Part of the magnificent Mt Kenya World Heritage Site, the 25,000 hectare Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Meru County presents an outstanding choice for discerning travellers keen on seeking the Big Five, as well as a host of other mammals including ‘northern specials’ like the endangered Grevy’s zebra. With its 50th anniversary coming up in 2022, we think its an opportune time to celebrate one of Kenya's premier wildlife havens.
My exploratory trip to Lewa - which falls under the Laikipia landscape – stands out as one of my all-time Kenya travel highlights. While staying at one of the lodges in the conservancy, guests are invited to learn about various management aspects. The ‘Behind the Scenes’ activities include tracker dog demonstrations and visits to Lewa’s radio room. At the radio room, you’ll gain an insight into sophisticated monitoring of wildlife in Lewa and neighbouring concessions, operated in partnership with the Northern Rangelands Trust. Lewa’s impressive investment in education has resulted in support of 23 government schools, of which 10 are in community conservancies.
Guests in the conservancy can enjoy a wide range of leisure activities, such as horse riding, camel safaris, guided wildlife walks and nocturnal game drives. Away from the drier grassland and light woodland habitats of Lewa but still in the Mt Kenya World Heritage Site, there’s the beautiful Ngare Ndare Forest, where visitors can partake in canopy walks; cool off in the rock pools at clear waterfalls, or perhaps engage in a spot of fly-fishing by Lake Rutundu at Mt Kenya
Birding in Lewa, simply put, was epic, as can be expected in places where the species list is around the 400 mark. Likewise, game- viewing from a hide was thrilling. Worth mention is 'Walking Wild', a community-run walking safari outfit run from Lewa Wilderness Lodge. They take active guests on unforgettable fly- camping experiences involving impeccably- managed walking and/or horse-riding stints for 2 - 5 days. I thoroughly enjoyed horse riding in Lewa and remember one occasion when, during the early hours, we saw some Reticulated giraffes engaged in the process of creating more giraffes...
Wildlife in Lewa is prolific and diverse. Nowadays its probably best known as a stronghold for both Black and White rhinos – indeed, if you want to seek Africa’s rhinos, then this is the place to visit. There are also thriving populations of African elephant, Reticulated giraffe, Cape buffalo and Lion. The only member of the ‘Big 5’ which may be somewhat hit-and-miss here is Leopard. Other memorable sightings include Beisa oryx and the Grevy’s zebra.
After I’d spent a few days enjoying game drives around the quintessentially African bush and hot, grassy plains, I was keen to experience a change of scenery – something more verdant and cooler. This can be done by visiting Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve, for its canopy walk and the Blue Pool. From the picture-perfect Ngare Ndare Forest, the views over the drier plains of Lewa and Borana conservancies are absolutely spellbinding.
To reach the pool and waterfall, we left the vehicle and embarked on a hike, which in places was quite steep but well worth the effort – the place is idyllic!. Back at the vehicle after a swim, a warming spice tea masala with homemade flapjacks awaited us – a thoughtful touch to a special experience.