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Herd of Grevy's zebras in Samburu National Reserve.
  Samburu, Shaba, Buffalo S.
Size: Samburu 165 km2/64 sq mi, Shaba 280 km2/108 sq mi, Buffalo Springs 131 km2/51 sq mi.
Best time to visit: All year round. Higher wildlife concentrations along the river during dry the seasons from July to October and from December to February. You may want to avoid the rainy season during April and May.
Wildlife: Reticulated giraffe, beisa oryx, gerenuk, Grevy's zebra, big cats.
Getting there: 6 hours from Nairobi. Most of the way is fair tarmac road, followed by a final hour on poor bush road once north of Isiolo Town.
Road construction to build the first part of the planned highway between Isiolo and Moyale on the Ethiopian border is ongoing (November 2008), though. The new tarmac road will pass the national reserves, and replace the poor bush road, hopefully in not too long time.
There are also scheduled flights from Wilson Airport (WIL/HKNW) in Nairobi.
Samburu, Shaba &
Buffalo Springs map

Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs map.
Kenya map
Kenya map.
  More web sites
Samburu National Reserve
By Samburu County Council.
Samburu, Buffalo Springs & Shaba
By Kenya Birds.
Safari glossary
Opens in a new window.
Samburu, Buffalo Springs & Shaba National Reserves
The national reserves Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs form a small cluster of parks in the northern part of central Kenya, where the Northern Frontier District begins and the nature starts transforming into the dry landscape of northern Kenya. The national reserves are surrounded by private conservancies and group ranches (for example on the Laikipia Plateau to the south-west), which provide further habitats and migration corridors for the wildlife.

The generally dry biotope is reflected in the wildlife, which includes mammal and bird species that you can't see in most of the parks further south in Kenya (Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru etc) or in Tanzania (Serengeti, Ngorongoro etc).

Map of Africa Namibia Botswana South Africa Zambia Mozambique Malawi Rwanda Tanzania Kenya Uganda
Samburu and Buffalo Springs border each other, separated by the Ewaso Ngiro River, which is a permanent river cutting through the otherwise dry landscape. Shaba is situated just east of these two parks, and is, like Buffalo Springs, set south of the Ewaso Ngiro.

Beisa oryx and Grant's gazelle in Buffalo Springs.

The parks are surrounded by rocky hills, and are dominated by a dry shrubby vegetation, broken mainly by the denser and higher riparian vegetation lining the river, where for example doum palms can be seen.

Classic safari wildlife
The wildlife of Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs is quite good, offering fine safari experiences during most parts of the year. The animals found include the classic safari wildlife, such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, giraffes, antelopes and monkeys. There is also a group of mammals that are only found in the driest parks, such as beisa oryx, Grevy's zebra and gerenuk. The Grevy's zebra is a highly endangered zebra species that can only be found in these parts of Kenya. The giraffe in the area is not the Masai giraffe found in southern Kenya and in Tanzania, but a differently marked subspecies called reticulated giraffe.

(Note: Modern research has indicated that some giraffe subspecies may in fact be separate species. More knowledge on this is hopefully to come.)

The Ewaso Ngiro River is home to many crocodiles. Other reptiles, such as monitors, tortoises and lizards, are also often seen. Birders may see species found only in dry areas, for example the Somali ostrich, eastern yellow-billed hornbill and vulturine guineafowl.

Samburu National Reserve.

The mammal predators are represented by lions, cheetahs, leopards, spotted hyaena, black-backed jackals, bat-eared foxes and genets. Striped hyaenas and caracals (a small cat) are rare but sometimes observed. The African wild dog is even more uncommon, but individuals or small packs do occasionally pass the area.

Far north
Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs are as far north in the country that you will get on most safaris. A new road through northern Kenya is being constructed, and will eventually allow much better access to Losai National Reserve and Marsabit National Park even further north. It's not obvious, though, that these two parks will start seeing many visitors just because of the road. Only going from Nairobi to the Samburu area is a bit too far for a good safari by road itinerary.

The three national reserves themselves are smallish compared to for example Masai Mara and most of the parks in Tanzania. The wildlife is good enough to justify a visit and a two-night stay, if you want an itinerary that includes a variety of parks. Visiting comes at the cost of spending much time on the roads getting there, and then getting back.

If you want as much time for game viewing as possible in your itinerary, or want to reduce the amount of time you spend on the roads travelling between parks, you may choose not to visit Samburu/Shaba/Buffalo Springs, but to focus your safari on fewer or larger parks that offer more game driving options and a richer wildlife. You may for example go to Lake Nakuru and Masai Mara in Kenya, or to Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and Serengeti in Tanzania, thereby cutting at least one full day on the roads from the itinerary.

