Fairend Safaris

Samburu National Reserve

Samburu National Reserve is situated on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river in Northern Kenya. It is 165 square kilometers in area with semi-arid plains, tall acacia trees, deep craters, and large granite rocky outcrops. The reserve is less visited due to its location but its visitors are rewarded with untouched wilderness and arid ecosystem.
Samburu Reserve is well known for an abundance of rare species of animals such as the Grevy Zebra, Somali Ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk, and Beisa Oryx. In addition to being home to over 450 recorded bird species, Elephants, Lions, Leopards, and Cheetahs. The famous Kamunyak, a Lioness who adopted a baby Oryx is a resident. This is a great destination for seeing wild dogs.

How to get to Samburu National Reserve

Both road and air can be used to access Samburu National Reserve because it is 355km away from Nairobi. Therefore, travelers can use the road which takes approximately 6 hours to get there. The advantage of using the road is that tourists can visit other conservation reserves and parks located on the way.

Alternatively guest may opt air which is the quickest way. There are domestic chartered flights offered by Safari Link and Air Kenya. Both flights to Samburu are from Wilson Airport in Nairobi. The airstrips serving the reserve are Buffalo Springs Airstrip, Kalama Airstrip, and Samburu Oryx Airstrip.

Attractions found in the reserve

Special five rare species

Samburu National Reserve is home to unique animals that are rarely seen elsewhere in Africa. These are Somali ostrich, grey zebra, beisa Oryx, reticulated giraffe, and gerenuk.  Travelers can see them during game drives or nature walks in the savannah grasslands. Some of these can be found along the river or the river line forests.

Bird species

Over 450 bird species of which include both migratory and permanent residents can be found in Samburu National Reserve. Profound birders usually have a long list of birds they get to see  and some of these are; the golden-breasted starling, white-headed mousebird, Sulphur breasted bush shrike, blue-necked Somali ostrich, martial eagle, Egyptian vulture, vulturine guinea fowl, kori bustard, yellow-billed hornbill, secretary bird among others.

River Ewaso Nyiro

This is Kenya’s biggest river and the largest water source in Samburu National Reserve. Numerous Nile crocodiles and other animal species can be spotted around this river as they drink from it. The river flows north meandering off to southeast through Somalia to join river Jubba.

Samburu culture

Samburu National Reserve was named after the Samburu people who dominate this region. Travelers interested in cultural encounters can visit and learn about their culture, norms, and practices. The Samburu people are fond of painting their faces with striking patterns most especially with bright colors. They are very attached to their animals including goats, camels, and cattle.

Camelback rides – One way of exploring Samburu National Reserve is by using a camel. Travelers ride into the wilderness to see animals up close, it is a traditional way of touring the reserve. This gives an unforgettable experience to the visitors who participate.

Big three cats –Samburu National Reserve is home to the three big cats namely lions, leopards, and cheetahs. These attract many tourists to this reserve since they can easily be encountered. Travelers may spot the animals as they drink water in river Ewaso Nyiro or as they hunting in the wilderness.

Riverine forest – The riverine forests in Samburu National Reserve are extremely green with a cool breeze. Besides many bird species can be spotted resting on trees as travelers enjoy nature walks or during game drives. The birds seen are grey-headed kingfisher, sunbirds, bee-eaters, Marabou stork, tawny eagle, Verreaux’s eagle, Bateleur, and yellow-necked spurfowl among others.

Activities to do Samburu National Reserve

Game drives

Game drives are usually conducted in the morning, afternoon and evening with guidance of an experience guide or ranger. Travelers are able to spot the rare species of Sambura National Reserve which can be seen on different trails. With the use of a 4WD pop up safari vehicle, tourist get up close to the animals. Though keeping a safe distance is key, those at a far distance can be seen using a pair of binoculars.

The animals viewed during the drives are leopards, hippos, elephants, cheetahs, gravy’s zebras, Beisa Oryx, reticulated giraffes and Gerenuk. In addition to the animals, birds of rare species for example the Somali Ostrich and other numerous birds like kingfisher, sunbirds, bee-eaters, Marabou stork, tawny eagle, Verreaux’s eagle, Bateleur, vulturine Guinea fowl, yellow-necked spurfowl, a lilac-breasted roller among others can be spotted.


Over 450 recorded bird species among which are residents and migratory can be seen in the savannah plains of Samburu National Reserve. Other places to see the birds is within the forest and on the river. The species to look out for are Acacia tit, Bare-eyed thrush, African palm swift, Cisticola ashy, Brown-tailed rock chit, Black-bellied sunbird, Black-capped social weaver Chestnut weaver, Chestnut-headed sparrow lark, and The Donaldson-Smith’s sparrow weaver, Sulphur breasted bush shrikes,  blue-necked Somali ostrich, martial eagle, Egyptian vulture, vulturine guinea fowl, kori bustard, yellow-billed hornbill, secretary birds among others. Most importantly travelers interested in birding should from November to April when migrating bird species visit the reserve.

Cultural Encounters

The Samburu people reside near the reserve, they are nomadic pastoralists who herd cattle, sheep, goats, and camels. Travelers visit these communities to learn more about their culture and ways of living. They are extremely welcoming, live in huts built from mud and roofed with grass, and their diet consists of milk and blood obtained from their animals. Visitors are usually delighted by cultural dances and music while visiting the Samburu people, as well as witnessing the circumcision ritual and traditional marriage.

Camelback safaris

Camelback safaris in Samburu National Park are yet another amazing and unique traditional ways of touring the wilderness. Guests get to enjoy the open environment in the park filled with beautiful scenery and numerous animals. This enables riding tourists to get up close to the animals while keeping a safe distance. In any case, where animals are a bit distant, binoculars can be used to view those far.

Mount biking

Mountain biking is another thrilling activity in Samburu National Park which involves using bikes to tour the wilderness.  Given that the reserve is a semi-arid plain, it has great views of the vegetation, animals, birds, and the river streaming through the forest.

Nature walks

Last but not least, travelers get to explore the reserve on foot with an experienced guide or ranger. Animals can be seen on the river banks and along other paths across the reserve during the walks. Animals that can be spotted are hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and birds among others. 

Where to stay 

There are several accommodation facilities in and around Samburu National Reserve where travelers can stay during their visit, they range from Luxury to budget and these include, Samburu Sopa Lodge, Sorova Shaba Game Lodge, Samburu Intrepids Tented Camp, Camels Gate Lodge, Elephant Bedroom, Saruni Samburu, Sasaab, Joy’s camp,  and Larsens tented camp among others. 

The best time to visit 

Samburu National Park can be visited throughout the year however the best time to visit is when the dry season from June to October and December to February. During these months it is easier to see animals however if you are interested in birding you should visit during rainy seasons in the months of March to May and November.