Samburu National Reserve, at a glance

Samburu National Reserve is situated on the northern safari circuit of Kenya alongside Shaba and Buffalo Springs. This circuit is less visited due to its remote location in the north of Laikipia.

However, visitors are rewarded by untouched wilderness, great wildlife densities and a safari experience away from some of Kenya's busier parks.

Striking volcanic mountains backdrop the park, and scattered across Samburu's semi-arid plains between the red dust and shrubbery are large granite rocky outcrops, tall acacias and deep craters.

Meandering through the heart of the park is the Ewaso Nyiro River. A green oasis of large doum palms and lush vegetation line the banks, breaking from the otherwise arid ecosystem and is a vital haven for wildlife.

Samburu is home to the rare northern 'special five': Grevy zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and the beisa oryx.

Large elephant herds, endangered wild dogs and big cats are also found in high densities here.

Birdlife is abundant with over 450 recorded species like the lesser kestrel, vulturine guinea fowl, and the Taita falcon.

It is named after the Samburu people, nomadic pastoralists whose traditional attire is among the most vibrant, beautiful and delicate in Africa.

Samburu National Reserve

Where does Samburu fit into your Kenyan Adventure?

Alongside Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserve form the Northern Safari Circuit.

They are often referred to as the Samburu ecosystem as wildlife are free to traverse between the reserves.

Like Samburu, they are semi-arid and feature volcanic lava terraces, hot springs, vast rolling grasslands, and rare northern species like the reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich and gerenuk.

Sera Wildlife Conservancy is also a fantastic choice, located just two hours north of Samburu. It is one of the few places in East Africa, other than the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where you can track rhino on foot.

Accompanied by an expert guide and a highly-trained Sera Community Conservancy ranger, you will be led to some of the 18 rhinos throughout the 54,000 hectares-large sanctuary.

Samburu National Reserve

Things to Do

Helicopter Safaris

Take to the skies in a helicopter for an aerial glimpse of Samburu and its volcanic geography, beginning with the Ololukwe monolith, the Suguta Valley, Silale Crater, and Lake Logipi, areas rarely reached by game drive vehicle.

You will have a birds-eye view of Samburu's infamously large herds of elephants before landing on the sacred Samburu mountain, Ol Donyo Sabachi (Ol Lolokwe), which towers 1,000 m above the encompassing plains.

You can finish the extraordinary excursion with an early evening walk to Sundowner Rock for panoramic views of the reserve and wildlife below.

Helicopter rides are a luxury excursion, and you can expect the cost to be in the region of$5,000 to $7,000 for a one-day helicopter safari for a group of 1 to 5 people. 

Samburu National Reserve

Camel Safari

Head out on a camel safari, and experience the African Wilderness as the Samburu do.

A camel ride is a fantastic alternative to the traditional game drive, where you can ride up close to Grevy's zebra, ostrich, giraffe, observing animals and birds you might have otherwise missed.

Camels are quite even-tempered and have been part of the northern Kenyan way of life for generations.

Camel safaris are very versatile. You can opt for a two-hour round trip with sundowners in between or go on a longer camel safari and fly camp in the bush. 

Samburu National Reserve

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, situated in the neighbouring Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy, is one of Kenya's first community-run wildlife organisations.

The sanctuary and animal keepers are committed to rescuing, rehabilitating, and rewilding orphaned and abandoned elephant calves, as well as other wildlife.

Visiting hours are between 8.30 am and 10 am and then between 11.30 am and 1 pm.

From a special viewing platform, you will watch the elephants come in from their walk to receive their bottles and then have mudhole playtime.

During your visit, you will be paired with a keeper who will accompany you and tell you about their work while giving you a behind the scenes tour.

For non-residents, this activity cost $20 per person at the time of writing.

They ask that you wear green if possible and bookings must be made at least a week in advance.

Samburu National Reserve

Guided Nature Walks

Head out on an hour-long guided nature walk in the area surrounding your chosen camp, or venture further to one of the surrounding conservancies for a longer trek of 2-5 hours.

This is an excellent chance to spot some of the 450 bird species recorded here, as well as the special Samburu five and learn more about the interesting plant life and their uses in local tradition.

Samburu is semi-arid, and it can be very hot and dusty, so pack plenty of water, a good hat, lightweight trousers and long sleeve tops (to shield your arms and legs from thorny bushes), protective sunglasses, and good walk shoes.

Early morning or evening walks while it is not too hot are recommended.

Like all national park in Kenya, except Hell's Gate National Park, walking in the reserve is prohibited, excluding select areas around lodges and camps and the surrounding conservancies.

Therefore, a longer walking adventure will often be combined with a game drive and picnic lunch. 

Samburu National Reserve

Where to Stay

Sasaab

On the reserve's outskirts, set on a hillside, overlooking the vast Laikipia Plateau to Mount Kenya, Saasab is one of the most luxurious accommodation in Samburu. 

There are just nine secluded cottages devised using Moroccan design principles to keep the heat at bay. 

All cottages feature classic four-poster beds, spacious open-air bathrooms, individual plunge pools and a private veranda facing the river, where you can spend the hot afternoons watching elephants and other wildlife go for a drink. 

Twice daily game drives, guided nature walks and mountain biking are just some of the activities that will keep you busy. Alternatively, when you're ready to unwind, massages in the privacy of your room or a herbal spa treatment await. 

Samburu National Reserve

Saruni Samburu

Located in the neighbouring Kalama Conservancy, Saruni Samburu offers guests the choice of six spacious and open-air eco villas built into the rock face.

Each villa overlooks 200,000 acres of pristine wilderness and features an outside shower, huge sitting rooms and rustic four-poster beds.

Besides the awe-inspiring view, spa treatments, infinity pool, three-course  menus, flexible dining options and outstanding hosting are some highlights of staying here.

Saruni Samburu has been voted the best luxury lodge in Kenya by the Luxury Safari Co. 

Samburu National Reserve

Elephant Bedroom Camp

Elephant Bedroom Camp is a rustic and stylish safari camp, offering guests the classic safari experience.

The 14 stilted tents are furnished in warm African tones and are perfectly positioned to enure solitude.   

Every tent has a private deck, and the honeymoon tent has a private plunge pool. Guests can expect complimentary Wi-Fi and en-suite bathrooms with twin basins. 

Enjoy a fine-dining experience with breakfast and lunch served al fresco. At night, tuck into a romantic dinner in the dining area, while the warm glow of safari lamps sets the atmosphere, and wildlife moves quietly around the camp. 

Do not miss the opportunity to learn more about the culture of Samburu. Elephant Bedroom Camp offers guests the chance to learn more about the Samburu traditions and way of life through cultural visits to local villages

Samburu National Reserve

When to Go

The best time to visit Samburu National Reserve is in the dry season from July to September and December to March.

These months provide the best wildlife viewing opportunities as the grass is short and the animals are drawn to water sources, especially to the Ewaso Nyiro river banks.

It is generally advised to avoid March to May, the long rainy season and October to November, the short rains.

Access becomes more difficult due to muddy roads, wildlife viewing is more challenging and planned excursions might be affected by torrential rains during these months. 

Samburu National Reserve

Getting There

Samburu National Reserve is located 355 km/ 220 m north of Nairobi and is approximately a 6-hour drive.

If driving, there are other conservancies and national parks on the way you can visit, breaking up the journey. 

Flying is the quickest way to get to the reserve. There are two flights a day from Nairobi, and take just under an hour.

However, flying is the most expensive option, and in the peak season, you can expect prices to be in the region of $400. 

Samburu National Reserve

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