Samburu National Park

The Samburu National Reserve is a game reserve on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River, which separates it from the Buffalo spring National Reserve in Kenya. The reserve covers an area of 165 Km² and is located around 345Km from Nairobi. It ranges in altitude from 800 to 1230 m above sea level. Samburu is characterized by a desert and semi-desert region with a dry and warm climate; the Southern border of the reserve is demarcated by the Ewaso Nyiro River, which is the only permanent source of water in this protected area, even during the dry season; from this river depends the survival of all the animals in the reserve.


The reserve is a home of the rare northern specialist species such as the Grevy’s Zebra, Somali Ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk and the Beisa Oryx (referred as Samburu Special). The reserve is also popular with a minimum of 900 elephants. Large predators such as the Lion, Leopard and Cheetah are an important attraction (Kamunyak the Miracle Lioness that adapted the baby Oryx is a resident in the reserve). Wild dog sightings are also a common attraction to this unique protected area.

Birdlife is abundant with over 450 species recorded. A number of riverine forest species augments birds of the arid northern bush country. Lesser Kestrel and the Taita Falcon are species of global conservation concern and they both utilize the reserve.  Five species categorized as vulnerable have been recorded in the reserve. These are African Darter, Great Egret, White-headed Vulture, Martial Eagle and the Yellow-billed Ox-pecker. Critically endangered species under CITIES – Pancake tortoise (malacochersus tornieri) is found in the reserve.

What to do in Samburu National Park

Game Drives

Game drives in Samburu natural reserve are the best way to explore the reserve and see a variety of wild animals in their natural habitat. Game drives are timed for when animals are most active which is early mornings and late afternoons, the drives last 2 to 3 hours per drive in the morning and afternoon hours, with morning timings usually scheduled from 6.30am to 9am and afternoon timings being 3.30pm to 6.30pm. Game drives take tourists through the rugged semi-arid plains of the park while enjoying the beautiful view of the river surrounded by forests. Expect to see animals like Lions, Elephants, Rhino, Leopard, African Buffalo, Cheetah, Giraffe, Zebras, and Hippos. One can also spot colorful assortment of birds such as vultures, kingfishers, marabous, bateleurs, guinea fowl, Somali ostriches and many more.


Bird Watching

Samburu’s birdlife is so abundant that over 100 species can be spotted in a day. Perhaps most noteworthy of the sightings is the rare blue-shanked Somali ostrich; the most memorable, the flash of coral rump that flags the flight of the white-headed buffalo-weaver. Secretary birds are plentiful, as are bands of bustling helmeted and vulturine guinea fowls. Along the river, storks feed and sand grouse congregate at dusk. Both red-billed and Von der Decken’s hornbills are common.

The best time to enjoy bird watching in Samburu National Reserve is during the wet season, as many migratory birds come during the wet season-November, April and May.


Cultural Encounters

The Samburu are Nilotic, semi-nomadic shepherds who live in north-central Kenya. Samburu speak the Samburu dialect of the Maa language, which is a Nilotic language. The Samburu sub tribe is the third largest in the Maa community of Kenya and Tanzania. The Samburu Cultural visit is typically an excursion included into a longer multi day Samburu safari tour, and couple of hours set apart for this brief interactive visit to the village, which usually happens to be on the borders of the Samburu game reserve.

Visit the Samburu village and get a chance to interact with Samburu people, get a glimpse into their culture, unique way of life and see first-hand some of their customs and practices. A good opportunity to purchase traditional Samburu souvenirs, art and collectibles.


Camelback Safaris

One of the most refreshing and fun-filled experiences on Safari is exploring Kenya’s wilderness on camelback. Unlike the traditional game viewing experience, a camelback safari in Samburu allows guests to get up-close with plains game such as zebra, giraffe, and ostrich. While on safari, you will walk or ride through some of the most remote and scenically beautiful land in Northern Kenya, with Samburu tribesmen and camels carrying the camp, or ride them through the dry riverbeds.


Walking Safaris & Bush Walks in Samburu

A bush-walking safari is an adventure packed activity where participants embark on relaxed, guided walks in a wildlife conservation area with the objective of seeing wild animals in a more natural way without using vehicle. There are two types of nature walks offered while on your safari at Samburu National Reserve, Nature walks within the camp and one outside the wildlife reserve. The duration for this walk within the camp is approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, these nature walks are preferably done early mornings or late in the afternoon when the sun is not too hot.


Depending on where the nature walks will be conducted, it is possible to see plenty of wildlife not to mention a rich diversity of Birds, flora and fauna. Experienced and trained guides do walks, and these guides often happen to be local Samburu naturalist who have the advantage of being born and bred in the very region that you are exploring.


