatures hovering around 250C for most of the year; the northern reaches of Laikipia are hotter than the southern regions, which are close to the Aberdare Range and Mt. Kenya.
Rain is the most common form of precipitation, but hailstorms can also occur now and then. Because Laikipia lies on the rain shadow of Mt. Kenya, it doesn’t receive as much rain as the opposite region of Mt. Kenya, and rainfall gets even less the further north one moves in Laikipia. The annual precipitation ranges between 400mm-1000mm, and this falls in two rain seasons; the short rains in November and the long rains between March and May. Droughts tend to occur on a 10 year cycle.
The region is drained by the River Ewaso Nyiro, and a host of temporary rivers that bisect the landscape.
The soil around Laikipia is largely black cotton soil, which cracks up into random platters during the dry months and turns into a slick bog after the rains.
Flora and Fauna
Change is the only constant thing in nature, and Laikipia’s flora and fauna has changed vastly over the years. The vegetation has changed from cedar woodlands, to grassy, acacia dotted landscapes, in part due to interventions by man and elephants; yes, elephants!
And with the change in vegetation, the animals also changed, be it herbivores seeking better pastures or carnivores trailing the herbivores.
There are a few pockets of indigenous forest cover, preserved within forest reserves. Much of the landscape is savanna, with interspersed acacia forming a noncontiguous woodland. Several acacia species are found in Laikipia, including Acacia mellifera, A. commiphora, A. drepanolobium and A. xanthophloea. The mellifera and commiphora species are found in the more arid north, while the drepanolobium anchors itself in black cotton soil amidst coarse grasses.
The few marshlands and wetlands are often flanked by the xanthophloea, better known as the fever trees.
The dry landscape belies a rich variety of flowering plants, one which you can only truly appreciate after the rains. When the skies open, you will be hit by what others have called a visual bonanza, an overwhelming explosion of a diverse assortment of flowers that will wow your senses. Flowers bloom even in the harshest of environments, and Laikipia will enthrall you with purple flowers, blue flowers, red flowers, and just about any color you imagine.
Laikipia is blessed with an abundance of wildlife that can only be compared with thriving ecosystems such as the Maasai Mara or Tsavo, in spite of the fact that only 80km2 of the 9500km2 that is Laikipia are protected by reserves or parks, unlike the aforementioned locales. Wildlife has been given breathing space in Laikipia, finding sanctuary in its ranches and farmlands with minimal conflict with humans.
Laikipia is where you will find the majestic elephants stomping around without a care, while lions scamper in their wake. The skies and trees are the domains of iridescent birds, and the ground is littered with lizards, snakes, squirrels and hares. From the red and blue blur of the red headed agama, to the rambunctious spotted hyena, there is something for everyone to admire.
Laikipia is actually the only place where animal numbers have improved over the years. This is as a result of intensive security campaigns that commenced in the 1970s, following a wave of poaching that threatened to wipe out elephants and rhinos. Poaching pushed the animals into Laikipia, and their numbers were boosted when Kenya’s wildlife protection agencies relocated more animals, and private farms set up their land as a sanctuary for wildlife.
Thus well protected, animal numbers have risen considerably.
Half the population of all black rhinos in Kenya is found in Laikipia, and of the 8 surviving northern white rhinos in the WORLD, 4 are found in Laikipia.
Laikipia is one of the few places in the world where you can find herds of Grevy’s zebras, which are slightly bigger than the common (Burchell’s) zebra and have thinner stripes. These graceful beasts thrive in the arid north, as does the reticulated giraffe, towers of which can be found with ease in Laikipia.
The African wild dog, a creature much maligned even by certain conservationists for its savage hunting tactics, evisceration, has found a home in Laikipia, where its numbers are really doing well.
The elusive striped hyena also stalks Laikipia, and unlike its bigger cousin, the spotted hyena, lives a monogamous and virtually solitary existence, scavenging or hunting only at night. The striped hyena stands out from the spotted hyena not only because of the name giving fur pattern, but also because of a luxuriant mane that runs along the entire length of its back.
There are more than 250 lions in Laikipia, so take your walks in ‘adrenaline’ grass very carefully, you may be surprised by what lurks beyond your view. The number may seem insignificant, but this is more than 12% of all the remaining lions in Kenya!
