Beyond the Masai Mara…
Kenya epitomises much that is Africa, from its diverse landscapes and wildlife to its fascinating culture. It is where my love affair with Africa started and it is why I keep returning. The Masai Mara is the most famous wildlife reserve in Kenya, if not Africa, and host to the wildebeest migration between July and October. Look beyond the Mara though and there is so much to a Kenyan safari with a varied choice of other national parks and conservancies.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a privately-owned reserve, blessed with superb wildlife and the stunning backdrop of Mount Kenya. It’s a place to experience traditional wildlife drives alongside camel safaris, horse riding safaris and walking. Lewa has Kenya’s largest population of Grevy’s zebra and the ‘Big Five’ are all resident in good numbers. The growing rhino numbers account for 14% of Kenya’s entire rhino population. There are wild dog too and a highlight of my recent visit was watching them hunt for their supper one evening.
Accommodation options include Lewa Wilderness which has fantastic views across the plains towards Kenya’s northern mountain range and the exclusive-use Sirikoi House, where walking safaris, the use of photographic hides and horse riding, are among the additional activities on offer.
Laikipia is a phenomenal conservation success story with local landowners, community ranchers and small farmers working together to develop a way for humans and Africa’s wildlife to co-exist. Home to rarer species like Jackson’s hartebeest, Grevy’s zebra and reticulated giraffe there are also healthy numbers of elephant, grouped in large herds, and a good chance to spot elusive leopard. Alongside traditional vehicle-based wildlife viewing, activities to try include walking safaris, mountain biking, horse and camel rides, fly camping, fishing and cultural visits.
Among lovely choices here is Borana Lodge where horse riding – not compulsory but great fun – makes for an exciting experience. Or, how about donning walking boots and setting off on foot with Karisia Walking Safaris and one of their amazing Samburu guides?
Samburu National Reserve
Located in the northern Kenya, Samburu is an arid reserve with few people apart from colourfully dressed Samburu Warriors tending to their cattle. Large herds of elephant roam the plains and it is where Elephant Watch Camp, home to Saba Douglas-Hamilton and her family, is located. Buffalo, giraffe and zebra feed off scattered acacia bushes, and lion and leopard are easily seen due to the lack of grass.
Meru National Park
Made famous in Joy Adamson’s book ‘Born Free’, Meru is a little visited gem, and with only a handful of safari camps you’re unlikely to see any other vehicles here. Home to plentiful lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant and rhino, it is one of Kenya’s most rewarding national parks and well worth adding to a safari itinerary.
Elewana Elsa’s Kopje is a wonderfully stylish camp set into Mughwango Hill close to the site of George Adamson’s original camp. Elsa’s is named after the orphaned lioness reared by George and Joy Adamson and then released into the wild, and on whom the film “Born Free” was based. It’s a lovely spot to enjoy his fascinating story, the scenery and wildlife as well as fun extras like rafting and fishing on the Tana River.
If isolation is on the agenda then the Mathews Range in northern Kenya should fit the bill. It’s a pristine wilderness with only the wildlife and occasional Samburu tribesmen to share the experience.
Stay at Sarara, a tented eco-camp which offers fly-camping deep in the forest as well as trips to the ‘singing-wells’ where Samburu warriors chant traditional songs whilst their cattle come to drink. It’s one of the best places in Kenya to see leopard too. Another Aardvark Safaris favourite is Kitich Camp where forest walks, swimming in natural rock pools and superb birdlife await.
Any questions on beyond the Masai Mara?
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We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.