Rising up from the northern Kenya’s brown plains like a verdant paradise, the Matthews Mountain Range stands as the buffer between Kenya’s Northern Frontier and the busier Laikipia safari regions. This untouched wilderness is what scientists dub a “sky island”—a remarkably remote patch of tropical highland forests that has evolved free of influence for over 10 millennia. This is one of Kenya’s wildest areas, and the very few visitors who make the trip here are often surprised to find themselves amid lush riverine valleys and thick, forested slopes in the heart of Northern Kenya’s arid desert. This is the perfect location for a luxury walking safari in Kenya.
Yet the Matthews Mountain Range is just that, serving as a stronghold for a vast array of species. Herds of gazelle, oryx, ostrich, and Grevy’s zebra can be found grazing along the Ewaso Ng’iro River and seasonal mountain streams, while a great number of forest elephant, lion, buffalo, Colobus monkey, greater kudu, and the Melanistic leopard—the “black panther”—have found refuge in the valleys and forests, along with over 350 bird species. Matthews Mountain Range is also one of the very few places where one can spot the rare De Brazza Monkey outside its native Ruwenzori Mountains home.
While the Matthews Mountain Range is certainly considered a prime wilderness area, its biggest draw is its remote location and guarantee of exclusivity. Days are spent not necessarily in a game drive vehicle, but on foot, exploring the forest trails and crystal clear mountain streams alongside the “masters of the forest”, the Ndorobo Samburu guides. This is some of East Africa’s finest game walking, where steep gullies and winding paths through the Matthews Mountain Range lead to large, swim-enticing rock pools along the Ngeng River. Throw in the benefit of the local Samburu guides’ extensive knowledge of the region’s hardwood trees, orchids, birds, and butterflies, as well as the surprising lack of tourists, and the Matthews Mountain Range promises a wildlife experience for the record books.