The Samburu National Reserve is a game reserve located on the shores of the Ewaso Ng’iro River in Samburu district in the Rift Valley Province of Kenya some 350 kilometers from Nairobi. The 165 km² craggy, semi-desert Reserve neighbors the homes of the Samburu tribe of Kenya, a tribe famed for its nomadic way of life and derives its name from the very people.
Samburu’s altitude ranges from 800 to 1230 m above sea level with the landscape mainly open Savannah grassland with clusters of Acacia trees, thorn trees and meadow vegetation. Two mountains, Ololokwe and Koitogor, are also visible once inside the Reserve as well as the Ewaso Ng’iro River flowing from the Kenyan highlands, through palm thickets and dense riverine woodlots and emptying into the famed Lorian Swamp.
The Samburu National Reserve is home to a wide variety of animal and bird life. The southern part of the Reserve usually houses most of the animals and these include the Leopard, Cheetah, Lion, Elephant, Impala, Buffalo, Dik-dik, the native Gerenuk, Beisa Oryx, Giraffe and Grevy’s Zebra. Other animals seen around the Reserve include the Rhinoceros, Waterbuck, Olive Baboon, Warthog and Grant’s gazelle.
The Reserve is also a bird haven with over 350 species of bird including the Palm-nut Vulture, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Hornbill, Sunbird, Northern Red-billed Hornbill, Bee-eater, Superb Starling, Marabou Stork, Secretary Bird, Tawny Eagle, Lilac-breasted Roller, Verreaux’s Eagle, Somali Ostrich, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Bateleur and the Vulturine Guineafow.
The Ewaso Ng’iro River plays host to the Hippopotamus and large numbers of the Nile Crocodile.
Samburu National Reserve can be accessed by both road and air. By road, the Reserve is reached via Isiolo and Archer’s Post and here, one could use their own vehicle, get on public transportation or order an open-topped minibus or safari van with a guide. The trip from Nairobi is 345 km long and takes about five hours.
To reach Samburu by air, one has to make use of the daily flights from Nairobi to Samburu that can be booked online. The flight takes about 45 minutes and the aircrafts land at the Reserve’s airstrip. There is also the option of private charter flights.
Samburu National Reserve has a wide array of accommodation options that cater to the needs of each and every guest. Samburu Serena Lodge is situated in the Reserve, overlooking the craggy mountains. The Lodge’s 62 rooms come with a private verandah overlooking Ewaso Nyiro River, a separate bath and shower room, air conditioner, a mini-bar and in-room safety locks. Also on offer is a breeze cooled bar, a dining area overlooking the flood-lit vastness of the river, a sparkling swimming pool, game drives, camel safaris and bird walks.
The Samburu Game Lodge is one of the area’s first game lodges and it offers guests time honored hospitality and service. On offer are cottages as well as twin or single rooms, all facing the river. Visitors are also assured of a mouth watering cuisine prepared by the Lodge’s team of chefs. One can view game from the comfort of their lodgings and what can be seen includes the resident bird life, prying squirrels, monitor lizards, and nightly visits from several large crocodiles and leopards.
The Samburu Intrepids Club, luxury tented camp, is situated deep within the Reserve. It offers 27 contemporary tents with a private view over the wildlife- rich river shores. Facilities on offer include a sparkling freeform swimming pool with a sunbathing terrace, a boutique with souvenirs and safari fundamentals, board games, a conference room and safety deposit boxes.
The Elephant Watch Safari Camp is balanced on the inclined riverbank, beneath the crowns of the great Kigelia and Acacia trees. The Camp is home to some of the largest elephant bulls in the Samburu and also has the Greater Kudu and Impalas, a whole host of birds and monkeys pass through. At night, an occasional leopard can be spotted hunting in the darkness.
Visitors can also find accommodation at the Sarova Shaba lodge, a luxury lodge situated on the edges of the Shaba National Reserve which overlooks the Ewaso Ng’iro River. Sarova Shaba offers guests 80 air conditioned thatched roofed bedrooms, one superior suite with a Jacuzzi and four luxury suites, all with a private bath and shower, hot and cold running water. Also on offer is a swimming pool with a waterfall and small islands, a restaurant and two bars, a medical clinic, laundry service, game drives, camel safaris, bird-spotting, guided nature walks and dining with the locals.
There are four campsites available though most of them do not have any amenities, except for the Buffalo Special Campsite, which has toilets and showers. Visitors are required to bring with them their own camping gear.
Best Time to Visit
The Reserve is open all year round and therefore can be visited any month of the year. However, the best months to visit are December to March and July to October where the weather is pleasant and dry and vegetation is thinner, making game spotting easier. April to June are also good months to visit but might be rainy.
Weather and Climate
Samburu is hot and dry during the day and cool during nights and evenings with average maximum temperatures being recorded at around 30°C and minimum temperatures at around 20°C. March to May are the wettest months as most rain falls then whilst November to December experience less precipitation. July to October and January to March are the hot and arid months.
Other Safety Considerations
The risk of malaria in Samburu is low but visitors are still urged to take precautionary measures to stay safe. These include the use of malaria prophylactics, sleeping under treated nets, using mosquito repellent sprays and creams as well as covering bare skin at dusk. To avoid heat stroke, visitors are also urged to carry with them light clothing, wide brimmed hats, good sunglasses, sunscreen as well as to stay hydrated all the time.