The fastest land creature, the cheetah, is at home in these plains, where making a meal out of the scrub hare can be like grabbing candy from a kid. The scrub hare’s defense mechanism is to lie still in order to avoid detection, and it will stay so until the last possible moment. The fastest animal, competing against a fast but unwilling to run animal promises exhilarating chases, and if it’s not the hare that will be creating the spectacle, small gazelles will be on a run for their lives.
There’s more to wildlife than the Big 5, and Laikipia is just the place to appreciate this.
Snakes for example range from the innocuous brown house snake to the venomous puff adder, whose brownish colors make it hard to spot within crevices and rocky features. The black-necked spitting cobra also inhabits this domain, as does the African rock python, which lives close to water bodies. Skinks, monitor lizards, and amphibians of all sorts also abound.
More than a third of Kenya’s bird species have been spotted in Laikipia, and the region promises even more, because its potential as a birdwatcher’s haven has not yet been fully exploited.
The species that thrive in Laikipia include the sparrow weavers, crested francolins, cuckoos, turacos and boubous. Raptors such as Verreaux’s eagles, pallid harriers, sooty falcons, and kestrels swoop down from their high abodes to scoop their meal, while the secretary bird, an oddly-crowned bird, chooses to stick to the ground to claim its meal. The hammerkop and the finfoot are other birds found in the region.
Starlings glaze the skies with their iridescent displays, sharing this stage with the kori bustard, Africa’s heaviest flying bird.
The insect lover, too has something to look out for, from the scarabs and dung beetles hard at work to the fluttering butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies.
Laikipia stands out in a lot of aspects, especially if you choose to focus on its thriving wildlife; however, the key emphasis on this Treasure is an appreciation of the fact that all this has been possible only because people of different cultures and backgrounds have chosen to work cohesively towards sustainable land use, creating the ranching cum wildlife tourism that has enjoyed unparalleled success.
Because of Laikipia’s location on the rain shadow of Mt. Kenya, much of the land isn’t fit for farming. Consequently, ranching has been the preferred venture in this region, and while cattle herds managed to break even, the proximity with wildlife brought its own set of challenges.
After many years fighting wildlife that would just never go, the people of Laikipia chose to embrace a new strategy; open up part of the land for wildlife while preserving other sections for their ranches. This hybrid system has proven itself, with wild herbivores and cattle surviving on a rotational basis on the scant resources, ensuring that everything is just right.
But what made this model truly successful was the cooperation between neighbors, regardless of land ownership structure or ethnicity and the like. You see, it is virtually pointless to have an animal sanctuary isolated in the midst of other activities that are non-conducive to the sustenance of the animals, because the minute they will stray away from their sanctuary, they will be susceptible to attack. So the people of Laikipia got together to create a contiguous stretch of land in which wildlife was free to roam, but still allowed the landowners a chance to raise cattle.
This collaboration is the reason animal numbers are rising in Laikipia, as the animals are virtually safe regardless of where they are treading on.
But even more importantly, the landowners have learned to accept an occasional loss of their stock, because wild animals are after all, wild. This civility ensures that even when a lion kills a cow, lions are not hunted down, but instead more measures are put in place to prevent the lion from ever capturing another cow.
These joint ventures have also seen the preservation of local culture, especially in group ranches that are often owned by a particular community.
Because Laikipia’s attractions are located within private/ communal ranches, there are certain freedoms that you will not experience in Kenya’s national reserves and parks. Night drives, camping, camel safaris, bike excursions and horse riding are some of the activities that you can easily engage in while in the Laikipia wilderness, but doing so within game reserves and parks is just not possible in many instances because of an abundance of constraining rules and regulations.
What you will see in Laikipia then is a synergistic coexistence of wildlife and domestic animals, and the consequent thriving of wildlife has resulted in a greater need to preserve a rich heritage, this being the numerous cultures that inhabit the region and its wildlife.
