Samburu & Northern Kenya
Samburu and Kenya's other northern parks offer a dramatically scenic home to some unusual wildlife species as well as more commonly seen animals.
Samburu National Reserve and Kenya’s northern reserves add a new dimension to Kenya’s already rich store of game drive opportunities. Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba reserves are all near each other and quite similar. As well as lion, elephant, zebra and other usual suspects, the area is also home to desert-adapted animals and species not found in the more frequently visited parks further south. This is the land of Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, Beisa oryx and the blue-skinned Somali ostrich.
The Samburu people are incredible guides and visits to this region offer a fascinating insight into their culture. The Samburu Reserve is smaller than some of the other Kenyan reserves, meaning you don’t have to cover vast distances in search of wildlife.
The northern reaches of Kenya are arid and hot, rain is often scarce, it can be years from one rain to the next. The mountains create an attractive break in the scrub and sand dunes as they rise from the cracked earth with their forested slopes. Parks in northern Kenya are all less-visited than the more famous southern parks, but each has something fascinating to offer the adventurous traveller.
Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy and other small nearby community or private conservancies, plus the Mathews Ranges not far away are wonderful places to consider for a more remote and unusual safari.
- Wildlife of Samburu: The Ewaso Nyiro River is a reliable water source for wildlife in the Samburu area. You are likely to elephants who are present in healthy numbers. You should see plains game, including Grevy’s zebra, lesser kudu, gerenuk with their elongated necks, Beisa oryx and reticulated giraffe. Big cat lovers should be on the lookout for leopards in particular, but also lions and cheetahs. There are no rhinos but the other four of the big five are present.
- Birding in Samubu and the north: The Somali ostrich makes its home here along with a variety of other smaller birds such as weavers, shrikes and flycatchers. The larger birds make their presence known in the form of martial eagles and kori bustards.
- Buffalo Springs: There are good numbers of elephants, and it's a place for good chances of leopard sightings. There is some good plains game here including greater and lesser kudu.
- Shaba National Reserve: This is the largest of the nearby parks, and very beautiful, but is the least-visited due to having less wildlife.
- Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy: Made up of a combination of group ranches, this is a very important and huge area of land whose habitat and wildlife the owners have been devoted to conserving since 1995. Sarara Camp here is an extremely special place.
- Mathews Range: Sarara Camps backs onto the Mathews Range and over the other side there is a stunning area of tropical highland forest which very few people visit and which nevertheless offers a remarkable experience. Stay at the small, simply stylish and gorgeous Kitich Camp.
- Reteti Elephant Sanctuary: This is a community-owned elephant sanctuary within Namunyak Conservancy
- Culture: The Samburu are cattle and goat herders. They have a similar lifestyle to the Maasai and share the same language. All of the camps in the area are staffed by Samburu who work as guides, rangers, askaris and more. Village visits can be arranged providing a deeper insight into their culture and beliefs.
The further north you go, the more arid the landscape. The landscape and the people who live here are the drawcard as opposed to the wildlife. There are numerous tribes including the Samburu, Burji, Gabbra and Boran, making it attractive to those with an interest in local cultures, their history and their way of life today.