In the arid North of Kenya, water means life. The waters of the great Ewaso Nyiro River draw wildlife in great numbers to its banks, creating an oasis of green. This river flows through three great northern reserves, Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba. This is spectacular country, set against a backdrop of the mighty Mountain Ol Olokwe. The three national parks/ reserves form a big block of conservation area in the remote Central Northern Kenya. They occupy Isiolo and Samburu Districts, the home to the pastoralists’ communities of the Boran, Gabbra and the Samburu of Kenya. Here the north indeed meets the south. These parks are unique in that you can spot the southern and northern dwelling species co-exist, hence the term North meets the South. Unique species in this region include the reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, Somali ostrich, the endangered Grevy’s Zebra.
SAMBURU NATIONAL RESERVE
Located in the Samburu district, 325 Km North of Nairobi is Samburu National Reserve. This being the arid north, the lifeline of the reserve is the Ewaso Nyiro River, “River of brown waters”. Part of the attraction stems from the colourful Samburu, the cousins of the Maasai who occupy this region.
The Samburu nature reserve is famous for its unique species of wildlife endemic to this region like the long necked Gerenuk (giraffe gazelle), reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s Zebra, Beisa Oryx and the blue necked Somali ostrich, all to be found to the North of the Equator. Besides the unique species, elephants, lions, cheetahs, Grevy’s zebras, buffalos, Oryx, grants gazelles, dikdiks, cheetah, and Hyena are to be found in Samburu Reserve.
Over 365 species of birds have been recorded in Samburu Reserve, including kingfishers, humming birds and eagles, guinea fowls and vultures.
Oblivious of the inquisitive eyes, huge crocodiles, with records of 6 metres bask along the river banks while schools of hippos inhabit the pools.
Gates: Ngare Mare and Buffalo Springs gates.
Getting there: There are daily flights to Samburu with stopovers at Nanyuki. Alternatively one can easily drive to Samburu reserve.
Samburu National Reserve has the largest number of accommodation facilities in the area. They vary from luxury camps, budget lodges and public campsites.
- Samburu Serena Lodge
- Samburu Lodge
- Elephant Watch Safari Luxury Camp
- Samburu Intrepids camp- Heritage hotels
- Larsen’s tented camp
- Kitich camp,
- Ol Malo camp
Activities: Nature walks, camping, game drives, cultural dances, camel safaris, boat rides in Ewaso Ngiro River.
BUFFALO SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK/RESERVE
To the south of Samburu lies the Buffalo springs reserve. The two are separated by the Ewaso Ngiro River, which supports their life. The two share the same ecosystem. It is less hilly and less dense in terms of its wildlife populace than Samburu National Park but just as beautiful. The mix of wood and grassland with riverine forest and swamp is home to a wide variety of animals and birdlife. In addition to the animals found in Samburu, the bird life here is prolific with over 365 species of birds.
Buffalo Springs National Reserve takes its name from an oasis of sparkling clear water at the western end of the sanctuary. Apart from the wildlife found in Samburu National Reserve, the common zebra is also an attraction often standing distinct from its cousin, the Grevy Zebra, although they do not interbreed. An unexplained phenomenon is why the common zebra is not found on the north side of the river.
The birdlife here is abundant with the Somali ostrich dominating the plains. Larger than its southern relative, the Maasai ostrich, it is more easily distinguished because of its indigo legs and neck. Next in size is the Kori Bustard standing a meter high exhibiting unpredictable behavior, at times running or crouching at the first sign of danger and at sometimes completely fearless of humans. The male has a remarkable display inflating his neck and neck feathers until the head seems to disappear then raising his tail until it lies along his back.
The reserve offers a unique environment of rounded hills and beautiful plains and the main feature being the ancient lava-terrace that forms the Champagne Ride in the southeast. The Buffalo Springs are permanent and provide drinking water for the wildlife and for the nearby town of Archer’s Post.
Wildlife includes reticulated giraffes, grevy’s zebras, elephants, black rhinos, ground squirrels, Oryx, Somali ostriches, hippos, crocodiles, gerenuks, buffalos, lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas.
Accommodation: Buffalo Springs Lodge
SHABA NATIONAL PARK /RESERVE
Shaba National Reserve takes its name from a massive cone of volcanic rock that dominates the region. Shaba is also called the Born Free country. It is here that the famous conservationist Joy Adamson tamed Elsa the lioness. In addition to Born Free, other films that have been shot here include To Walk with the Lions. More recently, Shaba served as the location for the hit series Survivor Africa, which pitted its contestants against the challenges of this wild remote country.
The lifeline of the park is Ewaso Ngiro River. The reserve’s northern boundary is marked by the wide, sauntering motion of the Ewaso Ngiro on its way to Chanler’s Falls and beyond to its final destination at the Lorian Swamp; the tall doum palms which mark its course in silent contrast to the rugged and pitted tracts which make up much of the sanctuary. In addition to Ewaso Ngiro, the reserve has four springs, thus making it better watered that either the Buffalo Springs or Samburu to such an extent that during the rains, Shaba’s tracks are only open to 4WD vehicles. In general, the reserve is less developed and is therefore more peaceful and solitary than its sisters.
Location: 341 Km from Nairobi.
Getting there: 5 hrs by road from Nairobi or 45 minutes by daily scheduled flights from Nairobi.
Accommodation: Joys Camp and Sarova Shaba Lodge (Renowned of its beauty, the lodge has 85 rooms, restaurant and bar, gas station and swimming pool.)