Samburu National Reserve, located in beautiful Kenya, is an astonishing place that reunites the wildlife and flora with the daily life of the people, as the reserve is inhabited by the Samburu, a local tribe. In fact, this tribe is acknowledged for its distinct culture, and nomadic, pastoral lifestyle. Concurrently, this beautiful park provides excellent and varied experiences, ranging from adventurous night drives to peaceful picnics. You can enjoy the stunning landscapes, take a closer look at the life of ferocious animals such as lions and cheetahs, watch the large variety of birds, or try to learn a traditional Samburu dance. While the area is not yet a National Park, you may also have a night drive and observe nocturne animals.

Dwarf Mongooses on a termite hill in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya shutterstock_194316281


  • +Walking Safari
  • +Cultural Activities
  • +Bird watching
  • +The Big Five – Elephant, Rhino, Lion, Leopard, Buffalo
  • +The endangered Pancake Tortoise
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About Samburu National Reserve

Samburu National Reserve is a magnificent safari destination in Kenya, and it provides a large variety of activities suitable for everyone, even though it’s no larger than 165 square kilometers.

The central part of the vegetation is along the Ewaso Nyiro River, which means that animals gather there for the precious source of food and water, especially during the dry season. That is the moment when you can enjoy the spectacular show of the wildlife, without any disturbances. Elephants, hippos, gazelles, lions, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes and many other wild animals live together in the area of the river.

Besides the gathering of diverse animals, the dry season has another significant advantage for tourists. There is a lack of vegetation, which means that the animals can be located easier, and you can notice them for an extended period as they no longer have the possibility of hiding in the luxurious vegetation. Of course, this means more hunting activity for the carnivores, an activity that you might love or hate.

If you don’t find any pleasure in watching a lion catching its prey, you may choose a much more peaceful alternative, such as enjoying the gorgeous sunset from a hill, while you are having a picnic.

Samburu National Reserve is also famous for the large variety of birds, native species as well as migratory species. Every year, the reserve attracts thousands of bird watchers, because it has a high concentration of birds. In the Samburu National Reserve, there have been registered more than 450 species of birds. These include threatened species, such as the lesser falcons and lesser kestrels.

Another important thing that you shouldn’t miss while you are in Samburu is visiting the village appertaining to the Samburu tribe, translated as the butterfly people. Here, you may try some of their traditional food; you may learn a traditional dance, assist in certain ceremonies, or watch how they do traditional crafts from wood, bones, horns and other materials. Such a great cultural experience cannot be forgotten. You can also buy handmade goods so that you will make sure that you won’t forget your trip.

Samburu Masai guide with rifle look horizon with binoculars shutterstock_150657569
African Chameleon in the Samburu National Park. Kenya shutterstock_183552656
African Buffalo. Africa. Kenya. Samburu national park. shutterstock_51562867
Wild impalas grazing. Africa. Kenya. Samburu national park. shutterstock_53580238

Getting There

You can get to Samburu National Reserve by air or by road. If you wish to drive there, you have to know that the reserve is 345 kilometers away from Nairobi, and you may reach the destination via Mombasa Road A109.
If you travel by plane, first, you would have to reach Nairobi. From Nairobi Airport, there are daily flights to Samburu.

When to Go & Weather

  •   Best
  •   Good
  •   Fair
  •   Poor

The best time for visiting Samburu National Reserve may differ from one person to another, according to his or her interests.

From July to October, there is the long dry season, considered by most of the tourists the best period for visiting Samburu. The weather is appropriate for almost any activity, even though in some days it might be too hot. The roads are in the best condition as there is virtually no rain. The vegetation is not luxurious, which is ideal for game viewing because the animals can be more easily observed. January and February are also dry and hot months, and they belong to the peak season as well.

November and December are still busy months, but the rain season begins and the activities during these months may be limited.

For those interesting in bird watching, the best time to visit Samburu National Reserve is from October to April, as many migratory bird species come in the area

In April and May, it is the time for torrential rains. The rain may last the entire day, or only in the morning and afternoon. Despite the rain, some people prefer to visit Samburu during these months because the vegetation is luxurious and many mammal species give birth in this period, thanks to the abundance of vegetation and water. Besides some annoying rain that might affect the roads, April and May offer the opportunity of observing baby animals that are no older that a few hours; this allows you to see their first steps in the wilderness.

Before booking a trip to Samburu, you should visit some official weather sites. These may offer a very useful month by month or day by day forecast.

Weather climate

The Samburu climate is characterized by high temperatures during the day and low temperatures during the evenings and nights. The daytime temperature is usually between 27-31 degrees Celsius while the temperature decreases to 18-20 degrees Celsius at night.

