Samburu National Reserve
Travel to Samburu National Reserve – Breathtaking Scenery & Gamelands
In the arid north of Kenya, water means life. The waters of the great Ewaso N’giro River draw wildlife in great numbers to its banks, creating an oasis of green. This river flows through three great northern reserves, Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba. This is spectacular country, set against a backdrop of the mighty Mountain Ol Olokwe.
The entire Samburu region is a place of breathtaking and magical beauty, a place where the vision of a deep red sunset silhouetting the doum palms along the river as a leopard emerges to hunt brings the perfect end to a day on safari.
Samburu takes its name from the nomadic tribe who live throughout this area. The Samburu people have long used the waters of the Ewaso N’giro as a water source for their herds of goats, sheep and camels. In dry periods, they dig wells into the dry river bed, or take advantage of ready made wells dug by elephants. Traditionally the Samburu hold great respect for the wild animals with whom they share this area.
The verdant riverine forest is a stark contrast to the arid thorn studded plains. Samburu is visited by large herds of elephants, drawn by the promise of water. In the dry season, the elephants use their tusks to dig deep into the dry river beds, unearthing precious water. These waterholes then become a focal point for other game. The Samburu region is the best place to find several endemic northern species, including gerenuk, the Reticulated giraffe, and Grevy’s zebra.
A safari through Samburu is a rich and rewarding experience. Traveling along the banks of the Ewaso N’giro provides a fascinating procession of varied species. Elephant come to the river to drink, and in the dry season, use their tusks to dig deep wells in the dry river beds. These elephant excavations then become a focal point for other plains game and troops of baboon, attracted by the fresh water supply. The surrounding riverine forests are good birding country, and in the late afternoon also excellent leopard territory. Several individual leopards are commonly seen in trees around the river each day.
When the rains bring water back to the Ewaso N’giro, the river becomes a desert oasis of life. Large herds of Reticulated giraffe, buffalo and Impala all gather on the banks to drink. Elephant herds often wade across the river, stopping to wallow and bathe in the shallows.
There are plenty of crocodiles here, and large specimens can be seen sunning themselves on sandbanks. The heavy traffic of game around the riverbanks means that lion are commonly seen hunting here. The plains and surrounding hills are also well worth exploring, and are the best place to find gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra and cheetah. The rocky slopes of the kopjes and hills are good country for kudu and are home to several prides of lion.
The forests along the river banks are home to many birds, including local species such as the Palm Nut Vulture and the Vinaceous Dove. These forests are also home to many leopards, often seen at dusk. The sight of one of these beautiful and elusive creatures is always a rare treat. Lions are also frequently seen on the riverbanks, and Cheetah can be found on the open plains. On rare occasion, packs of African Hunting Dogs are sighted passing through the reserve.
The Ewaso N’giro is also an important water source for the Samburu villages surrounding the reserves. The Samburu culture is a truly fascinating one, sharing a great deal of ancestral and linguistic ties to the Maasai. The Samburu are herders of camels and goats, and are often seen on the reserve boundaries bringing their animals to water.
In areas around the reserves, there are several private sanctuaries working closely with the Samburu to protect both their tribal lands and the local wildlife. These sanctuaries are open to guests, and are well worth visiting for those interested in Samburu culture.
The most common means of safari game viewing in Samburu is in customised vehicles, specially designed for photography.
A privately escorted Samburu foot safari is the best way to really experience the African bush at its best. Walking through the wilds let you explore the wild at its most pure and visceral. as you track big game, you become aware of every sight and sound, the smell of the earth and the touch of the wind. An expert tracker will teach you the signs to look for, the individual tracks and spoor, and show you how to use the wind to disguise your scent, and to move silently through thick cover and get up close and personal with the game.
One of Kenya’s best adventure safaris is a rafting expedition along the Ewaso N’giro River. The trip can last between three and eight days, depending on water levels and accessibility.
Samburu is camel country, and an ideal place for a camel safari. Many of the lodges and camps within the reserves have camels for guided rides and trips.
The camel is perfectly adapted to this landscape and is widely used throughout Northern Kenya. They are usually used for pack animals rather than riding, and are ideal as back up on a trek through the bush. Camels with saddles are usually also supplied for those who want to ride. Gifted Samburu guides, for whom a camel train through the wilderness is a way of life, will introduce you to the bush and the local wildlife. This is a once in a lifetime experience, walking through the bush with only the sounds of the wild and the soft tinkling of the camel bells, you will find yourself travelling at a relaxed pace, moving through the wild in tune with the rhythms of nature.
The impressively stark massif of Ol Olokwe, 30 kms north of Samburu Reserve, has some excellent rock climbing routes, summiting at 1,853 metres.
There is a good range of lodge accommodation locally with some fine food served. In and around Isiolo and Archers Post, many small markets and shops can be found selling local handicrafts. This region is the best place to buy traditional Samburu handicrafts.
Samburu is accessible by road via Isiolo and Archers Post. Driving time from Nairobi is approximately 6 hours. Accessing the Reserves is difficult without private transport. Most visitors come here as part of a safari package from Nairobi or in a hire car. Samburu and Buffalo Springs are adjoining, while the separate Shaba is a short drive to the east. The reserves have well established internal roads and tracks.
- Prolific wildlife providing excellent game viewing opportunities.
- Excellent bird spotting with over 380 recorded species.
- For the adventurous take a white-water rafting trip down the Ewaso N’giro River or a Camel Safari.