You have been to Kenya But I say NO! You have not been to Kenya. Kenya is and has always been about Dynamism, Adventure and discovery And to a bigger extent Missing in Action. If Kenya to you is Amboseli, Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru, the Tsavo and the beaches of Malindi and Mombasa then you are a little off the mark. Visiting these places is great MEANING there are greater places in Kenya. Yes! Greater in the sense timelessness, privacy, discovery and adventure. Before I go very far let me whisper a secret to you. Laikipia is the only place in the world that can challenge Maasai Mara in terms game watching, some endemic.
What is the attraction in Laikipia? What is it that World celebrities like Prince William find attractive in Laikipia? Of late Prince William has decided to make Lewa Conservancy his annual retreat. At Segera Ranch Usain Bolt had his day when the bull elephant came close their truck. What is it in these desolate arid lands?
The wilds of Laikipia and Chyulu hills are dreamlands of timeless beauty, with open spaces, characterized by fresh air, and starlit nights. Laikipia is Africa’s foremost of successful wildlife conservation site with numerous private and community ranches all engaged in wildlife conservation and Eco-tourism. Adventure abounds in plenty that your once in a lifetime adventure will last a lifetime. The luxury exhibited in the ranches, lodges and private houses of Laikipia is beyond the imagination of an ordinary traveler. Originally, Laikipia was the home of the Pokot, Turkana, Samburu, and Il Dorobo. During the colonial times, a handful of white settlers parceled out large pieces of land for themselves with the sole purpose of raising beef cattle. However due to falling market prices, they diversified into wildlife conservation which has so far proved lucrative beyond their original imagination. The only threat to the newly found golden goose was the local communities. Predators (lions and leopard) would stray into the grazing grounds of the local communities and kill livestock, who (locals) would retaliate by killing and even poisoning the animals. This state of affairs could not continue forever and the white ranchers decided to involve the local communities in their conservation efforts. The white ranchers helped the locals to establish their own community ranches complete with Eco-lodges to accommodate their guests. The success of some of the projects like Il Ngwesi has been overwhelming and serves as a model in other parts of the world. But that is a story for another day. Today we want to look at accommodation options in this vast region.
Laikipia plateau has a varied landscape of stunning beauty. The high plains and low valleys are homes to some of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, featuring some of the finest and luxurious accommodation facilities in the country. The cattle ranches have free roaming wildlife including elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards, gerenuks, rhinos and zebras. Famous sanctuaries include the Ol Pejeta for Chimpanzees and Lewa the breeding ground of black rhinoceros.
The private and community ranches of Laikipia include, Mugie, Lewa, Ol Pejeta, Borana, Sweet Waters, El Karama, Tarsia, Il Ngwesi, Segera, Ol malo, Lekurruki, Ol Ari Ngiro, Loisaba. Accommodation in these ranches is provided by private houses or eco-lodges. See R&N Xplorer Africa Safaris Travel Map for details on the location of the ranches and their accommodation facilities.
Lewa House/ Lewa Safari Camp and Wilderness Trails:
Perhaps one of the best places to stay in Laikipia is Lewa House. Lewa House, Wilderness Trails and Lewa Safari Camp are located in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Lewa house and Lewa Safari Camp are ideal for those who wants all their spending channeled towards local community projects and conservation. Unlike the other ranches, Lewa dedicates most of its earning to healthcare and educations for locals (30%), Community projects (40%) and the reminder on conservation and security. Lewa covers an area of 18,000 Hac. It is located to the south of Isiolo immediately after Isiolo Nanyuki junction. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy has been instrumental in developing community lodges of Il Ngwesi and Tassia. Lewa is the home of 8% of Kenya’s black rhino population. Other animals in the conservancy are lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants and white rhinos. It accounts for 20% of the Grevy’s Zebra population in Kenya.