The ranches/wildlife centers are about 27 and these are
- Laikipia Nature Conservancy
- Ol Maisor
- Mugie Conservancy
- Loisaba Wilderness
- Ol Malo Sabuk
- Kuri Kuri
- Il Polei
- Ol Jogi
- El Karama
- ADC Mutara
There are 7 forest reserves, and these are:
- Ol Arabei
- Ngare Ndare
We will look into a few of these attractions.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
This is arguably the best known of all conservancies in Laikipia, a 90,000 acre wildlife habitat straddling the equator. Its infrastructure is well developed, and has East Africa’s largest sanctuary for black rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli), hosting more than 90 of them. It is also the only place you will find the 4 northern white rhino, along with 6 southern white rhinos and a host of animals, including yours frightfully, the Cape buffalo.
Like much of Laikipia, Ol Pejeta is a place you are assured of spotting just about anything you set your heart out to as you drove out in the morning. All manners of antelopes graze peacefully in the grasses, ocassionally perking an ear for the predator, and these are many, stalking quietly in the adjacent woodlands.
Well-appointed accommodation will always ensure that no matter how exhausting the day has been, you will wake up fresher than ever for the next fun-filled day.
Apes are not native to Kenya, and Ol Pejeta is the only place in the country where you will get to see chimpanzees. The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary was set up in 1993 to offer a home for rescued chimpanzees. If you miss this opportunity, the next place you will have to go to see chimps would be western Uganda.
The conservancy also has an Environmental and Conservation Centre that gives students an opportunity to learn and appreciate the conservation of our heritage.
Lolldaiga is a 49,000 acre ranch located about an hour away from Nanyuki town. It is a place where you can walk, cycle, or take a camel/ox ride to get tantalizingly close to nature in all its simplicity. Of course this are guided tours; you do not want to run into African wild dogs, they are ruthless, neither will you want to run into elephants.
Lolldaiga’s proximity to Mt. Kenya means that it gets enshrouded in mist quite a bit, but even then, you can never fail to sight the all-imposing Mt. Kenya that stands so close.
Gullies stick out on a landscape that is populated by acacias, and a few roughhewn rocks lord over a landscape that supports more than 300 species of birds and 60 species of other animals.
This is a place where you can set up a picnic along a slow moving river or at the top of a hill; you can basically have whatever you like here.
Mukogodo Forest is one of the few remaining patches of indigenous forest, and covers and expansive 86,000 acres. Currently under the mandate of the Kenya Forestry Service, the forest has been home to the Yaaku, an originally hunter-gatherer society that have been around since 4 millennia ago. While they have lost certain aspects of their culture because of intermarriage with the Maasai and Samburu, the fact that the forest stands to date is testament that not all aspects of their culture were lost, as their reverence for the all-providing forest is what has enabled the forest to survive.
Mukogodo Forest is one of the last remaining reminders of a people who have been strongly assimilated by their larger neighbors. Their elders have established a Yaaku Cultural Museum so that their culture can survive in one form or another. The Center is driven by the need to preserve the original Yaaku, which is actually considered extinct by UNESCO, but is spoken by a handful of elders with varying degrees of fluency.
Cultural aspects aside, Mukogodo offers several camping spots and scenic hiking routes; if one concurs the Mukogodo Escarpment you will be rewarded with a sweeping panorama of the Samburu land, a magical destination for the intrepid traveler.
This 17,500 acre ranch holds the distinction of being the world’s first private rhino sanctuary, and rhinos are still its star attraction. It is located about 20km from Nyeri town, interposed between Aberdare Range and Mt. Kenya.
That aside, the ranch also hosts herds of buffaloes, oryx, gazelles, impalas and giraffes. As you would expect, lions, leopards and cheetah also thrive here.
You can explore this wild country on horseback, on foot or by game drives; the choice is yours.
In Other Words
Laikipia is a place of unparalleled beauty, with offerings akin to those to be found in Kenya’s national parks but without the constraints. This means that Laikipia is one of the few places in Kenya where you can spend a night under the stars, wake up to a sumptuous meal, and proceed on foot with your journey into the wilderness.
The thrill of doing that is best felt, for words sometimes fail to convey the full import of powerful emotions.
