Samburu National Reserve Kenya

Welcome to Samburu National Reserve Kenya

Samburu National Reserve lies 200 miles north of Nairobi in the hot and arid lowlands of the vast northern region of Kenya, just a few kilometers north of the equator, adjoining with Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserve. The Reserve was set up in the late 1960’s, where the flat greenness of the rest of the country starts giving way to arid scrubland, kopjes and immense rocky outcrops, all centered on the meandering Ewaso Ngiro River. Far from being dull, this extraordinary landscape supports animals uniquely adapted to the drier, rockier conditions. Samburu national reserve is a very fascinating Kenya safari destination for its unique wildlife which is abundant regardless of its desert like climate, Samburu national reserve is a magical reserve and one of the two regions where Joy Adamson raised and natured Elsa the lioness who story featured in the best – selling book and movie of Born Free which made the reserve more famous.

Samburu National Reserve is certainly in amongst the more well-known of Kenya’s parks and accordingly has become relatively busy over the years.  A great location as the surface waters dry off during the dry season, the game viewing is pretty much guaranteed. It is named after the Samburu people, who are nomadic pastoralists and whose traditional finery is among the most beautiful and delicate in the world. The Samburu still live in manyattas (villages) that can be moved to follow fresh grazing for their donkeys, goats and cattle. Camels where introduced during some point when trading Arabians arrived and, of course, these desert creatures thrive in this semi-desert environment. This is one of the few places in Africa where you can undertake a camel trek: set off to find wildlife, led by your capable and knowledgeable Samburu guides. Samburu national reserve never ceases to be a Kenya safari destination of wonders, which is a home to the renowned lioness by the names of Kamunyak loosely translated as the blessed one. Samburu national reserve is famous for being a home to Kamunyak a lioness which adopted 6 of orphaned Oryx calves and the reserve is of one of the gazeted areas in Kenya where the lioness Elsa was raised by conservationists Joy and George Adamson, the reserve  was the main focus in the best-selling book and award winning movie “Born Free”. Kamunyak fought for the lives of Oryx calves and at one point she fought off the predators to save the young orphans and this scene is portrayed in the film “the heart of a lioness”

Samburu National Reserve is made up of scrubby, open bush land and savanna, with the fringing riverine forest of acacias and large doum palms extending along the edge of the Ewaso Ngiro. This river is the heart of the park, as it not only makes it a beautiful and very photogenic park (contrasting against the bright and dry red soil), but also attracts a diversity of wildlife all year round. A range of animals come down to the river to drink and cool off in, and with crocodiles and hippos hiding in the shallow sand banks, surprises always await! Samburu National Reserve also has a particularly high elephant populations, and big families of them too! This is because the park is a migratory corridor that herds use daily, moving between Laikipia, Samburu and Mount Kenya for food, mating and minerals. The Mount Kenya Trust have seen huge success in its number of elephants using both the human-made and natural areas of the migratory corridor, dramatically reducing human-elephant conflict.

The reserve has a rich and diverse collection of wildlife with an abundance of the Samburu “Special Five” animals which includes the Grevy’s zebra, Somali Ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk and the Beisa Oryx, animals which are mostly only spotted in Samburu and Northern Kenya and are not usually found in other typically visited reserves in Kenya such as Maasai Mara National Reserve or Amboseli National Park. The most common mammals easily spotted are Elephant, present in large numbers across the reserve. The Samburu Laikipia Ecosystem is also home to Grant gazelles, Impalas, Waterbucks, Dik-diks, Hippos, Olive Baboons, Warthogs, Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Cape Buffalo, Hyenas, Elands, Jackals, Klipspringer, Mongooses and Bats. The reserve also has packs of Wild Dogs though sightings are infrequent as these animals have a rather large distribution area, within which they are constantly moving. Birdlife is abundant with over 450 species recorded.

