Samburu National Reserve : Samburu is ideal for a quiet safari experience due to its unspoiled environment, high wildlife density, and distant position. This craggy, hilly region tells an incredible story of community and animal conservation and is a fantastic off-the-beaten-path excursion.
THE SAMBURU NATIONAL RESERVE IN A NUTSHELL
Samburu National Reserve, along with Shaba and Buffalo Springs, is located on Kenya’s northern safari circuit. Because of its distant position in northern Laikipia, this circuit receives fewer visitors. Visitors are rewarded, however, with pristine wilderness, high wildlife populations, and a safari experience away from Kenya’s bigger parks.
The park is framed by striking volcanic mountains, and massive granite rocky outcrops, tall acacias, and deep craters are spread across Samburu’s semi-arid plains between the red sands and vegetation.
The Ewaso Nyiro River flows through the heart of the park. The banks are lined by a green oasis of giant doum palms and luxuriant foliage, breaking up the usually parched landscape and providing an important shelter for species.
Samburu is home to “the special five,” which include the Grevy zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and the Beisa Oryx. Huge elephant herds, endangered wild dogs, and big cats can all be found in abundance here.
Almost 450 bird species have been reported, including the lesser kestrel, vulturine guinea fowl, and Taita falcon. The park was named after the nomadic pastoralists of the Samburu tribe, whose traditional dress is among the most vivid, attractive, and delicate in Africa.
WHERE DOES SAMBURU FIT INTO YOUR KENYAN ADVENTURE?
The Kenya Northern Safari Circuit includes Samburu, Buffalo Springs, and Shaba National Reserve. Because wildlife is able to move between the areas, they are often referred to as the Samburu ecosystem.
They are semi-arid, like Samburu, and have volcanic lava terraces, hot springs, wide rolling grasslands, and uncommon northern animals such as the reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich, and gerenuk.
Sera Wildlife Reserve, located approximately two hours north of Samburu, is another excellent option. Other than the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, it is one of the few areas in East Africa where you can track rhinos on foot. You will be brought to some of the sanctuary’s 18 rhinos by an expert guide and a highly trained Sera Community Conservancy ranger, who will accompany you.
THINGS TO DO
Helicopter Safaris: Go to the skies in a helicopter for a bird’s-eye view of Samburu and its volcanic geology, beginning with the Ololukwe monolith and continuing to the Suguta Valley, Silale Crater, and Lake Logipi, all of which are inaccessible by game drive vehicle.
Before arriving on the sacred Samburu Mountain, Ol Donyo Sabachi (Ol Lolokwe), which climbs 1,000 meters above the surrounding plains, you will have a birds-eye view of Samburu’s infamously big herds of elephants.
The remarkable adventure can be completed with an early evening trek to Sundowner Rock for panoramic views of the reserve and wildlife below. Helicopter rides are a premium activity, with prices ranging from $5,000 to $7,000 for a one-day helicopter safari for a group of 1 to 5 people.
Camel Safari: Take a camel safari and explore the African wilderness like the Samburu. A camel ride is an excellent alternative to a traditional game drive, allowing you to get up close and personal with Grevy’s zebra, ostrich, and giraffe while observing animals and birds that you might otherwise miss.
Camels are calm animals that have been a part of the northern Kenyan way of life for millennia. Camel safaris are quite adaptable. You can choose between a two-hour round trip with sundowners in between and a longer camel safari with fly camping in the bush.
Reteti Elephant Sanctuary: Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is one of Kenya’s earliest community-run wildlife organizations, located in the neighboring Namunyak Wildlife Reserve. The sanctuary and its keepers are dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and rewilding orphaned and abandoned elephant calves and other species. Visiting hours are from 8.30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then from 11.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
You can see the elephants come in from their stroll to receive their bottles and then have mudhole fun from a unique observation platform. During your visit, you will be accompanied by a keeper, who will inform you about their work and give you a behind-the-scenes tour.
This activity cost $20 per person for non-residents at the time of writing. They prefer that you dress in green if possible, and reservations must be made at least a week in advance.
Guided nature walks: Take an hour-long guided nature walk in the region surrounding your chosen camp, or explore further to one of the nearby conservancies for a longer hike lasting 2–5 hours.
This is a fantastic opportunity to see some of the 450 bird species documented here, as well as the unique Samburu Five, and learn more about the fascinating plant life and its applications in local custom.
Samburu is semi-arid, so bring plenty of water, a good hat, lightweight trousers and long sleeve tops (to protect your arms and legs from thorny shrubs), protective sunglasses, and appropriate walking shoes. It is best to go for a walk early in the morning or late in the evening when it is not too hot.
Walking is restricted in the reserve, as it is in other Kenyan national parks except Hell’s Gate National Park, with the exception of certain areas near lodges and camps and the adjacent conservancies. As a result, a longer walking adventure is sometimes paired with a game drive and picnic lunch.
WHERE TO STAY
Sasaab: Sasaab is one of Samburu’s most exquisite accommodations, located on the reserve’s boundaries and perched on a slope with views of the huge Laikipia Plateau and Mount Kenya. To keep the heat at bay, there are just nine hidden villas designed utilizing Moroccan design ideas.
The cottages have classic four-poster beds, big open-air baths, separate plunge pools, and a private balcony overlooking the river, where you may spend the hot afternoons observing elephants and other wildlife.
Twice-daily wildlife drives, guided nature walks, and mountain biking are just a few of the activities available. Massages in the seclusion of your room or an herbal spa treatment are also available when you’re ready to unwind.
Saruni Samburu: Saruni Samburu, located in the neighboring Kalama Conservancy, gives visitors a choice of six spacious and open-air eco villas constructed into the rock face. Each villa has an outside shower, large sitting areas, rustic four-poster beds, and overlooks 200,000 acres of natural forest.
Aside from the breathtaking view, spa treatments, an infinity pool, three-course dinners, flexible eating options, and exceptional service are some of the delights of staying here.
Elephant Bedroom Camp: Elephant Bedroom Camp is a rustic and beautiful safari camp that provides guests with a traditional safari experience. The 14 stilted tents are designed in warm African tones and are strategically placed to ensure privacy.
Every tent has its own terrace, and the honeymoon tent has its own plunge pool. Visitors may anticipate free Wi-Fi and en-suite bathrooms with dual sinks.
Breakfast and lunch are offered al fresco for a fine-dining experience. Tuck into a romantic dinner in the dining room at night as the warm glow of safari lamps sets the mood and wildlife glides around the camp softly.
Don’t pass up the chance to learn more about Samburu culture. With cultural tours to surrounding villages, Elephant Bedroom Camp guests can learn more about Samburu traditions and ways of life.
WHEN TO GO
Samburu National Reserve is best visited during the dry season, which runs from July to September and December to March. These months are ideal for wildlife viewing since the grass is short and animals are driven to water sources, particularly the Ewaso Nyiro river banks.
It is generally recommended to avoid the long rainy season from March to May and the short rainy season from October to November. Due to muddy roads, access becomes more difficult, animal viewing becomes more difficult, and planned excursions may be hampered by excessive rains during these months.
Samburu National Reserve is located 355 kilometers (220 meters) north of Nairobi and takes around 6 hours to reach. If you’re driving, you can stop at additional conservancies and national parks along the way to break up the journey.
The fastest way to get to the reserve is to fly. There are two daily flights from Nairobi that take slightly under an hour. Flying, on the other hand, is the most expensive choice, with rates in the $400 range during peak season.