Samburu Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves

Samburu National Reserve

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Samburu National Reserve, Buffalo Springs National Reserve and Shaba National Reserve

Samburu National Reserve, Buffalo Springs National Reserve and Shaba National Reserve lie adjacent to each other. It is a region of dramatic contrasts in which rare wildlife and diverse birdlife reside. The Ewaso Nyiro River, fringed with acacias, figs and doum palms, slice across the scorched land.

The Samburu Game Reserves are the most accessible of the Northern Frontier faunal sanctuaries, 343 kilometers (213 miles) from Nairobi.

There is an airstrip called Samburu Oryx for those who prefer flying. Isiolo, a nearby town has an international airport with scheduled flight from Nairobi.

The three reserves are located in the hot, arid northern region of Kenya. The three reserves are in the beautiful and still unspoilt country of the Samburu people, cousins to the Masai people. Proud, happy, friendly, they defy the modern world to go about their traditional business and still cherish the customs and colorful ceremonies of their ancestors. This vast land of nomadic Samburu people has changed little over the time. The three reserves provide a worthy introduction to this most colorful part of Kenya.

Samburu National Reserve covers an area of 104 square kilometers (40 square miles) on the northern bank of River Ewaso Nyiro, with a river frontage of 16 kilometers (10 miles). The adjoining Buffalo Springs Reserve of 194 square kilometers (75 square miles) lies on the southern bank of the same 16 kilometers (10 miles). A bridge across the Ewaso Nyiro River connects the two reserves and it is convenient to treat them a single unit together with Shaba National Reserve. Shaba National Reserve covers 130 square kilometers (50 square miles), also with its border along the southern bank of Ewaso Nyiro River, east of Buffalo Springs Reserve.

Ewaso Nyiro River goes through the three reserves. In fact this river forms the boundary between Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves. Each reserve is run separately.

Samburu National Reserve is one of the areas in which Joy and George Adamson raised Elsa, the lioness of Born Free fame. Another famous lioness in this reserve is Kamunyak, who became popular for adopting oryx calf.

Samburu National Reserve gates are Archers Gate and West Gate.

Buffalo Springs National Reserve

Buffalo Springs National Reserve is less hilly and less dense than Samburu. Its gates are Cholcaa Gate and Ngare Mare Gate. There is an airstrip serving this reserve called Buffalo Springs Airstrip.

Vegetation in Buffalo Springs is mainly bushy grasslands, riverine forests and swamps. The name Buffalo Springs emanates from sparkling oasis at the western end of the reserve. Buffalo Springs is one of the rare places where you will see both the Burchell’s zebra and the Grevy’s zebra, and both the Maasai Ostrich and the Somali Ostrich.

Shaba National Reserve

Shaba National Reserve is named after a cone of volcanic rock that dominates the area. There are four springs in this reserve which make Shaba less arid than Samburu or Buffalo Springs. 

The Samburu Five

Permanent water available from the 32 kilometer (20 miles) of river ensures that an abundance of wildlife exists in the Reserves at all times. . As the area is so arid, game is concentrated along the banks of the river, making game viewing particularly good. The main attraction is what is called “The Samburu Five”, which are the Reticulated Giraffe, the Grevy’s Zebra, the Beisa Oryx, the blue-necked Somali Ostrich and the Gerenuk. Huge crocodiles in the river are a major attraction also. Elephants are plentiful and black rhinoceros, lion, leopard, cheetah, buffalo and the two species of hyenas are to be seen.

There are over 350 species of birds. The birdlife is strikingly numerous and colorful, it is very easy to see over a hundred species of birds in a single day. The most impressive sight is the immense flocks of helmeted and vulturine guinea-fowls which make their way every afternoon to the river to drink. Grey-headed kingfisher, lilac-breasted roller, red-billed hornbill, secretary bird and Verreaux’s eagle are seen here.

Buffalo Springs with its pools and streams of fresh water is the drinking place in the dry season for literally hundreds of sandgrouse and doves, in addition to a galaxy of smaller birds.

The tiny Pygmy falcon is common, the males blue-grey and white, the females with a mahogany-brown mantle. At a distance, when perched high in the acacia tree, they distinctly resemble shrikes. The giant among the eagles the Martial Eagle is often seen, usually perched high on some vantage point, alert for dik-dik or guinea-fowl.

There is accommodation with all amenities in all the three adjoining game reserves, Samburu National Reserve, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserve sited on the edge of the Ewaso Nyiro River below giant Newtonia trees and doum palms.

Lewa can be conveniently included on an itinerary that takes in iconic safari destinations such as the Masai Mara National Reserve  and Amboseli National Park or even beach holiday in Lamu Island or Zanzibar. Browse our recommended tours and safaris or contact us and we will tailor-make a personalized safari itinerary for you.

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