Discover Samburu National Reserve

Explore the Thrilling Lands of Samburu National Reserve Kenya


Location of Sambru National Reserve Kenya: Samburu National Reserve is located in the southeastern corner Samburu district in the rift valley province of Kenya, Samburu national park is a rich ecological system covering an area of 165 square kilometers. The wealth wildlife home borders Ewaso Nyiro River (meaning brown water) which borders separate it from buffalo springs national reserve. Samburu national park at an altitude of range between 800 to 1230 meters above the sea level lies in Samburu county, river Ewaso Ng’iro flows in the middle of the park through doum palm groves and thick riverine forest creating a beautiful scenic view and the river acts as a source of water to the animals for their survival on arid region the park is situated. Samburu national reserve established in 1985 is 345 kilometers from Nairobi the capital city of Kenya.

Beisa Oryx

Attractions in Samburu National Reserve Kenya: Samburu National reserve has a number of attractions which include the following:

River Ewaso Nyiro. River Ewaso Nyiro is Kenya’s biggest river and the largest water source in Samburu national; reserve supporting the lives of the animals, the river supports magnificent riverine forest as it flows north to east meandering off to south east through Somalia to join river Jubba. River Ewaso Nyiro is home to large numbers of Nile crocodiles and many animals are spotted as they visit the river to drink water.

Samburu special five. Samburu national reserve is a beauty offering one of a kind and extra amazing game drives as it hosts rare unique animals that are rarely seen in Africa. These animals which are seen during game drives and nature walks are grey zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and the beisa Oryx. These animals are seen grazing in savanna grassland filled park and riverine forests.

Riverine forest. Riverine forests in Samburu national reserve are attractive on its own, being extremely green with a cool breeze. In these forests many bird species can be seen hanging and playing on the tree of trees, many beautiful colored birds are such as grey-headed kingfisher, sunbirds, bee-eaters, Marabou stork, tawny eagle, Verreaux’s eagle, Bateleur, vulturine Guinea fowl, yellow-necked spurfowl are spotted

Bird species which can be seen in Samburu national reserve include 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.

Mount Koitogor and mount Ololokwe. These mounts are seen soon as you enter the park, they add on the beauty of the national reserve. Many small animals are seen resting on these mounts in the of the middle of the reserve

Samburu culture. Samburu national reserve is home many tribes with Samburu tribe being dominant, this tribe’s culture, norms, and practices have attracted tourists interested in cultural tours. The Samburu people are so attached to their animals that goats, camels, and cattle, the Samburu people are fond of painting their faces with striking patterns so as to accentuate their facial features. This action is admired by neighboring tribes hence Samburu meaning butterfly.

Camelback rides. Riding a camel into the wilderness of Samburu national reserve is one breathtaking and amazing experience, this is a traditional way of touring the reserve which allows get up close to the animals in the park.

Big three cats. Samburu national reserve is home to the three big cats that is lions, leopards, and cheetahs which are of interest too numerous tourists attracting a large number of tourists to this park. These animals are spotted drinking water in river Ewaso Nyiro and grazing in the wilderness.

Top Activities Done in Samburu National Reserve Kenya: Exploring the best of Samburu national reserve with the best Tour operators gives the guests a wide range of experience through different Safari activities at the reserve hence making your African trip more remarkable. We offer our guests a wide range of best selected safari activities that are done both inside and outside the reserve. These top activities can be explored by car, foot or Horse and they can be done either during the day time or night. These Activities include the following;


Game viewing

Samburu national reserve is a home to a variety of wildlife species and noticed for offering excellent game viewing safaris, a Kenya game viewing safari in Samburu national reserve is a very satisfying safari experience offered as morning, afternoon and night game drives. On the game viewing experience you will have a wonderful time spotting abundance of animals such as gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, Oryx, reticulated giraffe, lions, African leopard, elephant, cape buffalo, hippos, gazelles, impalas, waterbuck, warthogs, impalas and many more.

During the dry season, the banks of Ewaso Ng’iro River are the best site to visit while on a Kenya game viewing safari as you will enjoy watching many animals as they drink water and large numbers of Nile crocodile.

