PLANNING A SAFARI IN SAMBURU NATIONAL RESERVE, KENYA
Samburu National Reserve’s remote, pristine wilderness of palm groves and riverine forests sprouting in dry ecosystems make it one of the most magnificent landscapes north of Mount Kenya. Iconic wildlife roams its vast expanse, and tranquil ambiance blankets this wildlife haven. The reserve is located in the North of Laikipia, one of the less-visited regions in Kenya, promising an authentic private wilderness experience on Kenya Safari. Samburu is one of the best places in Kenya for off-the-beaten safari adventures and cultural encounters with the Samburu rich cultures. If you have time, Samburu is worth adding to your Masai Mara adventure.
Samburu National Reserve is a hidden gem for off-the-beaten-track safari adventures, located along the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River in Kenya’s remote northeast Laikipia Plateau, north of Mt. Kenya. This reserve’s magnificent landscape features palm groves and riverine forests growing amidst arid and semi-arid ecosystems, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. The reserve lies in the traditional homeland of the Samburu people, in hot, dry, and relatively low country on the fringes of Kenya’s vast northern deserts. It’s a highly regarded destination for discerning classic Africa safari enthusiasts and adventurers alike.
The drive from the foothills of Mt. Kenya into the semi-desert is a breathtaking experience. As you follow the road that runs alongside the Ewaso Nyiro River in the reserve, you’ll be treated to the extraordinary spectacle of riverine bush, acacia, and doum palm forest that provides a splash of greenery in the sandy plains. The Ewaso Nyiro flows north from Laikipia and is a life-giving resource to this arid region.
Samburu National Reserve is home to the rare and unique five northern species, including the Grevy zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and Beisa oryx. This craggy, rugged region offers a romantic and awe-inspiring safari experience that’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
What to see, where to go
Samburu National Reserve is a captivating destination that boasts an abundance of wildlife, including majestic elephant herds that saunter across the game-rich reserve. Big cats prowl through the thick acacia forest, and game drives offer the chance to get up close and personal with predators like lion, cheetah, and leopard, as well as hippos and numerous antelope. Keep an eye out for the massive Nile crocodiles that call the river home.
One of the unique features of Samburu National Reserve is the opportunity to witness an authentic traditional way of life, such as the red-robed Samburu community bringing their cattle down to the river to drink. The lives of the Samburu, like the closely related Maasai, revolve around their livestock, which is their traditional source of wealth.
Most safari lodges and camps in Samburu National Reserve are located on the north bank of the river. However, Buffalo Springs National Reserve is situated on the south side of the river, and across the A2 highway is Shaba National Reserve. The 24-hour entrance ticket of US$70 to any one of these reserves covers game drives in the others as well. Additionally, there are private and community conservancies to the north and west of Samburu that offer unique and exclusive game-viewing experiences.
Getting There And Around
Samburu National Reserve is often combined with visits to the Laikipia Plateau and/or Meru National Park as it’s relatively easily accessed from the road that runs along the northern reaches of Mt. Kenya. The gates to Samburu (and Buffalo Springs and Shaba) are reached via the good tarred A2 road through Isiolo and Archer’s Post, and it’s approximately a five-hour drive from Nairobi. There are also daily scheduled flights to the reserve’s airstrip.
When To Go
Samburu National Reserve is a year-round Kenya safari destination because it does not have highly intense rainy seasons. However, the peak Kenya safari season in Samburu is during the mid-year winter of June to October, when Samburu temperatures are cooler and drier. The dry season’s conditions make the animals easier to find and see since they won’t move far from the Ewaso Ngiro River, one of the few water sources.
- Add Samburu to a peak season safari in the Masai Mara, where you can see the Wildebeest Migration.
- Meet Samuru’s special five, Grevy zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and the Beisa oryx
- Located in the North of Laikipia, one of the less-visited regions in Kenya, Samburu promises an authentic private wilderness experience.
Tailored Kenya Safaris
WHERE TO STAY
Price from $500
Saruni Samburu is a unique lodge built around massive boulders, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The suites are made of brick and mortar and feature exquisite Samburu jewelry. The cuisine is mainly Italian, and the lodge has a spa. Please note that the room price does not include conservation fees ($116 pp), which support the local community and wildlife conservation.
Price from $930
Located north of Samburu National Reserve, this small and remote tented camp lies below the peaks of the Mathews Mountains in the 850,000-acre Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust—a community conservancy created between landowners and the local Samburu people. Pros: there’s a wide range of activities available; staff is from the local community, wild and romantic, and the only lodge in the conservancy. Cons: it’s off the beaten track, and the best way to reach it is by air; no power points in tents; Wi-Fi only in the lounge.
Price from $908
It’s not just where Sasaab is located, but how it’s situated, that makes it a wonderful place to stay in the Samburu region. The camp features luxurious, spacious tents, guided walking safaris, and beautifully designed common areas. Cons: some tents are far from the dining lodge; long, bumpy drive to and from local airstrip; about an hour’s drive to Samburu National Reserve. However, the room price does not include park fees, and park activities.
Price from $665
Located in Sera, in the wild, undiscovered, northern frontier of Kenya, the lodge is a little under 2 hours’ drive from Saruni Samburu lodge in the nearby Kalama Conservancy. Saruni Rhino offers premier rhino tracking experiences in East Africa: an amazing walking safari that provides a uniquely thrilling adventure and allows guests to protect this iconic species actively.
Elephant Bedroom Camp
Price from $750
Elephant Bedroom Camp is situated on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River and offers an authentic African safari experience in a comfortable tented setting. The camp’s spacious tents are raised on wooden decks equipped with private plunge pools and surrounded by gorgeous doum palms. You can expect almost-daily visits by a herd of elephants, and sometimes lion and leopard make their way through camp to drink from the river.
Price from $185
Located in the western section of Samburu National Reserve, this mid-range and friendly tented camp offers a green oasis on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. It’s great for families with kids’ activities. It has lovely river views from all tents, and it’s newly refurbished to a high standard. However, the buffet meals can be a little mediocre; they might not be intimate enough for some; activities and reserve fees cost extra.