North of Laikipia, the hot, dry, relatively low country (around 800m above sea level) that heralds Kenya’s vast northern deserts and semi-deserts is the traditional homeland of the Samburu people, who were drawn to this region by the reliability of the Ewaso Nyiro, northern Kenya’s biggest and least seasonal river, for watering their herds. The wildlife is plentiful here for the same reason – dozens of species of plains grazers and browsers gathering in the thick acacia and doum palm forest along the river banks to drink and seek shade.
River Ewaso Nyiro: The most popular park in northern Kenya, Samburu’s dominant feature is the Ewaso Ngiro River, which slices through the otherwise bone-dry country. The river acts as a magnet for thirsty animals, and large numbers of elephants, Grevy’s zebras, giraffes and lions gather along the riverbanks.
Isolated Hills: Shaba, with its great rocky kopjes (isolated hills), natural springs and doum palms, is more physically beautiful than the nearby national reserves of Samburu and Buffalo Springs. It is also much less visited, so you’ll almost have it to yourself – but it also often has less visible wildlife.
Wildlife: Several dry-country adapted mammals that don’t occur in most Kenyan parks can be found here. The Reticulated giraffe has a more striking pattern than the common Masai giraffe. Beisa Oryx is particularly well adapted to arid conditions. The gerenuk, with its elongated neck, is able to stand on its hind legs to reach sparse leaves. Both the common Burchell’s zebra and the bigger Grevy’s zebra are found next to each other.
Getting there : Samburu is located 355km/220mi north of Nairobi. Self-drive to the reserve is an easy option and the driving time is about six hours. There are also daily scheduled flights from Nairobi to Samburu’s airstrip.
Driving from Nakuru NP is also an option. The distance is about 300km/190mi and the driving time is roughly five and a half hours.
Safari-goers flying from Europe or North America to Kenya usually arrive at Nairobi – it’s the largest hub for most transport (including flights) in the region. The main airport is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), which is located 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi. Kenya’s second international airport is Moi International Airport (MBA), which is 9km/6mi west of Mombasa.
Where to Stay: Saruni Samburu, a lavish option preferred by many people, is sited in the private Kalama Conservancy with six intimate villas, all affording superb views of the rugged outback and its distant hills. Find the perfect balance of quality and price at our two Tier 2 recommendations – Ashnil Samburu Camp and Elephant Watch Camp.
Ashnil Samburu Camp features thirty guest tents with almost 360-degree views from inside, as well as open views from your private verandah. Each guest tent is situated along the Ewaso Nyiro River so you can watch the wildlife drink, bathe and graze. Elephant Watch Camp is also situated along the river and is constructed out of reclaimed logs, thus fashioning a rustic setting within the bush.