TRAVEL REVIEW

Research and relaxation at Mpala Ranch

On any given day, there are several research projects going on.

In Summary

• Centre combines wildlife conservation and farming.

Elephants at Mpala Ranch
Elephants at Mpala Ranch
Image: KARI MUTU

Mpala Ranch is a field research centre in the Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy of Laikipia county. Scientists from around the world come to carry out fieldwork, and by special invitation, guests can visit the ranch.

The 49,000-acre farm was purchased by British settler Sam Small. When he died in 1969, it was inherited by his brother George, who combined wildlife conservation with farming.

Visitor rooms are situated in bandas and bungalows, while the colonial-style Mpala Ranch House faces the river. The rooms have electricity, while indoor showers and housekeeping services are provided.

 

A few kilometres away is the self-catering campsite that can accommodate large groups in canvas tents.

On any given day, there are several research projects going on, such as the study of Grevy’s zebras, wild dogs and cheetahs. Other scientists investigate the ecology and plant life in the untouched ecosystem, using the conservancy as a living laboratory to conduct experiments.

The centre’s labs are equipped for multiple kinds of work, along with a library and lecture hall. Outside are a number of wire mesh greenhouses containing plant specimens that are part of studies. Mpala Centre is also the base for an annual rabies vaccination campaign, a community outreach programme targeting domestic dogs and cats.

Days at Mpala are quite hot, but the evenings are cool. During our game drive in the semi-arid conservancy, we saw an array of wildlife. There were buffalos, eland, hippos, zebras, giraffe, dik dik, greater kudu with impressive horns and many types of birds. Herds of elephant come to drink at the Ewaso Nyiro River. Occasionally, lions and cheetahs are spotted.

Cameras set up by the hippo pools and other locations in the conservancy enable the live streaming of wildlife activities into the research centre. Mpala is still a working ranch and we came across bomas with cattle.

The indoor lounge area is a comfortable place to relax with a book. Meals are taken in the dining room and an outside mess area. They serve simple but wholesome food, and guests can bring their own beverages as the onsite selection is limited.

 

Location: Ol Jogi Conservancy, Laikipia county

Access: A2 highway

Contacts: +254-202-597401, [email protected]

Star rating: 4/5