Set against the backdrop of Kenya’s tallest mountain and straddling the equator, it is a wonder that Ol Pejeta safari park isn’t better known. Ol Pejeta is renowned for it’s pioneering conservancy efforts and it’s attempts to protect endangered animals and educate the community. This is a safari park with a difference. It was an absolute highlight on my ten day road trip around Kenya and perhaps even one of my top ten travel experiences ever. Read on below to find out why.
Why Should You Visit Ol Pejeta Safari?
Aside from the incredible work this safari park does with endangered animals, Ol Pejeta safari park is the closest place to Nairobi that you can spot the ‘big 5’. So if you only have a short time in Kenya then this is the place to go!
It is one of the best safari parks in Africa to spot the rhino, as the conservation work they do here to protect them means there are a high concentration living at Ol Pejeta. We spotted countless rhinos on our trip here, compared to only one in the Serengeti (that we spent five days searching for!) If you’re interested in these incredible and extremely rare creatures then you’re certainly in with a high chance of encountering them here!
Another huge draw to this seemingly undiscovered gem of a safari park is how comparatively empty it is-you really will be animal watching rather than people watching. In a time when it is all too common to be sharing your lion with a queue of other jeeps, Ol Pejeta is, quite literally, a breath of fresh air. There were only a handful of times that we even saw other jeeps the whole time we were there, and only once when were sharing an animal sighting with someone else.
I have never been on a safari where it possible to camp alone, without a ranger or a guide. At Ol Pejeta there are designated camping spots that you will have completely to yourself inside the park. Once night falls it’s just you and the cries of the wild animals. This is a really special experience that you won’t find at many other safari parks. Knowing there is just a thin piece of material between you and the leopards and lions is pretty exhilarating and not something you’ll forget in a hurry!
Where Is Ol Pejeta?
Ol Pejeta safari park is situated on the equator west of Nanyuki, between the foothills of the Aberdares and Mount Kenya. On a clear day you can see Mount Kenya in the distance, and it makes for the perfect backdrop.
Ol Pejeta is only three hours drive from Nairobi, so you can easily make it here for a weekend trip, or even a day trip if you’re short on time.
Ol Pejeta Conservation Programme
What we loved most about our visit here is that animals are at the heart of every decision made. The conservancy has added ‘wildlife corridors’ to ensure migratory animals can move safely in and out of Ol Pejeta to access greater ecosystems. Their ecological monitoring unit closely observes and studies the behaviours of the elephant herds and other animals that live here to better understand how to protect them. They have conducted pioneering research that has helped endangered species in the local area.
But the real draw to this safari park is the work it is doing to save endangered rhinos. Heartbreakingly, Ol Pejeta safari is the only place in the world where you can see the last two existing Northern white rhinos. After the devastating death of Sudan, the last male, they are kept under armed guard protection. Due to excellent security and proper ecological monitoring the population of black rhinos here has increased from 20 in 1993, to 113 in 2017.
Where To Stay In Ol Pejeta Safari Park
There are several different campsite spots in Ol Pejeta safari park, all with their own characteristics and all very picturesque. You will have the whole area to yourself, so no need to worry about noisy neighbours (except the lions of course)! We stayed at Ol Lerai camp. They are each set up with a campfire area and a (very basic) toilet.
Note: You will need to bring your own tent, food and cooking equipment (or pre-order take away food from the local cafe).
If you are doing a self drive safari then you will need to be back by sundown. We had the campfire lit and dinner ready before it got dark and then sat and listened to the sounds of the wildlife around us. If you take a powerful torch you will be able to see the outlines of the animals across the river coming for a drink and you will fall asleep listening to the lions roars.
I was a little nervous when I spotted elephant tracks running through our campsite, knowing they often take the same path over and over, but we were assured that the animals see tents in the same way as they see the jeeps. It is advised that you do not leave your tent in the night as the camping areas are not cordoned off from local predators, and leaving your tent open may well result in monkey thieves getting their hands on your valuables!
