Laikipia Plateau Safari Guide

safarigo   Kenya  

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.

Pros & Cons

Excellent wildlife viewing with all of the Big Five easy to spot
Wildlife densities are similar to the Masai Mara
Many different experiences and accommodation styles available
Night drives, horse riding and walking safaris available
Stunning views of Mount Kenya
Active ranches, with cattle and fences, reduce the wilderness appeal
Most wildlife has been re-introduced which can lack authenticity

Wildlife & Animals

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.

Wildlife Highlights

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 can be viewed from an observation tower.


More than 350 recorded species makes 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.

Best Time to Visit

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.

June to September – Dry Season

It is mostly sunny with little rain
Animals congregate around water sources and are easier to spot
Vegetation is thinner which aids in spotting animals
The roads are in good condition, and off-road driving is permitted in some reserves
Some lodges and reserves get very busy

There is a lot of dust in the sky and the scenery is less spectacular

October to May – Wet Season

The reserves are less busy and low season rates might apply
Bird watching is excellent and migratory birds are present
There are many newborn animals
The scenery is lush and the air is clear and crisp which means stunning views of Mount Kenya when the clouds lift
There are many overcast days

The grass is long which makes smaller animals harder to spot
Road conditions can be bad
Off-road driving won’t be possible
Rain can interfere with game drives

Weather & Climate

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.

Dry Season – June to September

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.

Wet Season – October to May

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 the whole day. Driving is more problematic as tracks can get slippery. Early mornings are warmer with average temperatures around 11°C/52°F.

Getting There

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.