Bush Meals & Sundowners in Samburu

Delight in the wide-open sky and space of Samburu plains as you savour a meal served in the raw wilderness of the African savannah, more so if the setting happens to be on the sand bank along River Ewaso Nyiro where it is quite possible that your views are framed by stunning landscapes and magnificent wildlife. Special meals are for this reason a popular activity during a safari in Samburu and specific options are listed below.


Picnic Lunch: these are arranged during a full day game outing in the reserve, as one does not have to go back to the lodge or camp for lunch. The meal itself is in the form of packed lunch boxes, which are provided by your camp or lodge by prior arrangement the night before to allow them adequate time to prepare the meal boxes. However, the meal itself is typically simple though satisfying; the often scenic setting in the wild makes this a truly memorable meal. Some of the properties in Samburu provide this meal at no extra cost in lieu of lunch in – house.

Bush Breakfast & Dinners: A more elaborate meal and in the case of a Bush dinner, this could also be an event in itself around a bonfire with entertainment such as light music or tribal dance performances. Bush meals are arranged at special designated sites within Samburu and these are generally located outside but very near the respective Lodges or Camps. Menus can range from multi-course fine cuisine to more casual bush barbeque meals.

Sundowners: Ending your day on Safari with your favourite drink in hand, the company of friends or loved ones and a gorgeous sunset unfolding right before your eyes is a very special experience indeed and recognizing this, many upper end hotel properties in Samburu now offer sundowners either pre-included into your stay or as optional add-on activities.

Bush meals in Samburu can also be organised for a variety of group sizes and may also cater for certain special dietary requirements such as gluten free, vegan, vegetarian and even restricted vegetarian such as for Indian Jain diets which exclude use of Onions or Garlic as ingredients. However, choices are limited for bush meals, in-house dining at the lodges or camps promises more dietary options. Contact us in case you require specific information on cuisine and dining in Samburu.

WhEN TO VISIT Samburu National Park

The Samburu Game Reserve and the surrounding reserves (Buffalo Springs & Shaba) have an arid and semi-arid climate characterized by hot, dry days and cold nights, with a moisture level between 42 and 57; this indicates that the evapotranspiration is more than the available moisture.

Samburu experiences long rains from April to May, while the short rainy season runs from mid-October to mid-December, but usually the rains are concentrated in November, while the dry season runs from June to early October and January to March.

The long dry season, which runs from late June to October, and the short dry season from December to March are considered the best time to visit the reserve for excellent African wildlife viewing. This is so as animals tend to be concentrated around the only permanent sources of water, like the Ewaso Ng’iro River, where they can find water and pasture; during this time, the vegetation is generally poor and this further facilitates the sightings.


Samburu is a year-round safari destination, though wildlife viewing is usually best in the dry months from June to October and December to March. Because of the dry season, animals tend to congregate along Ewaso River to drink and eat and it’s easier to spot them. It is best to avoid the reserve during the wet season (November, April, and May) as the high grass will make animal spotting very challenging. However, if you are a bird lover, then the wet season is perfect to enjoy birdwatching as many migratory birds come here during this season.

HOW TO GET To Samburu National Park

Samburu Game reserve is a gem located about 310 kms from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. The two main ways to get to Samburu from Nairobi is either by air or by road. The drive from Nairobi to Samburu Game Reserve takes approximately 5 to 6 hours, using Thika Superhighway Road.

The distance varies from 310 kms to 325 kms depending on which gate or entry point of Samburu you want to access. Well, in terms of journey time, typically you want to allow for 6 hours to Archer’s gate, which is the main entry to Samburu Game Reserve.

Route: Use the Thika superhighway heading out from Nairobi city, keep on the Nyeri Karatina highway, and turn right at Marwa Town – 12 kms from Karatina town; Head North, out of Nanyuki, via Timau and towards Isiolo, staying on the main road. (If leaving from JKIA airport, use the Eastern Bypass to connect to Thika Superhighway at Ruiru Road Junction to cut out the city traffic). Once at Archer’s Post, just drive a few kilometres off the highway to Archer’s gate.


By Air: There are several airlines flying from Nairobi to various airstrips in Samburu, and several of these offer daily return flight to the reserve, with a one way flight taking approximately 1.5 hours. The same plane then usually turns around back to Nairobi after dropping off or collecting passengers from a number of airstrips in Samburu.

Almost all these flights take off from Wilson airport in Nairobi (as opposed to the JKIA international airport) and you need only be at the airport about 45 mins prior to the flight. The two main airlines are Air Kenya and Safarilink. These two airlines have a reliable service and credible safety record. There are also connecting flights from Samburu to Masai Mara via Nanyuki during the peak season.

There are several airstrips in Samburu National Reserve and surrounding game ranches and conservancies. These airstrips are spread out in different parts of the reserve to serve lodges and camps in close proximity to them in order to cut down transfer time from the airstrip to the hotel.