Stephen Mills and Liz Drake returned in January 2024 from hosting a unique old-style wilderness safari experience in the Laikipia region of Kenya that offered quality rather than quantity and exclusivity with no other vehicles most days – a rarity in todays world of wildlife tourism. We were a small private party of four plus Stephen Mills, the local naturalist and myself the safari organiser. This was an unrestricted safari that was off road every day looking for wildlife and enjoying uninterrupted spectacular birding and butterfly sightings. We saw 42 mammal species including lion, giraffe, elephant, zebra including Grevy’s, bat-eared foxes, jackal, striped hyena, aardwolf, warthog, dik dik, Thomson gazelle, Grants gazelle, impala, gerenuk, hartebeest, eland, oryx, waterbuck, hyraxes, hare, mongoose, tortoise and much more, all on the El Karama Ranch which is mostly unfenced enabling a natural movement of species and established ecosystem in harmony with man and farmed livestock. Our wildlife search was amongst stunning scenery with the back drop of Mount Kenya and there were plenty of raptors and smaller birds to keep us enthralled, along with picnic breakfasts, lunches, sun-downers and dinners in the bush, as well as night drives. We also visited a neighbouring traditional fenced reserve to see Black and White rhino and Cape buffalo, and a dedicated research reserve to observe a wild dog pack.
This was an unrivalled and uninterrupted wildlife experience that is hard to find any where else and one we feel we have to repeat whilst this very special window of opportunity exists. We are delighted to repeat this unique wildlife opportunity in September/October 2024 and for just four guests.
Stephen Mills MA (Oxon) MFA IAWF CF is a professional naturalist, and wildlife researcher, conservationist and writer as well as an acclaimed wildlife film producer and cameraman. He is former chairman of the International Association of Wildlife Film-makers.
As a writer, producer and cameraman, Stephen has made over 40 films for TV, including Man-Eater: To Be or Not To Be and Rhino Journey. He wrote the award-winning BBC films Tiger Crisis and Wolf Saga and has worked on many Natural History Unit/BBC TV series and films including Land of the Tiger, The Private Life of Plants and Winners and Losers. His new book out March 2024 is Natural Causes, which touches on the profound spiritual importance of nature to us all. Scroll to the bottom of the page for details and review.
On Safari with Stephen Mills
Being on safari with Stephen is fun and informative. Stephen encourages people to go out into the field and watch wildlife, so you can expect to spend time sitting quietly and immersing yourself in the moment, observing and understanding the behaviour as it unfolds before you. Stephen is a very good naturalist and an excellent birder, and loves to share his wildlife knowledge and stories of all creatures great and small with his guests. Stephen is always excited by the prospect of spending time out in the bush and on the plains, and El Karama Ranch particularly appeals to him because this new conservancy offers an old fashioned style safari experience with hardly any other people and vehicles. Additionally, El Karama offers the opportunity to do bush walks and night drives and an optional visit to neighbouring Ol Pejeta Conservancy to see Black & White rhino and Cape buffalo herds.
El Karama Wildlife Conservancy offers a very private wilderness experience on 14,000acres in the Laikipia Region and along the banks of the Ewaso River. The habitat has a diverse wildlife, although not in volume like those ‘corralled’ in the National Parks and private Game Reserves. The verified bird count at El Karama has reached 432 species including migrants and is a designated an Important Bird Area since 2018. El Karama has pioneered a new leopard monitoring technique using stationary mirrors and trail cameras to ID leopard.
El Karama provides the opportunity to connect with wildlife on a deeper level without dozens of other jeeps, and with walking safaris and night drives. Our private party will have exclusive use of a stretched open-sided safari vehicle so everyone will all be with Stephen every day. We hope to have have exclusive use of the whole Conservancy most days as we did this January.
