Big Cats, Elephants and Unusual Species

Lions? Leopards? And Chimps

Hot, dry, not overly touristed, and yet filled with every kind of wildlife, Samburu National Reserve is a special prize for those who safari off the beaten path. The big cats – lion, leopard, and cheetah – prowl this rugged land of acacia trees, riverine forest, and broad savannahs. Cutting through the dry plains, the Ewaso Ng’iro river provides an oasis for the many species including over 900 elephants, who drink at its life-preserving waters.

Though it’s the most popular park in northern Kenya, the park is still relatively empty and serene. Come here to spot dozens of large and small species like baboon, warthog, gazelle, dik-dik, and impala. But you’ll also be surprised at the over 450 species of birds filling the skies, trees, and riverbanks. Look for storks, eagles, starlings, hornbills, bee-eaters, and vultures.

Lion cubs
A pair of young zebra playing in long grass in Ol Pejeta Wildlife Sanctuary

The Samburu Animals

The park also hosts a variety of rare animals you won’t easily find elsewhere. Known as the Samburu “Special Five”, these unusual species are Grevy’s Zebra, Somali ostrich, the reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and beisa oryx.

Also, unusual in other parks but quite common here are African wild dogs, hunting in their social packs. Other vulnerable species to look for: the great egret, martial eagle, and the pancake tortoise.

Lions, Born Free

You’ve heard the story of Elsa, the lioness, raised by Joy Adamson and immortalized in the book and movie, “Born Free”. Samburu is one of two places Adamson raised the young lion cub to adulthood before releasing her into the wild.

Such are the legends of Samburu, an almost mystical spot where the unexpected is know to occur. Like the story of Kamunyak (“Blessed One”), a lioness in the reserve that adopted at least six oryx calves. Kamunyak famously fought off all kinds of predators including lions to save her adopted offspring. Her story garnered international fame in the documentary “Heart of a Lioness”.

Baby Lion cub resting in the shade seen at the Masai Mara National Park

The Maasai

Sharing this land flocked with distinctive acacia trees are the Maasai people, nomadic herders from whom the park takes its name. They construct traditional villages surrounding the reserve and live as they have for eons, herding their cattle and pushing back at an ever-encroaching modern world.

Known for their brightly colored shukas and deft beadwork, the Maasai are a living link to a past that stretches back beyond colonial Africa, to an era when the entire continent was wild and untouched.

Masai tribe living in the Masai Mara National Reserve


Open bush

Dense bush

Riverine Forest


Don’t miss the safari highlights

Local African man standing next to the Mara River in Kenya

The Samburu People – Related to the Maasai pastoral people, the Samburu live nearby in local villages. Visit an authentic homestead to meet these herding people, observe their lifestyle and learn about their ancient culture.

Enjoy the serene park – You won’t find hordes of tourists at Samburu so you can appreciate the wildlife at an easy pace. You’re certain to see plenty of animals quenching their thirst at the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River.

Easy rafting – On the park’s main body of water, enjoy a peaceful raft adventure on the Ewaso Ng’iro.

Shaba Reserve – Looking for a bit more greenery? Just to the east of Samburu, you can visit the Shaba National Reserve where you’ll find forests, woodlands, and even ancient volcanic formations. Check out the Shaba Hill Volcano.

Buffalo Springs – Heading south of the reserve will place you at the oasis of Buffalo Springs. Check out the great lava terrace called the Champagne Ride and the wildlife that inhabit these lush springs.

A pair of buffalo in a Kenyan safari park
Tourists standing and looking out of the open top of a 4x4 safari jeep

Community Projects

These reserve-based projects help the livelihoods of the nearby rural communities.

  • Education for local students, including computer skills training
  • Healthcare – providing medical supplies to the local health centers and mobile clinic
  • Energy – providing hundreds of local families with energy-efficient stoves – reducing the need for firewood.

Ol Pejeta Eco-Facts

  • Sanctuaries to protect endangered chimpanzees, oryx, hartebeest, Grevy’s zebra, and bat-eared fox
  • Home to the world’s last remaining northern white rhinos
  • The largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa – the rhino population has increased by over 100 in the last 25 years.
A rare brown spotted zebra seen on safari in Lake Nakuru

Samburu National Reserve Facts

The forests, savannahs, and plains of this signature park form an area of 165 sq mi (63 sq mi) in size.

Location: The park is 345 km (214 mi) north of Nairobi. Estimate a 5-hour drive from the city. Located in the Rift Valley Province, the Ewaso Ng’iro River makes up the park’s southern border.

