​Expert Reviews – Samburu NR

Sort By: Most helpful 1-11 of 11 Reviews
Expert
Brian Jackman   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Multiple times

Brian is an award winning travel writer, author of safari books and regular contributor to magazines such as BBC Wildlife and Travel Africa.

13 people found this review helpful.

Northern Kenya in a Nutshell
Overall rating
4/5

Set in the land of the Samburu people, this pocket-sized game reserve enables you to experience everything that is best about the burning semi-deserts of the NFD – the Northern Frontier District, as this wildly beautiful and mountainous province used to be called. Samburu lies on the north side of the Ewaso Ng’iro, whose coffee-coloured waters sustain the animals through the dry season, and from here you can also go game-driving in the Buffalo Springs reserve on the other side of the river. Elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard all come to drink under the graceful doum palms and shady riverside acacias, together with the animals unique to northern Kenya that make up Samburu’s “Special Five”: Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, beisa oryx, gerenuk and Somali ostrich. Like the Masai Mara, this popular reserve has too many lodges for its own good. Elephant Watch Camp, presided over by Saba Douglas-Hamilton, leaves the lightest footprint.

Expert
Ariadne van Zandbergen   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

11 people found this review helpful.

Samburu NP, a harsh environment that only softens in the light of the setting sun
Overall rating
4/5

Samburu National Reserve is one of my favourites. I love the arid, harsh environment, home to many dry-country specials like the funny looking gerenuk which can often been found standing on its hind legs to browse, the big Grevy’s zebra and the Beisa oryx. There are many specials on the birding front as well like the beautiful vulturine guineafowl and the Somali ostrich. Not as good for cheetah and lion as the Masai Mara, but leopards are easily seen.

Late afternoon is my favourite time when silhouettes light up against the kicked-up dust. At this time the red soil and everything covered by it, like the elephants after a good dust bath, just glows. Like the Maasai, the Samburu people have lived alongside wild animals in this part of the world since ancient times. A visit to a Samburu village is highly recommended.

Expert
Philip Briggs   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: Multiple times

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

8 people found this review helpful.

A river runs through it
Overall rating
4/5

Set in the arid northern badlands of Kenya, but bordered to the south by the perennial Ewaso Nyiro River, this park is particularly appealing to us experienced safarigoers, since it protects several dry country variations on more familiar and widespread species. Reticulated giraffes rather than the more blotchy southern race. Grevy’s zebra, which is larger and more narrowly striped than its southern cousins. There’s also the stretch-necked gerenuk antelope, the striking Beisa oryx, and a race of Grant’s gazelle with such large horns you fear they might overbalance. It is also a great place to look for the normally elusive leopard and localised striped hyena, and home to plenty of elephant. It is also one of my favourite birding destinations in East Africa, home to a wide array of dry country specials, from Egyptian vulture and vulturine guineafowl to red-and-yellow barbet and various sparrow- and social-weavers.

Expert
Lizzie Williams   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: September

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

8 people found this review helpful.

Game-driving in an arid environment and unusual animals
Overall rating
4/5

Located in Kenya’s hot and arid northern region, Samburu’s life source is the Ewaso Ng'iro River, and the combination of near-permanent water and forest shade on the banks draws plentiful wildlife. On my game drive along the river I spotted some species rarely seen in milder climates including a long-necked gerenuk, the antelope that stands on its hind legs to reach foliage, Grevy's zebra, with its finely defined stripes and bushy mane, and reticulated giraffe, with its handsome jigsaw pattern. I also watched a couple of lionesses pad across the sandy floodplain for a quenching drink in the shallows, ever-watchful of the especially large crocodiles basking in the sun. Samburu’s birdlife was prolific too, and included martial eagle, pygmy falcon, and several species of hornbill. Safaris can be rewarding, although some may find the dry heat oppressive, but nevertheless Samburu has a good choice of comfortable lodges for a remote region, which provide a welcome respite from the equatorial sun. Buffalo Springs National Reserve lies just over a bridge on the southern side of the river and Shaba National Reserve is a relatively short drive to the east, so combining a safari with game drives in all three is an excellent and varied option and makes the long journey from Nairobi all the more worthwhile.