“Anyone familiar with Africa knows how much it has changed in the last 30 years. Lions have declined by more than 80% and the wildlife has been pushed back and mostly corralled within the boundaries of the national parks. These are still lovely but viewing pressure has escalated dramatically and visitors in high season can find themselves hemmed in by 20 or 30 jeeps all jostling round one charismatic animal. But there are one or two places where the old Africa still exists, where the wildlife comes and goes according to its old rhythms and where you can have the place almost entirely to yourself. One of them is El Karama conservancy in Laikipia which is owned by the Grant family and run by my own niece Sophie Grant. I have always been very cautious about mixing business and family but El Karama is so special I now feel it would be nuts not to. Visitors have been enjoying excellent sightings of lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, gerenuk and, frequently though unpredictably, wild dogs (painted dogs). I feel it is time to start taking my guests there, where we will be assured of a very personal and extremely comfortable welcome and where we will have a chance to share a bit of relaxed Africa as it used to be”. Stephen Mills
* The last two years of drought have taken its toll on the Cape buffalo population so herds are currently much reduced on El Karama Ranch but herds can be found at Ol Pejeta, along with Black and White rhino.
El Karama Lodge
The lodge is the only property in the conservancy and it provides understated luxury in a variety of accommodation types. There is a choice of staying in 2 comfortable ensuite bandas or 2 more luxurious river cottages (supplement applicable), all overlooking the river. Our party will have exclusive use of the dining mess and you can expect lovely fresh fruit and vegetables from the organic garden.
To find out more about El Karama Lodge click here
Day 1 – Arrival day. Meet Stephen Mills and your safari host at Nairobi International Airport. Fly directly to El Karama
Days 2, 3, 4 & 5 – Uninterrupted wildlife viewing and bird watching with Stephen Mills in El Karama Conservancy including night drives. Walking safaris and a visit to neighbouring Ol Pejeta Conservancy is available for those interested. Ol Pejeta offers the opportunity to se Black & White rhino and herds of Cape buffalo.
Day 6 – Return to Nairobi. Continue your journey home or in Kenya.
A private safari plane directly from Nairobi’s International Airport will maximise your wildlife viewing times and minimise travelling times in Kenya.
|29 September – 4 October 2024
|Number of guests:
|Price per person from:
Price includes: 5 nights El Karama Lodge including all meals, exclusive use of a safari vehicle, walking safaris and night drives, El Karama and Ol Pejeta Conservancy fees, private safari flights and transfers in Nairobi, Flying Dr’s Emergency Insurance, guest naturalist and event host
Price excludes: International flights, visas and Nairobi accommodation.
All images: January 2024 by Liz Drake
Flights to and from Nairobi are not included.
A Tourist visa is required for entry to Kenya. The process is now only available online . You will need a passport with at least 6 months validity from the date of arrival, copies of the itinerary and your passport plus a colour photograph 2″x2″. The cost is US$51 payable by credit/debit card. Please make sure you apply using the official site
For specialist inoculations and heath requirements for Nairobi and Laikipia please check with a specialist travel clinic. The Laikipia region is considered low malaria risk.
Natural Causes by Stephen Mills
Stephen Mills has been a leading cameraperson and writer and this is a book about his life in film. Natural Causes tells the story of his campaigns, his companions, his colleagues, the challenges and charms of the landscapes in which he has worked and the extraordinary wild animals he has filmed. And it is a book about one man’s modest bid to ever-so-slightly change the world. For, at its heart, Natural Causes touches on the profound spiritual importance of nature to us all.
“… if you have a dream, a mission, a wish to change the world, you can do it. You can do it as long as you accept that the dream may shrink, the mission may creep a little and the change you make may be very small and that all those little bites out of your ambitions in no way render them pointless.”
This is a gripping story about the love of life and of nature itself. As a journalist, Stephen has influenced the agenda; as a film-maker, he’s inspired a wide audience; as a conservationist, he’s averted disasters – but above all, as this book proves, he’s a skilled storyteller. Read, enjoy, laugh and appreciate how small acts and using the power of your voice can change things for the better.”Roz Kidman Cox, former editor BBC Wildlife
Breathed on by a tiger, stalked by a lion, nearly flattened by a rhino, struck by lightning and rocked by an earthquake… A wildlife filmmaker’s life is certainly exciting. But there’s a serious side to these adventures. In the last 50 years nature films have helped to shape public awareness of both the beauty of the natural world and its plight. Environmental issues that once seemed peripheral are now centre-stage.REGISTER NOWBACK TO EVENTS