Though it means “treeless plain” in Maasai, Laikipia actually covers a vast array of landscapes. This elevated Kenyan region (5500-8500 ft) consists high plains, scrubland, semi-desert, rolling savannah, forests, to low forested valleys. Laikipia is not a park or reserve, but rather, an area comprised of numerous conservancies. Its unique status was cemented upon the founding of the Laikipia Wildlife Forum in 1992. There, large, private ranch owners united with local communities to merge tourism and conservation with poverty alleviation.
The region is home to large concentrations of several endangered and unique species, including the black rhino, Grevy's zebra, Reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, wild dog (painted wolf), striped hyena and the Somali ostrich. The are has the other 4 members of the Big Five, as well as cheetah and hippo. Because Laikipia is not a national park, safariers have access to many different kinds of activities. Day and night game drives, guided walking safaris (including rhino tracking), camel treks, horseback safaris, helicopter and bi-plane excursions, and fly-camping. Ol Pejeta Ranch has a chimpanzee rehabilitation center and the Morani Infomration Center (with a very friendly, blind black rhino).
A visit to one of several of these ranches or conservancies is highly recommended. This wild, sparsely populated region is not as visited as the parks and reserves of southern Kenya. But as result, they offer an unparalleled combination of exclusivity, activities (horseback riding, camel trekking, fishing, among others) and cultural interaction. Ranches of note include Solio Ranch (the 1st privately-owned rhino sanctuary), Segera Retreat, Loisaba Conservancy, the Sanctuary at Ol Lentille, Borana Ranch, Ol Malo Ranch, Sabuk, Ol Pejeta Ranch, and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Each of these large ranches possesses distinctive landscapes, wildlife concentrations and local communities that are uniquely rewarding.