There is a place in Africa where a mountain meets the sky. This is a region dominated by the continent’s second highest peak – Mt. Kenya – a giant massif of jagged, volcanic spires that looms over the landscape. From snow-capped summits, to lush forested slopes, to semi-arid savannahs, it is a land of contrasts and extremes and home to some of Africa’s most iconic and endangered species. This is Laikipia, Kenya’s Central Highlands, one of East Africa’s best kept secrets.
Thanks to rivers that rarely run dry, there is an abundance of life on the Laikipia plateau: herds of elephants criss-cross the landscape, packs of African wild dogs sprint after impala and lions lurk in the shadows. All the water in these rivers has a common source: Mt. Kenya. Like a dark fang piercing the sky, Mt. Kenya disrupts the flow of atmospheric rivers that transport moisture around the world. As clouds churn and swirl around the mountain, rain falls on its flanks and snow graces its peaks.
Our story traces the journey of the water as it flows through the heart of Laikipia’s ecosystems. Along the way, we will unveil the hidden stories of this territory’s wild and diverse inhabitants.
Meltwater begins its downhill journey when sunshine hits the glaciers atop Mt. Kenya’s summit. This is a misty, otherworldly realm of rock and ice, where primeval-looking plants blanket the mountain’s upper slopes. Able to withstand freezing nights through bizarre adaptations, these strange and beautiful plants look as though they come from an alien world.
As the water flows downslope, it nourishes steamy montane forests. This is home to leopards, black-and-white colobus and the critically-endangered mountain bongo, an antelope so rare few humans have ever spotted one in the wild.
Beyond the mountain’s foothills, creeks merge into rivers, flowing north through an iconic savannah landscape dotted with pink granite outcrops. Here, reticulated giraffes, elands and buffaloes roam the land, along with critically-endangered black rhinoceros and Grevy’s zebras. Laikipia also conceals one of Africa’s rarest and most legendary predators: black panthers, shadows of the African night.
Flowing north-east under the scorching sun, some years the rivers gradually vanish in sand and dust. The water, now back into the air as towering clouds, rises to join the currents in the sky. One day, if conditions are right, some of this water may fall once again on Mt. Kenya’s peaks, to flow down and nourish once more the majestic region known as ‘Laikipia – Africa’s Land of Life’.