Karisia Walking Safaris are breaking the mould in Northern Kenya with some truly stunning itineraries. We sent our Kenya specialist Anton out to check out their pioneering safari style and ground-breaking conservation methods. Here he tells us all about his experience…
Africa is famed for its vast open landscapes and diversity of wildlife, however the majority of visitors only experience its land in a vehicle, staying to well-worn and often bumpy tracks in search of the next item on the tick list. For me, this barely scratches the surface, and walking safaris are the ultimate way for visitors to be at one with the African landscape. Growing up in Africa and working as a safari guide for a number of years has allowed me to view the continent from a variety of angles, and my recent visit to the Laikipia region in Kenya really blew me away.
I was lucky enough to be able to do a walking safari with Karisia, who put a twist on any safari I have ever done. The concept of Karisia is based around fully immersing its guests in the wilderness, and the dedicated Samburu staff have a team of camels who help them move the camp on a daily basis, ensuring that you can fully explore this wild land. As you sit atop a hill next to your camp and gaze out at the horizon, with no phone, no Wi-Fi and no external pressures, your dreams of leaving all the stresses and strains of daily life behind are made a reality at Karisia.
The easiest way to describe the experience is to picture yourself as part of David Livingstone’s early exploration – pioneering something new and exciting that few people have been a part of. Of course, the obligatory gin and tonic as you sit on the hilltop discussing the next day’s exploration adds a rather nice touch! Pointing to a hill some 15km away, Gabriel, my host and guide, explained that tomorrow we would make our way over there and camp at the base of the hill. In the words of Livingstone, “If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”
Needless to say, the modern additions only add to the experience, and along with the G&T comes a hot shower and a fantastic three course meal, which seems almost miraculous given the basic bush surroundings in which it was created. After dinner, we sat listening to the distant noises of lions and hyenas – continuing with their lives totally oblivious to our temporary passing in their very wild world.
On day two we rose early to a dawn chorus from some of the region’s spectacular birdlife. We had seen cheetahs the day before in the nearby plains, and it was our intention to go looking for them at first light, so we set off on a pre-breakfast walk. As you’re soaking up all the delights of the bush you lose all sense of time, but suddenly my stomach got the better of me and I started to wonder if they had forgotten that breakfast is the most important meal of the day! At that very moment, we came across an amazing surprise – the support team had miraculously appeared in the middle of the bush with camels carrying the entire kitchen, to allow us bacon, eggs and muesli with a fresh pot of roasted Kenyan coffee and freshly baked bread… a real breakfast of champions!
After breakfast the camels and Samburu guides vanished as quickly as they had appeared, heading off to set up camp and prepare lunch, while we continued searching out game in the spectacular surroundings, which left me constantly in awe. At Karisia your days are filled with intriguing sightings of all that nature has to offer. From the tracks of the field mice to the families of elephants, you will navigate narrow trails with an expert team of guides and personal pack of camels. The average day’s walking is between about 10 and 15km, but this can be tailored to suit you. And should you need a break you can hop on your camel and enjoy the ride – the higher vantage point lets you relax and scan ahead for the more elusive animals.
One of the most popular routes starts in the stunning Karisia Hills, where you’ll walk through thickly forested valleys which are teeming with incredible birdlife. From here you’ll go through the Samburu land, passing villages where you can interact with young shepherds – the insight gained by spending time with these traditional people is humbling and surely unforgettable. Finally you will head to the game rich parts of the Laikipia region, where you can indulge all your safari needs. Karisia’s routes are completely tailor-made and you could spend a week in one particular region if you wanted to – the only limiting factor is your time! When I asked Gabriel if he had travelled outside of Kenya, he nonchalantly answered, “yes I walked with the camels to Tanzania” – such is the beauty of the walking safari… that was 21 days each way!