Samburu National Reserve

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Samburu National Reserve

Samburu 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.

Samburu 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.

Location of Samburu Reserve: The lesser-known Samburu 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 165 km² some 350 km north of the vibrant city of Nairobi.

One of Kenya’s three northern parks (including Shaba and Buffalo Springs), Samburu is part of the spectacular Great Rift Valley and reaches altitudes of between 800 and 1230 meters above sea level in some places.

The Ewaso Nyiro River of Samburu: 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 that 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 provide prime wildlife spotting and game viewing opportunities.

Fame & Fauna of Samburu Game Reserve: While being a relatively unknown travel destination it is famous thanks to two very special lionesses that caught the public’s imagination over the years. The one is Joy and George Adamson’s lioness Elsa, on which the book Born Free is based and where the film was made, and the second is a lioness known as Kamunyak who adopted and cared for oryx calves within Samburu Reserve. Besides these two famous residents, Samburu is home to Africa’s Big Five, a long and fascinating list of other animals and over 450 bird species.

Large herds of elephants 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 very peculiar Gerenuk gazelle can be spotted here. Also known as the giraffe-gazelle, this long-necked antelope stands up on its hind legs to feed and is wonderful to watch going about its daily business. Other special sightings include the shy Oryx and some of the biggest crocodiles in Africa.

Tribal Samburu People: Samburu derives its name from the Samburu people who live in this region. The Samburu tribe is a clan of the better-known Maasai people and has a unique culture, leading a semi-nomadic existence as herders of camels, cattle, sheep, and goats across the parched African terrain. They have themselves become a popular tourist attraction and have so far avoided the negative impact of mass tourism, retaining an authentic and genuine openness to visitors.

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

Samburu Area & Climate: Other places of interest in this area include the Lake Lokipi hot spring, which is also a spectacular flamingo breeding ground, and Lake Turkana (also known as the Jade Sea). Fun activities include seasonal river rafting, camel riding safaris, the ships of the desert, and a visit to the Sarara Singing Wells, where you can witness the very special ritual of singing men drawing water from wells for their animals.

Samburu is also the headquarters of the Save the Elephants Organisation which works relentlessly to fight poaching, as well as tracking and monitoring individuals and groups of elephants. Although the climate in this equatorial region is pleasant at any time of the year, the drier months (from December to March and July to October) are best for game viewing.

Samburu National Reserve

Samburu National Reserve Facts

Samburu National Reserve Vegetation | Ecosystem

The Samburu National Reserve’s ecosystem is a vivid tapestry of semi-arid landscapes, where the Ewaso Ng’iro River—the lifeblood of the region—meanders through the reserve, creating a lush ribbon of riverine forests amidst the dryness.

This river, flowing from the Kenyan highlands, supports a diverse array of vegetation, with acacia trees and doum palms dominating the riverbanks, providing shade and sustenance to a myriad of species.

Beyond the river’s reach, the vegetation transitions to scattered acacias and scrubby bushes, characteristic of the reserves’ broader ecosystem, which includes the neighboring Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves.

The thorn trees and grassland vegetation are interspersed with volcanic mountains and granite outcrops, creating micro-habitats that support the reserve’s unique wildlife, including the Samburu ‘Special Five’—Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and Beisa oryx.


Samburu National Reserve Wet & Dry Season | Best Time to Visit

The Samburu National Reserve, together with the neighboring Buffalo Springs and Shaba reserves, is defined by its arid and semi-arid climate, marked by hot days and cool nights. The moisture index fluctuates between 42 and 57, signifying that evapotranspiration often surpasses the available moisture.

Daytime temperatures hover around 84°F (29°C) to 90°F (32°C), while at night, they can drop to between 61°F (16°C) and 66°F (19°C). The region experiences its long rains from April to May, and a shorter rainy season from mid-October to mid-December, with November typically being the wettest month.

The dry seasons span from June to early October and from January to March. These dry periods, particularly the long dry season from late June to October and the short dry season from December to March, are considered the best times for visiting the reserve.

During these months, wildlife viewing is at its prime as animals congregate around permanent water sources like the Ewaso Ng’iro River, and the sparse vegetation enhances the chances of sightings.


Location | How to get to Samburu National Reserve

Samburu National Reserve, a jewel of Kenyan wildlife and culture, is situated approximately 310 kilometers from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. Accessible by both road and air, the journey by road takes about 5 to 6 hours via the Thika Superhighway, with the route passing through Nyeri and Karatina, then heading north out of Nanyuki towards Isiolo, and finally veering off to Archer’s Post to reach the main entry gate.

For those preferring to fly, the reserve is just a 1.5-hour flight from Wilson Airport in Nairobi, with several airstrips within Samburu to choose from such as Kalama Airstrip, Buffalo Springs Airstrip, and Samburu Oryx Airstrip.


Mammals | Wildlife & Animals

The Samburu National Reserve is a sanctuary for a rich diversity of mammals, known particularly for the ‘Samburu Special Five’: the Grevy’s zebra, with its distinctive narrow stripes; the Somali ostrich, recognizable by its blue legs and neck; the reticulated giraffe, with its striking net-like patterned coat; the gerenuk, an antelope with an unusually long neck often seen standing on its hind legs to feed; and the Beisa oryx, with its sharp horns and beautiful markings.