Climate: The tough, arid climate matches the rugged landscape. Daytime temperatures run 300C (850F). The long rains arrive in March through May.

When to go: The park is open and accessible year-round.

Best time to visit: The dry months are best for viewing the wildlife as they are predictably drawn to the Ewaso Ng’iro River. The dry seasons are December through March and July through October.

Getting there: You can Book a tour with Africa Kenya Safaris. And you’ll go in style – a specially outfitted 4 x 4 safari Jeep.

Giraffes in a safari park

More Samburu Facts

Want to discover more about spectacular Samburu? Our quick Q&A guide will help you with useful Samburu facts and information on this iconic national park, and just what makes it an unmissable safari destination!

Samburu National Park is nestled in the heart of Kenya, within the arid landscapes of the Samburu County. This enchanting reserve covers an area of approximately 165 square kilometers and is situated in the northern part of the country. The park lies along the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River, which serves as a lifeline for the diverse wildlife and lush vegetation that thrives in this unique ecosystem.

A Natural Oasis in the Arid North

Located in the iconic Great Rift Valley, Samburu National Park offers a contrasting landscape to other popular Kenyan reserves. Its arid plains are dotted with acacia trees and bordered by rocky outcrops, creating a breathtaking backdrop for wildlife enthusiasts. Despite the seemingly harsh conditions, the park is a natural oasis that sustains an incredible array of wildlife, including some rare and endemic species.

An Adventurer’s Paradise

Samburu National Park is a haven for adventure seekers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Its diverse ecosystem provides ample opportunities for exciting activities and unforgettable experiences. Embark on game drives through the rugged terrain, where you may encounter elephants, lions, leopards, and the famous “Samburu Special Five” – Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx, and Gerenuk antelope. Take a leisurely boat ride along the Ewaso Ng’iro River, offering a unique perspective of the wildlife as they gather at the water’s edge. Immerse yourself in the rich Samburu culture by visiting a local village and learning about their traditions and way of life.

In conclusion, Samburu National Park is a captivating destination situated in the arid landscapes of Samburu County, Kenya. Its unique location, along the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro River, creates a natural oasis that supports a diverse range of wildlife. With its contrasting landscapes and abundance of wildlife, Samburu National Park offers an unforgettable adventure for those seeking a truly remarkable Kenyan safari experience.

The journey from Nairobi to Samburu can be traversed by road or air, each offering a unique experience. By road, the approximate travel time is around 5-6 hours, depending on traffic conditions and the chosen route. This mode of travel allows you to witness the changing landscapes of Kenya as you make your way to the stunning wilderness of Samburu.

Safari Tour Options from Africa Kenya Safaris

Africa Kenya Safaris offers a variety of exceptional safari tour options that include travel from Nairobi to Samburu, ensuring a seamless and enriching experience for our guests.

Explorer Safari from Nairobi to Samburu & Other Parks

For those seeking an exhilarating 8-day adventure, our Explorer Safari from Nairobi is the perfect choice. Departing from Nairobi, this spectacular safari tour takes you to not just Samburu, but also Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, and the iconic Masai Mara, all in one holiday!

Samburu Fly Safari

For a more immersive experience, our Samburu Multi-Day Fly Safari allows you to spend several days in the enchanting wilderness of Samburu. Departing from Nairobi, you’ll enjoy a short domestic flight to Samburu. Upon arrival, indulge in game drives across the vast savannah, encountering an abundance of wildlife, including elephants, lions, and the elusive leopards. Experience the rich cultural heritage of the Samburu people and relax in luxury accommodations that blend seamlessly with the surrounding natural beauty.

In conclusion, the journey from Nairobi to Samburu can be accomplished in approximately 5-6 hours by road, or by a one and half hour flight, offering a chance to witness Kenya’s diverse landscapes. Africa Kenya Safaris provides a range of safari tour options, including day trips and multi-day adventures, ensuring you can explore the captivating beauty of Samburu. Immerse yourself in the untamed wilderness, encounter unique wildlife, and create lifelong memories on your journey from Nairobi to Samburu with Africa Kenya Safaris.

Samburu National Park spans a vast area, offering visitors an extensive wilderness to explore. Covering approximately 165 square kilometers, this magnificent reserve is located in the northern region of Kenya. Its size allows for ample space for wildlife to roam freely, providing an authentic and immersive safari experience.

