Lewa / Laikipia

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Massive rhino with large horn munching on grass with a baby rhino in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya view larger image

The dramatic Laikipia region, wild and sparsely populated, has become a center for global conservation leadership. Much of Laikipia is comprised of privately owned ranches that have been combined by local communities to create vast conservancies, with free-ranging wildlife including elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and abundant plains game. Renowned among Laikipia’s sanctuaries is Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which has played a critical role in sustaining endangered rhinoceros, Grevy’s zebra and sitatunga.

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Guests are treated to a horseback safari with their own personal guides in Laikipia, Kenya view image gallery

The Safari Experience

On the private ranches and conservancies of Laikipia, traditional early morning and late afternoon wildlife drives are extended into night drives in search of nocturnal species. Also offered are nature walks with armed trackers and guides, horseback and camel safaris, and cultural encounters with local tribal people. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy affords a chance to visit the Il Ngwesi Group Ranch, on which the Maasai community uses 80% of its land for conservation activity while upholding their traditions and cattle grazing on the remainder. Often called Lewa Downs in reference to its stables, Lewa Wilderness Lodge offers horseback riding for all experience levels. Viewing giraffe, zebra and even rhino and big cats from the back of a well-trained horse is like no other safari experience. Lewa is also home to one of only two Waco bi-planes in Kenya, allowing you to have a real “Out of Africa” experience high above the savanna.

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A thin cheetah faces the warming sun amidst bright green grasslands in Laikipia, Kenya view image gallery


Kenya is known for large herds of plains wildlife, great prides of lion, big bull elephants, and cheetah peering across the savanna from atop termite mounds. Laikipia adds much to those iconic safari images. In addition to the “Big Five”—lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo—this area is also home to the “Northern Five”: reticulated giraffe, the endangered Grevy’s zebra, long-necked gerenuk, Somali ostrich and Beisa oryx, which are found only in northern Kenya. The reticulated giraffe’s contrasting brown spots against a white background make it one of the most attractive sub-species of giraffe. Lewa is a major contributor to Grevy’s zebra conservation – this distinctive version has a white belly, thinner stripes, a lighter nose, and bigger, rounder ears than its cousin, the Burchell’s zebra. Laikipia is also home to East Africa’s largest, longest established and and most successful black rhino sanctuaries, Lewa, Solio and Ol Pejeta.

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Giraffe walks through the grassland between African acacia trees in Laikipia, Kenya view image gallery

How to Include Laikipia or Lewa in Your Safari Itinerary

Recommended Number of Nights

Nature Travelers: minimum 3 nights
Photographers: 3-4 nights
Families: 4 nights
Active Travelers: 3 nights

Other Regions to Include

With its mix of rocky kopjes and rolling savanna, Laikipia combines well with a private conservancy in the Maasai Mara (see camp descriptions for locations in the Maasai Mara National Reserve or private conservancies). Samburu and Shaba national reserves are somewhat similar, nearby experiences, both more arid and not private conservancies, so we typically suggest doing Laikipia, Samburu or Shaba, but not necessarily more than one. Chyulu Hills near Amboseli is a nice complement, with its magnificent views of Mount Kilimanjaro, its private land, and its many activities, such as horseback riding and mountain biking in addition to wildlife drives and walks. Neighboring Amboseli National Park is renowned for large herds of elephant, and a strong research center for elephant conservation. For additional activities or just relaxing, Zanzibar or Kenya’s Swahili Coast are nearby options for diving, snorkeling, sailing, fishing, history and a unique Arab-African culture dating back to the spice-trading era.

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