We often recommend to our clients that they start off their safari in Africa somewhere intrinsically African where they can acclimatise. So often, a safari is about early morning starts and when coming from far afield, fighting the effects of jet lag or simply lack of sleep – the last thing one wants is to hit the ground running with early morning starts!
And this is where ranches come in. In Kenya, they are based in the Laikipia plateau, north of the equator. Laikipia’s combination of an abundance of wildlife, spectacular scenery and extraordinary cultural diversity in a setting dominated by the iconic backdrop of Mount Kenya makes for an unforgettable experience. Lying on the thresholds of Kenya’s wild Northern rangelands, Laikipia stretches from the slopes of Mt Kenya to the rim of the Great Rift Valley and is larger than most of Kenya’s national parks and reserves.
Its magnificent escarpments descend into the arid lands and semi deserts of Northern Kenya. A sanctuary for over 80 mammal species including black rhino, elephant, lion, leopard, Grevy Zebra, reticulated giraffe, aardwolf, wild dog and a wealth of African game, the Laikipia biodiversity is globally unique. This region used to be all farmland, separated by fences. These fences have now been removed, allowing the wildlife to roam freely, enriching the entire region.
So whether one chooses a lovely, small tented camp, to a gorgeous lodge which is owned by the local community, to a beautiful private villa or lodge owned by third generation Kenyans, you will have a heightened experience for the start of your safari.
With Steve and Annabel at their lovely tented camp you can spend time amongst their family, or get close to Steve’s passion – the wild dog, which one has a good chance of seeing, or go tubing and rope swinging across the river, or take a bird walk with Steve who is a walking encyclopaedia.
There is another stunning lodge, where there are third generation Kenyans, that is set on the Laikipia plateau, affording magnificent views across the escarpment. Sleep out beneath the stars one night, go horse riding, camel trekking, swimming in the rivers, or watching the elephant and giraffe at the waterhole. Chew the fat with the owners, learning all about the pressing issues of the country, including politics and conservation as well as learning all about the fascinating region as they divulge their infinite knowledge to you.
There is also a lovely owner managed lodge in the Lewa region of Laikipia offers a magnificent experience with the Craig family who are renowned conservationists. Here one can go out with the anti-poaching patrol (they have one of the largest rhino populations here), talk conservation with some of the leading lights in Kenya and partake in lion collaring with scientists from the Laikipia predator research. Apart from game viewing by vehicle, there is fabulous horse riding and walking here and of course with everything grown on the farm, the food is light and delicious!
At other community managed lodges, the local people will slay a goat in your honour, which is then served at a banquet for you. Learn all about their culture and go on walks with them as they explain the plants and all the medicinal purposes of using them. The proceeds of your stay goes back into the community.
Whichever place you choose, you can be guaranteed to arrive to a warm welcome and depart as a good friend. This is not just tourism to these people, it’s a way of life. From a tourist’s perspective – it’s a breath of fresh air! Somewhere that is informal, that feels like home, offers great company, lots of laughs and wonderful food. The wildlife and overall genuine and authentic experience simply is the icing on the cake. Surely it cannot get better than this?
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
Nicola Shepherd, founder and CEO of The Exploration Company, organises unusual trips for HNW and UHNW clients ranging from birthday parties at an Indian Maharajah's palace to reliving Sir Vivian Fuchs's 1950s expedition to the South Pole. Citywealth caught ...
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