Samburu National Reserve – Kenya

Samburu National Reserve may be less known than some of Kenya’s more famous parks, but it’s no less spectacular. Samburu is located in Kenya’s arid North along the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River.

The reserve sits on 165 sq. km as a sanctuary for many wild animals. The wildlife here has adapted to the semi-arid environment with the Ewaso Ng’iro River being their lifeline.

The river also supports corridors of riverine forests dominated by large doum palms and acacias. These contrast the dry scrubland and open plains that dominate the landscape and provide shade to the wildlife.

Samburu has unique species that are rarely found elsewhere that have come to be known as the ‘Samburu Special Five’

The Samburu Special Five

1. Beisa Oryx:

This antelope is known for its striking appearance, with long, straight horns and a distinctive black-and-white face mask. The Beisa Oryx can survive without water for long periods by obtaining moisture from the plants they eat and raising their body temperatures to avoid perspiration.

2. Reticulated Giraffe:

This giraffe is a sight to behold with its beautifully defined net-like pattern of white lines crisscrossing a reddish-brown coat. Reticulated giraffes are taller than most of the other giraffe subspecies, which allows them to reach higher branches for food.

3. Grevy’s Zebra:

This zebra species stands out with its narrow stripes and large, rounded ears. Grevy’s zebras have a more social structure compared to other zebra species, forming groups that often include other grazers like the Beisa Oryx.

4. Somali Ostrich:

This kind of ostrich is distinguished from other ostrich species by its blue-grey neck and thighs. The males are especially colorful during the breeding season, with their necks and legs turning a bright blue to attract females.

5. Gerenuk:

This is also known as the ‘giraffe-necked antelope’. The gerenuk has an elongated neck and the unique ability to stand on its hind legs to reach leaves and shoots that other grazers can’t. This adaptation is particularly useful in the sparse vegetation of Samburu.

Other wildlife in Samburu National Reserve

The reserve is not only home to the unique ‘Samburu Special Five’ but also hosts many other wild animals. These include elephants, lions, cheetahs, olive baboons, warthogs, Grant’s gazelle, Kirk’s dik-dik, impala, waterbuck, and over 350 bird species.

The reintroduction of the black rhinoceros has been a significant milestone for the reserve, bringing back a species that had vanished from this landscape due to poaching.

Things to do in Samburu National Reserve

Game Drives

Game drives are a classic safari experience that gives you a chance to see the wildlife here, including the Samburu Special Five, in their natural habitat. With experienced guides, you will be able to explore the savannahs and forests in search of the wildlife species found in Samburu.

Guided Walking Safaris

If you want a more immersive experience, guided walking safaris provide an intimate connection with the land. During the walk, you will feel the earth beneath your feet, listen to the sounds of the wild, and learn about the smaller ecosystems that thrive within the reserve from your guide.

Cultural Visits

The Samburu people have a unique culture with deep-rooted traditions. You can visit their villages and learn about how the community coexists with the wildlife. You can also participate in traditional dances and taste some of the local delicacies.

Bird Watching

The dry, open landscape is favorable for the northeast African dry-country species shared with Ethiopia and Somalia, such as vulturine guineafowl, Somali bee-eater, and golden-breasted starling. Migratory birds also arrive in the reserve around November and stay until April.

Whether you’re an avid birder or a casual observer, the variety of birds will surely captivate your attention.

Camel Safaris

Experience the reserve from a different perspective atop a camel. These gentle creatures offer a smooth ride and a unique vantage point for viewing wildlife and the landscape.

Bush Meals and Sundowners

These experiences combine the pleasures of fine dining with the raw beauty of the African bush. You can enjoy a meal in the heart of the bush or sip on a cocktail as the sun sets over the horizon.


Samburu National Reserve is not just a wildlife haven; it’s a place where the arid beauty of the Kenyan landscape can be fully appreciated, where every sunrise and sunset paints a breathtaking picture across the savannah, and where the night sky reveals the beautiful stars undimmed by city lights.

For photographers, specialized tours cater to capturing the perfect shot. With expert guidance, you can document the stunning scenery and wildlife of Samburu.

Where to stay in Samburu

Every traveler needs a comfortable base from which they can start their safari adventure. Samburu National Reserve has a range of accommodations that cater to different preferences and budgets.

For those seeking the ultimate in luxury and privacy, boutique tented camps like Saruni Samburu offer an exclusive and intimate safari experience. These camps are designed to have a minimal environmental footprint while providing guests with spacious and elegantly furnished tents, complete with en-suite bathrooms and private verandas overlooking the wilderness.

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