A Sanctuary for Wildlife: Samburu’s Diverse Ecosystem

The size of Samburu National Park encompasses a diverse range of ecosystems and habitats. From arid plains to verdant riverbanks, this park presents a tapestry of landscapes that attract an abundance of wildlife. The park’s borders are defined by the meandering Ewaso Ng’iro River, which not only serves as a lifeline for animals but also creates a scenic focal point within the reserve. This rich and varied ecosystem supports a remarkable array of wildlife species, including elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, and numerous bird species.

Exploration and Adventure: Making the Most of Samburu’s Size

With its expansive size, Samburu National Park offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. Game drives through the vast plains and along the riverbanks allow visitors to witness the diverse wildlife in their natural habitat. Additionally, the park’s size allows for the establishment of well-maintained tracks and trails, ensuring easy access to various parts of the reserve. Whether you choose to embark on a thrilling safari drive, take a leisurely boat ride along the river, or immerse yourself in the local Samburu culture, Samburu National Park’s size ensures that there is always something new to discover and experience.

In conclusion, Samburu National Park spans an impressive area of approximately 165 square kilometers, offering a vast and breathtaking wilderness for visitors to explore. Its diverse ecosystems and abundant wildlife make it a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts. With the park’s size allowing for exploration and adventure, Samburu National Park presents endless possibilities for an unforgettable safari experience in Kenya.

Exploring Samburu National Park is an extraordinary journey filled with captivating sights and experiences. While the entire reserve is a treasure trove of natural wonders, there are a few standout places that truly showcase the park’s beauty and diversity. Let’s delve into some of the best places to visit in Samburu National Park, each offering its own unique charm and wildlife encounters.

1 Ewaso Ng’iro River: The Lifeline of Samburu

The Ewaso Ng’iro River is the heart and soul of Samburu National Park. Its meandering course carves through the reserve, creating a lush oasis that attracts an abundance of wildlife. The riverbanks offer a prime viewing area, allowing visitors to witness a myriad of animals quenching their thirst and engaging in daily rituals. Crocodiles basking in the sun, hippos submerged in the water, and a variety of bird species add to the enchantment of this picturesque setting.

2 Shaba National Reserve: A Serene Haven

Nestled on the eastern side of Samburu, the neighboring Shaba National Reserve is a hidden gem awaiting discovery. This tranquil sanctuary offers a peaceful retreat with stunning landscapes and a rich wildlife population. Visitors can witness elephants grazing, leopards camouflaged in the treetops, and unique species like the endangered Grevy’s zebra. The Joy Adamson Monument, dedicated to the renowned conservationist, is also located here, offering a glimpse into the area’s conservation efforts and history.

3 Buffalo Springs National Reserve: Untamed Wilderness

Adjacent to Samburu, Buffalo Springs National Reserve provides a captivating extension to the Samburu experience. This rugged terrain is home to diverse wildlife, including the “Samburu Special Five” – Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx, and Gerenuk antelope. Game drives in Buffalo Springs offer an opportunity to witness predators in action, such as lions and cheetahs, as well as marvel at the striking landscapes dotted with doum palm trees.

In conclusion, Samburu National Park and its neighboring reserves offer a plethora of remarkable places to explore. From the picturesque Ewaso Ng’iro River to the serene Shaba National Reserve and the untamed wilderness of Buffalo Springs, each location unveils a unique aspect of the park’s natural beauty and incredible wildlife. Embark on an unforgettable journey through these best places to visit in Samburu National Park and immerse yourself in the wonders of this remarkable Kenyan gem.

Samburu National Park is blessed with a climate that enhances the overall safari experience, making it a year-round destination for wildlife enthusiasts. The weather in Samburu is characterized by distinct seasons, each offering its own unique charm and wildlife encounters. Whether you prefer a lush and vibrant landscape or a drier, more rugged setting, Samburu’s weather will not disappoint.

Mild and Pleasant: Samburu’s Dry Season

The dry season in Samburu National Park spans from June to October, offering mild and pleasant weather for safaris. During these months, the park experiences minimal rainfall, resulting in drier landscapes and clearer skies. The absence of heavy rains makes it easier to navigate the park’s trails and spot wildlife congregating near water sources, such as the Ewaso Ng’iro River. The dry season is also an ideal time for game drives, as animals tend to gather around waterholes, providing excellent opportunities for sightings and photography.