In all the three accommodation facilities on offer are day and night game drives, visits to local Maasai manyatta (Bomas), bush walks, bush breakfasts, camel rides,
Wilderness Trails (USD 370 per person sharing on full board basis) features 8 cottages and salt water swimming pool. Rooms have a fire place, en-suite bedrooms, four poster beds and a fire place
Lewa Safari Camp (USD 480 pp sharing full board) has 12 tents and a swimming pool. In the main building are bar, dining and a fire place overlooking the floodlit water where animals come to quench their thirst. The rates includes activities-game drives, house wines, local air transfers to lewa, guided walks.
Lewa house (USD 460 pp sharing on full-board), can take a maximum of 12 persons.
A major plus of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is the Lewa Safaricom Marathon. This is held every end of Jun to raise funds for conservancy where participants run in close proximity of wildlife.
Il Ngwesi Lodge & Il Ngwesi Group / Community Ranch Il Ngwesi Group ranch (14, 500 Hac), is located at northwest edge of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and is owned by Il Ngwesi community of the Mukogodo division of Laikipia district. The local community often referred to as the Laikipiak (Mukogodo) Maasai were hunter gatherer Ndorobo (Il dorobo) called the Yiaku untill the 1920’s when they slowly changed their traditional custom as hunters and bee keepers and got assimilated to the “superior”, cattle keeping tradition of the local Samburu. They also changed their language from cushitic to maa speakers. The “inferior” culture, coupled with intermarriages hasted the assimilation process. Their ladies would even prefer the rich men from the Maasai and the farming communities.
The Il Ngwesi Community Lodge (USD 400 pp sharing full board) comprises of 6 bandas all with adjoining open showers. It location on the banks of Ngare Ndare River on the edges of Mukogodo Hills commands panoramic views of Northern Kenya. IL Ngwesi is constructed local materials. Some of the bandas allow you to roll out your mattress on a platform and spend the night under the stars. An attraction in the lodge is a swimming pool, which appears to overflow into the wilderness below. All heating and lighting is provided by solar power. Il Ngwesi Lodge is reached using a 4WD from Borana Ranch or a short flight from Nanyuki. Il Ngwesi counts Prince William among its celebrity guest list.
Activities in Il Gwesi include, exploring the magnificent conservation area that adjoins Lewa, Borana and the Mukogodo Forest Reserve, visits to the cultural boma, excursions along the Ngare Ndare River with local guides, offers a special opportunity to get close to the wildlife, followed by a picnic breakfast, Game drive, followed by sun-downers on one the many different vantage points along the Mukogodo Hills and visits to troops of baboons and monkeys. A popular attraction is OMNI, the habituated orphan black rhino, trans-located from Lewa.
Lekurruki Community Ranch & Tassia Eco Lodge Lekurruki Community Group Ranch (60,000 Hac) is located to the north of Il Ngwesi Community Group Ranch in the vicinity of Lewa and Borana ranches. Tassia Community Eco-Lodge (USD 400 PP sharing) is cut into a steep cliff face commanding panoramic views of the northern plains and the sacred Il lolokwe hill. It has a bunkhouse for children.
The Tassia Eco-lodge is run by Laikipiak (Mukogodo) Maasai. The 6 individual rooms offer en-suite facilities and privacy. The rate include activities- visits to local Manyattas, day and night game drives, bush walks and picnics, camel rides and treks. The lodge has a natural rock swimming pool and natural water hole where animals come to quench their thirst.
Borana Ranch and Lodge Borana Ranch occupies 14,000 Hac. Besides keeping the local borana breed of beef cattle it is involved in conservation of wild animals. On offer at the ranch are horse riding, day and night game drive, guided tours, sun-downers, fishing in Mt Kenya. The Ranch also owns Rutundu lake log cabins on Mt Kenya.
Borana Lodge (USD 640 pp sharing on full board) offers 6 individual cottages with en-suite bathrooms, large bedrooms, sitting area with a fire place and open verandas with great views of the plains below. The main building offers spectacular views of the northern plains. The lodge has a swimming pool.