One of the top highlights of my trip here was sitting by the campfire and watching a herd of elephants walk silently through our campsite, lit up by the light of the moon.
Camping Not For You?
Not to worry, Ol Pejeta has it all. There is a huge range of tented camps and lodges to suit all needs and budgets. And if you’re worried that this little bit of luxury may take you further from the wildlife then you need not. Friends who stayed in one of the tented camps watched a lion walk right past their window!
Need To Knows For Ol Pejeta Safari Park
You will need to book to avoid disappointment, which luckily you can do online here. We would recommend at least a one night stay (but once you see the place you will probably want to stay for longer!) Two nights was enough for us but I definitely could have stayed another.
Check in on arrival (make sure you bring all your paperwork and ID to make this process smoother).
Make sure you bring mosquito repellent! Ol Pejeta is malaria free but double check other areas of Kenya if you plan to travel around before you leave.
There is decent phone network coverage in certain areas of the Conservancy, but it shouldn’t be relied upon. Some areas are out of network completely.
Remember that depending on where you decide to stay you may not have electricity, or you may have limited electricity. Check with where you are staying before you pull out your hairdryer, microwave and colour TV.
The nearest town is Nanyuki, and it is a 40 minute drive from the Ol Pejeta main gate. Nanyuki has several supermarkets that sell groceries and toiletries. It also has two hospitals, several restaurants, car garages, hardware stores, and cyber cafes.
Things To Do At Ol Pejeta
Obviously the reason you come on safari is to find some animals! We hired a jeep to travel around Kenya and so decided on a self drive safari (an amazing experience that I cannot recommend enough!) You can also book through the conservancy or use a local tour company. Wed found lions, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes but weren’t lucky enough to spot the elusive leopard! Watching the stand off between a pride of lions and a lone rhino was quite something. The rhino won!
Morani Information Centre At Ol Pejeta
During the midday heat, when many animals hide away, we made our way to the only restaurant on site for a lovely lunch stop. There you will find a small information centre (The Morani Information Centre) detailing all the conservation work they do at Ol Pejeta. In the same area you will have the chance to meet Baraka the rhino. Baraka is completely blind and entirely dependent on humans for his survival. It was a confusing experience-having the chance to be that close to such an amazing animal is incredible but the reasons it is possible are heartbreaking.
Meet The Last Two Northern White Rhinos
Next to the Morani Information Centre is the 700 acre enclosure that Najin and Fatu are kept, the last two remaining Northern White Rhinos in the world. The Enclosure is open to visitors twice daily, at 08:30 and 16:00 – where you can meet the northern whites and learn more about their history, what it takes to protect them, and what Ol Pejeta is doing to try and save this subspecies.
The Rhino Graveyard
After you have seen these mighty but gentle creatures close up, a trip to the rhino graveyard is more than a little sobering. We pulled up there while a herd of rhinos grazed in the background, making what we saw even more heartbreaking. The gravestones are for the rhinos found dead at the conservancy and they detail the reasons and ways that they died, so many of them down to poaching. If this leaves you feeling the need to do more then you can enquire about Ol Pejeta’s conservation education programme with volunteer opportunities for both adults and children.
Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary
A chance to see these beautiful highly threatened creatures and the work that Ol Pejeta Conservancy are doing to protect them. The sanctuary is open all day.
Spending More Than A Few Days At Ol Pejeta?
You certainly won’t get bored! Check out their guide here for a full list of all the activities going on, many of them perfect for kids (and big kids too!) With activities such as horse riding alongside the rhinos, night safaris and meeting the anti-poaching dogs you will wish you had more time there!
If you’re looking for a safari park that feels remote and real, and puts the conservation of endangered species above all else, then Ol Pejeta should be high on your bucket list.
Check out our guide to spending 10 days in Kenya, which includes a visit to Ol Pejeta conservancy and many other incredible off the beaten track destinations. It contains all the information you need to go for yourself, including tips on how to get around and where to stay.