Kicheche Laikipia is Ol Pejeta Conservancy's most stylish tented camp.
Kicheche Laikipia: Our full report
With only six tents, Kicheche Laikipia is a small camp offering comfort and quality, one of a handful of properties located in the 360km2 Ol Pejeta Conservancy. It’s the most luxurious option in the conservancy, with a wide range of activities, and a lovely location, with views across a small dam.
Facing the dam, and tucked beneath some shady trees, is Kicheche's spacious main mess tent. The dining area, with a large wooden table, is where breakfast is served, and dinner, too, on cooler nights. Like the rest of the wooden furniture in the camp, the table is beautifully made from cedar wood, which comes from fence posts reclaimed from the conservancy. It is set beside a brick fireplace which makes for a delightfully cosy ambience during dinner on chilly evenings. On warmer days the front of the tent is opened up completely for views of the dam lake.
The adjoining lounge area is furnished with two earthy-coloured sofas, leather poufs, a bookshelf and rugs, enhanced by pot plants and vases of locally grown roses. The result is really homely, and this, together with friendly staff, makes the general atmosphere very welcoming and relaxed.
In a separate tent nearby is a small shop which sells a few locally made items and more sophisticated curios from Nairobi such as belts, bags and silver jewellery.
- The six tented rooms at Kicheche Laikipia – all named after 19th century Maasai laibon or chiefs – are broadly the same in style, though one is a larger family tent with a double and two single beds. All the tents are raised slightly on solid plinths and are vast, with pale cream canvas walls and floors dotted with Persian rugs. Inside, each tent is partially divided by a wood-and-fabric hanging space for clothes. To one side is the bedroom with heavy wooden beds (also made from reclaimed fence posts from the ranch), rustic dark-red linen, and cream throws and cushions. A couple of chairs invite lounging during siesta time, and plenty of drinking water is provided.
- On the other side of the partition is the bathroom, with a shower, lovely ceramic twin wash basins set on a large wooden vanity cabinet, and a flush toilet behind a separate canvas flap. Water, heated by a boiler, is always hot in the evenings but has to be requested at other times of the day. Shampoo, soap and shower gel are provided, as is washing powder for ladies to do their own underwear. We thought the towels were rather unabsorbent, but it was a minor quibble in context.
- Little touches such as wellington boots, umbrellas, insect spray, slippers and a bathrobe added to the level of comfort – we liked these tents a lot.
- Each tent has a veranda at the front with comfy chairs and stylish African-fabric cushions that looks out towards the waterhole. During our stay, a few resident waterbuck seemed permanently positioned in front of our tents, totally uninhibited by our presence.
The whole of Kicheche Laikipia camp is enclosed by a knee-high two-strand electric fence which is designed to keep out buffalo, while letting other big game through. This does impact slightly on the wilderness feel of the camp, but as game can still wander through, guests are escorted around the camp at night.
Kicheche Laikipia Camp has a Gold Level Eco-rating Certificate from Ecotourism Kenya, making it one of only a dozen camps and lodges in the whole country to have achieved this endorsement of its responsible resource use, conservation of the environment and investment in the local community.
In common with all the Kicheche camps (the others are Kicheche Mara Camp, Kicheche Bush Camp and Kicheche Valley Camp) the guides at Kicheche Laikipia all have at least a silver guiding qualification. The activities and wildlife here are really varied: you can do morning, afternoon or full-day game drives and you can also opt to do a night drive when, if you're lucky, you may see porcupines, civets or bushbabies. The highlight of 2012 to 2014 at Kicheche Laikipia was a very large wild dog pack in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which denned in August and September very near the camp. This enabled visitors to have unusually close and rewarding sightings of the pups and social activity of this remarkable animal. Although the dogs left the area in 2015 they are likely to come back: please ask us for the latest news.
Daytime bush walks with the manager, Andy Webb, carrying a .458 gun, are also available: if you're keen to do this it's best to notify Expert Africa in advance. As well as being an all-round excellent guide and font of bush lore, Andy is a very knowledgeable lepidopterist and will gladly identify any butterflies or moths (huge silk moths and spectacular hawk moths sometimes zoom into the lights at night) that you may come across.
For game drives, we found the Kicheche Laikipia vehicles to be some of the best we have used. With five seats in the rear, a maximium or four guests per vehicle, and two padded roof hatches, we thought they made admirable mobile photo hides, and were always well positioned by the driver-guides. Bean bags are always available for steadying your camera.
Guests can also take part in Ol Pejeta's lion-tracking programme. This involves heading out with Kicheche's tracking equipment and using it to locate the radio-collared lions. Once the lions have been found you then spend some time monitoring them, with the information you record being added to their research.
For many people, an absolute must at Ol Pejeta is a visit to the northern white rhino sanctuary, which is home to the last three of these animals in the world. This needs to be booked in advance and costs US$40 per person. Guests are driven into the enclosure, where a ranger feeds the rhinos and talks to you about the sanctuary's progress in attempting to breed this magnificent and critically rare subspecies with the commoner southern subspecies of white rhino in order to select for northern white traits and preserve the northern variety.
Ol Pejeta also has a chimp sanctuary which can be visited free of charge. Some visitors will really enjoy this experience, though it is not for everyone. The sanctuary is home to chimps that have been rescued from distressing situations and cannot be rehabilitated, so they are kept here to live out there days in safety and comfort. Viewing them is from behind wires and so resembles a zoo rather than any real wildlife experience, though it is quite educational and interesting.
Active visitors may wish to take the small, two-person canoe out on the dam lake, or set out on one of the camp's three mountain bikes. For a bike ride, guests are first driven to the southern part of the conservancy which is regarded by Kicheche Laikipia as being free of dangerous wildlife. Note, however, that Expert Africa does not recommend doing activities that take place outside of a vehicle without an armed escort.
