Samburu National Reserve

The name of Samburu National Reserve doesn’t come up often when people name the famous east African safari destinations, but it is a gem of a park and perfect for when you want to get off the beaten path and enjoy Kenya’s amazing wildlife by yourself.

Samburu National Reserve
Samburu National Reserve

The 165 km2 (64 sq mi) park was established in 1985 and is situated on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river, along whose banks both big game and vegetation flourish. The river runs through the park and is its heartbeat; without its precious water, the animals would not survive in the park’s otherwise semi-arid environment that is dotted with termite skyscrapers.

Although it is a peaceful park that is much quieter than most of east Africa’s other reserves, it still boasts an incredible wealth of classic African safari big game species. The predators are well represented by Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and African Wild Dog. Big games species include African Elephant, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Black Rhinoceros and many antelope species like Grant’s Gazelle, Kirk’s Dik-dik, Impala and Waterbuck.

Of special interest is a few rare and localised species like the ultra-striped Grevy’s Zebra, the reticulated subspecies of Giraffe, regal Beisa Oryx and long-necked Gerenuk. These four together with the blue-legged Somali Ostrich make up the so-called “Samburu Special Five”.

Samburu is not only about big game. There are also over 450 species of birds in the reserve. Some of the top specials species include Lesser Kestrel, Taita Falcon, Grey-headed Kingfisher, many colourful and vocal sunbirds, stunningly photogenic bee-eaters, Marabou Stork, Tawny and Verreaux’s Eagle, Bateleur, Vulturine Guineafowl, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Lilac-breasted Roller, Secretarybird, Superb Starling, Northern red-billed Hornbill, and various vultures including the Palm-nut Vulture. Five species categorised as Vulnerable have been recorded in the reserve. These are African Darter, Great Egret, White-headed Vulture, Martial Eagle and the Yellow-billed Oxpecker.

The Ewaso Ng’iro river also contains some massive Nile Crocodiles, and the Critically Endangered African Pancake Tortoise also calls the reserve home.

As an aside, Samburu was one of the two areas in which conservationists George and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the Lioness, made famous in the best-selling book and award-winning movie Born Free. The reserve is also the home of Kamunyak, a lioness that was famous for adopting at least 6 oryx calves in the early 2000s, and whose story was told in the film Heart of a Lioness.

Join one of our Kenya Safaris and Tours to experience this wonderful safari destination with us.