Most people, when they book a safari in Kenya, they go to the Maasai Mara. It’s the most famous safari region because of the great wildebeest migration and the dense population of large cats. And that’s great, we support that - we did that too (check out our post about it here). But there are also other equally life changing safaris that you can experience. And if you are going to Africa, it’s worth your time to check out more than one. A great area to consider is Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia. It’s up north, close to mount Kenya, and known for housing the rare white rhinos!
The white rhino is extremely rare. Though it looks very similar to the black, its slightly smaller, and has a different nose. This year the last northern white rhino male died which means they won’t be around for much longer! If you are planning to go to Kenya, we’d recommend you make a stop up to Laikipia to see them before it’s too late!!
Though known for it’s claim to fame on the endangered white rhinos, Laikipia also has a lot of other wildlife to see. It has each of the Big 5, large cats, and also includes a different species of giraffe with a different spot design (may sound like a small detail - but it’s like any of the finer things in life… it’s all about the details). To be honest, we loved getting to see both Laikipia and the Mara because it helped us to appreciate the unique features of both!
The Kicheche camps are intimate and cozy, but still give you upscale vibes. You certainly won’t feel like you are “roughing” it here, as their accommodations are really top notch. Sometimes you forget you are even in tents because of the tall ceilings and (hello) electricity/ running water in all the rooms. What’s cool though is that they don’t disturb the land at all. They take special care to be an “eco site” meaning they don’t dig up or build into the safari lands. They preserve all the natural beauty, but still make sure you have your ultimate “glamping” experience.
Again, if you read our other safari post you will remember we used a travel agency to help us with our interpark transit. Go2Africa was actually able to help us arrange flights between the parks in Kenya and it all worked seamlessly. If you plan to do multiple safaris, we strongly recommend at least checking out what an agency can do for you. It can really help to simplify your life. And on vacation, isn’t simplicity everything?
Special Note - As mentioned before, you can’t pack more than 40 lbs each. And they do weigh the bags before you depart. These are small (we’re talking 10-15 max) planes and they can’t handle excessive cargo. But if you have too much, airports are happy to hold your bags for a few days. It’s not a bad gig, especially since you will likely need to transfer through Nairobi to wherever you are off to next. That’s what we did - we just planned to leave all of our beach/trekking gear at the airport in a separate bag. You are only without your things for a few days, and bonus you have less to keep track of in your room. win-win.
Coming in you’ll be greeted by the guides and scooped up into one of their comfortable jeeps. You’ll immediately go on a game ride and begin to understand how exciting the savannas of Africa can be! The camp is about 20 minutes away from the airstrip, but the guides will take you around to begin to see all of the wildlife Laikipia has to offer. You never know what you’ll find; on our ride back we were able to stumble upon a family of elephants (not too shabby for day 1 eh?)
When you make it back to the camp you’ll be received by the host and, depending on the timing, likely a meal. They bring all your bags back to the tent so you don’t have to worry about a thing, you can just appreciate the cold drinks and warm food.
After your meal, you get to check out the “tents”. I put tents in quotes because these are FAR from your typical tented sites. They are very luxurious with high open ceilings and nice wooden furniture inside. You get a comfortable bed and hot showers for the morning. There’s even electricity hooked up to each of the tents.
Special Note: The only thing to beware of is you can’t overload the sockets. This means for girls, no hair dryers (don’t panic) because they are too high voltage. Now I will admit, I tested the waters and tried my curling wand and didn’t cause any power surges so there is a fine line between the 60V wand and your typical 120V for hairdryer.
Now Let’s Dive into what your days will look like here:
Mornings start before sunrise so you’ll want to be sure you bring some jackets and long pants for the morning chill. They have fleece lined panchos and heated water holders ready for you in the jeep, but you still may want socks and gloves if you tend to get cold easy. You are up higher in elevation so just keep that in mind, but as soon as the sun starts to come out things warm up quick.
Sunrise in Laikipia is something special. You’ll get to see the sun rising over mount Kenya and it really takes your breath away. Apparently you can hike it if you have the time (its 7-10 day journey) but it’s a pretty advanced hike so make sure you are up for the challenge!