Laikipia is one of Africa’s most exciting wilderness safari and wildlife tourism destinations. With its abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery, visitors can experience a classic safari, largely free of the constraints that apply in national parks and reserves. Night game drives, guided nature walks, riding, cycling, yoga, painting and drawing, fishing as well as special family activities are just a few of the exhilarating options on offer. High levels of community involvement allow visitors privileged access to the cultures, customs and community projects of the Mukogodo Maasai, Samburu, Pokot and other peoples.
To Do List
- Game drives
- Horse riding
- Camel riding
- Kids activities
- Cultural visits
Premises in Laikipia offer you a wide array of options for activities, relaxation as well as stylish and unique accommodation. Game viewing tends to be more intimate and adventurous then in the popular National Parks in other regions of Kenya. The emphasis here is on personal services, backed up by excellent local knowledge and guiding. As a personal guest, you will have the chance to set your own schedules, explore at your own pace, and discover the wild in your own way. This exclusivity has its price, though.
Situated adjacent to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy on a 35,000 acre working cattle ranch, Borana is a wildlife rich destination. Activities range from day and night game drives, walking and horseback riding to mountain biking. Borana can accommodate 16 guests in 8 luxurious ensuite cottages.
El Karama Eco Lodge
El Karama is a 15,000 acre family owned cattle and wildlife ranch. Just an hour’s drive northwest of Nanyuki, the bandas consist of 4 double semi tented rooms, a family cottage, and a spacious rondavel, situated on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River.
Il N’gwesi Lodge
Il N’gwesi is one of Kenya’s landmark community owned eco-lodges. This small piece of paradise possesses a magic which cannot fail to touch anyone who is lucky enough to experience it. Constructed from local materials, Il N’gwesi can accommodate up to 16 people in 6 open plan cottages.
Koija & Kiboko Star Beds
Situated on Koija group ranch, adjacent to Loisaba, on the Ewaso Nyiro river. Kiboko is located within rock kopjes overlooking the Kiboko water hole. This is a unique and delightful concept of sleeping under the stars in extreme comfort. Both Koija and Kiboko can sleep 3 couples on 3 decks.
Lolldaiga Farm House
Lolldaiga has the most beautiful & varied landscapes of all Kenya’s ranches. This stunning cattle ranch demonstrates the optimal coexistence of people, livestock and wildlife. The Lolldaiga Farm House is a traditional cedar building, with 2 double ensuite bedrooms, and an additional outside cottage.
Ol Pejeta House
One of Laikipia’s best kept secrets and originally the home of famed multimillionaire, Adnan Khashoggi, Ol Pejeta House is a beautiful private house set within the pristine calm of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Furnished with original and unique paintings and artefacts, it offers exclusivity for 12 guests in 6 luxury suites.
Located on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the 3 bedroomed thatched upcountry cottage is available on a self catering basis. An ideal family destination for weekend or short breaks with access to the many activities offered within the Conservancy. Comfortably accommodates 10 people.
Sandai Homestay & Cottages
In the vicinity of the Aberdares National Park is the place of Petra Allmendinger and her family. Live and experience the real Africa in stunning landscape that frames Sandai's comfortable farm house and guest cottages. Each cottage can accommodate up to 6 people. Camping is also available.
Ol Pejeta Bush Camp
Situated on the 90,000 acre Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The camp offers an insight into modern wildlife conservation and great game viewing opportunities. This is a traditional, extremely comfortable bushcamp with 6 double tents, each ensuite with a flush toilet and safaristyle bucket shower.
Porini Rhino Camp
Hidden in a secluded valley on Ol Pejeta Conservancy and set amongst acacia trees on the banks of a seasonal river, Porini offers the perfect opportunity to get close to nature. With an astounding variety of wildlife around, this classic safari camp has 6 spacious tents, accommodating 12 guests.
Sarara Tented Camp
At the foot of Warges Mountain with sweeping views of the Mathews range, lies Sarara Camp, in the 185,000 acre Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust - a venture dedicated to both wildlife conservation and community development. A 6 tented luxury camp with 6 open air showers and private verandahs.
Sweetwaters Tented Camp
A sheltered oasis, clustered around a waterhole and set in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Sweetwaters Tented Camp offers a charming blend of under-canvas ambiance and safari luxury. The camp features thirty-nine luxury tents, each with its own private veranda overlooking the water hole.
Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club
The Mount Kenya Safari Club is situated on the foothills of Mt. Kenya, bordering the Mt. Kenya National Park, 10 kms from Nanyuki town. There are 120 luxurious hotel rooms set in landscaped gardens offering comfort, relaxation and adventure, including 12 William Holden cottages.
Less than 2 km North from Nanyuki town, Kongoni is nestled in indigenous forest. Originally built as a barn in the early 1960’s, it still maintains its original character. There are 16 regular rooms and 5 thatched roundavels that sleep 2 -3 people. A fully serviced campsite is available.
Sportsmans Arms Hotel
Located within Nanyuki town with magnificent view of Mt Kenya, the hotel is an ideal base for visitors traveling for pleasure or business. It has a contemporary ambiance and offers 172 beds that range in pricing and style from deluxe self-contained rooms, complete with satellite television to luxurious 1-2 bed roomed cottages.
Thompson’s Falls Lodge
Situated at the fringes of Nyahururu at the world famous Thomson’s Falls discovered in 1883 by Joseph Thomson - a Scottish geologist and naturalist. An ideal stop for travelers moving between Samburu and the Great Rift Valley. The lodge has 32 single, double and triple rooms with open log fire places, a campsite and cottages.
Bandas & Camping
Situated on Ol Maisor, a working family ranch north of Rumuruti, on a small escarpment over looking the Ewaso Narok swamps and the Laikipia plains. An ideal destination for educational, adventure and family holidays, and a base for camel safaris. Aside from camping space, 3 bandas are available.
Located in eastern Laikipia, Mukogodo Forest Reserve constitutes over 70,000 acres of natural indigenous forest with 170 identified vegetation species, including podocarpus, African olive and cedar. The forest and its adjacent rangelands are a haven for birds, butterflies and wildlife. Three identified campsites are available.
Ngare Ndare Forest
The 5,300 ha indigenous Ngare Ndare Forest is a paradise for monkeys, birds, butterflies and mammals. Crystal clear mountain streams and waterfalls make it a perfect getaway for visitors who enjoy walking, picnics, camping and swimming. A forest platform and a canopy walk allow for a birds-eye view of the forest.
Kurikuri Group Ranch
The 6,000 acre Kurikuri group ranch neighbours the Mukogodo forest. Spectacular views over northern Kenya, grassy glades and large shady trees provide unmatched camping sites for adventure and family groups. Guided walks into the forest are offered to learn how the Mukogodo people lived 100 years ago.
A small up market safari outfitter founded over 30 years ago, offering personalised luxury safaris throughout East Africa under the finest canvas camps and lodges.
Robin Hurt Safaris
A family run firm, operating private luxury tented safaris in East Africa for over 25 years. Days in the bush and nights under canvas – how a real safari should be.
Rift Valley Adventures
Kenya’s leading adventure company for adult, corporate and student groups. Unique tailor made trips encompass cultural, community and adventure activities in true wilderness. Trips can include river rafting and canoeing, mountain biking, rock and mountain climbing, and trekking.
Camel Riding Safaris
Nanyuki River Camel Camp
This camp is inspired by the lifestyle of nomads living in the remotest regions of Northern Kenya. The traditional nomadic houses accommodate up to 14 people. Opportunities to learn about the lives of nomads and their camels, eat traditional food and drink camel’s milk.
Northern Frontier Ventures
Camel assisted walking safaris based at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and operating in northern community conservation areas following old elephant migration routes. An adventure of a lifetime, NFV offers unique tailor made safaris for the adventurous spirit, from 4 -14 days.
Ol Maisor Camels
Bobong & Ol Maisor Camels offers camel assisted walking safaris for individuals, families or groups. Starting on Ol Maisor ranch, north of Rumuruti, guests have the opportunity to travel as far north as Lake Turkana, enjoy shorter day trips, or stay out overnight with the camels.
Guided walking safaris with camels through some of Kenya’s best wildlife viewing habitats. Guests experience the diversity of flora and fauna and gain insight into Maasai culture. Trips are 3 to 5 days, for 8 guests or less, with fly camps set up under the stars.
