Samburu and Buffalo Springs

Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserve in Kenya. (17,543)

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Samburu National Reserve and the adjacent Buffalo Springs National Reserve lies in the Northern part of Kenya, north of Mount Kenya where you find desert like areas stretching all the way up to Ethiopia. Samburu National Reserve with its 175 km2 is home to wildlife rarely seen in other parts of Kenya. The two parks are only split by the river Ewaso Nyiro (Uaso Ngiro, 'Brown River'). Samburu National Reserve on the northern side of the river and Buffalo Springs National Reserve on the southern side of the river. They are however, considered to be one park, even though they have different owners.

The area of Samburu National Reserve and Buffalo Springs National Reserve is very dry and dusty and even warmer than the eastern and southern safari areas such as Maasai Mara National Reserve and Tsavo National Park. Ewaso Ngiro is the live nerve for the area, with its brown water this is the water source for the wildlife in the parks. Acacia and doum-palms on the river shore creates a nice contrast to the brown river. The parks are surrounded with two mountains, the Koitogor and Ol Olokowe. It is incredible beautiful with its red brown sand, cobber colored mountains, sharp torn bushes, and the dryness. Only 250mm of rain each year sets high demands for the wild- and birdlife in the parks. A visit to a Samburu tribe village is highly recommended. Samburu warriors are related to Masai tribe found in the southern part of Kenya.

Samburu National Reserve has a complex landscape with arid thornbush savannah, acacia tress scattered as well as scrubland. The Koitogor Mountain uplift is over 1,200 meters. Despite the elevation in the park exceeding 1,000 meters, the Samburu National Reserve has an average temperature between 30°C (85°F) down to 20°C. It is very dry climate and most of the rain falls between March and May, with short rains from November to December. The rest of the year is mainly hot and dry.

Samburu National Reserve is accessible through the Ngara Mara gate and Buffalo Springs gates. Samburu is very peaceful and the river Ewaso Nyiro running through gives life to the varied vegetation of acacia trees, riverine forest, thorn trees and grassland. The Ewaso Nyiro river flows from the Kenyan highlands the Aberdare and Mount Kenya through Laikipia and all the way to the Lorian Swamp, a large area of wetlands. The river flows through a series of ravines before entering the sandy plains of the Samuru National Reserve. The Ewaso Nyiro River sometimes dries up at the end of the dry season in January and/or February. The waters of this great river the Ewaso Nyiro, draws wildlife in great numbers to its banks. It creates an oasis of a green ecosystem along the river. Mount Kenya glaciers is ensuring that there is a continuously water supply for the Ewaso Nyiro River

People and Culture

Samburu National Reserve neighbors the home of the Samburu Tribe of Kenya, they are known for their remote culture and nomadic way of life. The Samburu people where drawn to the area by the reliability of the Ewasso Nyiro River for watering their herds. The Ewasso Nyiro River in Samburu National Reserve and Buffalo Springs National Reserve is the biggest and last seasonal river in Kenya. The Samburu people are closely related to Maasai, they speak the same language “Maa” and a wear a similar dress of blankets and beads, though with different color variations than the Maasai tribe. While on a safari in Samburu- and Buffalo Springs National Reserve it is recommended to visit a village, it gives a great opportunity to purchase some local crafts and beaded jewellery from the Samburu tribe.


Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserve are home to wildlife rarely found in Kenya since these live only above the Equator. Among them are the small striped Grevy zebra, the Netgiraf, Somalia ostrich, the majestic Oryx-antilope and the Gerenuk Gazelle with its long neck also known as the giraf necked antelope. Buffalo Spring Reserve also has plain zebras the Burchell, they do however, not seem to interbreeding with the Grevy zebra.

Carnivores are well represented in Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserve. If you are lucky you will be able to experience lions, cheetah, hyena and leopards. Especially in the dry season the predators watch the river bench for antelopes and gazelles that carefully approaches the river bank to drink. Samburu ecosystem is the best place in Kenya for leopard sightings, but sometimes it can be hard to spot the leopards since they prefer to rest high up in the trees.

Elephant are hard to miss in Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserve, so it is one of the best places in Kenya to see huge herds of Elephants of all ages. In Samburu around 900 individuals can be sighted which has an impact on the ecosystem, as the Elephants with their massive strength knocks over trees, gouging water holes in the sandy river bed as in runs dry during the dry period.

Ewasso Nyiro River host Nile crocodiles and hippos as permanent resident in Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserve. Especially during the dry period you can spot large Nile crocodiles sun bathing on the river banks, resting while waiting for the prey to come down for a drink.

Samburu and Buffalo Springs is also a paradise for birdwatchers with more than 350 species recorded. Among the colorful assortment of birds you find birdwatchers favorites such as the red and yellow-billed hornbill, grey-headed kingfisher, tawny eagle, bateleur, sunbirds, woodpeckers, pygmy falcon, Verreaux’s eagle, bee-eaters, secretary bird, lilac-breasted roller, superb starling and vultures such as the palm-nut vulture.


From Nairobi to Samburu there is approximately 415 km (a six hours drive), it is therefore recommended to overnight at Aberdare National Reserve, before taking the rest of the drive to Samburu National Reserve. An alternative route is to fly directly from Nairobi to Samburu. From Nairobi the road goes north towards Mount Kenya. When passing Mount Kenya the tallest mountain in Kenya and starts to drive down into lower parts towards Isiolo the heats hit you. After Isiolo there are no more asphalted roads, and it is now unto gravel before turning towards the Ngare Mara Gate.

Lodges and camps

The parks have excellent lodges and camps, plus more primitive tent camps, all directly down to the river. Some safari lodges advertise with daily feeding of the five meter long crocodile for the pleasure of the safari guests.

In Samburu National Reserve you find the classic Samburu Game Lodge as luxury tented camps such as Larsens and Samburu Intrepids.

Samburu Game Lodge was built on the former camp site of the famous hunter Arthur Newmann. It is located on the north bank of the Ewasso Nyiro River close to the Samburu Reserve headquater. Since the lodge is so close to the river you can occasionally see Elephants coming down to the compound. The lodge staff tends to lay out bait in the trees close to the river for easier sightings of the leopards. They also lay out bait for the crocodiles for close encounters sightings.

In Buffalo Springs National Reserve you find the Samburu Serena Lodge and Samburu Simba Lodge. Samburu Serena Lodge was badly damaged in the floods of March 2010 and currently closed down.

Samburu Simba Lodge has been built on the site of the old tented lodge, on the south bank if the Ewasso Nyiro River.