The beautiful Laikipia plateau straddling the equator is a mosaic of private and community-owned reserves, conservancies and game ranches, commercial and small-scale farms, and rangelands traversed by the herds of Laikipia Masai and Samburu pastoralists.
This is a game-viewing mecca all through the year. Its 9 500km2 of dramatic landscapes – endless plains, spectacular gorges and indigenous forests – host the biggest game densities in Kenya outside the Masai Mara, including the Big Five, the vulnerable reticulated giraffe and endangered African wild dog and Grevy’s zebra.
Rhino sanctuaries in Lewa, Solio, Borana, Ol Pejeta and Ol Jogi conservancies are at the forefront in protecting white rhino and the critically endangered black rhino. Laikipia is home to nearly half of Kenya’s critically endangered black rhino and 70% of its white rhino. One of the Big Five (the others are lion, elephant, leopard and Cape buffalo), rhinos are threatened by poaching. Ol Pejeta keeps the last three northern white rhinos in the world under round-the-clock armed guard.
Although chimps are not native to Kenya, the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary was established by the Jane Goodall Institute, the KWS and Ol Pejeta after civil war forced the closure of a sanctuary in Burundi in 1993. It shelters orphaned and abused chimpanzees from western and central Africa. These severely traumatized great apes can never return to their native habitats but live in huge natural enclosures.
Laikipia lies at the foot of Mount Kenya – Africa’s second-highest mountain rises abruptly and splendidly from the high savannah of Kenya’s interior and is a sacred place for indigenous communities. It is one of Kenya’s most important water towers, and two of the country’s major rivers, the Tana and the Ewaso Ng’iro, originate here. The Mount Kenya National Park and the encircling forest reserve together form a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The indigenous forests clothing Mount Kenya’s foothills are an important habitat for elephant and other wildlife.
Subways for elephants? Yes, they exist! Under the highway stretching northward from Nairobi, wide underpasses have been built to allow safe passage from Mount Kenya to the Marmanet Forest for the giants of the wild.