Bird watching

Samburu national reserve is an excellent Kenya birding safari destination boosting over 350 bird species, bird watching in Samburu national reserve is a delightful Kenya safari activity offering excellent views of a wide range of bird such as Acacia tit, Bare-eyed thrush, African palm swift, Ashy cisticola, Black-bellied sunbird, Black-capped social weaver, Brown-tailed rock chat, Chestnut-headed sparrow lark, Chestnut weaver, Donaldson-Smith’s sparrow-weaver, Fischer’s starling, Golden pipit, Golden-breasted starling, Greater kestrel, Grey wren-warbler, Hunter’s sunbird, Lanner falcon, Mariqua sunbird, Northern brownbul, Palm-nut vulture, Pink-breasted lark, Pygmy batis, Red-bellied parrot, Red-necked falcon, Red-winged lark, Reichenow’s seedeater, Rosy-patched bush-shrike, Secretary bird, Singing bush lark, Somali bee-eater, Somali ostrich, Spotted palm-thrush, Von der Decken’s hornbill, Vulturine guineafowl, White-headed mousebird, Yellow-vented eremomela among others.

Camelback safaris. Camelback safaris in Samburu national park are one amazing unique traditional way of touring the wilderness, camelback riding gives an opportunity to enjoy the open environment in the park filled with beautiful scenery and numerous animals. While on camelback riding tourist are able to get up close to the animals.

Bush breakfast. Samburu national reserve offers an extraordinary breakfast in the bush of the park while enjoying food tourists get a chance to experience how it feels to be in the wilderness while getting sights of wildlife moving freely in the park. 

Mount biking. Mountain biking is another thrilling activity in Samburu national park which involves using bikes to tour the wilderness. In this semi-arid plain in the park while enjoying the intoxicating views of the vegetation, animals, birds and the river streaming through the forest.

Among the birds to lookout in Samburu national reserve include migratory bird species which are present in the park in the period of November to April.

Cultural safaris

Samburu national reserve has more to offer the game viewing and birding safaris, the reserve is recognized to offer some of the most fascinating Kenya cultural safaris in the amazing Samburu community adjacent to the reserve. The Samburu people are nomadic pastoralists with fascinating culture, norms and traditions which have resisted the tide of technology and modernity, the Maasai people adorned their bodies with colorful shukas, beautiful beads which is a huge sight to witness. While in the Samburu community you will also enjoy cultural dances, songs and drama, interact with the elders, visit local markets and schools.

Walking safaris

Samburu national reserve is made up of a picturesque landscape with fantastic natural serenity thus offering excellent Kenya walking safaris, walking safaris in Samburu national reserve are done of numerous trails running through the savannah grasslands dominating the landscape of the reserve  and along the Ewaso Ng’iro river which runs through the middle of the reserve before emptying into Lorian Swamp. On the experience you get to enjoy watching numerous animals including Nile crocodiles, elephants, lions, Grevy’s zebras, gerenuk, leopards, rhinos, buffaloes, hyenas, hippos among others while grazing, drinking and swimming in the waters of the river.


Samburu Gate

Getting to Samburu National Reserve: Samburu national reserve is situated in the Southeastern corner of Samburu district and lies in a distance of 345 kilometers from Nairobi, this amazing reserve is an easily accessed Kenya safari destination using road and air means of transport.

By road: Most safaris to Samburu national reserve start from Nairobi a Kenya safari capital, using road transport both private and public means of transport are used and it is a drive of about 6 hours to the reserve . The route passes through various villages and escarpment to be able to reach Samburu National Reserve. The other alternative route to the Reserve can be going through Embu, Chuka and Meru, while elevating through the east side of Mt. Kenya and this takes at an hour longer as the road is winding.

