Samburu National Reserve

Samburu National Reserve Guide

Where Is Samburu National Reserve?

Samburu National Reserve is a hot and arid place that lies on the fringes of the vast desert that was once known as the Northern Frontier District, whose heat scorched scrublands extend to the jade-green waters of Lake Turkana and beyond. An innovative cocktail of uniquely contrasting habitats, Samburu’s landscape veers from stark cliffs and boulder-strewn scarps to lush swamps and muddy sandbanks and from bone-dry bush to fronded riverine forests.

Farthest North of Popular Parks, uncompromisingly rugged and vividly beautiful, Samburu is essentially a lava plain theatrically punctuated by dry riverbeds, steep-sided gullies, rounded hills and harsh outcrops of ancient basalt rocks which form isolated inselbergs. Roughly in its centre rises the stark outline of Koitogor Mountains and 30kms beyond its northern borders rise the towering red granite walls of Mount Lololokwe (1,853m)

The domain of Palm and Desert Rose

Featuring mainly sandy and gravely soils the reserves abounds in large tracts of Acacia tortilis woodland and along the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro River and its tributaries there is a narrow band of a riverine forest with magnificent acacia elatior, Tana River. The uniform khaki of the shrub is also enlivened by the occasional bulbous trunk and brilliant pink bloom of the indigenous known and the Desert Rose.

Elephant Encounters

Prey to the dictates of a dry country ecosystem, the reserve is prone to large variations in the animal populations as they move about in search of water and pasture. However, elephant encounters are common as large herds roam the reserve and they are best seen crossing the river or returning to its banks at dusk to bathe.

Samburu National Reserve

Plentiful Predators

Samburu holds healthy numbers of lions, leopards and cheetah, as well as spotted and striped hyenas bat, eared foxes and common genents. In the heat of the day, droves of banded and dwarf mongooses scurry in voracious hunting bands at night golden and black-backed jackal prowl and aardwolves are occasionally seen.

Samburu National Park

Dwellers of the dry shrub

Samburu is one of the rare places in Kenya where you can view the Grevy’s Zebra which is different front the Burchell’s Zebra which are very common in the reserve. Other browsers of the thorny shrub include the increasingly uncommon reticulated giraffe and the rare Beisa Oryx as well as eland, impala, Brights reticulated giraffes and generux. Elsewhere rooting warthogs and Kirks and dik-dik can be seen and small numbers of the lesser and greater kudu.

Samburu National Reserve

Natives of the Ewaso Ngiro River

The lifeblood of this desert region, the 32km Ewaso Ng’iro River meanders in mud-brown loops throughout the reserve and is home to pods of snorting and hippos. Along the riverside,  Nile crocodiles freely bask and you will also encounter, impala, waterbucks and the buffalo.

The Brilliance of Birdlife

Samburu’s birdlife is so abundant that over 100 species can be spotted in a day. Perhaps most noteworthy of the sightings is the rate blue-shanked Somali Ostrich, the most memorable, the flash of a coral rump that flags the flight of the white-headed buffalo weaver. Secretary birds are plentiful as are flocks of helmeted and vulturine guinea fowl. Along the river, you will see storks feeding and in the evening you will see sand grouse congregate at the river bank. Both red-billed and hornbills are common.

The reserve’s characteristically rugged cliffs and starkly rising inselbergs provide the ideal habitat for raptors which change in size from the tiny pygmy falcon to the giant martial eagle.

Samburu National Reserve

Lodges In Samburu National Park

Campsites in Samburu National Park

There are five public campsites, all situated along the river and all with water, showers and latrines. Crocodiles are lurking around so no swimming is allowed here. You may want to consider alternative accommodation if it rains when you visit as there is no man-made shelter around the campsite. There are beautiful natural shades around the campsite.

Make sure you hire a guard to take care of your belongings. Some baboons lurk around and the second your guard is down they tend to steal campers food.

How To Get To Samburu National Reserve

By road: Take the main A2 Thika road out of Nairobi in the direction of Mount Kenya. Skirt the mountain either to the west via Nanyuki or to the east via Embu and Meru ( the roads on either route are in good condition). North of the mountain, take the road down the escarpment to Isiolo. Archer’s Gate into the reserve is marked approximately 22km beyond Isiolo to the west of the main A2 road.

Flights to Samburu National Park – there are daily scheduled flights from Nairobi and Nanyuki to Samburu.

You can find the Samburu National Reserve Park Fees 2019 here

Fact File

  • Altitude: 850 -1230 metres above sea level
  • How big is Samburu National Reserve? 165
  • Where is Samburu National Reserve Located? Samburu County, Rift Valley Region of Kenya
  • Nairobi to Samburu National Reserve Distance – 320 km northeast of Nairobi
  • Gazetted: The reserve was established in 1948 as the Samburu – Isiolo Game Reserve, part of the once extensive Marsabit National Reserve and became a National Reserve in the 1960s
  • Climate: The reserve is located in a hot and dry semi-arid area. Traditionally the long rains fall between March and April and the short rains between October and November.
  • Vegetation: The vegetation varies between acacia woodland, bush scrubland and narrow riverine woodlands
  • Wildlife: The wildlife includes Elephants, cheetah, reticulated giraffe, oryx, gerenuk, velvet monkey, zebra, buffalo and crocodile
  • Birdlife: There are over 380 species of birds that have been recorded here.
  • Roads: 4WD is recommended for the journey to and within the reserve. Although the 2 WD vehicles with good ground clearance can be used when it’s not rainy.
  • Gates: In addition to the Archer’s Gate there is also the Uaso Gate which leads to the Buffalo Springs Reserve and West Gate that leads to Wamba.

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Samburu National Reserve Guide


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