Laragai lodge located in Borana Ranch has 8 en suite rooms and a swimming pool. The main activities-guided walks, day and night game drives, horse riding, bush meals, excursions to lewa conservancy and Samburu national reserve, fly fishing.
The Rutundu Log Cabins caters for a maximum of 8 persons. The rate for exclusive use of the whole place is USD 460.00 per day self catering. Fishing fee is USD 15.00 per person per day.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Sweet Waters Tented Camp and Ol Pejeta House.
Ol Pejeta conservancy inclusive of Sweet Waters Game Sanctuary occupies an area of 90,000 Hac. The conservancy is located between Mt Kenya and Aberdare national parks. Originally owned by Lord Delamere, Ol Pejeta has changed ownership several times. From Lord Delamere, It went to Roussel (Father in law of Christina Onasis) and later to Adnan Khasoggi. Today it is run by Serena Hotels. It has all the big five-rhino, elephant, buffalo, leopard and lion. Also found here are chimpanzees, Grevy’s Zebra, Jackson’s Hartebeests anc cheetahs. Besides chimpanzee tracking and game watching, Ol Pejeta offer tree planting, bird walks, camel rides, cultural tours to Maasai Manyattas, safari sun-downers, lion tracking,
Sweet Waters Tented Camp (USD 150 PP sharing on full board) comprise comfortably furnished en-suite tents overlooking the waterhole. The camp also has a swimming pool.
Ol Pejeta Ranch House(Rate available on requets) has a total of six suites and a swimming pool. Originally the home of famed multi-millionaire, Adnan Khashoggi, Ol Pejeta House is a beautiful private house set within the pristine calm of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. If one of your ambitions is to retreat back to history, to the bygone traditions of Kenya’s farmhouse hospitality, then the Ol Pejeta House is the place to stay. Accommodation -2 superior guest rooms with queen size beds, ensuite bathroom, dressing room and large balcony with excellent view of game teeming plains; 2 standard guest rooms with double bed, en suite with bathroom and terrace, Buffalo Cottage with2 Deluxe Rooms and a Fireplace
Mugie Ranch and Mutamaiyu House:
Mutamaiyu House is located in 49,000 Hac Mugie Ranch. A visitor described it as “Heaven on a Hill”. Mugie ranch lies at 6000 ft above sea level. Though warm, nights can be chilly. Mugie Ranch is home to all the big five. You can fly into Mugie from Nairobi Wilson or drive from Nanyuki. The dressing code is informal. Wear a sun cream to protect from sunburn, carry long sleeves and trousers for evenings, swimwear and sunglasses. Activities included in the rate are, guided bushwalks, day and night game drives, swimming, bush breakfasts, picnic lunches, sundowners Extra activities: clay pigeon, painting and sketching, camel and donkey treks, visits to the Pokot cultural boma Laundry: Washing and ironing is taken care of daily Beverages: Mutamaiyu has a well stocked bar with wines, beers, spirits and soft-drinks, all included except Champagne
Mukutan Retreat in Ol Ari Ngiro Ranch:
Mukutan Retreat (USD Rate available on request)is located in the 40.500 hac Ol Ari Ngiro Ranch and has a swimming pool. It is an exclusive hideaway in simple yet extremely sophisticated comfort, built using local stone, native woods and papyrus thatch. Each cottage is original in layout and décor. Perched at the edge of the gorge the three cottages offer double beds with spacious bathroom, a fireplace and private verandahs. A central lounge and dining area has the atmosphere of a private home, furnished with authentic Lamu and Swahili furniture. Organic food is served in the Retreat – Italian, Indian and Chinese with exotic touches. The shop sells a variety of locally made artifacts and Wild Sage essential oil products. Activities include bird watching, camel and horse riding, swimming in natural pools, fishing, and health spa and visits to Gallman Memorial foundation projects.
