Kenya is consistently one of Africa’s top three destinations for those going on a safari holiday. Its wildlife and national parks regularly appear on television series such as the Big Cat Diary and its conservationists are lauded for their work in wildlife protection. With this in mind, can there really be secret places away from the crowds? Definitely, if you know where to look.
Masai Mara Conservancies
Since 2005 the conservancies bordering the Masai Mara Reserve have hosted those looking to avoid the busier areas inside the reserve itself. Guests staying in one of the conservancies can drive into the reserve if they choose to – and reasons for this might include wanting to go to a wildebeest migration crossing point – but the reverse cannot happen. This means these huge tracts of land – easily over twice the size of the Masai Mara national reserve itself – enjoy very few visitors and vehicles.
Born from a small number of huge cattle farms, much of Laikipia is now given over to wildlife by the Samburu and Masai communities who own the land. While it’s not an area for a density of animals to rival the Masai Mara, there are species here to excite even seasoned safari goers. Grevys zebra, black rhinos, gerenuk and reticulated giraffe thrive in the arid landscape, while certain reserves also boast predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog.
Chyulu National Park
With views of Kilimanjaro to its south Chyulu National Park is one of the least known and least visited national parks in Kenya. It sits between Tsavo West National Park and Amboseli National Park, and enjoys incredible views and diverse habitats. It is bigger than the Masai Mara, has lion, cheetah and a lot of elephants, with only two luxury lodges in the whole area.
Meru National Park
Meru National Park ought to be better known. After all it was here that George and Joy Adamson released Elsa the lioness (of Born Free fame). Furthermore Big 5 sightings (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) are relatively frequent. Meru’s rolling grasslands are covered with a network of streams which flow into the Tana River and the riverine woodlands are full of birds such as brightly-coloured kingfishers, bee-eaters and occasionally a Pel’s fishing owl.
Getting away from the masses in Kenya won’t happen without a bit of effort. Standard tours visit similar places, with visitors ticking off the famous names as they go. However if you put a little work into your planning you can see incredible views, excellent wildlife, and enjoy superb hosting – all without the crowds.
Richard Smith is Operations Director at Aardvark Safaris.