Though less well known than other safari attractions in Kenya, the Northern Frontier District is a traveler favorite. Contrary to what its name suggests, the region is actually smack-dab in the middle of the country, though it’s generally the northernmost wildlife sector in the 224,080-square-mile nation. The area is impressive for its rhinoceros sanctuaries, for the “Northern Five” – five unique subspecies generally found nowhere elsewhere in Kenya – and for its general exclusivity.
East Africa’s longest-established rhino sanctuaries are found here – Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Solio Game Reserve and Ol Pejeta are three of the most notable. Individually, these three sanctuaries continue a successful mission to keep black and white rhinos from going extinct, augmented by the efforts of a number of other conservancies throughout the sub-Saharan portion of the continent. Lewa is generally the best known of the three.
Many areas of the Northern Frontier District are also home to the “Northern Five,” which includes the endangered Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, Beisa oryx and Somali ostrich. These unique subspecies are some of the most beautiful and intriguing of their kind. Grevy's zebra have thinner stripes, rounder ears and a white belly, while the reticulated giraffe sports crisp white lines between vibrant, rust-tinged spots. Samburu National Reserve is a classic stop to see these species and the famous "red elephants," so nicknamed for the local red dirt in which they cover themselves, and the local Samburu people offer an authentic and beautiful cultural encounter.
Since many of the conservancies in this area are private reserves, they offer special opportunities not allowed in national parks, such as guided walks and nighttime wildlife drives to seek out nocturnal animals, including hunters such as lion and cheetah. With only a select few camps on each conservancy, vehicle numbers are more limited, and you’ll feel as though you have the place all to yourself much of the time. National parks such as Meru and Shaba also feature ultimate exclusivity, as only a single camp is present in each.
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