Makena’s Hill Tented Camp (USD rate available on request ) located in Ol Ari Ngiro is a permanent camp comprising of 8 comfortably furnished tents and a swimming pool. Each tent is carpeted and has a 4 poster bed with en-suite bathroom plus flush toilet. On offer are sundowners, meditation and yoga, bird watching, camel safaris, fishing, cultural visits to local Pokot villages, helicopter tours and visits to Gallman memorial foundation projects.
El Karama Ranch Bandas, comprise of nine basic self catering bandas situated on the banks of Ewaso Ngiro River. Swimming is possible in the river. They have long drop toilets and watchman 24 hours. Available are hurricane lamps, basic beds, mattresses, tables, chairs, beddings and utensils. Activities include-nature walks, fishing for barbels and catfish (bring own tackle), game drives, horse riding, camel rides. Basic accommodation is also available at Mpala Research Centre, a Kenya/US collaboration on sustainable development of Savannah and semi arid ecosystems in East Africa
Sosian Ranch House/ Sosian lodge is a beautifully restored African ranch house with a swimming pool, tennis court and wide expanses of wilderness to explore, comprising of seven cottages overlooking Mt Kenya and miles of un spoilt African Wilderness. Sosian is well known for its delicious home cooking using fresh ingredients from the organic vegetable garden and for its warm and friendly hospitality. Sosian Ranch covers 24,000 Hac. Activities include walking, horse-riding, camel safaris, game-drives, night-drives, fishing, bird-shooting, archery, tennis and swimming in the waterfalls behind the ranch house.
Ol Malo Ranch and Cottages comprise of 4 individual cottages with a swimming pool. Ol Malo, a place of Greater Kudu in local parlance is a 2000 Hac ranch 2 hours drive from Maralal. Ol Malo is located top of escarpment with spectacular views of Laikipia plains all the way to Mt Kenya. Each cottage is private with a veranda, spacious bedroom, lounge, en-suite bathrooms. Activities-bush walks, camel rides, birding, day/night game drives, bush picnics and sundowners, cultural visits to the bomas, excursions to Kirisia hills.
Sabuk Lodge comprise of five cottages located on a gorge 50 metres above a Ewaso Ngiro falls. Activities include bush walls, camel walks, birding, day and night game drives, sundowners, bush picnics, cultural visits. In Sabuk ranch you are likely to see greater kudu, klipspringer, reticulated giraffe, lion, eland and leopard.
Loisaba Wilderness Lodge is the former home of Count Ancelotto. The lodge has 7 cottages and a swimming pool. It is situated on 25,000hac Colcheccio ranch. Activities: day/night game drives, sundowners, bush walks, picnics, camel riding, horse riding, spa and health treatment, bush lunches, river rafting and fishing in season, helicopter excursions and night in a star-bed
Koija Star beds. Do you want to sleep under the stars? The exclusive star beds are half thatched platforms where your bed can be wheeled and you sleep under the stars. The 4 poster beds are on 4 wheels complete with mosquito netting. The platforms have showers and flush toilets. The star beds are managed by Koija community adjacent to Loisaba Ranch
Kitich Tented Camp, MathewsRange (USD 370 PP sharing)
Kitich means “the place of happiness”. At Kitch the local Samburu and Soyei people met for celebrations marked by dances, singing, drinking and feasting. Kitich Tented Camp is located in Mathews mountain range, overlooking Ngeng River. Kitich evokes the bygone era of the traditional African safaris of tents, hurricane lamps and attentive service. The camp can accommodate a total of eight guests in four luxurious tents. Each tent has a large comfortable bed, en-suite bathroom with safari-style hot water showers. The separate open-plan cottage houses a bar, dining and sitting room with a fireplace.
Activities include; walking and hiking in the wilderness, elephant trekking, bird and butterfly watching, bush picnics, swimming, visit to local Samburu village their market.
Closed Season: April, May, June and November to mid December.
Access: By private charter to Ngelai airstrip (10 kms from Kitich).
This dreamland of timeless beauty, Laikipia is a melting pot of humanity. With all the big five and luxurious accommodation in pristine settings, Laikipia is the next frontier of adventurous travelers.