Laikipia is a mid-altitude plateau, which formerly consisted of community and ranch land. It has been turned into a patchwork of private game reserves, with vast ranches where cattle and wildlife live alongside each other. This is prime Big Five territory at the base of snow-capped Mount Kenya. It is also home to many indigenous communities including the Laikipia Maasai and Samburu.
Laikipia Plateau offers excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities. All of the Big Five are easy to find and the sightings of both black rhino and white rhino are unsurpassed. All big cats are well habituated, and the park is home to the only viable wild dog population in the northern hemisphere. Night drives come with an excellent chance of seeing nocturnal creatures such as genetic, bushbaby, and aardvark.
Laikipia Plateau is home to all of the Big Five. The different ranches offer very different wildlife experiences, and some have better animal densities than others. However, in general, the wildlife viewing is excellent. The plateau supports thousands of elephants and plenty of predators. Most of the reserves have a good population of both black and white rhino.
Laikipia is home to more than 70% of the world’s remaining Grevy’s zebra population. It also has healthy numbers of wild dogs. The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary at Ol Pejeta supports the country’s only chimpanzee population. The chimpanzees live on an island and viewed from an observation tower.
Many lodges are closed in April, May, and November due to rain. The soil in the region is mostly black cotton soil, which becomes very difficult to navigate after heavy rain. The best time for wildlife viewing is from July to September and January to March.
The mighty snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya looms over Laikipia Plateau. The semi-arid plains are interrupted by basalt outcrops and lush, forested slopes. The scenic Ewaso Nyiro and Ewaso Narok rivers cut through the plateau via spectacular rock gorges.
Being near to the equator, Laikipia Plateau’s temperatures don’t change much from month to month. What variation does exist is due to the two seasons that govern the plateau’s climate: the Dry season (June to September) and the Wet season (October to May). The drier months see plenty of sunshine, though there’s always the chance of rain. The Wet season progresses in three distinct stages: from some rain to less rain to lots of rain.
You can go on safari at Laikipia Plateau year-round. But in terms of the weather, the Dry season (June to September) – along with a period of diminished rainfall at the end/beginning of the year (December to February) – is the best time to visit. Regarding the drier months, animals are easier to spot in the absence of long grass, and the roads are in better condition.
More than 350 recorded species make Laikipia Plateau a great birding destination – this includes many north Kenya specials. The variety in habitats reflects in the variety in birdlife ranging from arid ground-dwelling birds like sandgrouse to colorful forest species such as turacos and grassland species such as bustards. Raptors are well represented as well.
The Laikipia Plateau offers good bird watching throughout the year, but the best time is from November to April when the migrants from Europe and North Africa are present. This partly coincides with the Wet season, when many species can be seen in breeding plumage as they are nesting. Some lodges are closed in April, May, and November due to heavy rain. The best time for general wildlife viewing is from July to September and January to March.
There is good wildlife watching year-round at Laikipia Plateau, although heavy downpours can impede your safari. The condition of the roads can become a problem in the Wet season, and some lodges will close in April, May, and November. The best wildlife viewing overall is in the Dry season from June to September.
The climate is cool and temperate. Temperatures are uniform throughout the year as a result of being so close to the equator. Daytime temperatures are in the mid to high twenties, while it cools off considerably at night. Warm clothing for early morning game drives is strongly recommended.
The Dry season has mostly sunny days, but it can rain at any time. Temperatures don’t vary too much and are around 26°C/78°F. It is cold at nighttime and in the early mornings as the temperature is around 10°C/50°F.
June & July – Although it can rain at any time, days are mostly sunny. The average afternoon temperature is 26°C/78°F. Don’t forget warm clothing for early morning game drives.
August & September – During the month of August, rain increases a little, but temperatures pick up slightly as well. Afternoon temperatures reach up to 28°C/82°F.
A drier period, from December to February, interrupts the Wet season and separates the ‘short rains’ and the ‘long rains’. Days are often overcast, but it seldom rains all day. It is cold in the morning and warm clothing is necessary.
October & November – ‘Short rains’: The rains normally begin sometime in October. Afternoon temperatures are around 27°C/73°F.
December, January & February – There is not as much rainfall in this period, which separates the short and long rains. It will still rain some days, however.
March, April & May – ‘Long rains’: The wettest month is April. There is a lot of rain but it doesn’t always shower for the whole day. Driving is more problematic as tracks can get slippery. Early mornings are warmer with average temperatures around 11°C/52°F.
The drive to Laikipia Plateau takes about four to eight hours from Nairobi and three to seven hours from Lake Nakuru, depending on which reserve you are visiting. Most people visit Laikipia by private charter from Nairobi or other parks. It is also possible to charter a flight from Nanyuki, the nearest town. All the reserves within Laikipia have airstrips. Nairobi is one of Africa’s largest transport hubs. International flights arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi.
In early 2017, there were armed incursions on private conservation areas in Laikipia by disgruntled herders. In 2018 and 2019, the situation has settled down, but independent travelers should seek the latest advice before heading into Baringo County or Laikipia.
If you are driving and visiting towns between parks, normal safety precautions are recommended.
There are several vaccinations needed before traveling to Kenya and, to a lesser extent, Laikipia Plateau. Malaria is the biggest health concern for visitors and antimalarials are recommended. The use of mosquito repellant (those containing DEET are most effective) and covering up in the evening helps greatly to minimize the risk of getting bitten.
Please respect safety precautions around wildlife when visiting the reserves in Laikipia. Although incidents are extremely rare and there is no need for paranoia, you should always keep in mind the potential danger and unpredictability of wildlife encounters. Pay attention to the instructions given by your guide at all times.