Expert
Emma Gregg   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: January

Emma is an award-winning travel writer for Rough Guides, National Geographic Traveller, Travel Africa magazine and The Independent.

7 people found this review helpful.

Serene riverside reserve in Kenya’s arid north
Overall rating
4/5

Like Meru, which is situated a little to the southeast, Samburu receives far fewer visitors than the better known parks in southern Kenya. However, it has several safari camps, making it a good choice for those wishing to immerse themselves in the wilderness as fully as possible.

This part of Kenya is very dry, but the Ewaso Ngiro River cuts through the sandy landscape, drawing a good variety of animals and birds. Elephants are plentiful near the river and I saw much evidence of their tendency to trash trees in the nearby woodland. The herds have been the subject of detailed research for many years. I also saw lions at Samburu, along with plenty of zebras, giraffes and raptors.

Expert
Nana Luckham   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: August

Nana is a travel writer and author of multiple guidebooks, including the Lonely Planet guides to Africa, Zambia & Malawi and South Africa.

5 people found this review helpful.

Dusty plains and big game
Overall rating
4/5

Located in northern Kenya, in the land of the nomadic Samburu people, the hot and arid hills and plains of this national reserve are home to rich and varied wildlife, including lion, leopard, cheetah, the distinctive Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, hippo, crocodile and wild dog.

On my last visit, elephants provided the biggest show: we saw several herds, including one bathing in the river with extremely photogenic infants in tow.

Because of its location, the park doesn’t get too crowded and the accommodation options all feel secluded and special.

I stayed at one of the park’s campsites. It was a rustic set up with basic facilities, from where I heard the rumble of lions in the distance – making a nighttime visit to use the facilities all the more interesting.

Expert
Mike Unwin   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: September

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

5 people found this review helpful.

Dry-country delights
Overall rating
4/5

Samburu, though popular, does not enjoy the fame – or receive the visitor numbers – of some of Kenya’s larger reserves, despite enjoying publicity in recent years from the bizarre story of a lioness that adopted an abandoned oryx calf. (Beware: this story does not have a happy ending.) Nonetheless, this is an excellent park. Its dusty thorn bush and scenic mountain backdrop represent a last frontier before the barren lands of Kenya’s north, and have quite a different character to the open plains of Masai Mara. The wildlife is also more for the connoisseur, with unusual species such as oryx, gerenuk and Grevy’s zebra found among the more standard big game. Visitors should enjoy the large elephant population and may well come across all three big cats – especially leopard.

Lodges are clustered around the Ewaso Nyiro River, which is a magnet for game during the dry season and harbours numerous large crocodiles. My visit was to a cheaper tented camp, and proved very productive, with good sightings of all the local specials – including reticulated giraffe – and lions seen on every day. The birdlife was especially rich, both along the river and in the savanna, with raptors, from secretary bird to pygmy falcon, especially prolific.

Expert
Stuart Butler   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: Multiple times

Stuart is a travel writer and author of numerous Lonely Planet guidebooks, including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

4 people found this review helpful.

Exotic Samburu
Overall rating
4/5

When I first visited Kenya some twenty years ago Samburu National Reserve, and the surrounding areas, had a bad reputation for banditry and general lawlessness and this made Samburu something of a last frontier in Kenyan safari tourism. Today, things have changed dramatically, but even though the reserve is now firmly on the mainstream safari circuit it’s still much less visited than say Amboseli and this gives it more of raw and wild feel.

With its new take on otherwise familiar species (think Somali ostrich with their smartie blue legs and tightly-striped Grevy’s zebra) Samburu makes a perfect complement to the big ticket south Kenyan reserves. It’s also a great reserve for northern, dry country bird species.

