Buffalo Springs National Reserve

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Buffalo Springs National Reserve is a protected area in Isiolo County in northern Kenya, 85 km North of Mount Kenya and about 355 km from Nairobi (approximately 5 to 6 hours by road). By Plane: There are direct flights from Nairobi Wilson Airport that are offered daily and are roughly 50 minutes in duration to airstrips in Buffalo Springs, or neighboring Samburu National Reserve. Buffalo Springs National Reserve takes its name from an oasis of crystal clear water at the western end of the reserve. It is reported that in the Second World War, an Italian bomber mistook Buffalos for humans and blew into a crater creating a large spring hence was called Buffalo Springs. The Buffalo Springs are permanent and provide drinking water for the wild animals and residents of the nearby town called Archer’s Post.

Buffalo springs game reserve covers an area of 131 square kilometers (51 square miles) and wildlife includes buffaloes, impalas, common Burchell’s zebra, wild dogs, waterbucks, impalas, hyenas, elephants, cheetahs, greater and lesser kudus, leopards, lions, elands, giraffes, grant’s gazelles, reticulated giraffes, beisa oryxes, gerenuk antelopes, Grevy’s zebras and many more.
Activities in Buffalo Springs include Wildlife game viewing, Bird watching, Samburu Cultural village visits, Guided nature walks, Swimming at Buffalo Springs, and Visiting the singing wells.

Buffalo Springs National Reserve

Buffalo Springs National Reserve is considered one of the most untamed wilderness areas in Africa, with much of it being completely inaccessible until recent years. The vast breathtaking landscapes and countless intriguing inhabitants of Samburu have remained largely unaltered by man.

Buffalo Springs game park is managed by the Samburu County Council and the game park offers visitors an authentic bush experience, off the beaten safari track of East Africa. Whether you are a first-time safari-goer or a seasoned adventurer, this region’s stark, wild beauty will stay with you.

The lesser-known Buffalo Springs National Reserve lies in the Samburu County of Kenya, on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in Northern Kenya. It is spread over an area of about 131 km² (51 square miles) some 355 km north of the vibrant city of Nairobi

Buffalo Springs National Reserve borders Samburu Game Reserve which is on the other side of the river, as well as the Kalama Community Conservancy, so you can easily combine visits to these parks. The Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy is also just a little further north.

One of Kenya’s three northern parks (including Shaba and Samburu), Buffalo Springs is part of the spectacular Great Rift Valley and reaches altitudes of between 850 metres (2,790 ft) and 1,230 meters (4,040 ft) above sea level in some places.

The reserve is centered around the permanent water source of the Ewaso Nyiro River that lazily winds through the length of the park, giving rise to doum palm groves and thick riverine forests which attract a wide variety of animals, big and small.

The shade of the lush vegetation along the water’s edge is a haven for animals seeking shelter from the equatorial sun and those coming to drink. Animals trek to this life-giving water source from an otherwise bone-dry landscape and the natural serenity of the river banks provides prime wildlife spotting and game viewing opportunities.

The reserve has a rich and diverse collection of wildlife with an abundance of the Samburu “Special Five” animals which includes the Grevy’s zebra, Somali Ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk, and the Beisa Oryx.

These animals are mostly only spotted in Northern Kenya and are not usually found in other typically visited reserves in Kenya such as Masai Mara or Amboseli. The most common mammals easily spotted are elephants, present in large numbers across the reserve.

The reserve is also home to Grant gazelles, Impalas, Waterbucks, Dik-diks, Hippos, Olive Baboons, Warthogs, Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Cape Buffalo, Hyenas, Elands, Jackals, Klipspringer, Mongooses, and Wild Dogs and Bats.

Birdlife is abundant with over 450 species recorded.

Buffalo Springs National Reserve Vegetation & Wildlife

The vegetation of Buffalo Springs Nature Reserve consists of doum palm and acacia riverine forest and further from the river acacia woodland interspersed with areas of scrub and grasslands. Buffalo Springs National Reserve’s vast expanse of remote pristine wilderness borders the Ewaso Ng’iro River to the north, which separates it from the Samburu Game Reserve. 

The reserve has a rich and diverse collection of wildlife with an abundance of the Samburu “Special Five” animals which includes the Grevy’s zebra, Somali Ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk, and the Beisa Oryx, animals that are mostly only spotted in Northern Kenya and are not usually found in other typically visited reserves in Kenya such as Masai Mara or Amboseli.

The reserve is also home to a population of close to 900 Elephants – who still roam freely enjoying the vast beauty of Africa and often have a reddish appearance from the red earth that they use to have dust baths. Sadly, there are alarmingly few rhinos left in this area due to the unscrupulous poaching activities plaguing much of Africa’s wild spaces.

The Ecosystem is also home to Grant gazelles, Impalas, Waterbucks, Dik-diks, Hippos, Olive Baboons, Warthogs, Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Cape Buffalo, Hyenas, Elands, Jackals, Klipspringer, Mongooses, Bats and some of the biggest crocodiles in Africa.

The reserve also has packs of Wild Dogs though sightings are infrequent as these animals have a rather large distribution area, within which they are constantly moving. For bird-watching guests, Buffalo Springs is a mecca of avifauna with more than 450 species recorded that includes birds that are found in the northern bush country and riverine forests.

The lesser kestrels and Taita falcons are globally threatened species that thrive under the protection of the reserve.  Other vulnerable species include great egrets, martial eagles, African darters, and yellow-billed oxpeckers. Common species include bee-eaters, yellow-billed hornbills, lilac-breasted rollers, grey-headed kingfishers, and many more.

