Northern Kenya, formerly known as the Northern Frontier District, is one of the last remaining true wilderness areas in Africa. It’s home to breathtaking landscapes and an abundance of unique wildlife. Nestled in the heart of the rugged and beautiful landscapes of this region you’ll find superb accommodation, exceptional game viewing – and few tourists. This stunning safari destination offers superb wildlife viewing, scenery, and cultural experiences. Whether you’re a seasoned safari-goer or a first-timer, a safari in northern Kenya is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.
Kenya’s southern parks like the Masai Mara and Amboseli are incredibly popular, which unfortunately means they can be quite crowded at times, with many vehicles competing for the best game viewing spots. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and enjoy a more authentic safari experience then northern Kenya should definitely be on your list. This region is still relatively untouched by tourism, and your vehicle will often be the only one watching lion cubs playing, or a leopard sprawled along the branch of a tree…
Northern Kenya is home to a rare collection of unusual animals not found in the southern reserves. The ‘Samburu Special 6’ include the majestic reticulated Giraffe and the fine-striped Grevy’s zebra (both critically endangered), the dapper Beisa oryx, the beautifully marked lesser Kudu, the Somali ostrich, and the long-necked Gerenuk gazelle.
Laikipia may not be as well-known as the Masai Mara but it’s a very rewarding destination if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, while still offering excellent game viewing and superb accommodation. Over the years many landowners have converted their huge ranches into private wildlife conservancies. Although it remains an important livestock district, Laikipia showcases the co-existence of livestock and wildlife, and it is home to some of Kenya’s most encouraging conservation success stories.
One of the less-visited regions in Kenya, the Samburu Game Reserve promises an authentic wilderness experience. The vast arid and semi-arid lowlands, kopjes, and massive rocky outcrops are the traditional homelands of the Samburu people. The Ewaso Ngiro, northern Kenya’s biggest and least seasonal river, provides a vital source of water for both livestock and wildlife. The river is the heart of the park. Its riverine forest provides a welcome contrast to the dry red soil and attracts a diverse range of wildlife all year round.
Far off the beaten track Meru National Park is perhaps Kenya’s best-kept secret. Meru was home to Elsa the lioness, made famous by the book and film “Born Free”. During an economic crisis in the eighties, poaching became rampant. Poachers killed most of the elephants in the Park and eradicated the rhino population. Today Meru National Park is once again a thriving haven for wildlife. With 13 rivers meandering through the park, it supports a wide range of diverse habitats including iconic baobabs and doum palm trees. Large lion prides and herds of elephants frequent the park, and the Meru Rhino Sanctuary provides close viewing of both black and white rhinos – two of Africa’s most elusive creatures.
Of course, a safari in northern Kenya is about more than just the wildlife. The lodges and camps in this region are superb, offering guests an unbeatable level of comfort and luxury. Often tucked away in private, secluded areas, they allow you to fully immerse yourself in the surrounding wilderness. The tents are spacious and luxurious, complete with cozy beds, private verandas, and en-suite bathrooms. The main guest areas include a dining area, bar, and lounge, and some even have a swimming pool to cool off after your game drive or guided walk. And the food that appears from these remote bush kitchens is exceptional. Dining under a canopy of stars will be a memory to treasure.
Of course, you’ll enjoy game drives and guided walks, but Laikipia also offers a number of exceptional experiences that are not found in other parts of the country.
The last two Northern White Rhinos in the world call Laikipia home (we highly recommend visiting their boma), and you can only see chimpanzees at the Sweetwater Sanctuary, which provides a refuge for chimps rescued from Central and West Africa.
The Meru Rhino Sanctuary is home to around 60 white and 40 black rhinos, along with their babies, and offers one of the best opportunities in the whole of Africa to see these iconic creatures up close.
And a visit to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, an amazing community-run wildlife rescue and rehabilitation facility, should be on every animal-lovers bucket list.
Conservation & community projects
A safari in northern Kenya not only offers exceptional wildlife and cultural experiences but also provides many opportunities to give back to the regions and communities that we have the privilege to visit. Many lodges and camps in this region actively engage in conservation efforts, working to protect and preserve the local wildlife and ecosystems, as well as supporting local communities. Guests may have the opportunity to participate in conservation activities, such as tracking and monitoring wildlife or visiting local community and school projects. A portion of the cost of your safari contributes to these projects, with donations and fundraising initiatives also playing an important role.
One inspirational community project is BeadWorks which creates opportunities for pastoralist women in northern Kenya to use their traditional beading skills to generate much-needed income. Guests can purchase beautiful souvenirs knowing they are supporting a worthy cause.
A safari in remote northern Kenya offers an unforgettable experience, whether you’re interested in immersing yourself in the local culture, supporting vital conservation efforts, or simply seeing some of the most breathtaking wildlife on the planet.
So why wait? Karen will be taking a small group to northern Kenya in October 2023. Come and join us!