Beyond the Masai Mara…

May 14th 2019  |   Kenya, Travel, Unique Experiences  |  by   Francis Naumann
Sirikoi House deck panoramic Kenya - 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

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.

Accommodation at Sirikoi House

Accommodation at Sirikoi House

Laikipia

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.

Sundowners at Borana Lodge, Kenya

Sundowners at Borana Lodge

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?

Camel Safaris with Karisia Walking safaris Kenya

Camel Safaris with Karisia Walking safaris

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.

Saba Douglas-Hamilton at Elephant Watch Camp credit Patrick Evans BBC

Saba Douglas-Hamilton at Elephant Watch Camp credit Patrick Evans BBC

Elephant lovers should head for Elephant Watch Camp where activities are very much pachyderm focussed. Another excellent  option is Saruni Samburu which has one of the lovliest locations in Kenya.

Wonderful views at Saruni Samburu

Wonderful views at Saruni Samburu

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.

Tree climbing lions Elsa's Kopje

Lions in Meru National Park, Elewana Elsa’s Kopje

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.

Luxurious accommodation at Elsa’s Kopje c Silverless Kenya

Luxurious accommodation at Elsa’s Kopje credit Silverless

Mathews Range

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.

Extraordinary views at Sarara Camp - Samburu by pool

Extraordinary views at Sarara Camp

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.

Traditional bedroom safari tent at Kitich Camp

Traditional safari accommodation at Kitich Camp

Any questions on beyond the Masai Mara?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

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.

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