A great chunk of land in central Laikipia, on the east side of the Ewaso Nyiro, is now managed as the Naibunga Conservancy, covering more than 170 square kilometres and comprising swathes of conservation land ceded by eight community-owned group ranches in the area: Il Motiok, Kijabe, Koija, Kuri-Kuri, Morupusi, Nkiloriti, Tiemamut and Il Polei. There is, as yet, a limited range of places to stay, though several of the group ranches are encouraging wild camping with guides.
Privately owned ranches northwest of Nanyuki include El Karama, Ol Jogi and Mpala. El Karama, a settler ranch since the early 1960s, covers nearly sixty square kilometres and as well as being a working ranch with a herd of unusual Sahiwal cattle also provides a home for Grevy’s zebra, plenty of elephants, reticulated giraffe, leopards, at least one pride of lions and – occasionally – wild dogs, among many other species.
Mpala Ranch and Conservancy, owned by the American Mpala Wildlife Foundation, ranges across two hundred square kilometres and incorporates a state-of-the-art wildlife and environmental research centre. However, there is no accommodation on the ranch for tourist visitors.
Ol Jogi is a 270-square-kilometre ranch owned by the art-dealing and horse-racing Wildenstein family, where KWS staff and US government vets are engaged in a long-term project to extract gerenuk semen for captive breeding.
Il Polei Group Ranch: Walking with Baboons
An interesting community activity at Twala Cultural Village, near Il Polei, is Walking with Baboons (baboonsrus.com), a chance for visitors to overturn some of the popular myths and prejudices that our species holds for this less cultured, but no less social, primate. In the early morning or at dusk you go out with a guide trained by the Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project to observe a habituated troop at close quarters on their rocky sleeping ledges. You’ll learn about the importance of avoiding eye contact and the subtlety of baboon family and social life. It’s a fascinating and highly recommended experience, and the money goes to support local community projects.