The vast plateau of Laikipia Conservancy 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These days, cattle-ranching has largely been replaced by ‘community tourism', an entirely new concept in Kenyan tourism, which represents a unique cooperation between the local people (Rendille, Samburu and more) and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 (Sweetwaters Tented Camp - Serena).
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 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).