Situated at the southern corner of the Samburu district in the Rift Valley province, the Samburu ecosystem comprises three national reserves: Shaba, Buffalo Springs and Samburu. These parks are not as famous as others in Kenya, but within this ecosystem are species found nowhere else in the country, including the Grevy’s Zebra, Somali Ostrich, Beisa Oryx, Reticulated Giraffe and Gerenuk.
The landscape offers amazing variety from open savannah to scrub desert to lush river foliage, offering fantastic opportunities for excellent wildlife encounters. Steep-sided gullies and rounded hills formed on the lava plain describe the terrain. Vegetation in the reserve area is dominated by umbrella acacia woodland with intermittent bush-, grass- and scrub-land. Near the river, Doum Palm dominates the landscape. The fruits of the Doum are eaten by monkey, baboon and elephant.
The climate in this area is typically dry and hot. Temperatures can reach 40°C in the day with an average low of 20°C at night. The rainy season occurs during the hotter months between April and June and also November and December, with November usually being the wettest month. Between January and March it is very hot and dry; July to October is also dry. The elevation in the park ranges from 800 to 1,230 metres.
Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves are separated by 32 km of the Uaso Nyiro River, which winds its way through Kenya from the Aberdare Mountains to the Loriam Swamp near the Somali border. The river is the lifeline of this arid region, drawing the water-dependent animals to it during the dry season. In the Samburu language, “Uaso Nyiro” means “River of Brown Water”.
Located 345km north of Nairobi is Archer’s Gate, the main entrance to Samburu National Reserve. Established in 1948, the Reserve is relatively small at 170 square kilometres, making animals a bit easier to find than in other parks. Entry fees for foreigners are currently US$70 per day (2014).
Monkey, olive baboon, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, monitor lizard and Nile crocodile are the most commonly seen residents of Samburu. Lodges in the reserve have attracted the normally reclusive leopards with bait for several years, so the chances of seeing one are greater than in other parks. As well as these mammals and reptiles, there are over 300 species of birds, including large flocks of Helmeted and Vulturine Guineafowl. The five endemic species to the area are: Gerenuk, also known as the “giraffe-necked antelope” as it has a stretched neck adapted for browsing high into the bushes; Grevy’s Zebra, with wide black stripes and a completely white belly; Beisa Oryx; Reticulated Giraffe; and the blue-legged Somali Ostrich.
Accommodation in and around Samburu National Reserve varies in luxury and budget.
Umoja Women’s Campsite is our favourite budget option just outside the park gate at Archer’s Post. It is a community campsite with bandas (small huts) and simple meals. It is attached to a women’s village that provides refuge for Samburu women fleeing domestic violence. Proceeds from the campsite support the women, and you can visit the village to learn more about Samburu culture. Meet the Chairwoman and Founder, Rebecca Lolosoli, in this interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1zuCNemmPo.
Samburu Intrepids is an eco-friendly option inside the reserve. They have financed the development of a school, a bee-keeping project and medical services in the community.
Larsens Camp, Samburu Game Lodge, Saruni Samburu, Sasaab Samburu and Elephant Bedroom Camp are other lodges in the area.
The town of Archer’s Post has simple, budget guesthouses and restaurants.
OTA is running a eight-day safari from Nairobi, Kenya to the Lake Turkana Festival via Samburu National Reserve in June. The Lake Turkana Festival is one of the cultural highlights on Kenya’s calendar. The tour includes game viewing in Samburu, visiting outback towns Maralal and Marsabit, and visiting the extraordinary cultural festival in Loyangalani. Fourteen communities in this remote corner of the world coming together to celebrate their differences – don’t you want to be a part of that?! Visit the website for more information http://www.ota-responsibletravel.com for more information, or check the event page on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/OverlandTravelAdventures