The humidity rate is high almost all the year, and the most humid month is May. On the other side, the driest month is February. January and February are also the hottest months in Samburu.

Cheetah mother and cubs at sunrise like to cross the river in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya shutterstock_190229012

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The national reserve was named after the tribe who has been living in the area for many decades, the Samburu tribe. Concerning their ethnical origin, the Samburu tribe is a branch of the “maa” people, who settled in Kenya centuries ago. Typically, the Samburu tribe comprises of pastoralists, who kept livestock including goats, sheep, camels, and donkeys. They would wear traditional clothing, such as animal skins, ochre, woven fabrics, and particular ornaments that are unique for their cultural inheritance.

The tribe is genuinely committed to its norm customs and values. Interestingly, they have a robust oral tradition, meaning that they typically pass down their traditions and history by putting together riddles and stories. These exciting, equally fascinating tales are transmitted to the children of the tribes in front of the evening fire, under the clear, star-filled sky, in the arid plain. The Samburu people have a sincere respect for their land, elders and animals surrounding them.

The Samburu National Reserve was, at first, part of the Marsabit National Reserve in 1961. Even though there have been suggestions about making Samburu a game reserve by itself, this was not possible until 1962. One year later, in 1963, the reserve was already in the administration of the African District Council of Samburu.

Wildlife & Flora

Despite the size of the reserve, the wildlife and flora from Samburu are amazingly varied. The main reason for this is the Ewaso Ngyiro River, which provides enough water for a thick riverine forest, besides the savannah landscape.

The most common types of vegetation from Kenya are mixed in the Samburu National Reserve: riverine forests, acacia, thorn trees, and grassland. The main species of plants in Samburu are Acacia tortoise, Acacia elator, down palms, and salvadora pesica.

The reserve is also abundant in wildlife, from birds to ferocious predators. The important attractions in Samburu are the felines, as the national reserve is home of the Tanzanian cheetah, Masai lion, and leopard. Moreover, there are many elephants, hippos, buffalos, oryx, gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, olive baboons, waterbucks, warthogs, Nile crocodiles, Grant’s gazelles, greater and lesser Kudu, Somali Ostrich, and impalas.

The reticulated giraffe is also one of the mammal species protected by the reserve, as the population of this kind of giraffe continues to be declining nowadays. In the last years, the reticulated giraffe has been registered only in Africa, as it is already extinct in other places on the earth. Even in Africa, the population of reticulated giraffes has decreased by 30% lately.

Pancake tortoise is another endangered species that continues to live undisturbed in the Samburu National Reserve.

Samburu is a well-known destination for bird watchers, as here you can see more than 450 species of birds. Some of them are globally threatened, such as the lesser kestrels and lesser falcons. Other bird species present in the National Reserve are vulturine guineafowl, banded warbler, red-and-yellow barbet, fire-fronted bishop, Marabou stork, yellow-necked spurfowl, secretary bird, red-billed hornbill, yellow-billed hornbill, lilac-breasted roller, grey-headed kingfisher, palm-nut vulture, Verreaux’s eagle, tawny eagle, bateleur and many others.


The Samburu National Reserve is administrated by the African District Council of Samburu, and it provides shelter for many endangered species, such as pancake tortoise, wild dogs, and lesser kestrels. The Samburu tribe does not use the wild meat for their meals, and they continue to protect the area as they have been doing for years now. The Samburu people do not abuse of the wildlife, and they do not hunt for pleasure. In fact, they have always been cohabitating with the species from the National Reserve in peace. They fought for the animals’ rights, in particular against the hunting of elephants.

Interesting Facts

  • Samburu National Reserve is a haven for bird watchers, as more than 450 distinct bird species have been registered here.
  • Besides adventurous activities, this National Reserve can be the perfect place for a picnic or a romantic walk at the sunset.
  • Observing and getting in contact with the Samburu people may offer you a unique cultural experience. You may taste traditional foods, learn about the roles of the men and women in the tribe, try to learn a traditional dance, or watch how handmade goods are made.
  • The Samburu calendar plays a major role in determining the season and the periods of intense drought. In fact, the elders of the tribe present a mystical knowledge of these seasons, and even without a calendar, they can establish the ideal time for each activity. Also, the most influential families in the tribe are always consulted concerning the planning of a tribe event.
  • The locals are also involved in specific craftsmanship activities. The local crafts are made of bones, wood, livestock skins, trees, beads, and bucks. The making of crafts is divided between men and women, and tourists may purchase them while exploring the villages.
  • Tourism is known as the second income earner for Samburu District. The communities surrounding Samburu National Reserve enjoy a positive tourist flow – the revenue earned through tourism is directed towards the growth of community development programs.
Interested in visiting the Samburu National Reserve?
Take a look to our hand-picked tours that go there!

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