This arid northern area offers a wealth of animals, good game viewing, and a highly contrasting landscape from the forests of Meru, the rolling hills of Lewa, and the open plains of the Maasai Mara. Samburu is remote, off the main tourist route, and offers some great cultural interaction and experiences.
The Samburu National Reserve lies 200 miles north of Nairobi on the hot and arid fringes of the vast northern region of Kenya. The Reserve is within the lands of the colorful Samburu people, close relatives of the Maasai, and home to a number of wildlife species rarely found elsewhere in Kenya. These include the Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich, gerenuk, and Beisa oryx, which are found only north of the equator. This dramatic landscape is blanketed by the hot equatorial sun for most of the year. Relief comes from the cool waters of the Uaso Nyiro (“Brown”) River, which rises to the west on the foothills of the Aberdares and vanishes beyond Samburu in the soggy expanse known as the Lorian swamp. The scenery in Samburu is magnificent and the birdlife awesome.
The world-renowned Save the Elephants Research Project station, founded by Ian Douglas-Hamilton, is in Samburu, and is a highlight for elephant lovers. All visitors staying in Samburu can visit the station but those staying at Elephant Watch Camp, owned by Douglas-Hamilton family, have special access. Visitors to the area also have access to visiting hours at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, a beloved project with wide-ranging support from Kenya’s top conservation entities.
For those looking for other unique experiences, rhino tracking on foot is a fixture at Saruni Rhino in the Sera Conservancy. You might also take to the hills with a hike up the Samburu people’s sacred mountain, Ololokwe
Best time to visit Samburu and central Kenya
The arid and semi-desert landscape of Samburu National Reserve and nearby parks of Shaba and Meru, offer incredible wildlife variations but can often be too hot for many in particular seasons.
January and February is followed by the typical long rains from the end of March through to May, sometimes pushing into early June. Rainfall can be unreliable, sometimes showering every day persistently, and other times only raining in the afternoon or early evening. No matter what the pattern, it will however impact your safari activities. Although the park sees new life in every area during these months, the roads are often extremely challenging and visitors are at a low, and for the right reasons.
The long and dry season between July and October is definitely the best time to head to this area, as guests can enjoy sunny, blue skies with almost no rain. During these months, water is limited due to the absence of rainfall, so the animals tend to congregate along the Ewaso Nyiro River which is perfect for game viewing.
November and December sees the short rains. Visitor numbers inside the park tend to be lower, which we think, is a blessing! Before the rains arrive however, temperatures can be pretty high as the humidity builds up, ready for a heavy downpour. For bird lovers, October to April the best time to visit, as resident avifauna are joined by a range of migratory species.