Buffalo Springs National Reserve Seasons | Best time to go | Acitvities

Buffalo Springs National Reserve can be visited all year round. Temperatures range from 30ºC during the hottest months to 20ºC between July and September. Annual rainfalls range between 100mm to 300mm on average usually divided into two seasons, short rains in October/ November and long rains between February and May.

Wildlife viewing in Buffalo Springs is superior in the dry months, from June to October and December to March. If a visit coincides with the peak of the short rains (November), and in particular during the long rains (April and May), your wildlife-watching experience may be slightly compromised. At those times of the year, animals disperse, making spotting more difficult.

Buffalo Springs Game park offers a number of notably exciting activities and one of the more thrilling of these is the Safari game viewing and bird watching – the geography and climate of The Park allow for quality wildlife viewing all around the year.

Another popular experience is a visit to a Samburu cultural village which allows visitors a fascinating insight into the unique way of life of the renowned Samburu people, a pastoralist and warrior tribe found in Kenya and other parts of East Africa.

In addition, you have nature walks, climb Mount Ololokwe, visit the Umoja women’s village at Archer’s gate, swim at the Buffalo springs natural pool, visit the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, camel trekking safaris, bush meals, and sundowners as some of the other popular activities available to enjoy in Buffalo Springs National Reserve as a tourist visiting this park.

Samburu Cultural Tour

Tribal Samburu People

The Samburu are Nilotic, semi-nomadic shepherds who live in north-central Kenya and speak the Samburu dialect of the Maa language, which is a Nilotic language. The Samburu sub-tribe is the third largest in the Maa community of Kenya and Tanzania, after the Kisonko (Isikirari) of Tanzania and Purko of Kenya and Tanzania.

Samburu people just like the Maasai tribe, still retain many of their traditions as they live largely untouched by modern-day civilization, in areas surrounding Samburu National Reserve and to the South of Lake Turkana. So why visit a Samburu village and what do you get to see?

This one-hour visit to a Samburu village is a chance to interact with Samburu people, get a glimpse into their culture and unique way of life, and see firsthand some of their customs and practices. The Samburu Cultural visit is typically an excursion included in a longer multi-day Buffalo Springs/Samburu safari tour.

The tour includes a brief interactive visit to the village, which usually happens to be on the borders of the Samburu game reserve.  The Samburu people live in huts, which are round in shape with a small entrance closed by a blanket; they have no windows but only two holes which serve to filter the light and let the smoke of the fire that usually burns inside, be released outside; it is usually used for cooking.

The huts are built by women using interwoven sticks, mud, and cow dung; they can be easily dismantled and transported and mounted elsewhere. The interior of the hut is divided into two small rooms, one for the husband and sons, and the other for the wife and daughters.

A cluster of these huts, which form a village called ”manyatta” in the Samburu language, consists of four to ten families; a village is generally not permanent; it settles in one place for two months at most, and after this, it moves to other sites, in the constant search for new pastures for livestock.

The singing, dancing, colourful and intricate beadwork, along with their immeasurable wealth of knowledge about the animals and environment, make meeting these gentle people a very special experience. 

Buffalo Springs Game Reserve Safari Lodges & Camps

Buffalo Springs National Reserve is within Isiolo District and is located on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in Kenya on the other side of the river is the Samburu National Reserve and nearby the known Shaba National Reserve (Joy Adamson of ‘Born Free’ film).

Buffalo Springs Game Reserve is accessible by road via Isiolo, about 5 hour drive from Nairobi through Nanyuki on a tarmac road to Isiolo, then another 22 kilometers to Buffalo Springs.

Hotels near Buffalo Springs Game Reserve and Archers Post include  Umoja Campsite, Lion’s Cave Camp, Ashnil Samburu Camp, Samburu Sopa Lodge, Sarova Shaba Game Lodge, Bomen Hotel, Regency Mount Kenya Hotel, Regency Mount Kenya Hotel, Samburu Intrepids Tented Camp, Kisimani Eco Resort & Spa Ltd, Shamz Hotel, Grande Hotel, Gamachu Gardens, and Samburu Larsens Tented Camp,

Others include Samburu Saasab Camp, Samburu Bedouin Camp, Samburu Lodge, Samburu Sentrim, Samburu Elephant Bedroom Camp, Samburu Elephant Watch Camp, Samburu Kitich Camp, Samburu Saruni Lodge and Samburu Joys Camp.

Buffalo Springs has five campsites with bad or no facilities at all. The public campsites are along Champagne Ridge, close to the Isiolo or Gare Mara Gate. There are three campsites in Samburu, scattered along the Ewaso Nyiro between Samburu Lodge and the West Gate.

All of them are cleared spaces shaded by trees, with scarce services. The sites closest to Samburu Lodge are safer. From the Butterfly public site, you may walk into the lodge for refreshment but do it only until 7 PM, since at this time the lodge gate is closed and the employees bring the leopard’s bait to a tree across the river.

If you happen to walk around after this time, seek the protection of an armed escort. The Vervet campsite, also close to the lodge, is frequently used by safari agencies.

Finally, Shaba hosts three distinct campsites.

Entrance Fee to Buffalo Springs National Reserve

2023 Buffalo Springs National Reserve Entrance Fees

Citizen/ Resident Rate Per Person Per Day

Non-Resident Rate Per Person Per Day

Adult 1000 Kenya Shillings 80 US Dollars
Child 500 Kenya Shillings 40 US Dollars

Notes

* Child refers to persons from three years but below 11 years
* Resident refers to persons of other nationalities residing in Kenya with valid documentation from the Kenyan government
* Citizen – A native or inhabitant of East Africa Countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan) with valid identification documents or passport
* Daily – Fee paid for a single entry to a national park, national reserve, or sanctuary and which shall be valid for no longer than twenty-four hours

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