African Safari in Kenya – Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Most people have African Safari on their bucket lists. Do you? If so, you will love this information about our trip! Ol-Pejeta-wildlife

My family traveled to Kenya over the summer for our dream vacation. We spent 13 days (including travel) in Kenya, visiting 4 locations. We started in Nairobi (click to read post) then visited 3 different wildlife conservancies before returning to Nairobi for our flight toward home.

The conservancies were chosen by our travel company, African Safari Consultants (see my planning post and why I chose them, here) based on unique offerings they thought our family would enjoy. Having two young boys, we needed enough variability to hold their interest. The various locations we visited featured different weather, terrain and animals to give us a well rounded perspective on Safaris in Kenya.

This post will cover the first wildlife sanctuary we visited, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is a 4 hour drive north of Nairobi in Laikipia County.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 90,000-acre not-for-profit wildlife conservancy situated on the equator west of Nanyuki city, near Mount Kenya. It has the highest wildlife to land ratio in Kenya.

Just inside the park past the entrance.

The safari experience can range from rugged tent camping to more lodge-type living. This conservancy is a good intro for people who have never been to Africa. What I mean by this – it’s easily accessible, near a mid-sized city, has both lodges and tent camp sites and the grounds are maintained well.  This conservancy hosts the “Big five game” (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo) which are fairly easy to locate. It makes this safari destination popular among tourists.

Buffalos are the 2nd most dangerous animals in Africa. 1st are hippos!

Highlights of Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Due to the location’s higher altitude, the temperature in this area year-round is high in the 70s (F) and lows in the 40s and 50s. I liked that there were no problems with bugs or mosquitos (they eat me alive!).

There is a large waterhole in the conservancy which is protected by a discreet electric fence and ditch from the camp, bringing the wildlife into the heart of the area.


It has the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, and in 2013, the black rhinos reached a population milestone of 100.


Black Rhinos (above) have pointier lips to pick fruit from branches and leaves from twigs than white rhinos, who graze on grass.

It houses the three remaining northern white rhinos in the world, who were moved here from the Czech Republic. They are protected in a large, secure paddock- two female and one male.


See her rounded mouth? She is a Northern White Rhino. She is also peeing in this picture lol.

The Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary is also here, and provides a haven for orphaned, abandoned and rescued chimpanzees. This is the only place in Kenya where they can be seen. It was a good learning experience for our kids, as they did not know these animals are killed and eaten in some areas of the world.

We learned about the chimpanzee meat trade in the Congo where there are no regulations.

There were posters describing the problems for chimpanzees and the bush meat trade.

Rare Grevy’s zebra (endangered at 2500 remaining in the world) and reticulated giraffe (7500 left in the world) also live here. Did you know there are 4 species of giraffes?

Grevy’s zebras are taller, have thinner stripes, white bellies, Mickey Mouse ears and brown muzzles.

Regular zebra

Reticulated Giraffe- spots are clearly defined and brownish/orange in color.

The conservancy houses and protects the blind black rhino, Baraka, who everyone in town seems to know (pictured below).

Our Lodge – Ol Pejeta House

I have to say, after working with Matanya’s Hope for a week with impoverished kids in Kenya prior to my family arriving (see posts here and here for my experience), this place was much more indulgent than I needed. Beautiful hotel and grounds, but it was on the absolute opposite side of the pendulum from what I was used to during the prior 7 days.

Mansion on the conservancy grounds with 6 bedrooms.

Our room

Kids room

Our private sitting area between the two rooms.

Lodge dining room

Luckily though, it just happened that 4 of the 5 schools I visited with Matanya’s Hope was in this area.

There are so many conservancies in Kenya and I didn’t choose the organization I’d be working with based on my safari itinerary. So this truly seemed “meant to be” for my family to end up at this lodge, 10 minutes from Matanya Primary.

We spent a day at Matanya Primary. Many of the local bright, older sponsored students of Matanya’s Hope came to meet us and help out.

My family invited 4 of the girls who are sponsored by Matanya’s Hope to spend the day with us at the lodge. What a great way to enjoy the property!

Students from left to right: Wangheschi (9), Naomi (16), Naisholrua (12), Nasieku (10)

First time seeing a swimming pool for these girls.

After having lunch at the lodge, we went on a game drive together.

Naomi was the first to spot the family of lions – even before our guide!

We visited the education center which had a lot of information about the wildlife on the conservancy.

This picture was a great reference point for us to check off all the animals we saw during the trip.

Great day with these students of Matanya’s Hope.

This is a video summary of our day with the girls from Matanya’s Hope. It warms my heart to revisit this day!

After leaving the lodge, I learned that the Ol Pejeta House was built for millions of dollars in 1968 by a Saudi born billionaire named Adnan Khashoggi. He reportedly made some of his fortune as an arms broker, has at one time or other been tied to arms smuggling, prostitution and even terrorism.

Although his house was sold to and converted into a hotel by Serena Hotels many years ago, this gave me an unsettling feeling! I don’t think our family would have stayed there had we known the history of the home. I am glad I didn’t know while I was staying at the property.  

Overall, Ol Pejeta Conservancy was beautiful and we are happy to have had the chance to visit. Stay tuned for the next part of our trip as we head west toward Lewa Conservancy!

“Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt.” A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak.