First opened as the Samburu-Isiolo Game Reserve in 1948, this area was split in 1985 to form two national parks – Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves. Of the two, the Samburu is the more rugged, covered in volcanic plains, swamps, rocky outcrops, small rivers and isolated inselbergs.
Lizard in Sambaru
Samburu is arid and sandy, making it a tough area for wildlife to live in. Despite this, a bountiful collection exists, typically of animals not found further south – the Beia oryx, Somali ostrich, Masai Ostrich, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, leopard, cheetah and lion. The aardwolf has been spotted on several lucky occasions. The more common reptiles are seen relatively easily such as the “tree agama” pictured above. As an African colonial we refer to this beautiful boy as a “goggô-mannetjie” although spellings differ depending on how you pronounce it and exactly where you were born!
The dry area makes game concentration around rivers particularly good – Ewaso Ng’iro River is a particularly good site, and is fantastic for watching mudbathing elephant. Birdlife is also good, and the rare lesser kestrel and Taita falcon are known to be in the area. We never forget the smaller creatures either and finding a baboon spider home and waiting to picture him defending his territory is particularly entertaining to younger members of the family.
Spider home, Samburu
Activities are largely elephant orientated – a research camp initiated by Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton in the national park makes this a natural focus, and the elephant tracking is a particularly good experience. Cultural visits to the local Samburu tribe are definitely worth taking a day out for, and although of varying quality, occasionally some very good pieces of beadwork can be bought from the women tribesfolk. Quite a number of activities involve walking with camels which is always adds an exciting dimension to game viewing. 380 bird species have been recorded in the area. The terrain lends itself to raptors who are often seen sitting on top of the numerous rocky outcrops which make suitable nesting sites.
The Northern Frontier is near Samburu and a rewarding addition to safaris here – but be warned that this is for the more diehard traveller seeking the remoteness that guarantees no other tourists! Laikipia is one of our favourite destinations and very conveniently linked to Samburu – some of the best game viewing in the entire country! Otherwise, the main tourist circuit is always an option – the Masai Mara is world-famous for its spectacular wildlife and safaris and we’d go as far as to say it’s an essential stop for any first time visitor.
Ask an expert
We've helped first-timers and seasoned travellers in Africa since 1995. We can help you take advantage of mainstream options.
Better still we'll show you how and where to step off well beaten paths for the more interesting journeys.
Drop a note right here...