Laikipia County is located on the equator along the Great Rift Valley. The word “Laikipia” means treeless plain in the Maasai language. With Mount Kenya as a backdrop, Laikipia is characterised by abundant wildlife, spectacular scenery and many cultures.
After Tsavo, Laikipia is Kenya’s most extensive wildlife haven. It is home to 80 mammal species including black rhino, elephant, lion, leopard, aardwolf and wild dog. It is part of the 56 000 km² Ewaso ecosystem. This ecosystem is home to the largest populations of Grevy Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe and the only viable population of Jackson’s Hartebeest.
Birding in Laikipia
Laikipia is also home to some 400 of Kenya’s estimated 1,100 bird species, It is a birder’s paradise. Because the district is less travelled than other parts of Kenya and has hosted little ornithological research, 400 species is probably an underestimate.
What to do in Laikipia
As Laikipia is a conservancy and not a National Park, the constraints that are placed on these entities are not felt here. Laikipia offers night drives, guided nature walks, cycle tours, horse-riding and camel treks, all not possible in most parks. The peoples of Laikipia are also in integral part of the “Laikipia Experience”. The area has well developed tourism infrastructure, complete with high levels of community involvement and participation. This gives Laikipia privileged access to the cultures and customs of the Mukogodo Maasai, Samburu, Pokot and other peoples.
This is how to do it!
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. This formula is creating a co-operative and sustainable income for the local tribes that have made Laikipia their homes for centuries.
Laikipia is a classic example of how well-designed tourism investments can lead to major conservation and economic gains. Hundreds of thousands acres of land has been set aside over the years by local communities for conservation and ecotourism developments. The key innovation in these areas is that tourism investments have been structured as jointly owned ventures, in the form of lodges or tented camps, between private investors and the local land-owning communities.
The animals in Laikipia, especially the rarer species, tend to be closely managed, with predators often radio-collared in order to track them, and wildlife rangers monitoring individual rhinos, 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.
A taste of Laikipia
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 of which provide 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.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 364 km² wildlife conservancy situated between the foothills of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares and its game-to-area ratio tops the Kenyan park and reserve league. The conservancy has over 10000 large mammals and it is the only park where the big 5 and chimpanzees can be seen. It is also where the fastest growing population of rhino in Africa can be found.
Education and giving back
The conservancy is keen to educate as well and has an Environmental and Conservation Centre that welcomes around 100 Kenyan schools through its doors annually. The Centre focusses on teaching ecology, culture and the importance of sustainable wildlife management to safeguard the future of the conservancy. Visitors can also learn about local culture and traditions by meeting the peoples of the Samburu, Turkana, Pokot and Maasai.
Unique things to do.
The Endangered Species Boma is a must-see for any trip to Ol Pejeta. Here visitors can meet and learn about the Northern White Rhinos which are critically endangered with only three left in the world. All of them are here and visitors can have the unique experience of seeing these majestic creatures up close. The boma also has six southern white rhinos, two black rhinos and numerous Grevy’s zebras and Jackson’s hartebeest.
Formed in 1993 as a joint alliance between The Jane Goodall Institute and Kenyan Wildlife Services this sanctuary was established as a refuge for orphaned and confiscated chimpanzees and is the only place in Kenya where non-indigenous chimpanzees can be seen. The Sanctuary provides a permanent refuge in as natural environment as possible – the 40 or so chimpanzees are protected on an island and access to see them is by boat.
Take this unique opportunity to head out on Ol Pejeta Conservancy to track the lion population. It is a great way to support the conservation project and to learn more about these fascinating animals. All of the information gathered is passed on to the Ol Pejeta Ecological Monitoring Department.
Game walks, horse rides and even camel rides are available, as are nocturnal game drives.
Worth a visit. For sure!!!!!