During the end of the 1990's, the Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs area was haunted by bandits that stopped and robbed tourist vehicles travelling to or from the parks. The authorities took actions to stop the bandits, and have been successful.

Two reticulated giraffe males.

Lodges and camps
Samburu, Shaba and Buffalo Springs have lodges, tented camps and camping sites.


Samburu Game Lodge.Samburu Game Lodge has some 60 rooms lined along the Ewaso Ngiro River. All rooms have an ensuite bathroom an a veranda facing the river. There are some family rooms, and one room with wheelchair access. The main building has restaurant, lounge overlooking the river and bar. There is a swimming pool and a gift shop.

More about Samburu Game Lodge

Web site:

Larsens Camp.Larsens Camp is a good tented camp with a central location by the river in Samburu. There are 20 furnished safari tents along the river, all with ensuite bathroom, veranda and 240 V around the clock. The camp has a dining tent and a bar. Game drives with KSPGA qualified guides and bird walks are offered for activities.

More about Larsens Camp

Web site:

Samburu Intrepids is a good tented camp by the river in the western part of Samburu. The camp has 27 safari tents overlooking the riverbank, all with ensuite bathroom and veranda. There is a dining area, bar, lounge, swimming pool, small conference room, souvenir shop and e-mail service. The camp offers game drives and visits to Samburu villages.

Web site:

Samburu Sopa Lodge is situated on a hill a little bit north of the river in Samburu. The lodge has 60 rooms in 30 bungalows, all rooms with ensuite bathroom and veranda. Two rooms have wheelchair access. There is restaurant, bar, swimming pool, conference facilities and gift shop. The activities offered are guided nature walks (not walking safaris), bird watching and visits to Samburu villages.

Web site:

Bedouin Camp is situated in a private concession just west of Samburu. The camp has eight luxury safari tents furnished with safari antiques, Persian rugs and ensuite bathrooms. The camp has a mess tent, and also serves some meals by the nearby river. The activities offered include day and night game drives, bush walks, fly camping, rock climbing, camel tours, rafting and visits to Samburu villages.

Web site:

Elephant Watch Camp is a kind of luxury eco-camp built for minimum impact on nature, set by the Ewaso Ngiro River. There are six spacious and furnished tents with outside bathrooms – long-drop toilets and bucket showers. There is a mess tent and solar power.

Web site:

Sasaab Camp is new tented camp along Ewaso Ngiro west of Samburu. It has nine spacious tented rooms (100+ m2/1,000+ sq ft) with wide views, own plunge pool and privacy. The main area, where the restaurant and pool are found, is built on a ridge overlooking the river below. The overall style is a neat mix between contemporary and Moroccan. The camp offers a variety of activities, including day and night game drives, bush walks, camel riding and helicopter safaris.

Web site:

Saruni is a new luxury lodge situated on top of a hill in a conservancy 7 km/4 mi north of Samburu. It has a contemporary style with some African or Arabian ingredients. There are six houses (two of them family villas), a swimming pool with wide views of the surroundings, observation points facing a water hole, a massage and beauty treatment area, and a private airstrip. The activities offered include day and night game drives both in Samburu and the other reserves and in the conservancy, bush walks, rock climbing, star watching, and visiting the Samburu tribe.

Web site:


Sarova Shaba Game Lodge.Sarova Shaba Game Lodge (Shaba) has good standard and is set among doum palms by the Ewaso Ngiro River in Shaba. There are 85 rooms, a restaurant, two bars, a swimming pool and an observation deck.

More about Sarova Shaba Game Lodge

Web site:

Joy's Camp is a luxury tented lodge in Shaba. It has ten very spacious tented rooms on raised platforms, all with ensuite bathroom, classy interiors with Arabian influences, and private decks for game viewing and relaxing. There is a dining area, lounging areas and a swimming pool. The lodge offers safari activities such as day and night game drives, and bush walks.

Web site:

Buffalo Springs

Samburu Serena Safari Lodge.Samburu Serena Safari Lodge has good standard and is situated by the Ewaso Ngiro River in western Buffalo Springs, not far from the bridge to Samburu. The lodge has restaurant, bar, library and gift shop, and is surrounded by a garden with a swimming pool. The safari style has much canvas, wooden details and masks.

More about Samburu Serena Safari Lodge

Web site:

Elephant Bedroom Camp.Elephant Bedroom Camp is a tented camp by the river in Buffalo Springs. It has 12 tents with ensuite bathrooms and verandas, a dining area and a lounge. The camp offers activities such as game drives, bush walks, and visits to local villages.

Web site:

Buffalo Springs Simba Lodge (former Buffalo Springs Tented Lodge) is being rebuilt/renovated. (In November 2008, the building structures are there, but the grounds seem far from ready to receive guests.)

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Page updated 25 January 2010