Travelling to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, I knew I was likely to see rhino as it was one of the first protected sanctuaries and is currently home to 72 black rhino (12% of Kenya’s black rhino population), and 65 southern white rhino. Just minutes after landing at the airstrip we came across three orphaned youngsters and their ever present and loyal keepers. Shortly thereafter, we came across a lone black rhino with the spectacular back drop of the open plains behind it. I had fairly neutral thoughts about rhino before this trip, always looking for my favourite elephants, but getting so close to these huge bizarre prehistoric creatures was very exciting.
Travelling to Lewa you cannot escape being educated about the battle against the rhino poaching, there is so much happening and everyone wants to tell you about the latest initiative or about the newest baby rhino that’s been born. Rhino aside, Lewa was absolutely stunning, with vast open plains dotted with Grevy’s zebra, oryx and reticulated giraffe, Mount Kenya’s snowy peak on the horizon and the rolling hills, I really fell in love with the landscape.
Following my few days in Lewa, I spent the remainder of my trip exploring the rest of the Laikipia region. What really struck me was how varied it was. I aimed to experience as many different activities as possible, and I didn’t even have to try. Every camp or lodge offered something new.
At the family friendly Sosian Lodge, I went for an afternoon walk along the sun-drenched Ewaso Narok river and finished my evening attempting to fish from the river bank with a gin and tonic in hand. I was already very excited to do this as I am not a very experienced fisherman. Actually, you’ve probably guessed that I’d never done it before but could see the merits of this trip! However it got a bit more exciting when a lone bull elephant appeared on the opposite river bank. I was precariously balanced sitting on tree trunk in the river, so quickly switched positions and sat on the river bank. Whilst I got on wish my ‘fishing’, the elephant on the opposite side of the bank got on with his evening graze. Not your average pre-dinner drink experience.
At the super smart and spectacularly located Ol Malo Lodge, I woke to one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen. From the comfort of my veranda perched up on the escarpment, I watched the colours change from rich reds, pinks and oranges to the deep blue sky, appreciating the landscape I was so lucky to be able to experience.
I spent a day and a night walking with Kerry and Gabriel from Karisia Walking Safaris, accompanied by two characterful camels carrying our provisions and equipment (and me, if I fancied a quick respite!). We set off from base camp in the late afternoon, once the beating hot sun had waned a little, and crept through the bush, admiring huge orb spiders and getting very close to Grevy’s zebra and giraffe before we came across a young male elephant. We stopped and he stopped, lifting his trunk to investigate. The sun was setting at this point, and being March, the whole landscape was very dry so it made for a very beautiful dusty atmospheric moment. The next day we set off early in the morning and wound our way through the bush before arriving at a large rocky outcrop which we climbed for a huge cooked breakfast with a spectacular view.
At Laikipia Wilderness, we had a very up close and personal experience with wild dog. We had spent a good hour with a pack of about 20 dogs before, under the careful eye and guidance of camp owner and professional guide Steve Carey, we crept out of the back of the vehicles and got on our fronts so that we were eye-level with the pack. Curiosity got the better of them and they started to come and investigate us. They got extremely close, within a few metres, which was just incredible. A group of photographers were in camp and the photos they managed to get were amazing. Mine however, with a hand shaking full of adrenaline are not exactly up to professional standards!
Unless you restrict a visit to the Laikipia region to the Lewa or Ol Pejeta conservancies, you would not visit for a big game-viewing experience. Laikipia is about adventure, exploration and the vast vistas and landscapes that stretch out endlessly into the distance. Fly-camp under the stars in the bush, tube a river after a bush breakfast, marvel at the spectacular views or visit the genuine local Samburu villages and witness first-hand the pastoral life. It is such a beautiful region and I would advise anyone looking for escape and adventure to consider a visit.
All in a days work!
During Frances’ visit to the Laikipia she stayed at Lewa Safari Camp, Lewa Wilderness, Sosian, Ol Malo Lodge, Karisia Walking Safaris, Laikipia Wilderness Camp, and Kicheche Laikipia. She site inspected Lewa House, Sabuk, Palacina Hotel, House of Waine, and The Emakoko.