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Overview

The contiguous Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, which respectively flank the northern and southern banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, host one of the most unusual faunas of any African savannah reserve. Set in the vast tract of arid badlands that run from the base of Mount Kenya to the remote Ethiopian border, it's the most accessible location for a number of dry-country species with limited distributions, making it an ideal add-on to more typical safari destinations such as the Masai Mara or Tsavo. A striking resident is the reticulated giraffe, similar in size and shape to its blotchier southern cousins, but with a far more ...

The contiguous Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, which respectively flank the northern and southern banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, host one of the most unusual faunas of any African savannah reserve. Set in the vast tract of arid badlands that run from the base of Mount Kenya to the remote Ethiopian border, it's the most accessible location for a number of dry-country species with limited distributions, making it an ideal add-on to more typical safari destinations such as the Masai Mara or Tsavo. A striking resident is the reticulated giraffe, similar in size and shape to its blotchier southern cousins, but with a far more striking coat pattern of neat red polygons. It is a key stronghold for the world’s largest wild equid, the endangered Grevy’s zebra, which has a much narrower and more beautiful stripe pattern than other zebras. A cast of localized dry-country antelopes includes Beisa oryx, lesser kudu and the freakish rubber-necked gerenuk. The reserve offers wonderful dry-country birding, hosting several dozen species close to the southern extreme of their range, includuing stunners such as the cobalt chested vulturine guinea-fowl and golden-breasted starling. Yet the general game viewing is also excellent, with elephant being particularly common, and an excellent chance of spotting leopard in the riparian woodland along the river. Another fascinating facet of this harsh region is the local Samburu people, traditional pastoralists whose red attire, dramatic dances and obsessive love of cattle resemble those of the closely affiliated Maasai.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: The Samburu National Reserve is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng'iro river in Kenya; on the other side of the river is the Buffalo Springs National Reserve in Northern Kenya. It is 350 km from Nairobi.
  • Language: English, Kiswahili & numerous indigenous languages
  • Currency: Kenyan Shilling
  • Research: Samburu National Reserve

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Game viewing is good all year, with the optimum months being December-March and July-October.