Refreshingly Green: Samburu’s Wet Season

The wet season in Samburu National Park occurs from November to May and brings refreshing showers that transform the landscapes into a vibrant oasis. The rainfall rejuvenates the vegetation, painting the park in lush shades of green. This season is a photographer’s delight, as the vibrant colors create a stunning backdrop for wildlife photography. The wet season also coincides with the calving period for many animals, resulting in an influx of young offspring, which adds an adorable touch to the wildlife sightings.

Year-round Wildlife Encounters

Regardless of the season, Samburu National Park offers incredible wildlife encounters throughout the year. The diverse ecosystem of the park ensures that animals can be spotted at any time, as they adapt to the changing weather patterns. From elephants and big cats to rare species like Grevy’s zebras and reticulated giraffes, the park’s wildlife population provides thrilling sightings and unforgettable safari experiences.

In conclusion, Samburu National Park boasts a favorable climate that caters to safari enthusiasts year-round. Whether you prefer the mild and pleasant weather of the dry season or the refreshingly green landscapes of the wet season, Samburu’s weather adds to the allure of the park. Embark on a safari adventure in Samburu and witness its abundant wildlife and stunning landscapes, no matter the time of year.

When it comes to experiencing the best Samburu safari, Africa Kenya Safaris offers an array of exceptional tours that cater to the diverse interests of wildlife enthusiasts. With their expert knowledge and dedication to providing unforgettable safari experiences, they have curated safari packages that showcase the wonders of Samburu National Park and its surrounding reserves. Let’s explore some of the top Samburu safaris offered by Africa Kenya Safaris.

Samburu Wildlife Adventure: Immersion in Nature’s Splendor

The 8 day Explorer Safari Tour by Africa Kenya Safaris is a perfect choice for those seeking a comprehensive safari experience. This multi-day tour takes you deep into the heart of parks like Samburu National Park, where you’ll witness the breathtaking landscapes and encounter a rich variety of wildlife. From game drives along the Ewaso Ng’iro River to guided walks with experienced rangers, every moment is designed to immerse you in the splendor of Samburu’s natural wonders. This safari package also offers opportunities to interact with the local Samburu community, providing cultural insights and a deeper understanding of the region.

Samburu and Shaba Safari: Exploring Two Gems

For those looking to explore the neighboring reserves of Samburu and Shaba, the Samburu and Shaba Fly In Safari by Africa Kenya Safaris is an ideal choice. This safari tour allows you to discover the unique characteristics of each reserve, from the stunning landscapes to the diverse wildlife populations. Witness the iconic “Samburu Special Five” in their natural habitats, encounter elephants, and marvel at the elusive leopards. With accommodation options ranging from luxury lodges to tented camps, you’ll experience comfort and convenience amidst the wilderness.

Samburu and Masai Mara Adventure: The Ultimate Safari Experience

The Samburu and Masai Mara six day safari tour by Africa Kenya Safaris combines the best of both worlds, offering an unforgettable journey through two of Kenya’s most renowned wildlife destinations. Begin your adventure in Samburu National Park, where you’ll encounter unique wildlife species and embrace the captivating landscapes. Then, venture to the iconic Masai Mara, famous for its incredible wildebeest migration and abundant predator sightings. This tour allows you to witness the circle of life unfold before your eyes, from thrilling predator-prey interactions to breathtaking natural spectacles.

In conclusion, Africa Kenya Safaris offers a range of outstanding safari tours that provide the best Samburu experience. Whether you choose the Samburu Wildlife Adventure, the Samburu and Shaba Safari, or the Samburu and Masai Mara Adventure, you can trust that Africa Kenya Safaris will deliver an exceptional safari adventure filled with wildlife encounters, stunning landscapes, and cultural immersion. Embark on a journey with Africa Kenya Safaris and create lifelong memories in the captivating wilderness of Samburu National Park.

This is Samburu

At first glance, Samburu may appear to be an empty, rugged desert. But tread gently and the park will reveal its wildlife treasures – elephants, big cats, giraffes, and baboons. This easy, untrammeled park may turn out to be your favorite.

An elephant and calf by a lake in a Kenyan safari park

Join us at Samburu National Reserve

Africa Kenya Safaris offers safaris to Samburu and other nearby parks.  Just contact us to get your safari started.

A charged elephant seen on safari in Kenya
Baby Lion cub resting in the shade seen at the Masai Mara National Park

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All fields with an asterisk (*) are required

Tour Information

Help us create your perfect Safari! Tell us about your travel choices, any unique experiences you desire, and upcoming special occasions.