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Samburu Budget Safari Tours
Up in Kenya’s wild and untouristy north, Samburu National Reserve has strong wilderness appeal, fantastic wildlife viewing and stunning natural beauty all in the one reserve. It’s also quite compact and easy to get around, with lots of interesting community conservancies nearby. For all of these reasons, Samburu is one of Kenya’s best parks. But because it’s in the north, it only sees a fraction of the visitors when compared to the parks on Kenya’s southern safari circuit. There aren’t many budget places to stay up here, but there’s enough to make a visit possible, and Samburu will take care of the rest.
6-Day Circuit Safari Masai Mara - Lake Nakuru - Amboseli
$720 pp (USD)
Kenya: Shared tour (max 6 people per vehicle)BudgetLodge & Tented Camp
You Visit: Nairobi (Start), Masai Mara NR, Lake Nakuru NP, Amboseli NP, Samburu NR, Nairobi (End)
Jocky Tours and Safaris
4.9/5 – 644 Reviews
7-Day Mount Kenya Camping Adventure Safari
$1,487 pp (USD)
Kenya: Shared tour (max 7 people per vehicle)BudgetCamping
You Visit: Nairobi (Start), Samburu NR, Mt Kenya, Lake Naivasha, Masai Mara NR, Nairobi (End)
4.9/5 – 11 Reviews
Tour Operators Offering Custom ToursDidn't find the tour you were looking for? Get a free quote for a custom tour from the tour operators below. They can arrange private tours to any destination in Kenya.
Super Africa Wildlife and Adventure SafarisCustom budget & mid-range tours that can start every day
Mufasa Tours and TravelsCustom budget & mid-range tours that can start every day
Jocky Tours and SafarisCustom budget & mid-range tours that can start every day
5 Questions About Samburu Budget Safaris
Anthony is a writer and author of nearly 150 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including guides to Kenya and East Africa. He has written about Africa for magazines and newspapers around the world. He is also the author of The Last Lions of Africa, which is partly set in Kenya.
5 Questions About Samburu Budget Safaris
Which other parks and reserves should I visit on a budget Samburu safari?
“Samburu National Reserve belongs to a trio of fantastic parks strung out along the Ewaso Nyiro River. In addition to Samburu are Shaba and Buffalo Springs National Reserves. They’re effectively part of the same ecosystem, with many of the same wildlife species and similar landscapes. Together they increase the chances that you’ll find what you’re looking for on your trip. Surrounding Samburu is a handful of community-run conservancies, which receive very few visitors. Although most are given over to exclusive lodges and tented camps, you may be able to visit for a day. A little farther afield to the north, there’s the forest-clad, wildlife-rich wilderness known as the Matthews Range, as well as the hiking trails of Ndoto Mountains. A similar distance to the south lies the Laikipia Plateau, where most of the conservancies are off-limits to budget travelers; Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a fabulous exception with the Big Five always possible.”1
Can you describe a typical day on a budget safari in Samburu National Reserve?
“A typical day on a Samburu budget safari usually begins early. You’ll be woken before dawn with a hot drink, before being taken out on a guided game drive. If you’re on a self-drive safari, you’ll wake and drive yourself. Game drives usually happen very early in the day (as well as late afternoon) because this is when the animals are most likely to be active, making them easier to find. You’ll usually return to camp around mid-morning for breakfast and some relaxation time, followed by lunch and more time to relax. If you’re on one of the really cheap tours or packages, you may be expected to help out with the preparation of meals and other camp chores. It’s also possible that either side of lunch you might go on an additional excursion, such as a visit to a local community. Assuming you’re not moving on to another camp, you’ll go looking for animals again mid- to late afternoon. Just before sunset, before you head back to camp, you’ll probably stop in a picturesque spot for a drink: this is a classic safari tradition known as the sundowner. Back in camp, it’s time for dinner, usually followed by time spent around the campfire, swapping stories and counting the stars.”2
What type of accommodation can I expect on cheap Samburu packages?
“There isn’t much choice when it comes to Samburu’s budget accommodation. The main public campsite is pretty basic, with some shaded campsites and very simple shower-and-toilet facilities. It’s conveniently close to the park headquarters and wonderfully near the river. It’s very central for exploring the park, although it can get crowded during peak tourist season (December to March and July to October) and Kenyan school holiday periods. There is at least one private budget camp next to the public campsite. It’s a little quieter, offers very simple safari tents and meals are available. As with the public campsite, it’s all about the location and the opportunity it offers for you to meet other travelers, including locals. Beyond Samburu, Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy is the only possibility. It has two excellent campsites.”3
How many days is recommended for a Samburu trip?
“I recommend having at least 1 full day in Samburu (in addition to the day you travel here and the day you leave). If you also include Buffalo Springs, Shaba and the conservancies, each of these would probably warrant a full day each. Of course, having a week here (with a side trip to the Matthews Range) would be perfect, allowing you to really get to know the area. This would give you more chances of seeing northern Kenya’s specialty wildlife, including the Somali ostrich, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx and gerenuk. Another reason you should allocate as much time to Samburu as you can is that it’s a long road to get here. Unless you’re flying from elsewhere in Kenya (which is unlikely on a budget safari), it’s a long journey to reach the reserve. It’s not the sort of place where you want to arrive one day and leave the next.”4
How much does a Samburu budget safari cost?
“There aren’t as many tours and packages to choose from when it comes to Samburu in comparison to other parks, but it is certainly possible to find an affordable budget safari that includes the reserve. Most Samburu budget safaris range between US$125 per person per day and US$350 per person per day. This price should include guide, driver, vehicle, accommodation (including camping equipment), game drives, meals, water and some drinks. Possibly also included are park entry fees (US$70/40 per adult/child per day) and transfers. For a cheap camping safari, you might be expected to help out with chores around camp. In addition to the tours that are a normal part of the portfolios of the safari operators, it may also be possible to arrange a custom-made itinerary. This is more difficult for a budget safari and may only work if you can get enough other travelers together to keep the overall (and per-person) costs down.”5
Mark is a travel writer who grew up in Africa and has written over 700 titles for CNN Traveller, Travel Africa, BBC Wildlife and others.
Amazing predator territory
Samburu is often considered to be a poor substitute to the more famous parks of southern Kenya. This is not a realistic outlook though: not only does this great Northern Frontier District wilderness manage to avoid the crowds and tour buses...
Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Game-driving in an arid environment and unusual animals
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...
The bush vibe in Samburu was exceptional. It was really hot (almost too hot) but we still got to see an impressive array of animals, including the leopard, cheetah and lion. The hotel was beautiful and we really liked that we could see...
This was the first park we encountered on the road and it was so exciting to see giraffes all taking a drink in the river, elephants munching on leaves, zebras and crocodiles along the shore by our hotel.
This was our first park and we saw so many animals. (I didn't even know there were different kinds of zebras.) Our game lodge was on the river so we could watch the crocodiles, elephants and birds hanging out and fishing. This was my...
Samburu was such a different place than the other parks in Kenya. It is warmer here but the wildlife was incredible there is quite a variety of wildlife. It was a unique experience. The birding was good but there are better places-- Lake...