Beyond these, the reserve hosts the ‘Big Five’, minus the rhino, including the lion, elephant, leopard, and African buffalo. The elephant population is particularly noteworthy, with over 900 individuals roaming the area.

Predators like lions, leopards, and cheetahs are also prevalent, with the reserve offering one of the highest chances of spotting leopards in Kenya. Other commonly seen mammals include Grant’s gazelle, Kirk’s dik-dik, impala, waterbuck, olive baboons, warthogs, and more, creating a vibrant ecosystem that is both dynamic and delicate.


Bird Checklist | Birdlife

Samburu National Reserve boasts a bird checklist that encompasses an impressive 686 species. The reserve’s varied habitats, from the riverine forests along the Ewaso Ng’iro River to the arid scrublands, provide a haven for both endemic and migratory birds.

Notable species include the Somali Ostrich, with its distinctive blue neck and legs, and the Vulturine Guineafowl, known for its striking appearance. The Secretary Bird, Martial Eagle, and Lilac-breasted Roller add to the reserve’s raptor and colorful bird species.

Waterbirds like the Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, and various species of sandgrouse are drawn to the life-giving waters of the river, while the dry bushland is home to the Rufous-naped Lark and Speckled Mousebird. The presence of globally threatened species further underscores the ecological importance of Samburu as a critical habitat for bird conservation.


Samburu National Reserve Opening Time

The Samburu National Reserve opens its gates to visitors at 6 am and closes at 6 pm.


Samburu National Reserve Entrance Fee (1st January 2024 to 31st December 2024)

 Nationality

Adult Rate Per Day

Child/ Student Rate Per Day

Kenyan Citizen

500 Kenya Shillings

East African Resident

1,000 Kenya Shillings

Non-Resident

70 US Dollars

40 US Dollars

Notes

* Child rates are applicable to persons 3 to 17 years of age. Persons under 3 are free
* Students rates are only applicable for persons aged up to 23 years old, sponsored by a recognized learning institution, and in possession of a valid student ID and visiting the reserve on a pre arranged school-organised trip or for research authorized by ticketing office of the Buffalo Springs and Shaba Reserves in Isiolo County. Students must obtain permission to use these special rates at least two weeks in advance of their visit.


Other Conservancies & Game Ranches Bordering Samburu, Shaba And Buffalo Springs National Reserves Such As Kalama Conservancy, West Gate Community Conservancy And Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy

 Nationality

Adult Rate Per Day

Child/ Student Rate Per Day

Kenyan Citizen

1,000 – 2,000 Kenya Shillings 300 – 1,000 Kenya Shillings

East African Resident

1,000 – 2,000 Kenya Shillings

500 – 1,500 Kenya Shillings

Non-Resident

80-120 US Dollars

45-75 US Dollars


Below are Samburu Game Reserve Rules;

* Respect the privacy of the wildlife, this is their habitat
* Keep below the maximum speed limit (40 kph/25 mph)
* Never drive off-road, this severely damages the habitat
* Beware of the animals, they are wild and can be unpredictable
* Don’t crowd the animals or make sudden noises or movements
* Leave no litter and never leave fires unattended or discard burning objects
* Don’t feed the animals, it upsets their diet and leads to human dependence
* Keep quiet, noise disturbs the wildlife and may antagonize your fellow visitors
* Stay in your vehicle at all times, except at designated picnic or walking areas
* When viewing wildlife keep to a minimum distance of 20 meters and pull to the side of the road so as to allow others to pass
* Stay over or leave before dusk, visitors must vacate the Park between 6.00 p.m. – 6.00 a.m. unless they are camping overnight. Night game driving is not allowed
* Respect the cultural heritage of Kenya, never take pictures of the local people or their habitat without asking their permission, respect the cultural traditions of Kenya and always dress with decorum


Where To Stay In Samburu | Samburu National Reserve Accommodation

Samburu National Reserve has a variety of accommodation options ranging from luxurious lodges to eco-friendly camps. Among the notable places to stay is the Samburu Sopa Lodge, which offers a blend of comfort and traditional Samburu architecture, set against the backdrop of the serene wilderness.

For those seeking a more intimate experience, Sarova Shaba Game Lodge provides an oasis of tranquility along the banks of the Ewaso River, complete with indigenous trees and a large swimming pool.

Adventurous guests might prefer the Ashnil Samburu Camp, which features tented accommodations that allow for an up-close encounter with nature, without sacrificing modern amenities. Additionally, the Samburu Intrepids Tented Camp is known for its thatched-roof tents and guided safari drives, offering a perfect balance of adventure and luxury. 

Booking & Reservations Samburu National Reserve Contact

Mobile: +254-721-242-711
WhatsApp: +254-721-242-711
Reservations: +254 718-179-967
Email: info@africanspicesafaris.com
Website: https://africanspicesafaris.com

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