Camping and Conservation Tour at Lukenya Ranch

Machakos County is located about 30 minutes’ drive from Kenya’s Capital City, Nairobi. The name Machakos was adopted from a famous Akamba seer known as Masaku who welcomed the British in Kambaland. Machakos was established in 1887 as the first administrative centre for the new British East Africa colony but later the capital was moved to Nairobi in 1889 since it by-passed the Uganda railway line. Others argue that the capital was moved due to hostilities and conflict of interest between the local traders, the white settler government and the railway construction officials.

Machakos County has a number of ranches that engage in various activities including; cattle ranching, ecotourism activities, mining, biodiversity research amongst others. According to our guide David, the major ranches include; Hopcrafts approx. 24,000, Machakos ranching approx. 14,000, Kapiti (ILRI) approx. 33,000; Lisa approx. 6,000, Malili approx. 5,000 (Athi Side) and Lukenya Ranch approx. 4,400 (Northern most ranch).

The Lukenya ranch is reknowned for its signature Lukenya hill and is situated approximately 32km east of Nairobi and hosts a rock climbers’ track and a campsite. Lukenya Hill is reputed to be an ancient explorer’s local guide’s distortion of the phrase ‘Look at Mt Kenya’. Apparently, the explorer in a trip from the Coast towards Uganda reached a point at Salama on the Mombasa-Nairobi Highway, where one could see Mt. Kenya. A guide pointed out to Mt. Kenya saying ‘Look Kenya’, which sounded like ‘Lu-Kenia’.

With other members of Friends of Nairobi National Park (FoNNaP), we accessed the ranch via the base of the hill where we were met by one of the owners and guide David. He elaborated that their family have utilized Lukenya primarily for ranching, mining and have recently adopted conservation.

He explained that the main entry point was the Lukenya Prison entrance; currently a granite hill stands as remnants of a rock that was mined as punishment by the inmates following the prison’s demolition. David explained that the remnants have been preserved and they plan in the future to turn it into a museum.

We ascended up a steep rocky road, we made a sudden stop by the roadside where a dam was located. According to our guide David, quite a number of the wildlife have moved to the Lukenya side due to the availability of land and water. The ranch has 8 dams that provide water points for wildlife. A huge signboard stood by the dam written No Fishing, David explained that there were some railway workers engaging in illegal in fishing at the dams in the ranch sometimes back.

We walked to the southern most highest point on the ranch that offers panoramic views of Mt. Kenya in the north, to the east Ol Donyo Sabuk and Kamulu Group Ranch. David explained that previously, there was a wildlife corridor where wildlife would roam freely from Ol Donyo Sabuk through Lukenya and down to Amboseli but now due to sub-division and development it has become impossible.

As we walked in the ranch, we would spot herds of Wildebeests, Impalas, Elands, zebras and droppings of impalas and gazelles. According to David, there are few predators in the ranch and there are no lions but quite a number of hyenas roam freely within. The ranch is an ideal place for guides to perfect their wildlife tracking skills, bush-craft and survival skills and training.

We set up camp on the northern end near a cliff that offered panoramic views of the ranch and in the distance we could see Ol Donyo Sabuk and Kamulu Group Ranch. David elaborated that a wildlife migratory corridor previously existed and wildlife would roam freely from Ol Donyo Sabuk through Lukenya and down to Amboseli but now due to sub-division and development it has become impossible.

Views of Ol Donyo Sabuk in the Backdrop

We ate our dinner around a bonfire as we chatted, played games and sipped on our choice drink. With some first timers, one of the campers jerked in fright as a cricket hoped across her leg. We later retired in our tents, in the wee hours of the night we could hear hyenas howling, hyrax and zebras neighing.

We woke up at dawn to catch the sunrise and glimpse of Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro in the distant as we sipped coffee and sandwiches. The morning breeze provided the much needed fresh air to kick-start our day for a short birdwalk. We had a total of 64 species during our entire visit comprising of grassland, birds of prey and a few intra-African migrants.

We later had a snack lunch, broke camp and bid our goodbyes to our hosts. Lukenya is an ideal breakaway from the Nairobi citylife with friends seeking to unwind over the weekend. Contact us via today for more camping options and visit to Lukenya.