Kenya : Laikipia
The Laikipia region is a unique wildlife area the size of Wales, stretching from the slopes of Mt Kenya to the rim of the Great Rift Valley, and divided into a mosaic of farms, cattle ranches and wilderness. Overlooked by Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in East Africa and especially beautiful and popular for high altitude walking and climbing, it is the only reserve in Kenya where animal numbers have increased in recent years. There are a number of admirable and pro-active conservation projects in the region, including the rhino sanctuaries at Ol Pejeta, Borana and the Lewa Conservancy, and the opportunity to see unusual wildlife such as the Reticulated Giraffe and the Grevy’s Zebra. There are also large concentrations of elephant and plains game and some big cats. With horse-riding, walking safaris, mountain biking and camel trekking, Laikipia is a wonderful place to get out of the vehicle and embrace the bush, and living alongside the wildlife. There is a selection of very high standard accommodation in exclusive former ranch houses as well as tented camps, and you can even sleep under the stars in the unique starbeds at Loisaba.
Sitting atop a hill with views to Mount Kenya and the rugged Mathews Range, Lewa House is a lovely family-run home, owned by a great couple whose connections to Lewa go back five generations. There are three double thatched family suites and four unique and stylish eco-rooms (which have been designed to collect rainwater and store it underground for re-use in the lodge). The swimming pool looks over the waterhole and meals are hosted by Sophie and Calum and can be by the pool, in the gardens or at the huge dining room table. Activities include game drives and game walks, and (at extra cost) you can go horse-riding, camel trekking, fly fishing or on a scenic bi-plane flight. Guests can also visit the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy headquarters and community projects.
Set in lovely country, this well-loved family-run lodge has a marvellous feeling of space and views across to Mt Kenya. There are eight cottages, set either in the garden or (the newer ones) on the edge of a hill with en-suite bathrooms and some have log fires. There is a great diversity of wildlife on the Lewa Conservancy, and you can go out on foot with an armed guide, get close to the animals on horse-back or in a vehicle and at the end of your expedition you return to your comfortable cottage and for a swim in the saltwater pool, or you are invited to relax by Will and Emma's cosy log fire. You can also visit the nearby Rhino sanctuary, go camel trekking and play tennis on the clay courts.
"I cannot speak highly enough of this fine establishment. Will and Emma are genial hosts and Mia, the manager, a very deft caring people person. The Masai guides are of a very high calibre and the game spectacular."
John & Val, Oban
Lewa Safari Camp is a luxury tented camp offering an unforgettable combination of spectacular scenery, hospitality, privacy and abundant wildlife. Set beside the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary made famous by conservationist and author Anna Mertz, it has twelve luxury en-suite tents. Next to the dining area is a warm and cosy lounge, which overlooks a floodlit watering hole where wildlife comes to drink, and in the evening guests sit around a campfire under the stars. The camp's excellent chefs produce delicious, freshly cooked home fare, with emphasis on locally available ingredients. You can go on game drives and game walks, horse riding, camel treks, fly fishing and there is a swimming pool.
Ol Malo, home of Colin and Rocky Francombe, lies on the edge of Kenya's Northeast province and is not only a striking architectural feat but in one of the most remarkable sites, set on an escarpment with panoramic views over Laikipia. The swimming pool is set into the edge of the cliff and from it there is a vista all the way to Mount Kenya. The four cottages are built from rock, on the cliff edge and are finished to the highest standard with the beds and furniture made from indigenous wood, all with a clear view of the water hole and salt lick in the valley below. Each has a stunning bathroom with amazing views while lying in your bath. Sitting on the veranda with an evening drink you can watch the animals coming into the waterhole below you and listen to the baboons barking from the surrounding cliffs. If you are travelling in a larger group, you can book their newly opened Ol Malo House, a stunning six-bedroom property nearby. Walks with Colin are a fascinating experience as he will teach you about the local Samburu culture, the animals and the flora and fauna of this beautiful area.
“The place was magnificent and the amount of activities we did and wildlife we saw was as we wished and in our hands. Our highlight was sleeping out under the stars in the tree hide and watching the leopard from our romantic night spot!”
