‘Mukutan’ means ‘the Meeting’ – a fitting name for the breathtaking Mukutan Gorge, as it converges in a labyrinth of pristine landscape plunging deep into numerous hills and valleys, dotted with waterfalls, thermal hot springs and teeming with wildlife.
The Gallmann Mukutan Conservancy in Northern Kenya sits right on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, an area of pure wilderness, part of the 100000 acre Ol Ari Nyiro ranch in the west of Laikipia. Ol Ari Nyiro is home to conservationist and author Kuki Gallmann (renowned for her autobiography ‘I Dreamed of Africa’).
Situated in the heart of the Gallmann Conservancy, the Makena’s Hills Tented Lodge was my base during this trip to Mukutan. The place is absolutely magical – a stunning partially tented resort with a rustic, contemporary touch. The Lodge has six enormous Arabic desert style tents with an attached bathroom, a private verandah and private massage bed. Other facilities include a central reception area with two giant fireplaces, front terrace with a camp fire, dining room, bar, shop and swimming pool.
Makena’s Hills sits on the highest point of Kurumakini Hill. This strategic location over the Rift Valley and Laikipia escarpment affords you the unparalleled views of a series of dramatic landscape and a panorama that extends all the way to Lake Baringo.
It was wonderful to experience not only the amazing wilderness and scenery but also their hospitality. The friendliness and kindness of the staff was incredible and the service was impeccable. The menu mainly consisted of Italian cuisine in line with the owner’s background in addition to being delicious, fresh, organic and healthy, as it is locally sourced from the lodge’s surrounding gardens.
Right in the middle of true wilderness, the Mukutan Gorge is perfect for hiking; or a walking safari (expect to encounter wild animals). The contortions of its magnificent scenery vary from low scrub and bush, to converging canyons and steep mountains to the Engelesha Forest with its with its vibrant streaks of tropical jungle like undergrowth interspersed with dense acacia bush.
The task is clearly not for the faint hearted. The hike offers no easy footpath or break. You must be fit enough and brave to get around. We encounter many walls of rock, where the only way up is by grasping at tiny lips of stone ledge while looking for a few spots (at times barely wide enough to fit your foot) where your foot can grip. Then you have to hoist yourself up and onto the base of the rock wall. There is nothing however that can compare to being on foot and at one with the wild. The bush is amazingly serene, save for the acoustics delivered by our breaths, the snapping of twigs, the thick carpet of dry leaves underfoot and the smattering bursts of chirps from the birds.
We continue our trek upwards as the landscape constantly shifts through dense bush and vast open spaces of tall yellow savanna grasses. The high points reveal a magnificent landscape and unbroken tapestry of rolling hills. The skies are cloudless blue and the jagged peaks of Mukutan sparke in shades of green and gold.
After a while, we arrive at the jewel of the Mukutan Gorge: the big waterfall. Surrounded by teal canyons and silver cliffs, the majestic waterfall cascades a torrent of water into the turquoise pool hundreds of meters below at the base of the fall. We rest and marvel at nature’s pristine beauty and even take time for a refreshing plunge in the pool on this searingly-hot day. We have the option to continue on the hike that heads deep into the wilderness but we decide stay put and soak in the waterfall splendor.
Of all the places I’ve watched the sun go down this by far has to be one of the best. I am spellbound (unfortunately don’t have the photos to show). The pre-dusk sky is streaked in waves of pink, purple and orange tones as the sun slowly drifts behind the silhouetted hills.
I cannot wait to visit the Mukutan Conservancy again, the breathtaking views, nature walks in the wilderness, close encounters with wildlife and walks/climbing in the amazing gorge. You get the opportunity to savor some of the unspoiled places and spaces on this planet, indulging the adventurer in you and discovering the thrill of hiking.
Not interested in hiking? No problem. In addition to the Sundowners, bush breakfasts and dinners, Makenas Tented camp and its sister camp the Mukutan retreat offers holistic and creative activities such as organized private Yoga tuition on request, Music and Arts Events and cultural tours which involve a glimpse into the culture of the elusive Pokot people and visits to Samburu communities.
As for wildlife, the Mukutan Conservancy is home to an amazing list of wildlife that includes baboons, antelopes, gazelles, zebras, giraffes, Cape buffaloes, elephants and many more. Among the large predators, lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas are present. The place is also a Mecca for ornithologists, boasting more than 400 species of birds.
Taking a nap after a picnic lunch in the bush waiting for elephants and buffalo to come drink from the dam. Wildlife hides overlooking the dam perfect for a picnic whilst waiting for game.
Getting to the Gallmann Mukutan Conservancy
There are Air charters, to private airstrip, Englelesha airstrip. Scheduled air service – daily flights to & from the Maasai Mara or Nairobi to Loisaba airstrip.
Access by road: Approx 4 hours from Nairobi, 2.5 Hours from Nakuru or Baringo.
The roads in the conservancy are quite bumpy and rocky so a good 4×4 vehicle is a must. In case you do not have one, once you reach the conservancy gate, you will be transferred to one of the lodges’ 4 wheel drive.
Make sure to check out more about Shil; his photography, travels, and adventures on Instagram @shilssp.