Samburu National Reserve

The Samburu National Reserve is a rugged and dry stretch of land that is home to many wildlife species. The Ewaso Ngiro River carves a contrasting emerald ribbon in this semi-desert land, as vegetation flourishes along its banks and animals can find relief from the heat of the sun in its cool waters. This arid, rocky land is a place to experience the natural tranquillity and true wilderness of Kenya.

  • Best Time To Go

    January - February, June - September

  • Average Safari Cost

    $100-$600 pp/day

  • Highlights

    Rare animals:Grevy's zebra, long-necked gerenuk; crocodiles and hippos in the Ewaso Ngiro River, game drives and night drives, beautiful semi-desert scenery, excellent place for birdwatching, guided walking safaris with Samburu tribe

Why Visit Samburu National Reserve?

While the land may be hard and dry, it is not quite as empty as you may think. The Ewaso Ngiro River runs through the parched land, providing water and lush vegetation along its banks. This draws many wildlife species to find relief from the hot, sunny days in the shade and refreshing waters.

Samburu is also home to several rare animal species that are not found in Kenya's other reserves - Grevy's zebra, the Beisa oryx and the long-necked gerenuk. With its rugged hills, natural springs, lush river banks, and doum palm trees, the Samburu reserve is one of the most physically striking places you will find in Kenya and is well worth a visit.

Pros And Cons

  • Beautiful semi-desert scenery
  • Good wildlife sightings
  • Excellent place for birdwatching
  • Rare animal species can be found
  • Many accommodation options
  • Maleria Risk

Best Time To Visit

The Samburu National Reserve is best to visit during the dry season, June to October, when the wildlife gathers at the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro River and other water sources to drink and cool down in the heat of the sun. During these months there is no rainfall and the days are hot and sunny. The average daytime temperature is 90˚F (32˚C). There is also a much lower risk for malaria in the dry season.

November is the month with the most rainfall and marks the start of the wet season. Temperatures are still very hot during the day but storms are common in the afternoons, which can disrupt activities and wildlife viewing opportunities. January and February are mostly dry and very hot. Rainfall occurs again from March to May with periods of longer rains than in November and December. Temperatures average about 90˚F (32˚C) throughout the wet season, however, February can get much hotter. While the scenery is greener, the wildlife viewing is not as good as it is in the dry months as animals move away from the river.

For more details about when to visit broken down by months/seasons see our Kenya overview.

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Wildlife And Birds

Plenty of elephant, hippo and crocodiles can be found in and around the waters of the Ewaso Ngiro River, while the rare Grevy's Zebra, reticulated giraffe and gerenuk and Beisa oryx can be found grazing on the open plains. Lions, leopards and cheetah can often be found looking for their next hunt or lazing in the shade on hot, sunny days. While there's plenty to see on the ground, the sky is where to look to see martial eagles, falcons and kestrels as they circle their prey.
List Of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Cheetah
  • Hippo
  • Giraffe

Rare animals:

  • Lion
  • Cheetah
  • Wild dog

Common animals:

  • Elephant
  • Hippo
  • Giraffe
  • Zebra
  • Birdwatching

    With over 450 recorded species of birds, the Samburu National Reserve is an excellent birding destination. Many birds can be seen in the green vegetation that grows along the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro River, such as the blue skinned Somali ostrich vulturine guinea fowl and palm nut vultures. Martial eagles, pygmy falcons, lesser kestrels and many other birds of prey can be spotted soaring through the skies.

    Endangered Birds:

    • White-backed vulture
    • Hooded vulture
    • Egyptian vulture
    • Gray-crowned crane
    • Basra reed warbler

    Near- Endemic Birds:

    • Hildebrandt's starling
    • Kenya sparrow
    • Jackson's widowbird

    Getting There And Safety

    Samburu National Reserve is situated 220 miles (355km) from Nairobi. You can self-drive from Nairobi, which will take approximately 6 hours, or there are flights to the airstrip within the reserve. It is also possible to get a flight to Kalama, which is much closer to the reserves.

    If travelling from overseas, it is easiest to fly to Nairobi and then rent a vehicle or book a scheduled flight to the reserve.


    For more details about getting to Kenya, see our Kenya overview.

    If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Kenya

    If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Kenya

    Travel Insurance

    Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Kenya. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

    Check the World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of the safari trip cover.

    What To Pack

    You will need to pack clothes for both warm and cool weather as it can get very hot during the day and cold at night. Try to pack neutral, earthy toned clothes and avoid bright colours. It is a good idea to pack light clothes that you can layer and clothes that cover your arms and legs at night to avoid mosquito bites. Other essential items are a hat, sun screen, toiletries, closed shoes, torch, batteries, insect repellent, binoculars and camera.

    For more details about what to take with you on a safari see our Safari Packing List.

    There are tented campsites as well as campsites where you can pitch your own tent.
    Samburu National Reserve is very safe. You will usually be briefed on any safety precautions you should take. The guides know the reserve very well and ensure your safety. There are also rangers at the campsites.

    Several vaccinations are recommended when travelling to Kenya. These include: hepatitis A and B, rabies, meningococcal meningitis, typhoid and yellow fever.

    It’s better to check with your local medical authority which vaccinations are required.

    For more details about visas see our Kenya overview.

    For more details about vaccinations see our Kenya Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

    Maleria Risk

    There is a high-risk for malaria in Kenya so anti-malarial drugs are advised as well as insect repellent and wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs at night.

    For more details about vaccinations see our Kenya Safari - Complete Travel Guide.