As much as the wildlife what I like about this park and its surrounds is the scenery and the cultural interest. Giraffes wandering through lobster burnt scrub and, on the edge of the reserve, tall Samburu moran their hair plaited red and adorned in feathers and flowers. With the exotica of its scenery, wildlife and people no other park in Kenya gives me such butterflies of excitement.

Expert
Lucy Corne   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: December

Lucy is travel writer for a range of publications, including Lonely Planet's guides to Africa, Southern Africa and South Africa.

4 people found this review helpful.

Kenya's quieter side
Overall rating
4/5

Kenya has a number of world-famous parks, which can get a little congested in peak periods, but Samburu is far enough away from the busier parks to offer a slightly wilder experience. Although I had toured Kenya and the Kruger before, when we hit Samburu my travel buddies were on their first safari – and what a safari it was. A lion pride almost numbering in double digits chowing down on a very recently slain oryx, a herd of elephants bathing in the muddy river and an encounter that was a little too close with a vervet monkey as we lunched alongside the river.

Expert
Stephen Cunliffe   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: February

Stephen is a travel writer and avid conservationist whose work appears in prestigious magazines such as Africa Geographic and Travel Africa.

2 people found this review helpful.

Elephants, elephants and more elephants
Overall rating
4/5

This 165km²/64mi2 reserve – located a mere 345km/214mi from Nairobi in the southeast corner of Samburu District – is co-located with Buffalo Springs National Reserve. Indeed, it would be almost impossible to visit one of these reserves without exploring the other. Separated by the scenic Ewaso Nyiro River, these two small parks provide an area of relative sanctuary for migrating elephant herds in an otherwise arid and volatile region.

Samburu is typically hot, dry and dusty during the day, while nights are pleasantly cool. The dry season runs from late May to early October during which time large concentrations of wildlife frequent the reserve thanks to the perennial water and lush vegetation found along the Ewaso Nyiro River.

The reserve boasts numerous rarer – but easily seen – species, including reticulated giraffes, gerenuks, Beisa oryx, Grevy’s zebras and Somali ostriches, but it is the huge population of completely unperturbed elephants that steal the show. Thanks to a long-standing Save the Elephants research and monitoring project, these elephants are amongst the best studied and most approachable pachyderms in all of Africa. I would go so far as to say that any safari to Samburu will be remembered primarily for the super-relaxed elephants and their antics.

While elephants are the premier attraction, we also enjoyed good sightings of lions, leopards and a mother cheetah with cubs during our visit. Wild dogs are supposed to be a fairly common sighting in the open habitat, although they eluded us. Birdlife is abundant with over 450 species recorded, and a couple of great sightings of diminutive Taita Falcons were a definite avian highlight.

Expert
Harriet Nimmo   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: August

Harriet is a zoologist with more than 20 years’ experience. She has the privilege of working with the world’s top wildlife photographers and photo-guides.

An Arid Jewel
Overall rating
4/5

Samburu is a hot, arid reserve in Kenya’s Northern Frontier District and the landscape can seem very harsh and desolate. However I love the stark beauty, the unusual animals that live here and the special birdlife.
A number of the lodges are situated on the banks of the perennial Ewaso Nyiro River and elephants regularly move through on their way to drink and bathe. Samburu’s elephants have been studied for decades by Save the Elephants and they are very relaxed, making for some magical encounters.
Samburu is home to the ‘special five’ arid-adapted species, the reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Beisa oryx, Somali ostrich and the bizarre-looking gerenuk antelope with its elongated neck and tiny head. All of these are easy to see. Samburu has a good population of leopards, and lions are also present. There are a number of special birds here that you don’t find in the southern game reserves, including the cobalt-blue, vulturine guineafowl.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.0/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star 1
  • 4 star 11
  • 3 star 1
  • 2 star 0
  • 1 star 0
Write a User Review