Samburu National Reserve
Located in Northern Kenya, Samburu national reserve is a wildlife hub in East Africa well known for its abundance of wildlife and incredible game sightings in one of Africa’s most popular game reserve. Samburu National Reserve which covers an area of 165 square kilometres is situated on the banks of Ewaso Ng’iro River in Kenya and located in Samburu County, on the other side of the River you find the Buffalo Springs National Reserve. The Greater Laikipia-Samburu region has the largest population of elephants and Samburu National Reserve alone is home to about 900 elephants making the large herds of elephants one of the reserve’s main attraction. .
Kenya is the wildlife capital of East Africa and Samburu National Reserve is one of the top places to visit while on a Kenya safari as it takes you on full day game drives in one of Kenya’s most popular conservation areas. Samburu National Reserve is rich in bio diversity with abundant wildlife and is home to a variety of species of birds (380 species have been recorded) as well as plant life.
Wildlife of Samburu National Reserve
Samburu National Reserve is a wildlife haven with the most sought after animals being the Samburu Special Five that include the Beisa Oryx, Grevy’s Zebra, Somali Ostrich, Gerenuk and the Reticulated Giraffe. These animals are usually only spotted in Samburu and are resident to Northern Kenya and will rarely be spotted in other parts of Kenya or other conservation areas in Kenya.
Other wildlife in Samburu National Reserve include Impalas, Water bucks, Elephants, Grant’s Gazelle, Lions, African Leopard (Samburu is one of the best places in Kenya to spot the leopard), Olive baboons, Cape buffaloes, Kirk’s dik-dik, Warthogs, Cheetah, Klipspringer, Wild dogs, Common Eland, Aardvark, Striped Hyenas, Jackals, Hippos, and the recently re-introduced Black Rhinoceros. Nile Crocodiles are also present in Samburu National Reserve in the Ewaso Ng’iro River. Samburu National Reserve is known to offer excellent game viewing as it boasts of 75 species of mammals and a good population of predators.
Birds of Samburu National Reserve
Over 380 species of birds have been recorded at Samburu National Reserve and this makes it a birding hotspot for the specialist birder while on a birding safari in Kenya. The reserve has a variety of species that include savanna species, mid-elevation species, riverine forest species and endemic arid specials. The most sought after birds in Samburu National Reserve include Vulturine Guineafowl, Somali Ostrich and Hunter’s Sunbird.
Other bird species to look out for while in the reserve include Verreaux’s Eagle, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Palm-nut Vuture, Tawny Eagle, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Lilac-breasted Roller, Secretary Bird, Nothern Red-billed Hornbill, Marabou Stork, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Bateleur, African Darter, Great Egret, Martial Eagle, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, White-headed Vulture, Donaldson Smith’s Sparrow weaver, Shining Sunbird, Bristle-crowned Starling, Crested Francolin, Helmeted Guineafowl, Yellow-necked Francolin, Speckled Pigeon, Kori Bustard, Black-bellied Bustard, Bare-faced Go-away bird, Red-chested Cuckoo, Spotted Thick-knee, Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Lapwing, Crowned Lapwing, Yellow-billed Stork, Long-tailed Cormorant, Goliath Heron, Hadada Ibis, Black-crowned Night heron, Black-winged kite, African Harrier-Hawk, African Fish Eagle, Speckled Mousebird, Narina Trogon, White-headed Mousebird, Green Wood Hoopoe, Northern Red-billed Hornbill, Little Bee-eater, White throated Bee-eater, Black-throated Barbet, Lesser Honeyguide, Pygymy Batis, African pied wagtail etc.
Vegetation of Samburu National Reserve
The national reserve is made up of a number of vegetation types and they include rocky cliffs and scarps, swamps, open grassland, figs, outcrops of ancient basement rocks that are usually close to the safari lodges in Samburu, arid open bush that harbors a variety of birds species, swamps that are home to papyrus endemics, riverrine sandbacks, scattered acacia trees, woodland and riverrine forest areas. The vegetation of Samburu national reserve offers habitats to the wildlife and bird life in the reserve and is of great importance to the greater Eco system of Samburu.
The Samburu People
The Samburu National Reserve get its name from the Samburu people therefore the name has a great attachment to this indigenous group and one cannot talk about the reserve without mentioning the relationship between the conservation area and the people. The Samburu are a tribal group of Kenya and are closely related to the Maasai of Kenya, the attachment to the Maasai also involves the Samburu people speaking the same language as the Maasai – “Maa”. The Samburu people are mainly pastoralists as they rear cattle, camels and goats. The Samburu have a very close relationship with their animals especially cattle and often spend a great part of their day grazing and tending to their animals. The Samburu people live further to the north outside the national reserve and a visit to spend some time with this cultural group can always be arranged.
