Samburu Game Reserve, Buffalo Spring National Reserve and Shaba Game Reserve

Samburu Game Reserve is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River (meaning “brown water”) and on the other side of the river is the Buffalo Spring National Reserve both in the northern part of Kenya. Samburu Game Reserve and the Buffalo spring National Reserve are in a semi-arid region and water is scarce, the only source of water is the Ewaso Ng’iro River that supports three great northern Reserves which include Samburu Game Reserve, Buffalo spring National Reserve and Shaba National Reserve. This is a spectacular county of rugged terrain set against a backdrop of mighty hills and covering an area of about 390sq km at an altitude of 2785 ft above sea level. Along the Ewaso Ng’iro River is a river line forest forming a contrast of the arid thorn studded plains. Large herds of Elephants are drawn into Samburu Game Reserve by the promise of water. During the dry season, Elephants use their tusks to dig deep into the dry river beds to unearth this precious commodity. These waterholes then become a meeting point for other game thus creating a grand reception for visitors coming to the reserve.

There are five special species wildlife endemic to this region namely the Gerenuk (mini-giraffe), Gravy zebra, Somali Ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe and the Beisa Oryx. The forest along the river banks are home to many biros, and leopards often seen at dusk. Lions are also frequently seen and cheetahs can be found on the open plains. On rare occasion, packs of African hunting dogs are sighted passing through the reserve.

The Ewaso Ng’iro River flows from the Kenyan highlands and completes downstream at the famous Lorian Swamp. The natural serenity that is evident here is because of its distance from development, industries and inaccessibility for many years. The Ewaso Ng’iro is also an important water source for the Samburu villagers surrounding the Samburu Game Reserve. Their culture is truly fascinating, sharing a great deal of ancestral and linguistic ties with the Maasai people. The Samburu people keep camels, goats and cattle and are often seen bringing their animals to drink water at the Ewaso Ng’iro River.  They believe that all the cattle in the world belong to them, other people who have cattle are just keeping safe for them and they might soon come to take them.

There are other several private sanctuaries working closely with the Samburu to protect both their tribal lands and the local wildlife. These sanctuaries are open to guests and are as well worth visiting.


Buffalo Spring National Reserve is separated from Samburu Game Reserve by the Ewaso Ng’iro River, less hilly and less dense than Samburu Game Reserve and it is equally as attractive. Buffalo Spring National Reserve derive it’s from an oasis of crystal clear water at the western end of the reserve. It is reported that in the Second World War an Italian bomber mistook Buffalos for humans and blew a crater creating a large spring hence was called Buffalo Springs. The Buffalo Springs are permanent and provide drinking water for the wild animals and residents of the nearby town called Archer’s Post.
Buffalo Springs National Reserve offers unique vista of rounded hills and undulating plains. The mix of wood and grassland with riverine forest and swamp is home to a wide variety of animals and birdlife. The vegetation of Buffalo Springs National Reserve consists of doum palm and acacia riverine forest and further from the river acacia woodland interspersed with areas of scrub and grasslands.

Buffalo Springs National Reserve harbors remarkable species of birds. The demure guinea fowls, the helmeted and vulturine guinea fowls, the majestic sand grouse and the gentle doves will convey the unruffled air that is associated with the park. A herd of Gravy’s zebra and a band of elegant reticulated giraffes can be seen nibbling at the dew filled undergrowth early in the morning. Herds of elephants, Ground squirrels, Oryx, Somali ostriches, hippopotamus, crocodiles, gerenuks, buffaloes, lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas all live side by side each weary of their place in the food chain. Activities include game viewing safari, nature walks, entertainment by pastoralist cultural dancers, and visits to cultural villages to get the experience of nomadic lifestyle in the community.


Shaba National Reserve is located in the northern part of Kenya, East of Samburu Game Reserve and Buffalo Spring National Reserve. The bushes and grass vegetation in the reserve makes Mount Kenya visible on the right side of vast stretches of savannah land. Shaba took its name from the Mount Shaba (1525 meters), a volcanic mountain that became extinct around 5,000 years ago. Mount Shaba lies on the boarder of the reserve. Its 97 square miles in size and can be entered through gates Natorbe, Chanler’s falls and Shaba.

Shaba National Reserve is very peaceful and attracts animals because of River Ewaso Ng’iro, which runs through it and the mixture of acacia, riverine forest, thorn trees and grass vegetation. Animals commonly seen are elephants, lions, cheetahs, gravy’s zebras, giraffes, gerenuks, buffaloes, Oryx, grant gazelles, dik diks and waterbucks. The river forest attracts a wide variety of birds, unfortunately all rhinos populations was eliminated here because of heavy poaching.

Shaba Game Reserve was where Joy Adamson, the world renowned author of Born Free, conservationist and artist, together with her lioness Elsa spent her final years and returning the a leopard to the wild. This was the subject of her final book, Queen of Shaba. More recently Shaba served as the location for the hit series “Survivor Africa” which pitted its contestants against the challenges of this World Africa.

The entire Samburu region is a place of breathtaking and Magical beauty. A place where the vision of a deep red sunset silhouetting the doom palms along the river and on the background forming a sea of fire brings the perfect end to a day in the wilderness.

Major attractions in Samburu Game Reserve

Wildlife; it’s a home to the big five (Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Leopard and the Buffalo). The five Samburu special include; Gerenuk, Gravy zebra, Somali Ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe and the Beisa Oryx can be seen here in Samburu Game Reserve. Other endangered species found here are the wild dogs and the pun cake tortoise. There are a variety of reptiles and aquatic species in the Ewaso Ng’iro River in Samburu National Reserve.


Birds; Samburu Game Reserve has over 450 species of indigenous birds.

Plants; botanist have identified two dozens of plant species and the dominant ones are; acacia elator, salva dora pesica and the down palms.

In the 1960s and 1970s more than 160 fossil remains of early man including Homo habilis and Homo erectus were discovered, putting man’s origin back three million years. More than 4,000 fossil specimens of mammal and Stone Age artifacts have been discovered here.


How to Get to Samburu Game Reserve, Buffalo Springs National Reserve and Shaba Game Reserve.

By Road: Samburu Game Reserve, Buffalo Springs National Reserve and Shaba Game Reserve are all accessible by road via Isiolo and Archers Post. Most visitors come here as part of a Safari package from Nairobi or on self drive. Samburu Game Reserve and Buffalo Springs National Reserve are contiguous reserves, while the separate Shaba Game Reserve is a short drive to the east. The reserves have well established internal roads and tracks. It is 350kms from Nairobia via Nairobi Nanyuki Isiolo route.

By Air: There are airstrips in both Samburu Game Reserve and Buffalo Springs National Reserve, with daily scheduled flights from Nairobi. One can also use private charters. Accessing the Reserves is difficult without private or organized transport.

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