Maasai Mara

Kicheche Laikipia Camp (Kenya)

Kicheche has 4 camps in Kenya. Three are located in the Maasai Mara (also spelled Masai Mara), and the fourth is located north of Nairobi, near Mount Kenya.

We stayed at two camps during our first safari in Kenya: Laikipia Camp and Bush Camp.

Getting to/from Laikipia Camp from Nairobi

Flights to Laikipia depart from Wilson Airport in Nairobi. Wilson airport is a stone’s throw from the international airport (JKIA). However, driving from airport to airport can take hours, depending on traffic.

We flew AirKenya to the airstrip nearest to Laikipia Camp. It was a small propellor plane with a tiny, fold-down staircase. There were strict luggage restrictions (weight and size), and soft-sided duffle bags were preferred over roller bags because they were easier to get into the belly of the plane. 

We landed at the Nanyuki airstrip approximately 30 minutes after departing Wilson Airport. The pilot turned around and said, “This is Nanyuki. Let me know if you are unsure if this is your stop.”

I chuckled at the informality of it all.

The airstrip was a mixture of asphalt and gravel. It was the most sophisticated and modern of the three airstrips we visited during our safari. It was the only airstrip with an onsite restaurant and toilets.

We deplaned with two other people and were greeted by one of the guides from Laikipia Camp. After a quick introduction, we visited the toilets and began our one-hour drive to Laikipia Camp.

There were five of us in the vehicle (an off-road, no-frills 4×4) – the driver, two other guests, and us.

I wasn’t expecting much on the drive from the airstrip to camp and was surprised when the journey turned into a mini-game drive. We crossed the Equator and saw rhinos, giraffes, and gazelles.

The animals came out of nowhere, and I scrambled to unpack and assemble the camera. Knowing what I know now, I should have sat back and enjoyed the ride because the photos I took from that mini-game drive never made the final cut.

Things only got better from there. 

Camp overview

We arrived at Laikipia Camp just before lunch (served at 1pm every day) and were greeted by the camp managers and handed a delicious beverage made of tree tomatoes. It tasked like a tropical drink and nothing like tomatoes.

One of the camp managers, Andy, gave us an overview of the camp, camp rules, and what to expect over the next three days. Our stay at Laikipia was our first safari, so we paid close attention to the details.

Note: The daily itinerary is detailed in this post.

Laikipia Camp is located in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and has six private tents. There are never more than 12 guests at camp. In addition, there was a mess tent where meals and electronics charging occurred, a gift shop tent, and a campfire area overlooking the watering hole.

The camp is unfenced; however, a wire ran the length of the watering hole, preventing animals from getting too close to the tents.

The camp employs 20-25 people, including camp guides, tent attendants, kitchen staff, laundry staff, and a mechanic. It was surprising to hear this because, as a guest, we were only exposed to a handful of the staff.

All Kicheche camps are silver eco-rated by Ecotourism Kenya, a big deal in Kenya.

With this rating, the camps are designed to blend into the landscape, contain no permanent structures, and rely on solar power. A backup generator is permitted when necessary.

All food waste is buried, and all recyclable materials are brought to recycling depots.

Tents

Following our welcome drinks and camp briefing, we were shown to our tent by a tent attendant. Every tent had a tent attendant who catered to guests’ needs.

During daylight hours, we were permitted to walk around the camp by ourselves, but at night, we were not allowed to leave any tent without a tent attendant.

Our tent was called Sendeyo, and we were given a short tour and shown how things worked in the tent. We were told to refrain from flushing anything down the toilet because even though it’s a porcelain toilet, it doesn’t have working plumbing or a proper sanitation system.

We unpacked and took a minute to gaze at the view from our tent’s porch.

A natural watering hole in front of the camp attracted animals, including elephants! It was a little surreal.

We walked back into the tent to inspect the shower. Showering was going to be the most interesting part of our stay. Since there was no direct hook-up to running water at camp, we would be taking fast showers, although, unlike Bush Camp, Laikipia Camp tents had individual water heaters that heated the water for the shower.

Protip: Reduce shower time by using dry shampoo.

Note: Hairdryers are not permitted at camp, which is a bummer because it’s cold in the evenings (including dinner) and made colder when walking around with wet hair.

Although we stayed in a tent, we were not roughing it by any stretch of the imagination. The size of our tent was larger than most flats in London. It had two sinks (unnecessary), a king-sized bed (UK super king), bedside tables, a large wardrobe, a flushing toilet, a water heater, and inside/outside seating areas.

The tent was stocked with toiletries: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap, and lotion.

The only bummer was that there were no outlets in the tent – all charging occurred in the mess tent. 

Food

The food at camp was excellent. It’s amazing what the chef can do with limited kitchen facilities in the middle of nowhere.

Our days began between 6-6:30am with hot drinks (in our case, hot chocolate) and biscuits delivered to our tent as we got ready for the morning game drive. Our wake-up time was always 30 minutes before our departure time.

Breakfast was served picnic-style on the game drive, usually at 9:30am. It included everything from eggs and sausage to pastries and juice.

Breakfast was OK. The biggest negative for me was that the picnic included foods meant to be served hot, but those foods (e.g., eggs) were ambient or even cold when we ate breakfast.

The ambient foods became increasingly offputting to me over time.

Lunch and dinner were served at camp.

Lunch was buffet-style at a large communal table outside, weather permitting.

Dinner was served inside the mess tent. It was a plated service with at least three courses and a fair amount of booze.

Dinner usually ended at 10pm.

Conclusion

Laikipia Camp was a great first camp for us on our inaugural week-long safari. However, we found the vibe of Bush Camp (the second half of our inaugural safari and subsequent safaris) to be more in line with our personalities.

Additionally, the wildlife was more abundant at Bush Camp than at Laikipia Camp. The camps are a flight apart, and Bush Camp is located more in the heart of “safari country.”

Due to these reasons, we would not stay at Laikipia Camp again; however, for anyone looking to go on their first safari, the two-camp package offered by Kicheche Camps was worth the money to gain a perspective of the different safari regions at a reduced price.

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