Top Things to do in Samburu National Reserve
Samburu National Reserve compared to other parks in Kenya is rather small is size however it offers some of the best wildlife sightings while on safari in Kenya. Game drives give one an opportunity to look out for the big 3 cats that is the Lion, Leopard and Cheetah. The predators are often seen in the open grassland areas which are great hunting grounds for them as these areas tend to have antelopes and zebras foraging. Samburu national reserve also is the best place to see the wild dog as well as Samburu specials like Gerenuk, Beisa Oryx, Grevy’s Zebra, Somali Ostrich and the Reticulated Giraffe. Other wildlife encounters while on a game drive include striped hyenas, buffaloes, hippos, eland, Kirk’s dik-diks, olive baboons among other mammal species. On a lucky day you might come across a previous hunt from the predators and you might see vultures surrounding the hunt as they feed on leftovers from the cats. The game drives can be full day, half day or on request night game drives for an opportunity to look out for nocturnal animals.
Birding in Samburu National Reserve
Bird watching is also a worthwhile adventure especially for the specialist birder as it offers one an opportunity to look out for savanna specials, endemics and other bird species resident to the reserve. Samburu National Reserve is an Important Bird Area (IBA) where over 380 bird species have been recorded therefore it offers incredible bird sightings and is a great destination to add to your birding in Kenya Safari. Birding is best done in the morning however even late evenings can be a good time to bird in Samburu.
Cultural and Community Visits
Cultural visits are a perfect way to spend an afternoon in Samburu as it offers one an opportunity to visit a community or tribal group for a glimpse into the way of life and the culture of the Kenyan people. A visit to the Samburu people’s heartland takes you north outside the reserve where you spend time with the tribal group, talking, dancing, visiting their craft centers, beautiful huts constructed with mud and also spend time in awe of their colourful traditional dressing of blankets and bright colored beads. You have an opportunity to purchase souvenirs from their craft centers.
Camel Trekking Safari
This is a unique activity in Samburu where you spend time exploring Samburu national reserve on a camel’s back, a rather interesting and unique experience while on safari. The Camel ride involves riding through the stunning landscape of Northern Kenya with beautiful views across the open savanna. On the camel ride you are accompanied by Samburu tribesmen and the ride brings you closer to wildlife like the reticulated giraffes, zebras and somali ostrich among others. The camel ride takes 2 – 3 hours and ends with a sun downer in the midst of Samburu national reserve, alternatively you can choose to spend longer time on the excursion. Basic riding ability is an added advantage for the Camel ride excursion especially if you want to spend a longer time riding in the reserve.
Nature Walks and Walking Safaris
The guided nature walks in Samburu take you through the beautiful hilly landscape of Samburu with magnificent views across the open grassland. The walking safaris are an opportunity to look out for wildlife and bird life in Samburu. Experiencing the national reserve on foot is an opportunity to watch and get up close with wildlife while on foot. All the nature walks involve traveling with a professional park guide and a ranger guide.
Sundowners and Bush Meals
Samburu National Reserve is the perfect destination for bush meals amidst the reserve. With its rocky ridges and outcrops the reserve offers perfect spots for bush breakfast, a private picnic or bush lunch all while enjoying expansive views of the Samburu conservation area. Sun downers are also another great way to spend your time in Samburu especially after full day game drives in the park, you get to end the day watching the sunset while sipping on your favorite drink.
Where to Stay in Samburu National Reserve
Samburu national reserve has a number of accommodation options that range from luxury to mid-range to budget, however for an incredible and comfortable stay we recommend that you consider luxury and mid-range accommodation options as priority. Accommodation facilities in Samburu that you can choose from include;
Sasaab Samburu – This is a luxury tented camp located just outside Samburu National reserve and features 9 luxury canvas rooms. Each room has a private plunge pool and since the camp is located on the edge of the river valley it offers wonderful animal sightings as well as expanse views across the Laikipia Plateau. This is a perfect luxury accommodation that offers one a luxurious experience coupled with excellent service while on safari in Kenya. Great facilities are available at the property that include an infinity swimming pool, a dining area beautifully decorated with African and Swahili décor, a gym, and an exquisite lounge area.
Ashnil Samburu Camp – Ashnil Samburu is a mid-range tented camp with stunning views of the Ewaso Ng’iro River. The luxury camp features 19 luxury private tents nestled along the River with comfortable beds, linen and beautiful interior décor with an African touch. The camp is a great option for one looking a mid-range yet stunning accommodation facility with great service while on safari in Samburu national reserve. The camp has a swimming pool area, a spa and wellness centre and is well known for its open air bar that serves a variety of drinks. A perfect way to end the day after your full day game drives is with a cocktail or glass of wine at the camp’s open air bar.
How to get to Samburu National Reserve
Travelling to Samburu National Reserve is either by flight or by road. There are charter flights from Wilson Airport in Nairobi to Samburu and duration of flight is one hour and 30 minutes. Taking a flight to the reserve offers less transfer time and more time on safari. You land either at Buffalo Springs Airstrip, Kalama Airstrip or Samburu Oryx Airstrip depending on where your lodge is situated.
If travelling by road from Nairobi it takes 5 hours and 30 minutes to get to Samburu National Reserve, this is excluding stopovers along the way. The drive from Nairobi to Samburu offers one a glimpse in to the way of life of Kenyans as you drive through the small busy towns of Kenya and past local’s gardens. It is also a scenic drive through the landscape of Kenya. The route is Nairobi – Thika highway – Marwa town – Nanyuki – Samburu. You arrive and get into the reserve through Archer’s gate which is the main entry point into Samburu National Reserve.