• Photo: Rich Carey / Shutterstock

Laikipia Plateau

Stretching across the western flank of Mt. Kenya, Laikipia Plateau, gateway to Kenya's little-visited northern territory, isn’t in itself a national park or reserve, but it’s become one of Kenya's most recent conservation successes. It’s still free from the hordes of game vehicles and flashing cameras that are found in more well-known regions.

Amid spectacular scenery, traditional ways of pastoral life continue side by side with an abundance of free-roaming game. This is high country, with altitudes from 1,700 meters (5,577 feet) to 2,600 meters (8,530 feet), so bring those sweaters and jackets. Habitats range from arid semidesert, scrubland, and sprawling open plains in the north and south, to the thick forests of cedar and olive trees in the east. The area around the Laikipia Plateau has one of the biggest and most diverse mammal populations in Kenya—only the Masai Mara can boast more game. The Big Five are all present, plus the wide-ranging painted dogs; there's even a chance of seeing the rare aquatic sitatunga antelope. Grevy's zebra, which is more narrowly striped than its southern cousin, was once hunted almost to extinction for its fine desirable skin, but is reestablishing itself well in the area.

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