By air: Domestic chartered flights to Samburu national reserve from Wilson airport in Nairobi to one of the 3 airstrips serving the reserve, these include Buffalo Springs airstrip, Kalama airstrip and Samburu Oryx airstrip. Flights to Samburu national reserve are offered by Safari Link and Air Kenya.

Sasaab Lodge

Where to stay in Samburu National reserve Kenya: In Samburu national reserve, accommodation has got numerous safari lodges, tented camps and camping sites. Accommodation in Samburu national reserve is offered in some of the most spectacular safari accommodation establishments which include;

Elephant Bedroom camp: As the name suggests, Elephant Bedroom Camp is located inside Samburu National Reserve, along the Ewaso Nyiro River, while at Elephant Bedroom Camp one is able to see very large herds of elephant when coming down to the river, through the camp and even pass via your bedroom! Walking through the majestic doum palms, the camp has a real ‘safari feel’ to it, with comfortable canvased tents and a classic candlelit alfresco dining area. The camp is one of the Samburu favorites and has fantastic value for money!

Sasaab camp: Sasaab Camp is a piece of paradise located in the midst of the Samburu’s heat. Sasaab is set on a hillside, passed the western gate out of the Samburu National Reserve, situated on community land. Samburu has a rich diversity and concentration of animals- including the Samburu Special Five- a collection of species that are rare and endemic to the Samburu ecosystem. Sasaab has got exquisite hospitality and ultimate peacefulness as soon as guests arrive. Spend the morning, evening or day relaxing, taking in the stunning views from the spa, lounge, verandah or your very own private plunge pool while at Sasaab Camp!

Saruni Samburu: Saruni Samburu has got a stunning view all over Kenya which is perched on an incredible cliff top with panoramic views, Saruni Samburu offers a very unique and memorable stay in an untouched environment off the beaten track. Sat in the Kalama Conservancy, the lodge posses clear views, luxury and serenity, attracting nature-loving families, honeymooners and couples to this unaffected area of Kenya .

Samburu Sopa lodge:  Samburu Sopa Lodge is located inside the Samburu National Reserve in Northern Kenya, The lodge is built to reflect the architectural heritage of the local communities whose sons and daughters make up the majority of the work force at the lodge allowing panoramic views of the vastness of Samburu shrub land and the hills beyond. Samburu Sopa Lodge has a waterhole, so after a day of game drives out on the plains guests can spend lazy evenings relaxing in the comfort of the lobby or their bedroom veranda and view various animals coming to drink.

Samburu Riverside Tented camp: Samburu Riverside Camp is located inside Samburu National Reserve on the Ewaso Nyiro River. It offers a garden, natural, environment with very little interference to the bush and its inhabitants. Samburu Riverside Camp is a home to birds, mongoose, vervet monkeys, tortoises, elephants among others.

Samburu Intrepids: Samburu Intrepids is a lush oasis on the banks of the great Uaso Nyiro River in Samburu Game Reserve. The tented luxury camp is a delight to be in – deliciously cooled by the river breeze and the forest. The camp sits on raised decks overlooking the brown river where the elephants sometimes make an appearance or the crocodiles come out to lounge by the river’s banks.

Ashnil Samburu Camp : Ashnil Samburu Camp is a luxury tented set in the spectacular backdrop drop of the Mighty Ol Olokwe mountain fronting Ewaso Nyiro River. The 30 exclusive luxury Tents are spread out along the shady banks of the river under a thick stand of doum Palms. It features an outdoor swimming pool surrounded by sun lounges, a garden and a Lounge bar offering views of the African savannah. Each tent features a decked Terrance with views of the Ewaso Nyiro River.

Best time to visit Samburu national reserve

Samburu national reserve can be visited all year round but for Kenya Wildlife watching safaris, the best time to visit the reserve is in the period of June to October and December to March. These periods are  dry season and animals are easier to spot as they congregate at water holes.

For bird watching, the best time to visit Samburu national reserve is in the wet season period that is November, April and May, though wet season is best for birding, it is not ideal for wildlife watching as the grass is high.