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Mutamaiyu House - Laikipia, Kenya

Mugie Ranch, Mugie Game Conservancy - Laikipia, Kenya

"Heaven on a hill"

Mutamaiyu House is on Mugie Ranch situated at the northern end of the Laikipia plateau in northern Kenya. Described by a recent visitor as "Heaven on a Hill", it is a magnificent family owned house built in a grove of ancient, twisting olive trees.

Named, by one visitor, "Heaven on a Hill" Mutamaiyu is a magnificent family- owned house that is named after the Swahili name for the ancient twisted olive trees that grow around it. Blending into the rock-strewn hillside, Mutamaiyu House is part of Mugie Ranch, a 49,000 acre working farm that rolls out across the plains of the Laikipia plateau, on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. The ranch is home to all the ‘Big Five and is one of Kenya's newest rhino sanctuaries.

Kenya hotels and accommodation
Amongst the wide range of Kenya hotels, some make the ideal Kenya safari destination. Choose a safari lodge, safari hotel, bush camp, luxury lodge, safari camp, tented camp or bush lodge. National park accommodation usually takes the form of a traditional safari lodge or tented camp, but numerous other options exist on the park boundaries. Luxury lodges and luxury camp options are also offered in the private wildlife conservancies.

Below Mutamaiyu's hilltop verandahs, is a waterhole, which offers a kaleidoscopic view of the wildlife, which includes; buffalo, elephant, zebra, warthog, lion and leopard. A herd of elephant has made this area their territorial home and over 300 buffalo roam the plains. The endangered Grevy's zebra is plentiful in these parts and antelope are abundant. Cheetah and wild dog are two of the rarer sightings, while there are over 260 species of birds.

The house is tastefully presented with spacious interiors decorated with an an eclectic collection of West African and local art, furniture and sculptures. However, most stunning of all are breathtaking views of the quintessential Africa.

This is the family home of the Hahn family, Californian vintners who purchased this ravishing "piece of Africa" to preserve a working ranch and invest in a wildlife haven and research initiative. Only recently opened to visitors, Mutamaiyu comfortably accommodates up to eight people in four African style cottages, made of local stone, traditionally thatched with makuti (palm leaves) over a vaulted wood frame and furnished with king size or twin beds. The family's books, art and music collection are yours to enjoy whilst you stay here.

The area itself is wild and beautiful and provides a much-needed haven for 250 species of birds and 50 species of mammal, amongst which, elephant, buffalo, Grevy's zebra and greater kudu abound. It also promises sightings of those species that are only found in the north of Kenya, such as gerenuk. The wilderness is also rapidly gaining a reputation for big cats and the elusive wild dog, which was thought for many years to be extinct.

Mutamiayu House stands on Mugie Ranch, which is at the northern end of the Laikipia plateau in northern Kenya.

How to get there
The ranch has two airstrips. Private charter flights are readily available from Nairobi to the Mutamaiyu airstrip. AirKenya flies daily to Nanyuki. Road or air transfers can be arranged from Nanyuki to Mutamaiyu. You will have the use of a vehicle once you arrive at Mutamaiyu and the ranch roads are well maintained

In size, the Laikipia wilderness (approximately 100 kms north of Mount Kenya) equates to that of the world-renowned Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania; and, as such, is larger than many of Kenya's national parks. The Laikipia Plateau extends west from the foothills of Mount Kenya to the wall of the Rift Valley at Lake Baringo, and north from Nanyuki and Nyahururu to the lands of Samburu and Isiolo. It merges with the Lerochi Plateau south of Maralal. In the north the edge of the plateau drops abruptly to the northern frontier district. The land is generally flat (1800 m and 2100 m).

The vast plateau of Laikipia rolls from the foothills of Mount Kenya to the arid deserts of what used to be known as the NFD, the Northern Frontier District. Wild and very beautiful it is not part of a national park or reserve, but is mostly occupied by large cattle ranches dating from the colonial period, when vast areas were sold at low cost as part of the ‘soldier-settlement scheme' to soldiers British soldiers returning from the first world war.

Home of community tourism
These days, cattle-ranching has largely been replaced by ‘community tourism', an entirely new concept in Kenyan tourism, which represents a unique cooperation between the local people (Rendille, Samburu and more) and the old ranchers - who represent the new face of Kenyan ‘eco tourism'. As a result, visitors can enjoy not only an exclusive and private wilderness, but also pursuits such as walking, biking, camel-riding and horse-riding, none of which are permitted in the national parks).

More endangered species than anywhere in East Africa
As a result of its long exclusion from the normal tourist circuits, and its isolation in the arid north of the country, the region offers a real and pristine wilderness experience. More endangered species can be seen here than anywhere else in East Africa. Here too, the wildlife densities rank second only to the world-famous Masai Mara National Reserve.

Elephants, Grevy's zebra, rhino and oryx
Half of Kenya's black rhino are protected in the Solio, Lewa, Ol Jogi, Ol Pejeta and Ol Ari Ng'iro sanctuaries. The area also has largest elephant herds (over 3,200) outside the national parks, and is one of the few places in Kenya to see Jackson's hartebeest. Laikipia is also home to about 25% of the world's population of rare Grevy's zebra alongside such other rare species as; wild dog and the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope. This is also the best place to view such northern species as; reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich, Beisa oryx and gerenuk, while the numerous impala and Grant's gazelle ensure healthy numbers of lion, leopard and cheetah.

Eco conservancy, the new frontier of Kenyan
Prime areas to visit include the Lewa Conservancy, the Ol Pejeta Game Conservancy (which contains one of Laikipia's biggest concentrations of wildlife, especially black rhinos and also offers a chimpanzee sanctuary), and the Sweetwaters Game Reserve

An umbrella body, the Laikipia Wildlife Forum was formed in 1992 to conserve the integrity of the Ewaso ecosystem and to monitor a number of research programmes, such as the Mpala Research Centre, the African Humanities and Biodiversity Centre and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

The lodge offers 4 stone-built cottages with thatched roves and vaulted ceilings. Each is tastefully furnished and offers either king-size or twin beds with ensuite bathrooms. Additional services laundry and the provision of generator electricity.

Dining and bars
The central buildings offer a spacious lounge, dining and bar area, all of which offer spectacular views. Drinks and snacks are also served by the heated hill-top swimming pool while bush breakfasts lunches and picnic hampers can be provided.

The managers of Mutamaiyu will design a programme of activities for visitors. These may include bird watching, riding or walking with the local Samburu tribesmen and their camels, donkey trips to the floor of the Rift Valley, a guided visit to the sacred Galla graves, or a hosted visit to the primary school on Mugie Ranch. Resident artist Susannah Mortensen grew up in the area and lives on the ranch. Susannah is happy to take guests to paint or sketch with her at favourite haunts.

Choices include: Guided bushwalks, day and night game drives, bird-walks, riding or walking with the local Samburu and their camels, donkey treks to the floor of the Rift Valley, bush breakfasts, picnic lunches, sundowners, clay pigeon shooting, painting and sketching, camel and donkey treks and visits to the Pokot cultural boma (village).

Community relations: The ranch is a vital part of the local economy. Local villages, small-scale farmers and nomadic tribesmen supply livestock to the ranch. The owners have endowed a local primary school at Mugie for children of our farm workers.

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