Our viewKicheche Laikipia is very comfortable and offers space and luxury, but with a tastefully rustic edge. The welcoming managers, friendly staff and communal dining all combine to make this a sociable and relaxed camp. The end result is luxury, but with a total lack of pretension, and all of that would add up to a very fine place to stay. However the camp's eco credentials and its very high standards of guiding make it one of the best in northern Kenya.
Ideal length of stay: Two to three nights at least to explore the conservancy properly. If you want to try the full range of activities, it would be easy to stay here for four nights.
Directions: Visitors to Kicheche Laikipia fly from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to Nanyuki, taking from 40 minutes direct to a couple of hours via Samburu. It is then an hour to a hour and a half’s transfer to camp, of which 20 minutes is on tarmac and the rest on rough roads through the conservancy, often pausing to watch wildlife.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Staff: The camp is managed by experienced Zimbabwean camp managers Andy and Sonia Webb. Assistant manager and head guide Andrew Obaga is a huge asset to the camp.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We have stayed at Kicheche Laikipia on several occasions, most recently in September 2016 and always found the food to be very good. There is an abundance of nearby farms producing fresh produce and there is no lack of tasty salads and vegetables. The camp has its own veg, salad and herb garden, and lamb and beef comes straight from the livestock on the mixed-use Ol Pejeta Conservancy itself. All the Kicheche camps do things differently, so if you are staying in more than one, you won't find yourself eating the same menu twice. Kicheche Laikipia is particularly flexible to guests requirements and preferences.
Breakfast is often taken out of camp as a picnic, and usually consists of fresh fruit, bread, sausages, bacon and eggs all pre-prepared at the camp. Hot tea and coffee is on offer as are juices. In camp, breakfast is a selection of fruit, cereals and a cooked breakfast to order.
Weather permitting, lunch is served al fresco. It is often taken out as a picnic, but we had lunch in camp. Our starter was avocado and crème fraîche soup with homemade rosemary bread. The main course was a buffet of potato frittata with a biryani sauce, sweetcorn and cucumber salad, green salad, sticky chicken wings, cheese and biscuits and homemade bread. To finish we were served chocolate bread-and-butter pudding with natural yoghurt.
Tea is served before the afternoon activity with the option of coffee, tea or herbal tea – and homemade cake.
Dinner is three courses, usually served beside the fire. We started with mozzarella and tomato salad, followed by beef fillet with potato, ginger carrots, buttered snow peas and an onion and garlic purée. Dessert was flambéed crêpes Suzette.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All available drinks are included in the price, including house wines, beers and spirits. It's good to know they recycle all their wine bottles in Nanyuki
Further dining info: Kicheche Laikipia can offer dining in tents on request, but this has to be arranged in advance. They do have radios in the tents but they are not on during the day because they are for emergencies only.
Solo Travel: Kicheche Laikipia is located in one of the supreme game viewing areas of Kenya. Solo travel can be a great experience here. As a bonus, there is no additional single supplement charged for single travelers outside peak season, so enjoy your holidays.See more ideas for Solo Travel in Kenya
Attitude towards children: Kicheche Laikipia accepts children but considers that children over the age of six years are better suited to the camp.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: Kicheche Laikipia has a family tent, and can provide a night guard outside the tent for children who go to bed early. They tell us that they will try to give families their own vehicle at no extra cost. The camp can offer children’s meals in the tents at an earlier time. They don’t offer childminding but do have board games.
Generally recommended for children: Though the camp is fenced it is in a wild location with a lot of dangerous game. We would recommend Kicheche Laikipia only for older children and teenagers who can be trusted to behave appropriately in an area like this.
Notes: Children are their parents’ responsibility at all times.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There is a backup 5KVA generator. There are plugs for charging batteries in all of the tents 24/7. The tents have plenty of well positioned lighting.
Communications: Kicheche Laikipia has WiFi in the main area; there is intermittent cellphone coverage.
TV & radio: No guest TV as such, but the staff TV is always accessible, and guests are welcome to watch it when major sporting events, and the like, are on.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: There is a pipeline from the the Ol Pejeta Conservancy borehole to two 5000-litre water tanks. They also harvest rain water. Large, 20-litre water barrels are split into game-drive water flasks and clay urns in the tents that keep the water cool.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is first-aid equipment in camp and also in the vehicles, and guides are all trained in basic first-aid and do yearly refreshers. Nanyuki Cottage Hospital is an hour's drive away. For emergencies, Kicheche Laikipia has contact with flying doctors; the nearest airstrip, Kamok, for charter flights and emergencies only, is ten minutes' drive away.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is a central safe in camp and there are green storage bags in the tents for valuables. Askaris escort guests around the camp at night. A discreet, two-wire electric fence encloses the total camp concession of around 20 acres (8 hectares). However, the fence isn't a guarantee of a megafauna-free zone and the list of uninvited guests is impressive: buffalos, waterbuck, leopards, hyenas and lions have all entered the camp at one time or another.
Fire safety: Kicheche Laikipia has fire extinguishers in the main areas and by each tent and does regular staff training on how to use them. They also have a fire meeting point and a fire-break around the camp.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry service is included, but female underwear isn't accepted, so guests are invited to wash their own underwear with the soap powder provided.
Money: No exchange facility is available at Kicheche Laikipia.
Accepted payment on location: Kicheche Laikipia accepts Visa, Mastercard and Amex – with a 5% surcharge – however the mobile signal is often not sufficient to process payments with cards. Cash is accepted in euros, US dollars, British pounds and Kenyan shillings.