Expert Reviews – Shaba NR

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Samburu’s wilder eastern cousin
Overall rating

Set in the same part of Kenya as Samburu National Reserve, from which it ids separated by the main road running north to Ethiopia, Shaba is the place where Survivor Africa was filmed a few years back. Fittingly, this tract of open acacia scrub has a wilder and more untrammeled feel than Samburu itself, with very little tourist traffic exploring the dusty roads than run east from its only large lodge, offering a genuine wilderness experience to those who do. However, while it protects a similar range of species to Samburu, including gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra and lesser kudu, wildlife is thinner on the ground, and relatively skittish, so best to come here for the overall bush experience rather than for pure game viewing.

Part of the dry-country safari ecosystem in Northern Kenya
Overall rating

On the fringes of Kenya’s desert region, Shaba shares the Ewaso Ng'iro River system with neighbouring Samburu and Buffalo Springs national reserves on the other side of the Isiolo–Archers Post road (A2). I spotted elephant, jackal, bat-eared fox and plains game, including the beautifully-marked Grevy’s zebra and the handsome reticulated giraffe, but my experience was you have to work harder to find the animals. Unlike Samburu and Buffalo Springs where almost all game drives are concentrated along the flat riverbanks, Shaba’s wildlife is also drawn to the marshy areas and scattered natural springs. Some of the tough four-wheel-drive tracks to get around the reserve negotiate steep hills, rocky kopjes, thorny scrub and gritty volcanic surfaces and can be bumpy and uncomfortable. The advantage is that Shaba is more scenic and solitary than the other two, but in terms of animals, I found it not quite the equal of its neighbours for population density and ease of locating them. As such, it’s a good idea to combine all three national reserves on a combined safari.

Shaba NR, where the acacia trees give the only shelter
Overall rating

Shaba borders the more popular Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves. Wildlife seems thinner on the ground, but very few tourists come this way, so you’ll have a more exclusive experience. I haven’t seen many of the big five here, but a range of rare, localized dry-country animals are the real attraction for me. These include several types of dikdik, the gerenuk with its elongated neck, the over-sized Grant’s zebra and the reticulated giraffe. In the heat of the day, these grazers are usually found huddled up in the shade offered by the many flat-topped acacia trees.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.5/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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