Rob and Ashleigh, by Dundee
Loisaba Lodge is set on a ridge with what seems like a never-ending view across the plains to Mt Kenya in the distance. The seven roomsare spread along the ridge and all have French Windows leading out to decks so you can enjoy the view. The living room is cosy with huge chairs and sofas and a roaring log fire for those cool evenings. Behind the lodge is a large pool and lovely gardens with a tennis court and croquet lawn. There is also a spa offering massage and beauty treatment as well as a romantic open-air bubble bath. There are two exclusive use properties at Loisaba, The House (sleeping up to 4) and The Cottage (sleeping up to 10) with their own guide and staff but with full use of the lodge's facilities. As well as horse riding and camel rides, you can go on game walks and drives from Loisaba, and, in the right season, you can go rafting on the river.
The Star Beds at Loisaba
These unique beds are set on platforms in two very special locations, and wheeled out from under their thatch at night so that you are sleeping in the open. As well as breathtaking views of the beautiful Laikipia wilderness from your pillow, you will doze off to the sounds of baboons barking in the cliffs and leopard calling in the hills around you. In each location there are two double bed platforms and a four-bed platform for families. The original Star Beds are built on a kopje, overlooking the Kiboko waterhole and opposite dramatic, towering cliffs. The more recently-built star beds at Koija are set on the banks of the Ewaso N'giro River, and are part of an exciting community project with the Lakikipak Masai people. The platforms are fitted with an en-suite bathroom with hot bucket showers, and there is a thatched dining room and an open fire where you gather in the evening to share your tales while dinner is prepared in the camp's kitchen. You are hosted - and guarded by night - by the local Koija community, and the money from your stay goes straight back into the community. The Star Beds can be combined with a number of local lodges and are reached from the surrounding lodges by camel, horseback, walking or at the end of a game drive.
Borana ranch has been in the Dyer family for three generations and they have built a beautiful lodge on the side of a hill with fantastic views across the plains to the mountains of the northern frontier. The eight rooms are made of local stone and wood with high thatched roofs and furnished with indigenous wood furniture and local fabrics. They have huge windows so you can see the view from your bed and your bath. The lower rooms and the pool overlook a dam where you can watch elephants cooling down in the water in the heat of the day and game coming down to drink, while the higher rooms have views of Mt Kenya. The dining and sitting areas are homely with huge log fires and plenty of books and games, and the food is excellent with all the produce coming from the farm. Activities include horse-riding, game drives and walks, visits to the farm, which has its own dairy and a tannery.
"A beautiful, luxurious lodge and a stunning piece of nature. It was a real taste of colonial life in the hills as well as some of the best horse-riding we've done in Africa."
Orca and Giles, Yorkshire
The Dyer family is also involved with local community projects and has helped to establish a unique project in the setting up of two group lodges set on community land adjacent to Borana. Il Ngwesi and Tassia are both beautifully situated lodges on the side of large kopjes, with amazing views across the plains to the mountains. The lodges have been built with donor money so that all the money paid for accommodation goes directly to the upkeep of the lodge and its vehicle and back into the local community for schools and healthcare. The local communities now see the importance of the wildlife for tourism and that overgrazing ruins the habitat that the game needs to survive, and have moved their cattle from the area and controlled the poaching. This in turn has been beneficial to the adjacent ranches of Lewa Downs and Borana as there is a bigger and safer area for the game to live.
The lodges have been imaginatively built around and incorporate the rocks of the kopjes. The rooms are open to the views and cooled by the breeze off the plains. It is warmer than the higher ranches of Borana and Lewa and it will take a bit of time for the bush to rejuvenate and the game to return in large numbers but the views are spectacular. There are huge numbers of birds and it is fantastic walking country. For the energetic, there is a 3000-foot hill to climb behind the camp. In the heat of the day you can cool down in the pool or relax by the bar. If you don’t stay there, these lodges are definitely worth a visit when staying at either Borana or Lewa.
Sabuk is a beautifully constructed lodge set on a cliff overlooking a gorge and the Ewaso Niro River, with a very warm and welcoming feel. The five rooms are built from indigenous wood and stone and are different from the other lodges in the area in that they are open fronted. They each have their own unique features, with plenty of sitting areas to relax in and beds with views, and in one you can lie in your bath and look at the stars. Children are very welcome at Sabuk, and with early mealtimes, a child 'look out' service and big day beds and cushions for siestas, it is a restful haven for families. You can be as passive or active as you want, with walks and game drives on offer. There is a limited amount of game, but there is plenty to see and learn about this beautiful area. Sabuk is close to Loisaba and Ol Malo and is the base camp for their camel safaris. You go out with a train of camels and can ride or walk to your overnight camp, which can be the star beds at Loisaba.
This is a stunning new eco lodge on the Laikipia Plateau, which has been created in partnership with the local Masai community. Looking out to the craggy peak of Mount Kenya, the Samburu sacred mountain Ol Olokwe and the Matthews Range, its four luxurious private houses are each styled to reflect a different aspect of Africa, whether it's the Sultan's House with its Swahili decor or the retro chic of the Eyrie. They all have unique courtyards, decks and gardens, and some have plunge pools. They are also fully staffed, including a private butler service, so you are exceptionally well looked after. Ol Lentille has fabulous food and a renowned spa, and in the heat of the day there is a swimming pool for cooling off. The surrounding grassy hills and valleys of the 6,500 acre reserve are home to some of Africa's most endangered species, including wild dog. As well as game drives, riding, camel trekking, quad biking and croquet are among the other activities available.
Sosian is a lovely 1940s ranch house set in 24,000 acres of working cattle farm and wild bush in the vast Laikipia plateau. It is a great place to unwind and just experience the wilderness on horseback, on foot, with camels or on game drives, and as it's a working ranch you can also get involved in ranching activities. One of the best ways to experience the Africa bush is on horseback and Sosian has horses for every level of rider. As well as riding safaris, you can go on a walking safari with the lodge's knowledgeable guides, on a night game drive, fishing, clay pigeon shooting or on guided bird walks. The recently renovated ranch house, built originally by Italian artisans, has seven double cottages in the grounds, and there's a swimming pool, tennis court and a billiard room.
"Annabelle and Steve made it feel like we were in their home."
Go Wild Africa is based at Olepangi Farm in the foothills of Mount Kenya in the heart of Africa. Olepangi Farm is a 35 minute drive from Nanyuki amongst the rose fields of the wild hinterland of Northern Kenya. At Olpengi there are four individually decorated cottages each with en-suite bathrooms, antique 4 poster beds and old Persian carpets designed to encourage relaxation and reflection. While here you can go for walks around the farm, day rides in the surrounding area with picnic lunches, riding lessons, sundowners, archery, polo lessions and visits to the local school. It can also be used as a base for day trips into the surrounding area such as to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Ngare Ndare Forest walk Lolldaiga Hills or climbing Ololokwe Mountain. To the north of the farm you look across a bend in the river onto the neighbouring 36,000 acre Ole Naishu Ranch and onto the Lolldagia Hills. Full day game drives and multi day riding safaris take place in the Lolldaigas and on the Ole Naishu Ranch where there is plenty of plains game including herds of zebra and eland, you can also spot elephants visiting the river and at night you will hear lions roaring in the distance as they protect their territories. See more at Go Wild Horse Safaris
Kicheche Laikipia Camp is a small, luxurious six-tent camp in the heart of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia. The conservancy's 90,000 acres is home to some of the less common northern species of Grevy Zebra, Jacksons Hartebeest and Beisa Oryx as well as large numbers of elephant, rhino, cheetah, lion, leopard and plentiful plains game. The camp has six luxurious tents sleeping up to just 12 guests, with verandas overlooking the waterhole. They all have en-suite bathrooms with flush toilet and hot showers, and lighting is solar-powered. Situated next to a watering hole you can spot many of the animals from camp. Here you can participate on day and night drives as well as game walks. The conservancy is also great for families as there is very good information centre, the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Sanctuary for orphaned chimps and the Northern White Rhino Sanctuary which is home to 3 of the remaining 5 Northern White Rhinos and there is also a blind Black Rhino called Baraka who likes his nose being scratched.
Specialised in Walking Safaris, Karisia offers clients a unique opportunity to discover the most pristine regions of Kenya by foot or on camel, to explore Kenya’s magnificent wildlife up close and to get to know the rich culture of the Samburu warriors in an intimate and authentic environment. Escaping the constraints of a vehicle means that guests can walk where no car will go. Guests will be led by professional guides, who are fluent in English, Swahili and Maa and who are very knowledgeable in natural history and local culture as well as in how to provide an adventure of a lifetime. Every safari is tailor made to suit different interests and every day is unique. Whilst out walking your luggage will be taken with the guides on camels to the next camp, which will be set up for you on arrival. There are several types of tent available according to budget in order to cater for a range of needs from the more luxurious safari tents to the simple dome tents. There are also a few set date departures throughout the year.