A Luxury Safari in Northern Kenya

Wild, remote and generally drier and hotter than the green plains of the south, northern Kenya feels completely different. It’s a more rugged, rocky region, home to remarkable animals, like the Samburu Special Five.

Northern Kenyan game drives, along the lifeline that is the Ngiro River, give you a chance to find these interesting creatures, and more. Stop for a relaxing bush picnic under waving doum palms and see who comes to quench their thirst, from reticulated giraffe to lion.

A really special northern Kenyan experience – one of my favourites – is to spend a day with elephant. The Douglas-Hamilton family have devoted their lives to protecting the pachyderms of the Samburu National Reserve, and they’ve shared decades of research with local guides via their Save the Elephant foundation. For more big-mammal encounters, visit rhino in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, a World Heritage Site.

If homo sapiens interest you too, go on a cultural visit with the Samburu people – you’ll get to appreciate their traditional clothing in eye-popping red and white, and their intricate beadwork. The indomitable spirit of the Samburu translates readily into warm and welcoming hospitality.

For the adventurous, helicopter excursions take you to the slopes of Mount Kenya and other inaccessible places where you can fish for trout in mountain lakes, while back on the ground, you can explore the region using the best local transport available: the camel! If you prefer bumps to humps, you can ride quad bikes instead.

Or if you just want to unwind, take a dip with a stunning view in a spectacular cliff-edge infinity pool in Samburu or relax with spa treatments using local herbal wisdom in Laikipia. Fancy some royal romance? Visit Meru National Park – it was close to here that Prince William proposed to the then-Catherine Middleton. It’s also where Elsa the lioness, of Born Free fame, grew up.

When to Go

This is prime time for a luxury safari in northern Kenya. The weather is dry and cool, making conditions perfect in this arid part of the country. It’s just after the long rains, so while the bush is initially lush it gets progressively sparser, making wildlife easier to spot. A trip to northern Kenya at this time of year is best combined with a visit to the Masai Mara, where you’ll be able to see the Great Wildebeest Migration from July to September.

In this period following the short rains, the dry season takes hold and the vegetation thins out completely. The animals congregate near water sources – particularly the Ngiro River, which makes its way from the Laikipia highlands to Samburu and beyond – so the game viewing is excellent, plus there are fewer people around to share your sightings with. To round off your safari experience, visit Tanzania now too, where you’ll catch the southern Serengeti leg of the Great Wildebeest Migration, as well as the wildebeest’s dramatic birthing season.

Kenya’s long rains, which fall steadily throughout April and May, are followed by short rains in November – generally quick afternoon bursts. While muddy roads can make getting around a bit tricky, the drier north is the best place to be in Kenya at this time of year. It’s a quiet time for tourism, so wildlife experiences are exclusive, and as the vegetation is in a growth period, game sightings are plentiful. All in all visitors get good-value holidays now, provided they pack their sense of humour (and their gum boots!).

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