DURING THE DAY
You’ll take 2 long 4-5 hour game drives, one in the morning and one in the early afternoon/evening. Think sunrise and sunset. Because you are up higher in elevation, you can stay out a bit longer before it gets too warm, meaning more time with the animals! If you’re here to see the game, this park experience is for you because there is a strong focus on being out in nature and experiencing all the thrill a safari can offer.
Other activities to check out:
Walking Safari. We did this, and while it was interesting to see the park on foot, the animals tend to shy away more when you walk around. We found we couldn’t get up as close, and the grass is a lot scratchier than it looks. We both ended up with some scrapes from the thorns. Nothing too serious, but if you go make sure you were some socks to cover your ankles and sturdy shoes (Tom’s were not ideal).
Chimpanzee Refuge: This can be interesting to see as there are not as many monkeys in the camp (a few baboons but they are very shy). It was set up by the infamous Jane Goodall, so it’s a legit site to help the animals. Good spot to spend 1-1.5 hours if you are interested in monkeys and want to get out and stretch your legs a bit.
Endangered Animal Park: This is where you can check out the endangered rhinos and some other endangered species of springbok and zebra. Good for a nice 1-2 hour chunk of time.
Each night they have a turn down service for your room, so when you finish with dinner, you come back and they have a hot water container tucked under the covers at the foot of your bed. That way in the chill of the evening, you can still stay nice and toasty all night long!
It’s fun because at night you can still hear some of the animals. You might hear some of the lions roaring or barking of the jackals. It’s nothing to worry about, the sight has an electrical fence and there are guards up all night to make sure nothing disturbs the guests, but it lets you really feel like you IN nature.
Breakfast: All mornings will include a bush breakfast. These were honestly our favorite part of the experience. They brought along many different small dishes like sausage, miniature egg frittatas, bacon, local fruits, homemade jams/jellies, coffee/tea, toast/ biscuits, pastries, granola, yogurt, and more. Basically it was everything you could ever want in a breakfast buffet, out in the middle of a safari!
Lunches & Dinners: Served back at the main camp. Every meal was a new delight with 3-4 courses . They leave nothing to be desired with elegant plating, and carefully balances meals at every occasion. They use extremely fresh ingredients and the chefs are truly an inspiration. As you guys know, we eat a plant based paleo diet and this place was able to make some of the most interesting dishes we’ve every had while traveling. One day for lunch they made an avocado mouse that floored us both (which I know sounds weird, but we were licking our plates clean!). These meals are typically shared with other guests staying at the camp, as well as one of the head guides. You will hear stories of what everyone saw that day on their drives and the head guide is there to answer ANY questions you can dream up about the animals.
WHAT THEY GOT RIGHT
· The guides were incredible. They know so much and really want you to have the best experience possible. They ask ahead of time if there is anything you REALLY want to see and cater your trip to try and find what you are looking for. As this was our first trip we wanted to see EVERYTHING, and to be honest I think we did!
· As mentioned before the food was killer. Expect to be truly delighted by the service, but still feel light and healthy. It’s an eco-driven operation, and they stay true to their roots with the simplicity of really exceptional local ingredients.
· This is also a conservancy- which again means you get to drive anywhere and EVERYWHERE. If you really want to see the wildlife (and you are on a safari so isn’t that the point?!) you want to make sure you book a conservancy.
· The site is very intimate. Only a few tents which means you don’t have a bunch of people running around and making a lot of noise (10-12 guests tops). For example, we only shared one or two safari drives with other guests. The rest were just us and the guide! It really just depends on the arrival/departure schedules of all the guests.
· The main eating area looks out over a large watering hole - it can be fun to stay out after lunch or in the afternoon between rides and watch which wildlife decides to go up and take a drink. Just another occasion to witness the magic!
What to Pack:
Make sure and check out Kicheche Laikipia Camp for your next couple’s getaway, promise you’ll feel the love. That’s all for now.