Horse Riding Safaris
Offers horse riding safaris for small groups from luxury mobile tented camps in remote areas including Laikipia. Offbeat has thoroughbred and thoroughbredcross horses, all trained for polo. These professionally guided safaris are supported by Landrovers.
By horseback is one of the best ways to explore Borana and neighbouring ranches. Borana’s well schooled horses are a mix of Somali, Ethiopian, Arab and thoroughbred. Safaris with Riding Wild range from 1 night to a week, with fly camps set up in ideal spots.
Ecologically friendly walking safaris in association with local communities, combining game viewing in national parks. Operated throughout Kenya for over 15 years.
Karisia Walking Safaris
Specialists in luxury walking safaris from the base camp on the stunning 3,000 acre Tumaren Ranch, dedicated exclusively to conservation and ecologically sustainable tourism. Tumaren is blessed with healthy numbers of game and predators. Accommodation is in classic safari tents.
Tailor made walking safaris on Mt. Kenya for small groups, led by an experienced team. Africa’s second highest mountain has some of the finest walking routes, off the beaten track, suited for the intrepid adventurer. Accommodation in mountain tents equipped with lanterns and Thermarest Prolites.
Adventure tailor-made walking safaris around the scenic and unexplored Mathews and Ndoto Mountain ranges of northern Kenya, assisted by camels. Travel between campsites varies from 8 to 20 kms a day. Camp is set up in natural locations.
Nanyuki, approximately 190 km north of Nairobi on the A2 motorway, is the gateway to Laikipia for visitors traveling from the Kenyan capital. The drive, on good tarmacked roads all the way, takes roughly three to four hours via Sagana, Karatina and Naro Moru. If you come from the Rift Valley, you enter Laikipia at Nyahururu, which is at its westernmost boundaries. The drive from Nakuru to Nanyuki is about 160 km and takes approximately three hours. A third access on tarmac is the Mt. Kenya ring road from Meru and Isiolo.
If you depend on public means of transport, there is a large fleet of matatus serving the routes between Nanyuki, and Nairobi, Nyahururu, Nakuru, Meru and Isiolo respectively.
Air Kenya, Safarilink and FlySax all offer scheduled flights from the capital's Wilson Airport direct into Nanyuki airfield and after a stopover, to Lewa, Loisaba and Samburu airstrips. The carriers also operate flights to the Masai Mara National Reserve from Nanyuki, Loisaba and Samburu. Many ranches and sanctuaries have their own airstrips, which can be used by charter aircraft. Private air charters using small fixed wing planes, caravans and helicopters can be arranged for in Nanyuki. Tropic Air Kenya (www.tropicairkenya.com) operates a fleet of charter planes and helicopters from its base at Nanyuki airfield within Laikipia and beyond.
To move around Laikipia, you will either have to have your own 4WD or make arrangements with your accommodations and/or the conservancies for an all-terrain vehicle. Most ranches will be happy to arrange for transfers of their guests directly by air or road from Nairobi or any other destination as part of their service. Public means of transport are only available on the few major roads of Laikipia.
The Laikipia experience comes largely free of constraints and prohibitions that apply in most National Parks and Reserves. However, as much as Laikipia is one of the top attractions of Kenya, it is important to remember that many of the ranches and the roads therein are privately owned. Some ranches allow day visitors with their own transport, others do not. In any case, visitors should always make enquiries in advance. If you are visiting a ranch with your own private transport, ask for directions and preferably a map in order not to get lost.
To drive travel around Laikipia, a 4WD is obligatory for most regions. Although most premises offer walking safaris or even bicycling, make sure you never go into the wild without a knowledgeable guide as wild animals can be extremely dangerous.
Best travel time:
The best time to visit and get around Laikipia is in June or July, after the long rains when it is lush, green and the landscape is bursting with life, or at the end of the dry season in October. At this time, the wild animals tend to congregate more around the watercourses, making them easier to spot. It is also easier to navigate around the region by road when it is not raining. Weather conditions can be quite cold from July to August.
Further reading on Laikipia:
The Laikipia Wildlife Forum has published an excellent tourist map; there is a recommendable nature guide and a magnificent photographic coffee table book, all available at the LWF's offices at the Nanyuki airfield. The following websites are equally valuable information hubs: www.laikipiatourism.com, www.laikipia.org