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Samburu National Reserve

343 km or about 6 hours drive from Nairobi, Samburu National Reserve is the most accessible of the Northern Frontier faunal sanctuaries. The Samburu Reserve covers and area of 104 km2 on the northern bank of Ewaso Ng’iro River, with a river frontage of 16km. The adjoining Buffalo Springs Reserve of 194 km2 lies on the southern bank of the same 16km stretch of river.

Landscape Samburu Northern Frontier District
The landscapes in Northern Kenya are truly magnifiscent and gives a feel of vast spaces with almost no people

A bridge across the Ewaso Ng’iro a couple of kilometres upstream connects the two Reserves, as well as Shaba National Reserve which covers some 130 km2. Shaba National Reserve maybe best known as the place where George and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the lioness made famous by the best selling and award winning book Born free.

Lion Samburu National Reserve
A young male lion lurks around the Ewaso Ng’iro River before sunset

The landscape in this region is spectacular with mountains dotting the horizon and a serene feel that compares to no other National park in Kenya, making it one of Kenyas finest places to go on a safari. Yet in Samburu you won’t find the same sheer numbers of wildlife as in eg. Masai Mara, but on the other hand it is not a bad feature to have the place almost exclusively to oneself and the chance to see unique species characteristic of Northern Kenya in a breathtaking landscape, quite makes up for this.

Reticulated giraffes in Samburu National Reserve
The reticulated giraffe is one of the amazingly beautiful species only found only in the dry and arid Northern Kenya

The Reserves are situated in Kenyas Northern Frontier District and this vast region boasts a list of species unique to the semi-arid savannah such as Oryx, Gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, the blue necked Somali Ostrich and a wealth of other birds and mammals. The Ewaso Ng’iro river is the bloodline of this hot and arid environment and its waters supports big herds of Elephants as well as Black Rhinoceros, Buffalo, Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Crocodile and many other species.

Oryx antelope Samburu
The beautiful Beisa Oryx is one of the unique species characteristic of Northern Kenya

Samburu and the adjoining Reserves are indeed a vast and little visited region, where travelling, even nowadays is a bit rough and the name of the region – Northern Frontier District conjures up an atmosphere of mystery and adventure. The nomadic tribes have changed little over the centuries and adds to the feeling of being in a colorful world of natural beauty and harmony. It seems the scenery is reflected onto the animals as they often blend perfectly into the beige, ocher, brownish and golden colors of the landscape.

Elephant climbing the riverbank
An elephant climbs the steep bank of the Ewaso Ng’iro River in Samburu National Reserve

For such a relatively small area the bird life is strikingly numerous and colorful; there is no difficulty in seeing well over a hundred birds on a single day and especially around the river and the waterholes there are many birds. Perhaps one of the most impressive sights is the immense flocks of Helmeted and Vulturine Guinea-fowls which make thir way each afternoon to the river-bank to drink.

Secretary bird in tall grass
A secretary bird walks through the tall golden grass on the lookout for snakes, lizards, frogs and other prey

At dawn the sky turns gently pink and hundreds of Weaverbirds start a cacophony of noises around their nests hanging down from the branches of the Acacia trees. The pools and streams filled with fresh water, is the drinking place in the dry season for big flocks of sandgrouse and doves, in addition to a galaxy of smaller birds.

Two eagles on a branch
In Samburu there are more than 360 species of birds – here a martial eagle and an immature Bateleur eagle nests in a doum palm overlooking the Ewaso Ng’iro River

The graceful Gerenuk or giraffe gazelle is a good example of habitat specialization and due to its long neck it can browse higher than most other gazelles, thereby filling a niche in the ecosystem

Grevys zebra

Grevys zebra has slimmer and a more dense pattern of stripes than the common zebra. Probably as a result of evolution/habitat specialization, the black and white stripes in close conjunction creates a thermal cooling effect over the skin which is a much welcome feature in Northern Kenyas extremely hot climate. Photo © Mikkel Alexander Grabowski


All in all Samburu and the adjoining Reserves gives an almost otherworldly impression that will stay as vivid colorful memories like few other places. Of course there are exellent lodges and tented camps to stay at; Samburu Intrepids Luxury Tented Camp, Larsens Tented Camp, Samburu Serena Safari Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Samburu Sopa Lodge, Joy’s Camp, Saruni Samburu, Gametrackers Campsite (very simple but nice), Sarova Shaba Game Lodge and others.

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